Archive for September, 2010

Teen Mom: Partner violence, grief, & high school graduation

September 29, 2010

Teen Mom was an intense roller coaster this week — Amber assaulted Gary (multiple times), Farrah reconnected with her deceased boyfriend’s sister, Tyler and Catelynn couldn’t graduate on time, and Maci and Ryan worked together on a custody plan for Bentley.

1. The signs of an abuser

Last night, Amber verbally assaulted Gary to no end. She yelled things such as “Guess what bitch, this is my house — I’ve bought everything in this motherf-cker — get out!” and “Don’t get cocky with me,” and ” You need to shut your f-cking mouth … You want to f-ck with me? Huh? … You are so f-cking lucky, you better watch your goddamn back.” As if that abuse weren’t enough, she then threw his stuff down the stairs, punched him in the face, and then slapped him again before he left.

Amber is an abuser. And she was an abuser before she punched Gary in the face, as the things she would scream at him were meant to maintain control over and demean him. She constantly called him a fatass, meant to degrade him and lower his self-worth, and she constantly reminded him that it was her house, so he’d better do what she says or he’s out on the street.

At the reunion episode after season one, Dr. Drew called her out on the domestic violence and she said she didn’t regret it. Only after she remembered that Gary had been abused when he was younger did she retract that statement, which was concerning because it was like she admitted that, had he not been abused as a child, her hitting him would’ve been perfectly justified. It seems that sympathy for Gary didn’t last very long.

Abusers often were victims of abuse themselves, and so have learned to use violence as a way to solve problems, relieve stress, or control a situation. Of the four main types of abuse found in intimate partner violence (via the Centers for Disease Control), Amber utilizes three (the fourth being sexual abuse, which isn’t discussed on the show) — physical abuse, threats, and emotional abuse (including “harming a partner’s sense of self-worth”).

There is a major disconnect for Amber between how she treats Gary directly and how she interprets her own treatment of Gary — directly, she is obviously abusive in a number of ways. As she puts it, however, she is sympathetic toward Gary and lets him live with her because he is Leah’s father and she doesn’t want him living on the street. She confides in her friends that Gary threatened to call Child Protective Services, and the aggressive attitude she has toward Gary was nonexistent when she described the incident to her friends.

“It scares me as a mom to hear him say, you know, ‘You’re never going to see your daughter again, I’m going to take her away,'” Amber said, though this possibility never seems to stop Amber from abusing Gary — it’s unclear whether Amber’s rage is enhanced for the same reason Maci got angry at Ryan, which was that he was implying she was making poor parenting choices, though he himself had only recently become more involved with raising their child. Regardless of what fueled the rage, nothing makes it OK.

And, again, I keep wondering how people’s reaction would be different if the roles were reversed — if Gary were abusing Amber on film, calling her a fatass, hitting her, telling her that he better respect her because he puts a roof over her head. I’m sure the public outcry would be loud and strong, and my hope is that viewers don’t cut Amber slack for her behavior — she needs anger management classes, not martial arts classes.

2. Dealing with — not avoiding — grief

Sophia’s dad hasn’t really been mentioned much before this season — in Farrah’s episode of 16 and Pregnant, it wasn’t even mentioned that he had died in a car accident, but it simply seemed like Farrah’s mom and her had decided he wouldn’t be involved with raising her. This week, she reconnected with her ex’s (Derrick’s) sister Kassy, who shared with her how much Farrah meant to Derrick and gave Sophia a picture book with pictures of him.

“I see her everyday, I see Derrick’s face everyday,” Farrah told Kassy, and the pictures of Derrick really do show a strong resemblance between Sophia and her dad. Farrah’s mom told her that the best way to deal with those sad feelings is to stay away from the family, but that is not a way to deal with those feelings — it’s merely a way to avoid them. She admits she doesn’t think she’ll find anyone who compares to Derrick, and all these feelings need to be sorted out — not swept under the rug — for her to gain some closure and move on.

I’m glad that Derrick is being mentioned in the show, because Farrah has to be feeling so many emotions that viewers who have lost a loved one or partner can identify with, especially considering Farrah was pregnant when the car accident happened. It always seemed weird that Sophia’s dad was the elephant in the room, and I think there are a lot of viewers (and obviously Farrah) who will benefit from openly addressing Derrick’s death and its effect on Farrah and Sophia, rather than avoiding discussing it.

3. The importance of education

For many people, a high school diploma is the default — a piece of paper that is just routine on the way to college. For Tyler and Catelynn, a high school diploma is the exception rather than the rule, and a symbol of why they gave their daughter up for adoption. “Me and you will be the first ones to go to college or even graduate from high school,” Catelynn told Tyler, regarding their families.

But Catelynn made a good point that they needed to graduate to really make the adoption worth it, because the entire reason they gave her up was because they couldn’t support her financially and needed to get an education first. Though being pregnant with Carly set Catelynn and Tyler back when it came to having enough credits to graduate, Catelynn says, “If I had kept carly, I might not be graduating at all.”

Catelynn and Tyler also struggled with choosing college career paths, something every teenager can relate to. It’s daunting to be 18 and charged with figuring out your life goals, and I know so many people who didn’t truly figure out what they wanted to study or pursue until two or three years after high school, and sometimes longer. “I thought I knew what I was doing, and now I don’t know what I’m doing,” Tyler said, frustrated with all the options and feeling like he should have his life figured out by now. Trust me Tyler, you’ve got a lot of company there.

Something else Catelynn mentioned was that she had to miss school because of her mom’s alcoholism — I think this is an interesting problem that isn’t really discussed in the mainstream. For a lot of people, school is just a given — you always have a way to get to school, you always have money to buy lunch, you always have the resources to complete homework.

But for some people, that’s not the case — merely getting to school is a challenge, and family problems can get in the way of attendance and homework (e.g. what if you need to focus more on an after-school job to help pay the bills than doing homework? Or what if, like Catelynn, one or both of your parents has a substance abuse problem that means 1) you can’t find a way to school or 2) you have to take care of them?). Catelynn’s admission revealed an obstacle to education that many people don’t experience or realize happens.

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Smart phones: an innovative resource for recyclers

September 23, 2010

I love the My Recycle List (free) app for the iPhone (also available on the Droid). As I’ve discussed many times before, recycling is not as easy as simply cans/glass/plastic anymore — you can recycle anything from unused paint to light bulbs to car batteries, which is great for the environment but confusing and/or discouraging to people who can’t figure out where to take these items to keep them out of the landfill. This app does just that.

It organizes items by general category (the typical glass/plastic/paper plus other categories such as electronics, hazardous waste, and household items), with subcategories that follow and then nearby options for recycling. The app’s creator, 1-800-Recycling, already provides this service online for people without iPhones or smart phones, but as people become more reliant on their phones for Internet use and information gathering, apps like this can really make a difference.

The difference between the app and the website is that people constantly have their phones with them — there’s no excuse for forgetting to check where the dropoff points are because the second you think about it, the second you can grab your phone and look it up. And, on the phone, you can keep a list of the locations you frequent for easy access. It also  integrates GPS in a really useful way so you can find recycling centers based on your exact location. It blends everything into an easy to navigate, easy to store place that never leaves your side.

Getting people motivated to be eco-friendly can be difficult — developing user-friendly, convenient, free tools like this not only removes the confusion, discouragement, and apathy factors, but it also creates great educational resources. Interacting with the app or the website introduces the person to a host of things s/he might not have known were recyclable, and that person likely will absorb that knowledge and also spread the word.

Teen Mom: Women as abusers, kids as leverage

September 22, 2010

In this week’s episode of Teen Mom, Maci moved to Nashville, Tyler’s dad got sent to jail for contacting Catelynn’s mom against a court order, Farrah had to reconnect with her ex’s sister to get social security benefits for Sophia, and Amber screamed at Gary a lot.

1. Abusive relationships work both ways

Though the stereotypical abusive heterosexual relationship involves an aggressive, controlling man and a submissive, co-dependent woman, Amber and Gary are an example of the opposite of that stereotype. Amber showcased this week just how controlling and abusive she can be, and Gary illustrated how much in denial he is about his relationship with Amber and how attached he is to her despite her verbal and physical abuse.

It becomes especially dicey when he begins to rely on Amber for a place to live, despite their not being in a relationship anymore. She yells at him, derides him as a bad parent (though she flips out if he points out she shouldn’t leave knives where Leah can easily get to them), and gets close to hitting him — though we see in clips for next week’s episode she does actually hit him.

Though Gary’s friend was an illogical douche last week, he actually had some decent advice and words for Gary, who he saw as being out of touch with reality. “Amber brings you down, Gary. She’s not healthy for you. You’re not the same Gary you were when I met you,” the friend tells him. “Right now, Amber beats [your] ass, treats [you] like garbage, calls [you] a fatass 24/7.”

But Gary, instead of denying those allegations, just says that Amber loves him. It so much fits the bill of an abusive relationship — Gary is abused emotionally, verbally, and physically, but he is convinced that Amber truly loves him and he is determined to keep his family together. He uses this drive to “keep the family together” as an excuse to go back to her, ignoring the noticeable abuse the friend sees.

Amber and Gary’s relationship highlights that though the stereotype is the man being the abuser, it’s not impossible for the woman to be the abuser in a relationship. If the tables were turned and Gary was getting ready to throw punches at Amber, there’d be a public outcry and people would wonder why the producers didn’t step in. But men are expected to be resilient, and Gary’s perceived duty to be the head of the household and keep everyone together supersedes his own self-worth and safety.

Amber’s violent behavior is also dangerous to Leah — Amber projects her outbursts toward Gary, but if Gary isn’t there as her metaphoric and literal punching bag, that means she could turn her aggression to Leah. Couples fight and cohabitation causes stress, but the fact Amber so quickly resorts to violence is not typical relationship behavior, but more indicative of how she generally handles stress.

2. Kids are not meant to be used as leverage

Perhaps it was because Ryan told Maci she didn’t care about Bentley, but regardless, Maci made a swipe at Ryan by replying that he’d better reword what he said or else she’d change his visitation with Bentley. “You’re going to see him whenever I say you can have him, or are you going to rephrase what you said?” Maci asked Ryan. Ryan declined to rephrase what he said.

I absolutely despise when parents use their kids in this way — last week Amber was telling Leah that Gary was “abandoning” her despite the fact Amber was actually kicking him out, and this week Maci is trying to use Bentley as leverage to get Ryan to do what she wants and say what she wants him to say. Bentley could see this as, “Dad doesn’t want to spend time with me,” when really it’s, “Mom uses visitation to keep Dad in check and stay in control.”

Maci and Ryan need to try to keep some form of healthy relationship for Bentley’s sake, and using visitation with Bentley as leverage or a threat is not the way to go about it. Again, a reiteration of last week’s blog, but though Maci would like to be the sole arbiter of when Ryan sees Bentley, Ryan could easily start legal proceedings to get the court to decide who gets custody of Bentley and when, removing Maci’s ability to use seeing Bentley as a way to get Ryan to do what she wants.

3. Being an adult sucks

Farrah’s trials and tribulations are a constant reminder that being an adult sucks — you have to deal with crappy situations on your own, and you can’t simply just ask your parents to make every unpleasant or difficult phone call for you. (Though sometimes your dad is nice enough to chew out a realty agent for you — thanks Dad!) But what parents can still provide is support and advice, which is equally as helpful.

Farrah sat down and talked with her dad about her finances, and he suggested Farrah try to claim some type of social security benefit for Sophia, as Sophia’s dad had passed away in a car accident before she was born. Never in a million years would I have known to do that — and I don’t know that many other young people would either. The value of a support system, especially when you’re living on your own for the first time, is huge.

And, as Farrah found out, you discover that crappy things happen and you become stuck. Sophia’s dad’s sister wouldn’t show up for the paternity test she promised to get swabbed for, and she wouldn’t answer her phone — Farrah wanted to drag her in via court order, but her lawyer informed her that wasn’t possible and could open up a new bag of worms about visitation and custody. As an adult, you find that things don’t always neatly fit into place and people don’t always do what they say they’ll do.

Calling someone ‘hot’ isn’t automatically a compliment

September 22, 2010

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s spokesman — in response to Reid recently referring to New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand as “the hottest member” in the Senate — confirmed and qualified the statement by adding that Reid “also praised Gillibrand for her work,” according to Politico.

As Vanessa from Feministing and other bloggers have pointed out, “of course as long as her work is commended in addition to her ‘hotness,’ publicly objectifying her is A-OK!” But what bothers me in addition to the obvious and misguided thought process of “it’s OK that I called her ‘hot’ in a professional setting because I followed up with attributes actually related to her work in the Senate” is the broader notion that these type of remarks should be appreciated by women and taken as compliments.

I’ve heard more than one person use this as a defense for comments like this. Does Gillibrand feel like Reid paid her a compliment? Well, considering him calling her “the hottest member” of the Senate “prompted Gillibrand to turn red,” it was probably quite embarassing in a professional setting like a fundraiser — where she is surrounded by colleagues, politicians, other important people — to have the Senate majority leader gabbing about how “hot” she is.

But that’s the problem with comments like this, whether they take the form of banter between co-workers or cat-calls to a woman walking on the street — the people who say them often see no harm because, in their minds, they are giving a self-esteem boost. But these types of comments can be both embarassing and dangerous, especially when one takes where or how they are said into consideration.

Say, for instance, that a group of guys starts hollering at a woman walking alone down the street. The guys might think it’s harmless fun, but the woman has no idea of their intentions. She is outnumbered, she is by herself, and these guys are being aggressive — a million possibilities run through one’s mind, wondering if acknowledging them or ignoring them will cause more trouble, if the guys will follow you down the street, etc. In a scenario like this, being told you’re “hot” is like being told you’re a target — not a self-esteem boost.

And some people even think physical harassment is a compliment — someone might think, “Well, me grabbing this woman’s ass is a compliment, it’s me showing that she is physically desirable,” when in reality it is completely inappropriate, uninvited, and not a compliment or self-esteem boost. It’s an invasion of privacy, and a signal that the person doing the grabbing has absolutely no respect for your body, your feelings, or your space. (No one accused Reid of physical harassment.)

The connotation of the spokesperson’s comment was that being called “hot” was on the same level as praising her work professionally, implying that both are compliments and should be taken as such. And I’m sure there are people who will take Reid’s side and say us feminists are just overreacting and should be glad to be called “hot,” but the context is key — not to mention the fact that women’s being praised for their looks before their work ethic is an age-old obstacle that women have long dealt with in the professional world.

Lady Gaga’s meat dress inspires runway, sends mixed messages

September 17, 2010

Lady Gaga had several outfit changes during MTV’s video music awards, ending with the now-infamous meat dress:

What’s more disturbing than the dress itself is the fact that meat-as-fabric might be a trend now — I really hope it isn’t. It’s Fashion Week in New York City, and designer Jeremy Scott revealed a meaty design on the runway, just days after the VMAs aired:

This boggles my mind because (1) obviously it’s cruel to animals;  (2) it’s a total waste of meat — it’s hard to imagine using meat as fabric when almost 15 percent of U.S. households, more than 17 million, are food insecure, meaning they aren’t sure where their next meal will come from; (3) it’s not even attractive — who looks at that bacon bikini top and finds it appealing?

Though Lady Gaga has said that she wore the meat dress to draw attention to the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy — she told Ellen the meaning was that if you don’t stand up for your rights that you won’t have any more rights than the meat on your bones — it has simultaneously worked its way onto the runway.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure the message Gaga wanted to send has gone along with it — the shock value seems to have superceded the intended message, and Gaga’s flare for edgy fashion has superceded her flare for human rights activism in this case. The meat dress isn’t seen as a symbol of the lack of agency or a statement about how humans are more than just slabs of meat — it’s seen as a new type of fabric, and that’s unfortunate for the gay rights cause the dress was meant to highlight, the animals that get butchered to be the dress, and the fashion world who somehow finds the look appealing.

And, as I feared might happen, one cause gets exploited for the sake of another cause. It’s ironic because the statement Gaga wants to make is that animals are merely slabs of meat, and if you don’t stand up for yourself than you’re just like an animal with no rights and no free will — yet though she acknowledges this cause, she then exploits the fact those animals don’t have rights by wearing some to get attention for her own cause.

The really interesting thing is that Gaga doesn’t have to wear a meat dress to get attention for her cause or support from her fans. She could wear anything bizarre and get attention, and her fanbase is extremely devoted — she has the most followers on Twitter and uses it often to interact with her “little monsters” and as a tool for activism, as she recently did by urging people to call Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for a vote on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Reid announced via Twitter that there will be a vote on the policy next week (though said it was planned before Gaga’s tweets about calling him), and even Tweeted a little with Gaga.

Though I doubt skirts made of bacon and jackets made of ham will be lining the aisles of the clothing section of Target anytime soon, even the faux meat representation sends an extremely confusing message. It simply is a reminder that popular culture so quickly jumps to mimic and recreate whatever pop stars are doing, regardless of how inhumane, nonsensical, or bizarre it is — maybe that’s the secret underlying message and social commentary of Gaga’s meat dress.

Cities: Take note of San Francisco’s waste reduction program

September 16, 2010

San Francisco recently achieved a 77 percent landfill diversion rate, meaning that of the material it collects for disposal, only 23 percent was sent to the landfill. This rate is a national record and is extremely impressive compared to the national average of 32.1 percent; or, for instance, Ohio’s diversion rate of about 40 percent (though its next goal is 50 percent) or Utah’s diversion rate of 19 percent (though its goal for 2015 is also 50 percent).

There are a lot of factors that make San Francisco’s program so successful — first of all, it brands itself not as a waste management service, but as an overall environmental program that works to promote waste reduction, reuse, recycling, energy efficiency, and countless others. “Waste management” really does connote that they only deal with waste, so changing the name and the brand changes how residents participate — they aren’t just working to “manage” their waste, but to reduce it.

It also makes information extremely accessible — for instance, the front page of the program’s website has an “ecofindeRRR” tool that looks … amazing. Constantly people are confused about where they can properly recycle/dispose of specific items — e.g. cell phones, Christmas trees, medicine, etc. This website has a fantastic search tool that lets you choose the main category, the sub category, and then your zip code, and BOOM — an address where you can take that item.

This tool is just an example of how important access to information is — people need to easily be able to navigate and find when recycling is taken, where it can be taken, what can and can’t be recycled, what is or is not hazardous waste, and where to dispose of things that aren’t the typical aluminum/glass/plastic. San Francisco anticipates these questions and provides the answers in an easy-to-find, easy-to-read way.

Recycling and composting are also mandated by the city, but the bins are clearly branded both for residents (blue = recycling; green = composting; black = trash) and at events (where recycling/composting is mandated) around the city so that people are consistently getting the same message and its being reinforced. It’s important to note composting in the landfill diversion, as lots of organic, biodegradable food scraps get tossed into the garbage and then into landfills, where they actually won’t fully decompose.

The fact that San Francisco could divert 77 percent of the stuff it collects for disposal away from the landfill is great not only for that city specifically but also for the rest of the country. It proves that waste reduction is very possible, and people just need the proper resources, education, and policy in order to make it a reality.

Teen Mom: Cycles of abuse, custody woes, toxic fighting

September 15, 2010

Last night’s Teen  Mom brought the usual drama — Farrah and her parents, Amber and Gary, Ryan and Maci — but was sprinkled with some happy vibes as Catelynn and Tyler got to talk to Carly on her first birthday, expressing that they were very happy that Carly was happy.

1. Dependency and Domestic Violence

Though Farrah and her mother’s relationship isn’t typically what comes to mind when one hears the phrase “domestic violence” (usually a man/woman come to mind, as in intimate partner violence), it carries all the tell-tale signs of an abusive relationship. Aside from the physical violence, the rollercoaster of emotions and the dependency that draws the abused person back to the relationship are classic and cyclical when it comes to domestic violence.

Farrah’s mom keeps a pull on Farrah by using her financial problems to her advantage, much like a male partner typically can do to an intimate female partner who relies on him for financial support. Farrah is not only working to support herself, Sophia, and get through school, but she also recently lost $3,000 after falling for a scam. This episode, Farrah’s mom offered to let her stay in the rental house across the street for cheap rent, also providing free baby-sitting when necessary.

Farrah acknowledges that her problems with her parents stemmed from them “trying to overcontrol” her, but she is easily lured to the cheap rent and free baby-sitting that goes with living across the street from her mom. This is textbook of an unhealthy, cyclical violent relationship because Farrah’s mom is using Farrah’s financial struggles to create a dependency — Farrah isn’t living near her mom because she wants to, but because it’s financially better.

Jumping back into the relationship is another textbook and unhealthy step in the path of domestic violence. In last week’s episode, after an intense therapy session, Farrah and her mom enjoyed a nice, civil lunch with baby Sophia. Whether because of the show’s editing or not, it seems like Farrah is now ready to jump back into the relationship with her mother right where it left off because of this one good encounter.

This can be dangerous and misleading — in abusive relationships, it’s common for there to be a rollercoaster of highs (there’s repentence, forgiveness, a honeymoon stage of being reunited) and then the subsequent lows (problems come back to the surface, fighting ensues, abuse happens again) because the problems are forgotten or pushed aside instead of addressed and resolved.

Personally, I think Farrah needs to live elsewhere if she can afford it — their relationship can’t honestly be fixed if she is also relying on her mother as landlord and childcare giver, because it’s something the mother holds over her head and can use as a means of control. Also, Farrah has her own issues to work out — like her inability to communicate, her instigating of fights, and her taking everything personally (even the car breaking down).

2. Staying Together for the Baby

I’ve addressed staying together for the sake of the child before when Ryan and Maci were having problems and their parents urged them to make it work for the sake of Bentley. Now, Amber is questioning whether she is settling for Gary because he is Leah’s father. “I’m not 100 percent sure I want to marry him,” Amber said. “I don’t want to live this life of regret. I don’t want to settle.”

Amber was trying on wedding dances, taking dancing lessons, and still she felt like something was wrong. Perhaps it was fueled by the blowout fight they had, but she’s got a point — if you’re not feeling totally committed to someone, should the baby always make you lean toward staying together? “If I didn’t have Leah, we would not be together,” Amber told Gary. Sure you want to try harder to make things work, but Amber and Gary’s relationship at times seems irreversibly toxic and full of resentment.

Kids are always better off in environments where their parents are happy, even if it means their parents being separated — at least having a custody schedule provides stability, which children need, unlike when Gary randomly leaves or gets kicked out of the house after a fight. Though Amber’s friend suggests that Gary is here to stay because he’s Leah’s dad, the old “well he’s always going to be in her life so you mineswell marry him” advice doesn’t make much sense in terms of quality of life and healthy environment for the child as s/he grows up.

Another problem with parents staying together “for the child” is that the child becomes a battleground/tool for the parents dislike of one other. They don’t like each other, and they use the child to get that point across, as Amber did when she told Gary to get his stuff and leave and then told Leah, “Daddy left you again.” You not only bring the child into a fight that’s only about the parents, but you cause emotional damage — if Leah were five and heard that, she wouldn’t know Amber was taking a swipe at Gary or that he got kicked out — she’d think her dad really was abandoning her without reason.

3. Custody, court, and ethical dilemmas

Maci decided that she was going to move to Nashville before Ryan could take her to court for joint custody of  Bentley, hoping to evade the 100-mile radius rule that would prevent her from moving there after Ryan took her to court (Maci currently lives in Chattanooga, 120 miles from Nashville, which would prevent her from moving to Nashville if the court ordered her to remain within 100 miles of Chattanooga).

There’s a dilemma here about how ethical it is that Maci skip town — mostly because she’s doing exactly what Ryan was worried about. Ryan was worried she would skip town and move away without having any ability to stop her, and here she proves just that — who knows if she would have even told Ryan, as he had to pry it out of her that she was moving to Nashville.

Maci seems so worried about Ryan getting joint custody, but I’m not sure why she is freaking out about it. Either she would prefer to have sole custody over Bentley, or she doesn’t want Ryan to have an equal amount of joint custody. It’s completely normal for the father to get some kind of joint custody, even if it’s just weekend visitation — all Ryan wants is something in writing so instead of Maci being the sole arbiter of custody decisions, the court is.

Something tells me Maci doesn’t believe people can change, but though she questions his changing level of involvement in Bentley’s life, she can’t change that he is Bentley’s father and has a right to see Bentley and be a part of his life. In other news, while I disagree with Maci picking up her life and moving to Nashville for Kyle, at least she isn’t moving in with him right away and recognizes the possibility it might not work out.

Harassment of female reporter brings 3 problems to mind

September 15, 2010

Many, many people have written about how difficult it is for female reporters in the sports world — and the recent harassment of a female reporter during a Jets practice has reignited the discussion. Jets players were cat-calling, oogling, and harassing reporter Inez Sainz in other ways, too:

Well, from what I can gather, and I spoke with various people who were at the practice, at the beginning of practice, reporters are allowed to watch from the sidelines. And one of the assistant coaches decided – as his players who are defensive backs were running these receiving routes that he would throw the ball deliberately in Inez’s direction – thus setting up this potential collision with the players and her.

Three things (aside from the harassment itself) bother me about this incident: (1) Sainz, who originally Tweeted that she was embarrassed about the incident, is now being ambiguous about whether the comments bothered her or made her feel uncomfortable; (2) whether Sainz being a former Miss Universe contestant will be used as a qualification of the harassment; and (3) some people are forgetting that though these guys play a sport for a living, it’s still their job and deserves professionalism.

The first speaks to how desensitized women can become to harassment — Sainz said that harassment in general, though never as strong as what she experienced at the Jets practice, was something she had experienced in the past. So despite her initial admission on Twitter that the event was embarrassing, it seems she might’ve succombed to the social pressure to shrug it off — especially in the sports arena that breeds the “boys will be boys” mentality.

But she also needed to fight off the behavior for her work’s sake. Though Sainz told ABC, “I am not the one who made the charge and who says I feel uncomfortable,” she admitted she was trying to block out the harassment for professional reasons too, as “it’s not easy to be in a locker room and hear and notice that everybody is speaking about you and probably making some jokes.” Sainz was forced to make a choice: ignore the harassment and get the interview, or possibly ruin her chances at the interview by protesting the harassment — an unfair predicament considering a male reporter likely wouldn’t have to make such a career choice.

Second, I hope her stint as a Miss Universe contestant isn’t used as ammunition against her — obviously it isn’t warranted, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear people qualifying the harassment because of her past. It’s a common theme — woman does XYZ behavior in the past that showcases her body and is meant to attract male attention, and that one choice then becomes an invitation for oogling for the rest of that woman’s life.

Oh, she was a stripper/prostitute/pagaent queen/model/insert job where you take your clothes off/wear revealing clothing/do something sexual — so that must mean you (1) love and always seek attention and (2) invite/deserve harassment. This path of “logic” is used way too frequently, and it’s ridiculous to say that what someone did at one point in time characterizes them and what they want for the rest of their lives.

Some have questioned her outfit for the practice (because they’ve got to find at least ONE reason to blame her), but sports columnist Tara Sullivan says:

I mean, even if people have an issue with what this woman was wearing, it does not condone that reaction.

The reaction is to go to your PR person and say, hey, listen: Why did you let this woman come into the locker room? She shouldn’t be credentialed. That’s the professional way to handle that, not to start hooting and hollering at her in the locker room.

Which brings up the final point — professionalism. Not only was Sainz trying to do her job, but these football players are also at work when they are cat-calling and shouting verbal harassment. Redskins’ running back Clinton Portis justifies the harassment by saying it’s OK because female reporters obviously are going to be attracted to someone in the locker room (that makes sense how?).

Sorry Portis, but you and all those other football players are at work — the locker room is different than the water cooler, but you’re still getting a ridiculously gigantic paycheck and should act professionally in return. (Also, check out the link above because writer Dan Wetzel makes a good point about peers in the locker room needing to decry the harassment to really get it to stop.)

Teen Mom: Bitches, prom dresses, custody battles, compromise

September 9, 2010

This week’s Teen Mom brought the drama — Catelynn’s mom was possibly projecting anger over Carly’s adoption while prom dress shopping; Farrah’s therapist put her in her place and possibly made an impact; Gary was a total douche to Amber on her birthday; and Ryan’s taking Maci to court to see Bentley more/ensure Maci can’t move to Nashville. I’m going to try to use as many profane quotes as possible in this post.

1. “You’re being a bitch, bro.”

Gary’s friend illustrated just how powerful peer pressure can be — especially when it questions one’s masculinity. It was Amber’s birthday, and Gary agreed to watch Leah that night so Amber could go out dancing with her girlfriends (keep in mind Gary does not like to dance, as evidenced on the episode when he proposed to her again). Everything was going smoothly, all was surprisingly calm on the Amber-Gary front.

Until Gary’s friend started saying he was being “a bitch” for watching Leah and letting Amber go out without him. Instead of just doing something nice for Amber, the friend suggested that Gary “need[s] to say ‘f-ck you’ and be a man.” Gary takes this wise, wise advice and calls up Amber, demands to go dancing with her friends and says she needs to “spend time with [her] f-cking fiance,” and refuses to babysit Leah anymore. Then, when he gets home, the friend remarks to Gary, “You’re going to cower like a little bitch in a minute to watch Leah.”

This problem isn’t central to couples with babies. I can only speak for heterosexual couples, in which guys are often peer pressured out of doing nice things for their significant other because showing affection or that you care about someone is a “weak” feeling — and because these same guys associate being weak with being a woman, you are then a “bitch” because you aren’t standing your ground as a man, constantly making demands and controlling your significant other like a strong, masculine, powerful man should.

Beyond that, his friend associates taking care of his child as something weak and feminine, too. Why should Gary have to watch Leah at all? He’s a man — and not only should he not have to babysit his own daughter, he shouldn’t even be responsible for finding a babysitter. Problematic because it encourages the parent to be irresponsible, and it speaks to how that peer pressurer views parental responsibility as a father.The entire scuffle wouldn’t have happened without the provocation of his friend, though I’m glad Gary eventually overcame the peer pressure and babysat Leah so Amber could go out.

Both man-to-man and woman-to-woman peer pressure can be toxic to relationships. Friends feel the need to point out problems in the relationship that never were problems. Then the friends convince the person that XYZ action is a problem and that their silence means they’re getting walked all over, and the person instigates a fight. This is why (1) too much friend involvement in the relationship is unhealthy; (2) you need to learn to stand up to your friends’ advice sometimes; and (3) some guys need to realize that you’re not a “bitch” for being a responsible parent/decent human being.

2. “Rude bitch.”

Catelynn and her mom don’t have a great relationship these days — though they tried to have a nice day out prom dress shopping, her mom quickly turned rude, mouthy, and childish when Catelynn disagreed with her opinion about a dress Catelynn liked. Catelynn’s friend’s theory was that “she sees that [Catelynn’s] happy and actually out doing things and it just pissed her off.”

This combined with Catelynn’s theory — that because she didn’t listen to her opinion about Carly, her mom feels Catelynn doesn’t trust or put importance in her opinion about anything — hits the nail on the head. Not only does her mom feel slighted that Catelynn chose adoption against her advice and wishes as a mother/grandmother, but Catelynn’s happiness continues to prove that Catelynn made the right decision and continues to prove that her mom didn’t necessarily know best.

It’s unfortunate for Catelynn though, because her mom’s projections feed into other insecurities that Catelynn has. Instead of being mature, Catelynn’s mom is negative about dresses and the way Catelynn looks in them — though for her mom this is because she feels slighted about the adoption, for Catelynn it merely adds to body issues she has had ever since becoming pregnant. “I’m already self-conscious when I’m in those dresses, I don’t need my mom being like, ‘Ugh,'” she says, adding her prom dress shopping experience “got turned into a horrific nightmare.”

Catelynn’s mom’s attitude also shows how immature she is. Constantly calling Catelynn a “bitch,” she also mimicks what Catelynn says and makes snide comments under her breath — sometimes watching them interact, it’s as if Catelynn is the mom and her own mother is trying to be the defiant child that gets under the parent’s skin. I’m curious if this is always how her mom has been, or if the adoption sparked this childish attitude.

3. “I have no rights.”

Ryan has actually been making an effort to see Bentley more, even asking Maci if they could split the custody 50/50 instead of the current setup in which Maci has Bentley more. Maci suspects it’s linked to the child support Ryan has to pay, whereas Ryan’s parents also seem to be pushing Ryan to get more time with Bentley. Eventually, they talked face to face about it and Ryan let her know he was taking her to court.

Maci was infuriated, saying, “He wasn’t a dad the first year [Bentley] was alive. Why should I have ever let [Ryan] see [Bentley]? He didn’t do a damn thing to show he was a good dad.” Regardless of his past though, and regardless of his intentions, he does have a right to see Bentley. Maci is understandably upset that he didn’t show such motivation sooner, especially when they were together, and I also think she sees better father potential in Kyle — which does not negate the fact that Ryan is his father, and is showing initiative now to see Bentley.

Ryan’s frustration is that because Maci is the mom, she can do whatever she wants with Bentley, but as his dad, his parental rights are more limited. Maci feels like Ryan needs to earn time with Bentley and isn’t entitled to it. There is a major communication breakdown between them, and when parents are separated, communication becomes even more essential. This is unfortunate for them because they’ve always had awful communication — e.g. Ryan has to drag it out of Maci that she’s planning on moving, she’s keeping her resentment bottled up. When you’re separated you don’t have to make a romantic relationship work, but you do have to make a parental relationship work.

On a different note, Ryan was complaining about child support, though he really has no reason to — his calculation was he’d pay $80,000 by the time Bentley was 18 and that it was outrageous, though it really isn’t considering the cost of raising a child ranges from $124,800 to more than $500,000.

4. Boo. Yah.

Seeing someone finally put Farrah in her place was refreshing — not because Farrah is entirely in the wrong to have problems with her mom, but because she was complaining about how doomed her relationship with her mom was at a therapy session that Farrah herself invited her mom to in order to try reconciling! The therapist called her out on her body language and unwillingness to be open to a relationship with her mother, despite the fact she invited her mom there in the first place.

“You’ve got to take a step back and look at what you can do differently, too,” her therapist told Farrah. These words seemed to resonate with Farrah, as she was much more open and friendly with her mom after that. Farrah seemed to feed off getting pitied; I think she wanted people to feel sorry for her — which people do, as her mom is abusive and mentally unstable — and I think she wanted to bring her mom in and get that same sympathy from the therapist. Instead, the therapist basically said, “Yeah, your mom needs to change. So do you.”

It was an important moment because it introduced the idea of compromise. Farrah can’t expect her relationship with her mom — which was damaged before the domestic violence — to be fixed solely by her mother, as it will never be mended or changed if Farrah keeps resisting it.

‘She’s too big, now she’s too thin’

September 3, 2010

There’s a line from Britney Spears’s song “Piece of Me” — “I’m Mrs. She’s Too Big, Now She’s Too Thin” — that is frustratingly true about how the media treat celebrities’ bodies. The media bounces between calling them fat and then ridiculing them as underweight, or between reporting on how miserable they are because they are starving themselves and extreme-dieting to stay thin — on the same pages that praise their “perfect” bodies.

Kelly Osbourne is the latest celebrity to get this treatment — Osbourne recently lost more than 40 pounds:

Osbourne told US Weekly, “I’m f—ing starving right now!” in regard to her new figure, though a few months earlier the magazine did a feature on her weight loss and an US Weekly bureau chief remarked that Osbourne “looked incredible and so slim.” And now, other media outlets are questioning whether Osbourne is too thin.

These comments promote the notion of “your body will never be good enough.” First you’re too big, then everyone is awed by your weight loss, and then everyone is disturbed by your weight loss. But then you’re afraid to put on weight, confused because the initial reaction was so positive and garnered so much attention.

The media shouldn’t be an arbiter of what acceptable weight gain is. They see what they want to see — they find pictures of women from unflattering angles or after they’ve eaten dinner (Eva Longoria has talked about pictures taken of her after she “ate pasta and Italian and [her] pants were too tight,” leaving her with a slight blip in her slender figure that led to rumors it was a baby bump) and shame women for being a little bloated, wearing a baggy shirt, or just not being the same as those women in the magazines — even those women in the magazines don’t look like that, as they are always digitally retouched, unless purposely doing a shoot promoting not being airbrushed.

This type of thinking — you can’t be too fat, but you can’t be too thin, but you also have to be sure you don’t eat so much that a ripple forms in your stomach that could be perceived as a baby bump, but you also can’t wear loose clothing to hide the ripple because that means you look pregnant and fat too — is damaging. It’s stressful. It’s unnecessary.

I’m not saying Osbourne’s weight loss is totally bad — she admits she was an emotional eater and would “eat [her] emotions away,” and she was likely clinically overweight, so healthy eating habits (instead of her previous regimes, such as diet pills, starvation, fad diets) and regular exercise bode well for her health and energy levels.

I am saying, however, that the scrutiny and pressure could take those healthy habits and quickly turn them unhealthy (overexercising, under-eating, binging, etc.). Basically, I despise that media outlets try to show concern over these “too thin” celebrities — the media outlets whose criticism likely drove them to thinness — despite the fact they’d splash their cover with pictures of them with a minor stomach bump if they had the opportunity. Ugh.