Archive for April, 2011

Real World-er’s relationship argument tactics are misguided

April 28, 2011

I find the characters of this season’s Real World fascinating. Different upbringings, different religions, different personalities — and this week we learned that Dustin once was paid to live in a house with a bunch of straight men, which was streamed online through a webcam, and sometimes had sexual relations with other guys while living in said house. I don’t judge Dustin for doing this — I do, however, judge him for how he handled telling his current romantic interest, Heather, and the aftermath that ensued.

When it comes to arguing with a significant other, everybody has specific inclinations/style/habits/quirks. For instance, I tend to repeat and drill into my sig other’s head why whatever he did was so hurtful/annoying/douchey, which I’ve been told can be excessive. I tend to stew about things, even after the fight is over, and then feel the need to reopen the fight so I can include, for the record, whatever other point I forgot to mention. I focus a lot on the language and wording people use and sometimes read into it too much.

Dustin has his own set of inclinations. You see, Heather and him have sex, so it was pretty important that he disclose his sexual history with her. When she discovers that he had been lying/withholding some parts of that sexual history, she has a right to be upset; but Dustin deflects this anger and then tries to make Heather the bad guy in the following ways:

1. Before they begin to fight, he immediately implies that whatever she has heard is not the truth; he immediately tries to discredit her argument and invalidate her reasons for being mad by insinuating that they are baseless or not “the real story.”

2. He belittles her being upset, asking, “You’re really that mad?” as if he is really surprised that learning your sexual partner has an entire sexual history he hasn’t shared with you isn’t reason to be concerned. He’s doing this in hopes that it’ll convince her that it really isn’t a big deal; considering all her roommates support her being mad, this tactic didn’t work very well.

3. She actually tries to comfort him after he discovers everyone in the house knows his secret, and he tells her to get away from him; he says that her being there is making him mad and pushes her away, which seemingly only makes her more persistent not to leave.

4. The most outlandish thing is when they are out to dinner and he turns the tables and says that he can’t believe she is the type of person who would judge him for this. Heather seems partly mad because she has said before she’d be uncomfortable being with a guy who has been with another guy, but she is partly mad because he lied about his sexual history. She is rightfully concerned that she should be tested, and he shrugs it off and tries to focus the attention on her being an intolerant person rather than him being a liar.

Dustin’s tactics are ones I’ve seen before, but I really couldn’t believe that he was so blatantly saying to Heather, “Oh, you’re mad at me, well I’m mad at YOU!” regarding something as serious as him lying/withholding information about his sexual history. In relationships, this tactic most surely will not solve any problems. Just trying to make your sig other feel crazy will probably postpone having to deal with the problem, but inevitably they will talk to other people, be reaffirmed in their anger, and the problems will surface once more.

And I don’t know if they discussed their sexual histories with each other or not — but everyone should do this. Dustin claimed the porn industry was the cleanest business out there when it comes to sexual health (I’d search for statistics but I’m work and the search results might be NSFW), but regardless, he — as well as any other sexually active person — should get tested regularly for STIs. And he shouldn’t direct Heather away from getting tested, either.

Instead of being manipulative, Dustin should have done the following:

1. Been upfront when Heather asked if he was hiding anything about his past. He knew what she was talking about, and instead of running away, he should’ve suggested they talk about it somewhere private (as private as you can be while filming a reality TV show).

2. Let Heather talk and get out her feelings and frustrations. You might not agree that it’s a big deal, or you might be thinking downplaying it will get you out of trouble, but it’s still a big deal to the other person. Heather has said that she has very limited sexual history, so while Dustin’s life experiences lead him to believe it’s no big deal, he should still appreciate that to her, it is a big deal, and her feelings should be respected and taken into consideration.

3. After listening and respecting Heather’s concerns, Dustin should’ve then told his side of the story. And he should’ve said everything that he knew needed to be on the table. He was still withholding even when Heather was asking about the sexual things he did with other men, trying to skate by without divulging further information. Sorry Dustin but they have Internet access — anything you say can and will be Googled. Heather only found out he had performed oral sex on another guy because she asked a specific question, and that’s what sparked her concern about STIs. When your sig other finds out you’ve been lying and you want forgiveness, continuing to lie or omit the truth is not going to help your case — that’s when you need to just be completely honest.

4. When Heather asked if she should get tested, instead of getting defensive, Dustin should’ve told her his history of being tested for STIs to calm her fears, and suggested that it would be a good idea for her to get tested if it would make her feel better and more relieved.

5. Dustin should have apologized for not disclosing this aspect of his sexual history sooner, instead of trying to frame the fight as a manifestation of Heather’s prejudice and judgmental personality. Your sexual partner has a right to know your sexual history, and when you’re continuously trying to avoid discussing it, that’s unacceptable.

Things would’ve gone much more smoothly if Dustin, when confronted, would’ve been open and honest instead of defensive and deflective. I think Heather wouldn’t have felt compelled to tell everyone in the house about his past if Dustin hadn’t tried to quash the fight by making Heather feel like she was overreacting. She sought the opinions of the roommates specifically because Dustin refused to validate her being upset — Dustin was mad she spread the word, but considering it was already all over the Internet, I’m not that sympathetic.

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I wish Obama hadn’t released his long form birth certificate

April 27, 2011

I wish President Obama hadn’t released a long-form copy of his birth certificate. This entire birther conspiracy — that President Obama is not actually a U.S. citizen and therefore doesn’t meet the requirements to be president of the United States — is not about citizens concerned with paperwork. It’s about some citizens not wanting Obama to be president, and no amount of documents proving his citizenship will change how they feel about Obama’s politics or about him as a president.

The same goes for the conspiracy that Sarah Palin’s son Trig is actually her grandson, and that her entire pregnancy was a ruse to cover up her daughter’s own teenage pregnancy. Conspiracy theorists have said that Palin’s not making public her medical records regarding her pregnancy is key evidence that the entire thing was a cover-up and she was never really pregnant. Again, this isn’t about medical records, it’s about people who dislike Sarah Palin.

As Stephen Stromberg wrote in The Washington Post, paperwork proof isn’t going to stop the birtherism; nor would Palin’s medical records stop people from claiming she isn’t really Trig’s mother. These situations remind me exactly of relationships that have trust issues — A is suspicious that B is cheating, and asks for phone records to see who B has been calling, under the guise that seeing the proof on paper will calm any fears of infidelity. But those phone records won’t fix anything, because the underlying problem is that A doesn’t trust B. A will find something else suspicious and will keep feeling insecure unless the root of the problem — the lack of trust — is addressed.

The goal of birthers and hoaxers isn’t to get to the bottom of whatever “conspiracy” they’re investigating, but to create a lack of trust by planting seeds of suspicion and doubt in as many Americans’ brains as possible. I understand wanting to silence critics by providing factual evidence, but bending to their extraneous demands is just enabling them and giving them attention they don’t deserve. It’s a waste of Obama’s and Palin’s time because prejudices and political leanings (the underlying causes for the distrust/dislike of these politicians) won’t be changed by pieces of paper.

Society’s stance on sexual violence makes me a bit sad

April 21, 2011

Tonight is the annual Take Back the Night (TBTN) march and rally at my alma mater, Ohio University. The march is the culmination of a week of events and activities meant to raise awareness about violence against women, and it typically is women-only, with men encouraged to support from the sidelines. Unfortunately though, I’ve had a pessimistic outlook on the fight against violence against women lately.

First, Charlie Sheen. Ugh. That people want to be “TeamSheen” and that Sheen has such a colorful, vast history of violence against women is extremely disheartening. His history involves gunshots, knives, death threats, and other forms of physical and verbal abuse. To this day he still threatens both his ex-wives publicly, and yet most people remain unfazed. I’ve heard he makes $200,000 per show — just five shows where he freely calls female audience members sluts and he’s banked $1,000,000. Is the price of seeing Sheen’s trainwreck in person worth the price of supporting an abuser?

Justin Bieber recently said Sheen was the most influential person in the world right now. This is scary for two reasons: (1) because young girls take Bieber’s word as the gospel, so if Bieber is saying Sheen is “winning” in a positive light then that’s worrisome because young girls might think Bieber is condoning that behavior and might then think it’s OK if guys treat them that way; and (2) because Bieber himself is a young teenage guy, being influenced by the douchebag that is Charlie Sheen, does he laugh off Sheen’s violence, too? Does he think it’s cool to act like Sheen?

That someone can have such a public, violent history of attacking women yet still get support from the general public is … ridiculous? Unbelievable? Depressing?

Second, at my alma mater this weekend, there were three sexual assaults reported. Of the alleged sexual assaults, one was at knifepoint in a church parking lot, one was in a fraternity house, and one was in an off-campus apartment complex. Police don’t think the sexual assaults are related, but it’s nonetheless terrible to hear of just one sexual assault, let along a string of three sexual assaults.

But I’m preparing to hear outcries that the two non-knife-related assaults are just cases of women getting too drunk and choosing to have sex, but then regretting it in the morning and calling it rape. Or that they were wearing clothing that showed a millimeter of skin so they were inviting it. Or that the women were drinking so this means it’s not really sexual assault. People don’t even need evidence that alcohol was involved — merely hearing that it was a Friday or Saturday night on a college campus is enough evidence for the court of public opinion to assume this scenario.

This goes with my third reason for disillusionment, courtesy of The New York Times. A police officer was accused of raping a woman that he was supposed to see get home safely after she had been drinking during the night, but the Times article doesn’t hesitate to illustrate for the reader why her story might not be credible:

Still, the prosecution’s case may rely heavily on the credibility of a woman who was admittedly drunk at the time she says she was sexually assaulted, and cannot recall large portions of the evening.

As Ms. Magazine points out, alcohol doesn’t make you hallucinate or create false memories. And the officer admitted to her on tape that he had sex with her that night. The line of consent here is crystal clear — the on-duty officer was perfectly sober and aware that (1) she was too drunk to consent and (2) his job was merely to make sure she got home safely, not to try to have sex with her.

I’m so sick of hearing “… but she was drinking …” as an excuse for sexual violence, because it implies that if women don’t want to be sexually assaulted, then they shouldn’t drink alcohol (blaming the victim instead of the assailant). OK, so what else should women to do avoid sexual assault? Not wear skirts? Not go outside? Not talk to anyone of the opposite sex ever again? It’s like if you weren’t attacked with a deadly weapon by a stranger in an alley, then the public doesn’t think your story holds water. About one-quarter of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a stranger — the vast majority are by non-strangers, yet we still are more skeptical when the suspect is a non-stranger. The statistics don’t lie, but we’re far too easily convinced that the victims do.

I’m not sure this ramble was very cohesive, but society’s attitude toward sexual violence frustrates me. Charlie Sheen made $2 million per episode on Two and a Half Men, $1 million per five shows on his current “tour,” and his violent nature toward women has never stopped his success. The line of consent between drunken people is blurry, but society still errs on the side of “she probably just regretted it in the morning” when it comes to women reporting sexual assaults.

But it’s not healthy to just dwell on the negatives, which is why the TBTN march and rally are so great. Women can gather together, march together, shout together, and really have a loud, collective voice that is otherwise often unheard. So if you’re at Ohio University’s main campus today (April 21), go to the Scripps amphitheater at 7:30 p.m. for a rally and then a march to raise awareness about sexual violence. We’ve got a long way to go to change the social stigma around sexual violence, but it’ll never change if we stay silent about it.

P.S. Check out this informative article about the stigma around reporting sexual assault, via The Post, Ohio University’s independently run student newspaper.

Gaga saying “retarded” contradicts equality-driven persona

April 21, 2011

Lady Gaga, why are you trying to piss me off so much lately? Specifically, why do you keep using derogatory language in song lyrics and interviews? As someone who wants to define herself as a leader in the social justice movement and a champion of equal rights, why do you use language that is intended to make people feel unequal? As someone who acts as a “mother monster” to the “little monsters” who are taunted, ridiculed, and not accepted by society, why are you othering people even more? WTF?

Let me explain. Lady Gaga said this in a recent interview, in which the interviewer asked about the accusations that Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” was a ripoff off Madonna’s “Express Yourself”:

No. Listen to me. Why the f**k? I’m a songwriter…Why would I try to put out a song and think I’m getting one over on everybody? That’s retarded. If you put the songs next to each other, side by side, the only similarities are the chord progression. It’s the same on that’s been in disco music for the last 50 years. Just because I’m the first f**king artist in 25 years to think of putting it on Top 40 radio, it doesn’t mean I’m a plagiarist. It means I’m f**king smart. Sorry.

Really Lady Gaga? REALLY? I despise the word “retarded” when used as a synonym for stupid, moronic, dumb, etc. It makes me cringe; it makes my blood boil. And I never thought I’d see the day when Gaga — maven of the people who feel left out, who feel othered, who feel like they don’t belong, who are ridiculed, who aren’t “normal” by society’s standards — would use a word that synonymizes being disabled with being a moron. That’s ableist language — language that implies that if you have a disability, you are less of a person. (Go here for a fantastic description of ableist language and why it’s problematic.)

But it’s not the first time that Gaga’s language has made her fans feel uneasy. In February, Feministing posted an open letter to Lady Gaga that outlined why words she uses in her song “Born This Way” — “chola” and “orient-made” — were racist:

Maybe you know people who refer to themselves as “Cholas”. And that’s fine for them. It’s called “reappropriating the pejorative” – the same thing as what you do with the word “bitch”. But you can’t reappropriate if you’re not part of the group that the pejorative is applied to. So you can call yourself a “bitch” or “guidette” as much as you like – but use the word “Chola”? Not so much.

The author of this blog gave Gaga the benefit of the doubt, as “chola” has different meanings depending on where you say it geographically, and many people don’t know “oriental” has racist undertones. It was instructional rather than an attack, meant as a lesson for a 24-year-old young woman who might not be aware that in some circles those words are hurtful.

I get that people can’t be politically correct 100 percent of the time, but I hold Gaga to a higher standard. As someone who has built her career as the voice for the outcasts, as someone who was called a freak, as someone who was bullied, as someone who wants to make equality a reality, I expect her to live by those words. But when she freely throws around the term “retarded,” it makes me think she is full of bullshit.

And it’s not just her — throughout social justice movements, people focus on causes that affect them and don’t pay enough attention to the other inequalities around them. There were/are sexists and homo/transphobic people in the civil rights movement; there were/are racists and homo/transphobic people in the feminist movement; there were/are racists and sexists in the gay rights movement; there are ableists in all these movements, and some of these -ists are in the disability rights movement. Sometimes they aren’t malicious, but just ignorant. It hampers unity within and among movements, which can hamper their ability to achieve their goals.

It’s frustrating to see Lady Gaga follow this path of advocating equality for some while actively perpetuating inequality for others. Is she just naive? Does she think she is above scrutiny? Does this speak to her own privilege? I don’t know; it’s probably a combination of all three. But recognizing your own privilege and learning about what privilege other people lack is an integral part of the social justice movement — especially for someone trying to be a leader in it. I’m waiting to see if she responds or apologizes. Until then, I’m questioning her “Mother Monster” persona — inclusive for some outcasts, but not for others.

Update: Lady Gaga has apologized for the remark, saying:

I consider it part of my life’s work and music to push the boundaries of love and acceptance. My apologies for not speaking thoughtfully. To anyone that was hurt, please know that it was furiously unintentional. An honest mistake, requires honesty to make. “Whether life’s disabilities, left you outcast bullied or teased, rejoice and love yourself today.”

This apology is meh to me. Maybe I’m just still annoyed about the whole thing … maybe it’s because quoting song lyrics you wrote to prove you aren’t ableist seems even worse. Almost like, “Hey, I’m not racist, I have a friend who is [insert ethnicity here]!”

VegWeek discounts are disappointing portrayal of vegetarian options in DC

April 19, 2011

This week is VegWeek, which is a great concept in theory — meat-eaters pledge to go meatless for a week, and restaurants offer discounts so meat-eaters can see that eating vegetarian is delicious and not really much different than the food they eat now. But looking over the VegWeek specials in the DC area, I’m disappointed.

There are only about 10 discounts available, and a few of those are for cooking classes and not restaurants. And even then, a few are dessert-oriented. I think this unfortunately reflects how a lot of people feel about vegetarianism — that if you’re vegetarian you have to eat at specialized vegetarian, vegan restaurants, or if you want to eat something without meat, it’ll have to be a dessert because, well, how can you eat meals without meat?!

It’s great to get traffic to vegan-oriented and vegetarian-oriented restaurants to show meat-eaters that meals can be delicious with meat or animal products, don’t get me wrong. But vegetarians and vegans don’t live in a bubble, and you don’t have to sacrifice being social and going to “regular” restaurants just because you choose not to eat meat. Sure, you’ve got to be more selective — when everyone wants to chip in for chicken wings or nachos, you might have to politely decline or suggest something more veg-friendly — but it’s not impossible.

I like the idea of discounts on vegetarian and vegan food, but I just wish more restaurants were participating. I don’t want people to look at the short list of VegWeek participants and think it’s representative of how many vegetarian or vegan options are in the area, because it’s definitely not. You can go pretty much anywhere and find something on the menu that is either meatless or can be made without meat, so give the challenge a try. It might help get wider vegetarian selections at restaurants if more people are asking for more vegan and vegetarian options, too!

Quick note: Celebrities are human, too (aka don’t mess with Britney)

April 14, 2011

This just in: Celebrities are human, too.

I’ve been seeing a lot of hate toward Britney Spears lately for her performances of singles from her new album. People say she’s lost her touch and can’t dance like she used to, and that this makes her performances lackluster and lame. Then I read about how Tiger Woods has lost his golf touch. Whether their life crises has directly affected their talent is questionable — maybe they’re just getting old? Has anyone thought of that?

Spears is nearly 30, but she’s been performing professionally practically non-stop for 15+ years. Woods is 35, but he’s been golfing professionally for nearly 15 years as well. Both also were non-professionally honing their craft from an early age, Spears since age 3 and Woods since age 2. Isn’t it feasible that they are simply running out of steam after decades of putting their bodies through constant physical stress? We accept that athletes’ careers are very short because of the physical toll it takes; so why are so many people surprised that the same would happen to Spears or Woods?

This just agitates me because we put celebrities on these pedestals, and it makes it harder for them to live up to these expectations, and it only puts higher expectations on ourselves. We wonder why they are gaining weight and looking older, so they go get plastic surgery and crash diet so that the public doesn’t judge them; then we look at those same celebrities and feel inadequate because we don’t look as nearly perfect. Celebrities might get airbrushed so they don’t have any skin pores or wrinkles, but that’s not reality — they get old, and they can’t keep the same pace as their 18-year-old selves.

Sorry, but Britney will always be Britney in my book. I don’t care if she doesn’t dance like she did in the early 2000s, and I don’t even care if she lip-syncs all her songs. She’s made her mark in the music industry and is a great performer, and I don’t expect she’ll always dance like she did as a teenager or young 20-something. Also under this category, file “assuming female celebrities are pregnant because they don’t have rock solid flat stomachs or because their clothes are at a certain angle.” Ugh.

‘Real World’ brings up myth that women like to be mistreated

April 14, 2011

A myth that floats around is that women date assholes because they enjoy being mistreated. Some argue that’s the message that songs like “Love the Way You Lie” send, with Rihanna singing lyrics like, “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn / but that’s all right because I like the way it hurts.” This myth reared its ugly head last night on Real World, when self-proclaimed lover of bad boys Nany continued pursuing volatile douchebag Adam, and many of their roommates watched in confusion.

First, some background for you non-Real-World watchers: Nany came to Real World: Las Vegas with a boyfriend of six years. She met Adam and was instantly attracted to him, telling the other girls in the house that she was addicted to reforming bad boys and that Adam fit the bill. Adam had been hiding that he had a girlfriend back home, telling the girlfriend not to call him because it would be “annoying.” Eventually he started talking to her via webcam in front of his roommates, making public that he had a girlfriend back home. He also had been hooking up with girls while in Las Vegas.

Nany and Adam both admitted early on that they were attracted to each other, and as viewers we unfortunately saw Adam laying the same lines on Nany that he did to girls at the bars and clubs that he was trying to take home with him. Eventually, Nany and Adam made out, and Nany admitted to her boyfriend that she had cheated on him. They broke up, and Nany tried to keep things with Adam casual. At one point, Adam got belligerently drunk, and he punched a wall — and was only inches from hitting Nany in the face. They were pulled apart, and Nany admitted that she had been hit by a guy before, so she wasn’t afraid of being around a drunken, violent Adam. Adam eventually was kicked off the show, and Nany and Adam went on one last date together before vowing it wouldn’t be the end of their “relationship.”

Obviously, this is a problematic story, and their roommates have different takes on it. Naomi seems supportive, Heather is disapproving, but Dustin — while discussing it with Leroy — introduces the myth that the only explanation of why Nany would want to be with Adam is that “she likes to be treated bad.”

Nany’s infatuation with Adam doesn’t stem from her enjoying the mistreatment — I think it stems from thinking that she doesn’t deserve to be treated any better. She admitted to being physically abused by a guy before, and she admitted that she has only been in one relationship — her six-year relationship with Jordy. She’s 21, so she has been dating this guy since she was 15. If she bases “normal” on her relationship with him and if Jordy is a douche and possibly abusive (this is speculation, as she never admits it was Jordy who hit her), then Adam’s behavior will seem normal in the context of a relationship.

It’s frustrating to watch. I cringed when she said, “I don’t know if Adam’s relationship material, I have no idea. I guess we’ll find out,” wanting to scream at the TV, “He’s in a relationship right now, and he’s cheating on her with a cornucopia of other women! Including you!” As an outsider, it’s easy to see that it’s a bad idea — but when you’re an insider, you convince yourself that it’ll get better, that naysayers just don’t understand because they don’t see every aspect of the person or the relationship, and you re-imagine things as much rosier than they actually are.

Though I wanted to throw something at the TV, I also could empathize with her creating such a distorted reality — I’m sure a lot of people can. I hope her roommates don’t write her off as liking to be mistreated because it’s not that simple. None of them can convince her out of trying to be with Adam, and they shouldn’t see their failure to break them up as a reason to give up on her. She probably isn’t going to listen to them, with both Adam in her ear and Nany convincing herself they just don’t understand.

I hope she meets other guys in Las Vegas who treat her well so that she can see guys are capable of being nice and respectful, and I hope she takes time for herself and learns to be OK on her own, without needing a man to feel safe or complete. But if that doesn’t happen, and it takes some terrible event to make Nany realize that Adam is a dangerous, unstable, mean, non-relationship-ready person, then her roommates need to be there to support her — not to tell her they told her so, or to bludgeon her over the head with reminders that all the tell-tale signs were there. They shouldn’t shun her because she didn’t take their advice, but should be supportive and encouraging that she took the steps to end an unhealthy relationship.

‘Coal or nuclear?’ is the wrong clean energy mentality

April 13, 2011

Have you ever listened to an argument for a while and thought to yourself, “You know, both sides are missing the point entirely”? That’s how I feel when the coal and nuclear camps fight about which side is a cleaner form of energy.

You’ve got articles like this one that claim that coal is more dangerous than nuclear and articles like this one applauding how safe nuclear power is, and yet no one addresses the bigger problem: high levels of energy consumption are what breed the high demand for different types of power. Instead of focusing most of our efforts on fulfilling a current standard of energy needs, why aren’t we more vocal about and focused on energy efficiency? Instead of building more power plants to meet the status quo, we should be looking for ways to reduce the need for those extra power plants by making our energy go further. Individuals should be reducing extraneous energy consumption too, but I’m focusing on the bigger entities and how they’re spending their time and money and brainpower.

The argument between nuclear and coal seems like a dead end because both are dangerous in different ways. Admittedly, I agree that coal power is more dangerous than nuclear power. Coal pollutes the atmosphere with carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, mercury, arsenic, and lead; acid mine drainage from abandoned coal mines leave waterways running orange with excess iron, aluminum, and acid; mountaintop removal mining leaves toxins in the air and water, not to mention leaving people’s homes wide open to extreme flooding.

But I don’t want this to be interpreted as a free pass to nuclear — nuclear isn’t crystal clean. The difference is that coal is guaranteed to be constantly polluting the atmosphere, endangering communities nearby and often leaving coal miners to work in unsafe and dangerous conditions, so the flow of danger and the actual negative consequences are constant and expected. Nuclear is regularly lauded as a safe alternative, but the problem is that when nuclear malfunctions, the results can be instantly catastrophic. It’s a constant, predictable stream of pollution with coal versus the possibility for a gargantuan amount of pollution if things go awry with nuclear (e.g. current worries in Japan about high radiation levels in food and radiation seeping into the groundwater under the plant). And of course, there’s the problem of where to store all that radioactive nuclear waste.

Anyway, commentators solely focusing on which is the cleaner energy source are missing the point. It shouldn’t be about which new type of power plant we build, but about how we can harness energy so that we don’t have to build new power plants. Energy efficiency breakthroughs are definitely still happening, but it’s disheartening that they aren’t more salient in the clean energy discussion. So yeah, nuclear power currently might be the lesser of two evils, but that isn’t where we should be setting the bar, and “coal or nuclear?” isn’t the question we should be asking.

‘Teen Mom 2’ reunion special: Dr. Drew, WTF?

April 6, 2011

Oh, Dr. Drew. You never cease to amaze me with your analysis of the young women on 16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom. On the reunion special for Teen Mom 2 last night, Dr. Drew — rather than try to force the women to admit their kids were mistakes — instead opted to side with the dads and chastise the teen moms whenever possible.

How dare you get cold feet before your wedding

As Leah’s wedding approached, in the last few episodes of the season she expressed doubt about whether they should be getting married at that moment. Baby Ali was being rushed around to different doctors, none of whom could tell Leah and Corey why Ali wasn’t developing as fast as she should be, and it was sinking in just how fast Leah and Corey had gone from broken up, to getting back together, to living together, and then to being engaged and getting married.

Dr. Drew addressed this on the show, asking why she questioned marrying Corey. She responded that she had cold feet, and that it seemed like Ali’s health problems should have taken priority. Then she explained that she was happy in her marriage, and Dr. Drew politely let her know: “You almost ruined that.”

Excuse you, Dr. Drew — there’s no need to shame Leah for thinking that her and Corey should put more attention into their child’s health than into a wedding. Actually, that’s pretty responsible, considering neither come cheap. And getting cold feet is normal, especially considering that her and Corey went from 0 to 60 in a matter of months when it came to being broken up and then engaged — marriage is intended to be a lifetime commitment, so let Leah have some room to play devil’s advocate and make sure she is making the right decision considering the somewhat rocky history she has with Corey.

Congrats on being OK with your child’s health problems

Does society set such a low standard for guys that we have to reward them and fawn over them for staying in their kids’ lives, especially when it comes to children with health problems? Dr. Drew spent some time fawning over Corey for being OK with dealing with Ali’s health problems — I know that teen fathers don’t always stick around, but the phrasing just seemed all wrong, and it seemed very weird to give Corey kudos for “dealing” with Ali’s illness. What else exactly are parents supposed to do when faced with their children’s health problems?

Verbal abuse is OK if the abuser feels “betrayed”

Joe doesn’t seem to be physically abusive to Kailyn, but he’s definitely verbally abusive and has a mean temper — he regularly called her a whore and a bitch on the show, and he was very aggressive and threatening — at one point threatening to take Kailyn to court for custody until she couldn’t pay for it anymore, a dig at Kailyn’s financial struggles. (Joe lives with his wealthy parents so fighting for custody would be on their dime.)

Yet Dr. Drew kept telling Kailyn that Joe was lashing out because he felt betrayed (Kailyn snuck around behind Joe’s back and dating someone else after they broke up but Kailyn was still living with Joe), essentially putting the blame on her and trying to excuse Joe’s inappropriate behavior. Dr. Drew also seemed to focus more on praising Joe, saying that it was cool that Joe loaned her the tuition money. Yeah very cool — especially when he wouldn’t stop yelling obscenities at her when she finally did pay him back in exchange to get back her stuff from his house.

What irked me was that Kailyn is an exceptionally ambitious and strong-willed person. Unlike the other teen moms, she really doesn’t have a support system that is concrete. Jenelle and her mom fight, but Jenelle knows that her mom will always take care of Jace. Chelsea’s dad is extremely helpful, even paying for her rent for many months after she had Aubree. Leah’s mom and step-dad are very hands-on, offering support and baby-sitting when they can. Kailyn has a mom who last season lived out of hotels and isn’t financially stable, and she has Joe’s family, who care about baby Isaac but with whom her relationship is tense because she isn’t dating Joe anymore and snuck around dating someone else while living there.

Kailyn works, goes to school, and pays to live in her own place now. You could see on the reunion show that she felt ganged up on, that she acknowledged sneaking around behind Joe’s back to date Jordan was wrong, but that she’d like some credit for everything she has accomplished. Dr. Drew wants to pat Joe on the back for loaning her tuition money and talk about how betrayed he is, yet Dr. Drew doesn’t spend as much time questioning Joe about Kailyn’s allegation that Joe cheated on her while she was pregnant.

How are you preventing another unplanned pregnancy?

Maybe it’s just me reading into it too much, but it seemed like no one mentioned condoms as a form of contraception. Leah and Kailyn (and possibly Chelsea, I can’t remember) said they use IUDs now as birth control, but I don’t recall anyone mentioning condoms or Dr. Drew asking the guys how they are protecting themselves. Now Dr. Drew has been vocal about condoms in other related shows so I can’t criticize him too much, but it does speak to society’s larger expectation that women should take care of the contraception, ignoring that it takes two to make a baby.

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Dr. Drew also seemed especially frazzled toward the end of the show when he talked with Jenelle and her mom, Barbara. He seemed drained from the earlier teen mom interviews — his tactics to encourage marriage and togetherness seemed like bad ideas when it came to couples like Chelsea and Adam — where they fight constantly and Adam has admittedly cheated on her several times, and he also goes in and out of the picture — and Kailyn and Joe — who both have major trust issues with each other and fought so much on the reunion show that it was exhausting. Jenelle and Barbara have serious issues to work out, and it seemed like Dr. Drew couldn’t really handle them.

Immodest clothing isn’t the cause of sin, sexual harassment

April 6, 2011

One frustrating aspect of street harassment and sexual assault is the myth that women must take some responsibility, because whatever they were wearing must have sent the wrong signal and women know what signals they’re sending with their clothing choices. Here’s an easy rebuttal to this myth: research shows that what women wear has absolutely no correlation to their propensity to be sexually harassed or assaulted.

What has recently infuriated me is two links, the first being to a video aimed at women, asking them to dress more modestly to help men overcome the sinful temptation they have inside of them to lust after women. It paints a portrait of anguished men who can’t even walk down the sidewalk without being overwhelmed with temptation, proclaiming that women should know better than to tempt the already sinful minds of men, and it asks women to have Dad screen clothes to make sure they are appropriate.

The second is a blog (brought to my attention via an anonymous commenter) about decrying Toronto’s “Slutwalk” — which was a protest against a Toronto cop who told students that to avoid being sexually assaulted, women shouldn’t dress like “sluts”  — in which a woman in her 20s explains that women know what they’re doing when they dress provocatively, and they should be aware of the consequences of wearing certain types of clothing:

I have, like pretty much every 22-year-old girl, gone out looking like a slut occasionally. And I got a significantly higher amount of leers, cat calls, and uncomfortable attention. I was not surprised; I had no one but myself to blame for the sudden nervous feeling that flared up in my stomach as I walked passed men checking out my shape in my revealing dress. I don’t dress like this anymore for that very reason. I want men to look at me and have thoughts other than, “I could have sex with her tonight if I wanted.”

The problem is that these both miss the point and blame women for something they shouldn’t be blamed for. The first blames women while acknowledging that men are the ones with sinful minds; for a religious-based video, this doesn’t make much sense — shouldn’t men be working to fight this temptation themselves? Isn’t lust a sin? Instead of hoping the temptation disappears and things are easier for you, aren’t you supposed to be challenged and be able to overcome temptation by yourself?

And with the second link, the blogger who says she had no one to blame but herself for feeling uncomfortable: really? You had no one else to blame? How about the guys who were treating you like a piece of meat instead of an actual human being who should be respected? That nervous feeling, I can totally identify with it — but no matter what I’m wearing, I get that feeling whenever I’m walking alone past a large group of guys — because guys don’t catcall you based on what you’re wearing, they do it as a power play. You’re alone, you’re vulnerable, and they feed off that.

Studies have shown that clothing doesn’t make a difference in whether someone is sexually harassed or assaulted. Another blogger has done a great job of addressing this myth, and linked to an article from Psychology Today that explained why provocative clothing isn’t the sexual assault magnet people describe it as:

But studies show that it is women with passive, submissive personalities who are most likely to be raped—and that they tend to wear body-concealing clothing, such as high necklines, long pants and sleeves, and multiple layers. Predatory men can accurately identify submissive women just by their style of dress and other aspects of appearance.

This isn’t to say that all women in modest clothing are targets for sexual assault — it is to say, however, that people think they know what type of clothing invites sexual harassment or assault, when really it’s not just about what she’s wearing. A guy who wants to harass or assault a woman isn’t looking for the girl to politely accept the “invitation,” thinking a girl in a skirt wants the attention or will unquestionably have sex with him — he’s looking to feel powerful, to dominate, and to feel superior, regardless of whether the girl is wearing a skirt or a sweatsuit. And that’s not a myth, that’s a reality.

P.S. If you think that Western dress just isn’t modest enough and that’s what is breeding sexual harassment and assault, think again. Women in Cairo are harassed regardless of what they are wearing. As one Egyptian woman recalls:

“At 15, I was groped as I was performing the rites of the hajj pilgrimage at Mecca, the holiest site for Muslims. Every part of my body was covered except for my face and hands. I’d never been groped before and burst into tears, but I was too ashamed to explain to my family what had happened,” said journalist Mona Eltahawy in a July 27, 2008 article for the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.