Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

I’m not saying she’s a slut for being a stripper, but…

March 26, 2012

You don’t have to call someone a slut for your words to be considered slut-shaming. Houston Press writer Richard Connelly, who reports about everything from crime to sports, didn’t say the word “slut” in his 600+ expose on Houston Chronicle reporter Sarah Tressler’s moonlighting as a stripper. But his words spoke for themselves, shaming a woman who dared report on the society page by day and strip by night.

So my question is: So what? Is it a scandal that she spent time in high society among the elite, and then took her clothes for the assumed lower class? (I’m sure rich people don’t go to strip clubs or do anything prsumably dirty! NEVER!!!!) I can see that being a surprise to people — it might be more of a cultural shock in Texas, where I think acting “ladylike” is emphasized more than, say, the Midwest.

She’s also an adult who’s got a right to report, teach as a college professor, and strip if she wants to. I like that this reporter — and probably tons of other people — want to make sure her identity stays defined as primarily one of these things. Because once you admit to voluntarily taking your clothes off for money, or having sex on camera for money, etc., then it’s impossible to be anything else. You’ve dropped a rank in societal standards, it’s unthinkable you’d interact with high-class people — but Richard, you’re right, you never said the word “slut.”

You just downgraded her writing as tasteless and highlighted that her co-workers were furious, complaining that she obviously “flaunted” her stripper money by wearing nice clothes and owning designer purses. I know plenty of people at my office who wear nice clothes and have designer bags — should I be mad that they spent their money on these things, or is it only when it’s stripper money that we should be pissed about what people spend with their own cash?

I have a lot of mixed feelings about shaming women who choose to strip, do porn, etc. Especially when they aren’t actively doing those things anymore, but them just being a part of their past limits women’s access to jobs. I remember a while back that a teacher was fired because she had a porn star past; that Sasha Grey was banned from reading books to children as part of a charitable effort. She doesn’t want to have sex in front of a bunch of first graders. She wants to read them a damn book.

Maybe you don’t like Tressler’s writing style — that’s fine. But I think it’s easy to read between the lines of Richard’s piece to see his disdain for her profession — and her — in what to me seems like an attempt at public humiliation (aka slut-shaming) of some sort. From his update — just calling her choices “interesting” — it seems he might’ve ended up more humiliated.

Female columnist promotes rape, slut-shaming, lies about PP

March 4, 2011

Victim-blaming, slut-shaming, and feminist-bashing are abhorrent coming from men, but they are exponentially worse coming from women. This column from The Daily Collegian, the college newspaper for the University of Massachusetts, was actually briefly taken offline because it was so offensive. (I’ll throw out a trigger warning right now.) The author is a young woman who believes that sometimes women deserve rape, contraception doesn’t affect abortion rates, and “feminist liberation” has turned everyone into nymphomaniacs. Shall we chronologically take a look at some of the claims?

1a. Planned Parenthood isn’t a charity

Author Yevgeniya Lomakina jumps right in, making blatantly wrong claims about Planned Parenthood and its services:

It is a business. It is not, however, a charitable organization, as it is portrayed by its many supporters. Their services are not free, although they may be cheaper than regular hospitals.

Actually, it is a charitable organization. A section 501(c)(3) organization that files tax forms in accordance with its tax-exempt, charitable status. I can see how this information would be difficult to find, considering it’s on the Planned Parenthood website, alongside the actual tax forms they file.

Also, did you know that “charitable organization” doesn’t mean that you just give stuff away for free? You see, it’s charitable because it offers low-cost services to people who otherwise couldn’t afford them. It’s actually really helpful, because low-income women can get cancer screenings, prenatal care, pap tests, and contraception at reduced prices. I’m pretty sure the condoms are free, though.

1b. Planned Parenthood posts misleading/false information on its website

After proving that Planned Parenthood is in fact a business because it doesn’t do everything for free, the author next points out a glaring error in the numbers on the Planned Parenthood website:

According to the American Life League, Planned Parenthood performed 289,750 abortions in 2006. The number rose to 324,008 in 2008. However, the organization’s website misleads in reporting that abortions constitute only 3 percent of its services. In reality, it performs about 23 percent of all abortions performed each year in the U.S.

Now the numbers here are right (see the 2006-2007 annual report and this 2008 fact sheet), but they aren’t misleading or contradicting each other. The difference is that the 23 percent is Planned Parenthood’s abortion services compared with other abortion providers’ — the 3 percent is Planned Parenthood’s abortion services compared with other services within itself.

2. Sex is now shameless

The author writes:

Sex has become a service, like any other, but without fiscal exchange or shame.  It is no longer associated with love, marriage or a committed relationship.

Really? Because I’m pretty sure that sentence is 100 percent slut-shaming, as is the entire column.

3. If you wear a short skirt, you deserve to get raped

By far, this assertion makes my blood boil more than anything:

If a young woman wears a promiscuous outfit to a party, then proceeds to drink and flirt excessively, she should not blame men for her downfall. She made a decision to dress a certain way, to consume alcohol and should be prepared to deal with the consequences. Far from being a victim of rape, she is a victim of her own choices.

Pardon my French, but that is fucking ridiculous. There is NO scenario in which a woman deserves to be raped. There is no time when a man has the right to force a woman to have sex with him against her will. There is no skirt length, alcohol level, or flirtation level — nothing. And it’s this kind of bullshit that blames women for wearing the wrong thing or saying the wrong thing or drinking the wrong amount instead of pointing the finger at the rapist.

But our author is not the cold-hearted person she seems, as she does think rape is bad:

This is not to say that rape is inexistent. Sexual crimes should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Rape exists, just not if you’re sexually active or flirtatious or wearing clothes that show too much skin. It’s only a crime when it happens to someone who has made good, moral choices, and then the rapist is a criminal. This makes me want to slam my head into my desk about 348 times.

4. Having sex with men is giving them the “upper hand”

The author writes:

With the easy accessibility of noncommittal sex, men have gained or recaptured the upper hand in relationships. Women, instead of acclaiming “sexual liberation” have received, at the least, a bad reputation.

Read my recent post about this idea of men having an “upper hand” because women will have casual sex with them. Also, let’s note the additional slut-shaming. You know, the “bad reputation” only comes because people associate women having casual sex as bad, and men having casual sex as good — they have the “upper hand” when they get it.

And why is women trading commitment for sex any better than women trading sex for sex? Why are people so attached to the notion that men won’t commit unless you withhold sex from them? Why is this entire article blaming women for wanting to have sex and giving men a pass for wanting to having sex?

5. Abortion and the morning-after pill are the same thing

An often-used political ploy is juxtaposing two things in hopes that the reader or listener begins to associate them with each other, without the speaker ever directly linking them:

Abortion is also viewed in a different way. For many, it is no longer a last resort for victims of rape or in other emergencies. It is simply regarded as “Plan B.” In a Planned Parenthood YouTube advertisement for the “morning after” pill, a woman states the scenarios in which the product may be useful.

Note the transition from abortion as a “Plan B” to the morning-after pill, commonly called “Plan B.” This is likely an attempt to lump together morning-after pills with abortion, but the morning-after pill is not the abortion pill. They are completely separate, and the morning-after pill doesn’t terminate pregnancies. The morning-after pill is over-the-counter; the abortion pill is not.

6. Birth control doesn’t prevent abortions

The author says it plain and simple:

More contraception does not translate to fewer abortions.

If you look in the aforementioned Planned Parenthood data (1b), there could be a correlation between less contraception and more abortions — in 2008, more abortions were performed but less contraception was given out at Planned Parenthood. Also, I can guarantee that less contraception will not translate to fewer abortions.

And actually, the abortion rate generally has been going down in recent years:

1980: 1,297,606
1985: 1,333,521
1990: 1,429,577
1995: 1,210,883
2000: 857,475
2005: 820,151
2006: 846,181
2007: 827,609

And considering contraceptive use has increased over this time frame, I’d say more contraception does translate to fewer abortions.

__________________

I’m glad the newspaper apologized for the article, and I’m also glad they put it back online. Even though their apology covered that it was reprehensible to suggest women are responsible for being raped and that other claims were inaccurate, I couldn’t help but expand on that further. Because despite the editors’ apology, it still somehow managed to get published, so we can’t gloss over the content that was originally deemed passable, and we have to look at it a little more critically.

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.)

Can you spot the problem with this gulf oil spill article?

August 13, 2010

Can you see the problem with the following sentence from this Associated Press article about the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?

The decision to proceed with the so-called “bottom kill” operation means a key milestone in the crisis that wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast’s economy and ecosystem remains days off.

If you guessed that the verb used — wreaked havoc — is in the past tense, then you are correct! It might seem nit-picky to point out a verb tense problem, but these small choices in language reflect how we perceive things on a larger scale.

This one, for instance, is indicative of a larger mentality that the oil spill only “wreaked havoc” on the economy and ecosystems in the gulf while the oil was gushing, despite the fact that this environmental disaster is currently having and will have lasting effects on the gulf’s economy and ecosystems — for years to come.

Word choice matters, especially in the news.

College taught me the wrong way to write a cover letter

January 29, 2010

College students/recent grads beware: after writing many cover letters in the format I learned in college, I’m realizing that employers want quite the opposite when they are sifting through cover letters of prospective employees.

In magazine feature writing at OU, I learned that a cover letter should squish as much information as humanly possible into a one-page Microsoft Word document. “You have this one page to convince the employer why you’re best for the job,” my professor said. “So you need to utilize all the space you have.” WRONG.

My professor also preached an intro that catches the employer’s eye. We were taught that intro should be unique and interesting. WRONG.

Instead of a long, detailed, action-packed cover letter, I am finding that most employers actually want short, concise, and to the point. Keep the cover letter to half a page instead of trying to cram your life story into an entire page. I like to make the margins half an inch so it can look wide and short rather than long and thin.

I changed my first sentence from an attempt to be clever to the simple “As a copy editor/writer with more than four years of experience …” so that the employer immediately gets a hint at my qualifications. I listed every skill I have instead of talking about each individual job because I attach a resume that lists this exact same information. So I say, “I have experience with copy editing, news reporting, training employees, etc.”

A cover letter is a first impression, and it can illustrate the skills you have — as a journalism student/graduate, a concise and to-the-point cover letter itself is a testament to your ability to edit, write, and be clear. College taught me a lot, but it taught me a pretty backward way to write a cover letter.