What is Wrong With This Way of Thinking?

I’ve been reading The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti off and on the last few weeks. It’s not something I can read for extended periods of time because I get pretty upset as I go from one point to the next. I despair for the generations of kids that have been taught so many lies-condoms don’t work, abstinence is the only answer, birth control is wrong, etc. I am angry, truly angry, at the legislatures and lawmakers who have decided they know more about human anatomy, physiology, conscious, and emotional well being than dozens of well respected organizations like the American Medical Society and other similar organizations of professionals. I want to shake the doctors, nurses and pharmacists who put their own “morals” above that of doing what is right by their patients. Medical professionals have no right, no right at all, to force a woman to a particular treatment and should not deny a treatment just because it is morally ambiguous rather than medically wrong. I’m sure some could argue that birth control or the morning after pill or abortions (mostly abortions) are medically wrong, but they would be arguing against their peers and would have less to stand upon than their damn morality argument.

However, the part that makes all of this worse is how destructive the entire culture we live in is when it comes to rape and any sexual violence. As I was reading a chapter that focused on this topic, I couldn’t help but remember an exercise I did in my high school home economics class. The chapter noted how as soon as drugs or alcohol are involved people are significantly less likely to sympathize with the victim and instead condemn them. The exercise from my class was a thought game where supposedly fictional situations were presented. In all but one scenario the possible victim of sexual assault was female. More often than not the majority of the class agreed on what scenarios were or were sexual assault/rape regardless of the presence of drugs or alcohol. The one that stands out the most in my memory though is when the teacher asked if a male teenager who was intoxicated and unable to walk straight was raped by a teenage girl who convinced him to have sex with her. I was one of three students out of 30 or so that said it was rape. Even the teacher said that if the guy agreed and was capable of maintaining an erection then he probably wasn’t intoxicated enough to have been raped. I was appalled at the double standard she presented as not two questions before everyone had agreed that if we switched the roles of the male and female it was rape. It doesn’t matter the gender of the individual who is being coerced into any actions that lead up to sex, including sex, it is and will always be rape.

Mind you in some ways I was happy that most of my class was able to recognize when a woman is a victim of sexual assault/rape. However, the fact that few recognized that men can be victims too, and that I argued with a teacher about this, just solidified my opinion that most people don’t actually know what rape or sexual assault is. Maybe I’m reaching, but it would not surprise me if the majority of the people in that class would not recognize a victim of sexual assault/rape when these things actually happen in real life where the information is not as clear and obvious as it was in those classroom scenarios. When we have everything presented to us by the media it requires more than just glancing at a story to understand what happened. We have to read through the perspective of the journalist and what is sensationalizing the story and actually try to understand what happened.

The most recent example of a rape case that received national attention (as of the writing of this post) was what has come to be known as the Steubenville rape case. The national coverage did not start until late into the case but that didn’t stop the media from reporting directly from what can only be called the victim-blaming pulpit. When the guilty verdict was finally read by a juvenile court judge the coverage from CNN epitomized the rape-culture of America. They sympathized with the rapists for the majority of the 6 minutes of their initial “breaking news” broadcast. The victim was mentioned twice, both times in passing. “Lives were destroyed” was stated multiple times by several different reporters but always in regards to the rapists. Never once was anything said about the victim and what she must have been experiencing, what she must have gone through or anything at all about how her life had been destroyed. Luckily, in my opinion at least, CNN received a huge backlash for how they reported on the verdict and their focus on the rapists. The reporters involved were extremely upset that they were accused of sympathizing with the rapists despite the fact that yes, that was what they did. (For more on the entire case go ahead and start here.)

How could two female reporters who do not consider themselves part of the misogynistic culture that is part of the American way of life end up in such a position? It’s really easy when you consider that most people don’t even realize that the way that they reported was possibly wrong. It was only after it was pointed out to them that this was wrong that they even stopped to think about it. Consider this – these two boys were charged and found guilty of accidental man slaughter or whatever the legal equivalent would be. It would be easy to say yes, what they did was wrong and they deserve jail time, even if it was an accident. There would be sympathizing with them, but the victim and the victim’s family would be mentioned and have just as much coverage as the two who were found guilty of that crime. However, the coverage of rape is always different. These two boys consciously chose to act as they did and used their victim as they saw fit. There was nothing about any of their actions that was an accident. They didn’t “accidentally” remove her clothes. They didn’t “accidentally” carry her from one party to the next. They didn’t “accidentally” take pictures or videos of her. They didn’t “accidentally” insert foreign objects into her body. None of their actions were accidents, but because the charges were for “rape” they were seen with much more sympathy than they otherwise should have been. We don’t want to admit that rape happens, that we all take part in this rape culture, or that how we view rape is skewed and wrong. We especially don’t want to admit that high school, star football players are capable of rape because it completely goes against our ideas of what “all-American” boy are and what they are capable of doing. That requires admitting that they can be wrong and that they are not perfect and that they are not the ones being led down the path of the dark side by the “wrong kind of girl”.

I must count myself as part of that culture too. I am aware and conscious of the fact that I was raised in a society that dehumanizes victims and disregards acts of violence against women (or men) if sex was involved. If I do not stop and think about what I am reading or hearing it is too easy to fall into that misogynistic and paternalistic way of thinking. My parents did a pretty good job of raising me in such a way that I question a lot of things I read, see or hear. While it makes me more aware, it doesn’t necessarily help when the society they are raising me in, as enlightened as Boulder County was, is still overwhelmingly full of negative messages for women, especially women who dare to step outside what has been designated for them, and elevating men, especially those who not only fulfill their role as men but “encourage” women to fulfill theirs as well. Awareness at least makes me wary and I can take my time to really think about what is going on and what I can do to help/stop/make others aware.

I hope the kids I grew up with in high school have had some of the same insights that I have as they’ve become adults. I hope that maybe they are able to recognize rape and sexual assault and who is the victim and who is the aggressor in real life. I hope that they don’t blame the victim getting raped after drinking or using drugs or wearing the wrong clothes or being out in the wrong place at the wrong time. I hope they are working with their friends and families to help be part of the slow change in our culture. I hope… it sounds so small when working against something so large.

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Trying to Understand.

There are things that happen in this world that really do not make any sense. There are acts of violence that occur that confuse me. Why do people do things that have no purpose beyond inciting chaos, death and injuries?

I don’t think we will truly ever have the answer to that question. Most people are not capable of so wanton disregard for the well being of others, whether they know their would-be victims personally or not. Vandalism, burglary, theft, street and bar fights are crimes, but more often than not, they are isolated incidents. They are not designed to injure or kill a dozen, two dozen or more people.

Looking exclusively at events that have occurred in the US like the tragedy in Boston yesterday (Monday, 4/15/13) or the 9/11 twin towers destruction or the Oklahoma City bombing on 4/19/95 were all planned by individuals to harm the greatest number of people. That’s without looking at the hundreds of terrorist attacks that have occurred around the world. They were carried out by people who had some sort of motive whether it is understood or not. Mass shootings are typically also planned but there is a different component involved. The individuals that fired those weapons were able to see who they were injuring. In most cases they could have spoken or yelled at their victims. They had to seek them out. The terrorist attacks that used bombs or other means to harm and kill were more impersonal. In a way, those are easier to understand.

Is there something wrong with the people in the world now that wasn’t here a few decades ago? I don’t think so. I think we are more aware, it’s easier to carry out those impersonal attacks, there’s more notoriety in the personal attacks. Things still happened decades ago, but they impacted individual, small communities more than nations or the world. There is the Troubles in Ireland. The nations in the middle-east have been involved in some sort of conflict for decades. There were two World Wars that started out with smaller acts against individuals or towns which then grew into much, much larger conflicts.

Conflict and terror and war have been a part of the collective human culture as far as we can look back. It’s no surprise that these things are still happening. Only now they have a greater impact on more people, the national and global community. What is important to remember is that these are not acts committed by a majority. These all are acts of a small minority of people. There are always going to be far more brave people committing small and large acts of compassion, mercy and extraordinary courage to help in times of need.

Mr. Rogers, a man with compassion and understanding on par with Mother Teresa, shared some of the best advice I have ever heard.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

This is what needs to be remembered, what needs to be passed on, what needs to be spoken about. Yes, we need to be aware that tragedies, terrorism, acts of violence all happen. What needs to be spoken about more is what people have done to come together, to help, to reassure, to comfort and heal the physical and emotional wounds of all those who were involved. There is kindness in humanity, let’s share and celebrate it more than we share and despair of the hatred and violence of individuals or small groups.

Bits and Pieces of Thoughts While I Think on my Next Bit o’Fiction

First things first, or at least things that excite me – My English teach really liked my video game essay. There are a few teensy things I need to clean up, mainly a few awkward word choices and left over “on”s and things from my massive number of edits. Once I’ve done that, she wants me to enter it into an essay contest that happens at the school every year. The winner gets $50 and entrants get to put their name out there for teachers to get to know. When it comes to more subjective classes like English, psych, etc. I feel it’s important to have your name associated with the idea that you are a good writer before you enter a teacher’s classroom. Perception means so much and teachers are more willing to gloss over errors if they already “know” you can write, as humans are wont to do. Even my current teacher did something like that for my 2nd essay when I had two really bad cut/copy/paste-based errors. She didn’t take off points for those like what I would have expected her to because she knew that they were editing fails, not writing fails, if that makes any sense.

I’ve been trying to figure out what I’m going to use as my topic for my next argument essay, but haven’t really had anything stick out to me. Well, I’ve got two things, but I can’t decide if I really can argue either of them effectively because I am just a wee bit passionate about them.
The first is equal marriage rights. I’d end arguing for a case that would include marriage licenses being granted to two or more people above the legal age of consent who are willingly entering into the civil contract regardless of gender, sex, procreation status etc. Most people have an issue once the “more” part is added in, and to be fair, with the way current laws are written that affect civil marriage law contracts it would get really convoluted and tricksy. Especially things like inheritance and social security benefits and whatnot. Especially if the primary bread winner/head of house passes or decides to divorce one or more of the other parties. What happens to the rest of the contracts? Are they will that primary person or binding amongst all parties? Oy, such a headache and the primary argument against such marriages.
The second is abstinence only versus full disclosure sex ed. I (luckily) grew up in county that taught full disclosure sex ed by default and started in fifth grade. Yes, parents always had to sign permission slips to say “sure, teach my kid about sex” or “find them something else to do cause I want to be the one to educate them about sex” or not educate them as the case would likely be. I think I only saw maybe three kids not have permission to be educated in sex ed from fifth through twelfth grade. That’s pretty awesome in my opinion, especially considering that it was a requirement for every year of school up to high school and then was taught in bio and two or three other classes that were required for graduation.
Anywho, the point is that I feel pretty strongly about these topics, but think I could maybe argue either one of them. My teacher did give me the okay to write my essays on more divisive topics should I choose to because I could “handle” them maturely. On the other hand, this next essay is going to be sent out to the rest of the English dept. and I’m not sure that I want to write about anything so politically charged, no matter how well written, and be known as the student that is too opinionated/liberal/socialist/controversial at the end of my first semester of school.

On a completely unrelated note, I’m excited about the weather here. We’re supposed to get a pretty decent amount of snow between tonight and tomorrow night and I have nowhere to go and no one to meet until Wednesday morning, which means I get to just enjoy the snowfall. Huzzah! Pretty weather will be nice.

Equality?

Today is a pretty important day in the fight for civil and equal rights for LGBT folks in the US. Tomorrow is too. However, it also looks like the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is completely aware of how important this issue is. They are also aware of the fact that it is only in the last year or so that the majority of people in the country support civil unions equivalent to marriage or marriage rights for LGBT couples. If they make a ruling about this divisive issue in the next few weeks they will be continuing the forward march for civil equality but also giving a new rallying point for those against equality.

Essentially, the justices really don’t want to make this decision until we’ve reached a greater than 60% majority in support. Or at least that’s how I’ve been reading it.

Some reasons for that assessment: The argument against Prop 8 (the California constitutional amendment from 2008 that banned marriage or civil unions for anyone besides a single man to a single woman) is literally only arguing against Prop 8. They are not arguing for sweeping, nationwide changes. They are arguing explicitly for the amendment to be overturned and made null and void. Justice Roberts verified the point with the Solicitor General of the Obama administration, “[Y]ou are willing to wait in the rest of the country,” Roberts said. “You’re saying [same-sex marriage] has got to happen right now in California, but you don’t even have a position about whether it’s required in the rest of the country.” I don’t believe that the court really wants to get involved in something so sticky as ruling one way for a state but ruling another way for the country, as could happen with the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) case they will be hearing tomorrow. There is a very high likelihood that they will defer ruling on Prop 8 and send it back down to the previous district courts (where there will be even more confusion about what to do next) because they will instead rule on DOMA.

What does this mean for the fight for marriage equality? That it’s not going to be so easy as having one or two hearings before SCOTUS. It’s going to continue to require a state by state battle to get equality of some sort. It’s going to require enough political action to actually get people to the voting booths, which is no small task. It’s going to require that we wait for older generations to pass on before the younger generations, where there is a clear majority of supporters, become the majority of voters. Or it’s going to require someone bring forth a clear, valid argument against a defense that could actually be valid long enough to be considered in court for why there should be sweeping, nationwide changes like what there was for Loving vs. Virginia in 1967. The repeal of DOMA and even overturning of Prop 8 are not going to make it happen, though either one being overturned will be a huge victory and add momentum to the equality cause.

I hope, I really do, that I am wrong. I hope that SCOTUS will rule in favor of overturning/repealing both. As much as it will be a rallying point for opponents of same-sex marriage and equality, it could be enough to convince those who have been waiting to see who the winner is going to be that they ought to throw their support in for equality. That would be super awesome and make me a rather happy camper.

Honestly though, I think it would be rather nice if the whole marriage vs. civil unions thing would be figured out. I have a few friends that really deserve to be married but are only just now being given the opportunity to have a civil union. It’s nice and almost there, but not quite the same idea. Now, if government decided to get their noses out of marriage in general and only have civil unions recorded and all that for state records for everyone, I’d be down for that. Religious institutions could figure out what the hell marriage is and what it means and who or who can’t get married, but that special snowflake definition would only matter and be recorded within that particular institution. I think that would totally be a win-win for everyone. The religious folks could get a civil union with all the legal and tax benefits that come with it and get married through their religious institution and life would be good. There are enough open and non-denom and “we just like to have community!” sort of places that even non-religious folks could still get “married” if they really wanted to.

But hey, maybe I just don’t care all that much because “marriage” has always been an odd concept to me and I’ve always found it to be rather controversial anyway. The history of marriage has never boded well for women, even civil unions never really boded well for women. I would be completely fine with something that came with less baggage and was more personal. But, marriage is important to some people, including my husband, so… *shrugs* I say we make it so that everyone who wants to get married can. *nods*

Equality

There are a lot of people arguing over equality. Marriage equality. Wage equality. Equal citizenship. Equal rights to work. Equal access to health care. A whole schlew of things, many of which I don’t recall because they all fit under one big flag – every person has a few basic rights that should not be put under question.

Everyone should have access to health care. Done. This is the minimum, at least in my opinion. Does that mean that if you can pay more or have more resources that you are not able to get better health care? No. That just means that there is a certain very basic level of health care that everyone should have access to and that if you want more you can pay for it. It’s pretty much the same as what we have now, only it would elevate the people at the very bottom to have *something*.

Everyone should have the opportunity to work. That doesn’t mean that I think every company needs to have so many of each different “minority” or “special interest” group represented. What it means is that if you are qualified for a job, then you should be considered for it regardless of your gender, your religion, your race, your sexuality, or disability. If you have the brains and capabilities to do the job then that means you should be able to do it. This doesn’t only apply to minority groups. I have made arguments for why men are just as capable as women to be nurses and my arguments were enough to make it so that two nurses I currently work with were kept in for consideration and eventually hired. Job discrimination needs to end.

Everyone should get paid similar wages for doing similar work. There are still studies that are showing that women and other “minority” groups – side note, how is it that 50% of the population is considered a minority group? Let’s think about the origin of this please. – earn less income than their male counterparts. Some of it can be attributed to men overwhelmingly ending up in higher manager or specialist positions. However, women that are in similar or the same positions earn less income, usually by thousands of dollars a year. Why is that?

I don’t care who you are or who you love, but if you’re both consenting adults, no one should be able to deny you access to receiving a marriage certificate. Churches don’t get the final say in whether someone is married. My husband and I got married outside of a church and with no church backing. It is a civil/legal thing, not a religious thing. There are civil/legal changes that happen with marriage, not religious. The fact that I can get married but that many of my good friends cannot is frustrating. Nothing my husband or I do is anything special or different that means we should get treated differently. Why is it okay for anyone to deny them access to something that is pretty much assumed that everyone will do? I don’t get it.

Which brings us to everyone being treated as a citizen of their country. I am a white woman within the United States. I have access to rights that women 100 years ago were just starting up the fight for. I am not old enough to have been witness to the civil rights movement 50 years ago, but it was the next great step in slowly defeating bigotry and intolerance. Another side note, I hate that people use “I support tolerance” and other such things. I am against intolerance and am for inclusion. I don’t “tolerate” people for their differences, though I do sometimes tolerate individual people’s actions or words because the *facepalm* worthy moments are nothing compared to the person overall. I don’t even “accept” people for their differences. I love people for themselves, I enjoy spending time with them, I enjoy their company, I choose to be around them. I don’t have to “tolerate” or “accept” them, because both those words imply that there was another possibility, that I could have been intolerant or denied them.

I know it’s asking a lot, but I would love to see the rest of the nation (or world even) get to this point. We lay down certain rights and privileges and then laws and codes that lay down the consequences for people who go against those rights or abuse their privileges. The privileges of some should never overrule the rights of even a single person and the rights and privileges of individuals should be held above those of corporations, organizations, institutions, states or nations.

That should be the end of the story there. I doubt it actually will ever make it to that point, but I’ll do my part to make it happen, even if it is a far shot.

Surprising Revelations at Work

There are always people who surprise me by their belief systems or tolerance for others. The more educated an individual is, the more they are capable of surprising me. Recently, I have been not just surprised, but astounded by comments from one of my co-workers, a psychiatrist to be more specific. Some of the people who read this may actually know her, but just in case I will not name any names. Also, I hope this does not color negatively any opinions toward her. She’s still a wonderful psychiatrist and I still like working with her.

What is it that she surprised me with? Apparently she has a pretty significant misconception and negative bias toward GLBT persons and is much more conservative in her beliefs than I expected. She has done a very good job of keeping her personal beliefs from interfering with her job, I have to give her credit for that. I didn’t even know she had a bias against people who can be identified in the GLBT, sexually diverse/different, or pro-abortion, etc. groups until very recently. It does however make some of her comments throughout the last few years make more sense. For example, she was very surprised when a patient told her that she (the patient) had asked for the doctor who was the most tolerant of sexual deviancy and the front desk set her up with this particular psychiatrist. it probably had something to do with who had openings as well, but still, it was something that shocked the psychiatrist enough that she wanted to share her surprise with me (and another nurse) soon after the appointment was done with.

About 6 weeks later she shared with me her experiences at a conference she went to. It took place in southern California and there were many more GLBT professionals than she has ever interacted with. During the course of the three day conference she discovered that she could relate to just about everything the gay/lesbian men and women were sharing and even the way they shared their own stories. It was probably the absolute best conference for this revelation to occur at since the entire point was to discover how to actually hear patients and other people, basically let them share their stories without interruption. The participants could only speak one at a time and the ones who weren’t speaking could only listen, they could not comment except to the entire group after each exercise.

Mind you, the reason why this truly astounded me was because her nurse (the one for her outpatient caseload) is a gay man. It took me all of 5 minutes interacting with him to determine two things – he was gay and was an INTP in the Meyers-Briggs personality system. The second was just a nice thing to know, the first was just another thing to know so I could know how better to relate to him. However, this psychiatrist has worked with him for nearly two years and hasn’t a clue. When I mentioned my surprise to the other nurse he just shrugged it off as something he has seen before. People who don’t want to accept GLBT individuals are unaware of the vast number of people that are GLBT.

I do have to admit that while I’m surprised and honestly a bit disappointed to know that someone I highly respect has such a bias, I do have to respect how well she is able to separate her personal beliefs from how she treats and interacts with her patients. As far as I’m aware, she has never demonstrated any sort of negative, derogatory or unthinking behaviors towards her patients or in front of our other co-workers, especially when we are discussing patients. I don’t know how much our other co-workers interact with her regarding more personal matters, so I’m not sure if I’m either late to the party or someone she feels comfortable with and is willing to share such belief systems that are contrary to the norm within the agency we work for. Well, at least as far as I can tell that is. I could very likely be surprised by other people that I work with. In the same way though, I don’t believe it would decrease my respect for them for the same reasons. As far as I can tell they do not let their personal beliefs interfere with how they interact with our patients. That’s something to be proud of really. And they should give themselves a 4 on the diversity and tolerance/acceptance part of our self-assessment thingy. 😉

I do wish that everyone believed as I do – that as long as no one is harmed that any way of being and living and loving is okay – but I know that the chances of that happening in my lifetime are slim. However, I do hope that as we all learn more about each other, the more tolerant (accepting even?) we can all be towards others regardless of whether we agree with them or not. I think it would go a long way toward the world being that much better of a place to live in. When it comes down to it, that’s really what I want. I don’t want people to all agree with me, but I do want the world to be a better and more tolerant, and maybe even accepting, place. I also don’t think it’s too much to ask. Do you?