Underage and Over-Criticized

referenced from alicevega.com

referenced from alicevega.com

I’m sure many of you have seen this story already.  Sasha and Malia, America’s First Daughters, were criticized by a GOP aide for their attire choices.  She resigned shortly after.

Now, I realize that sounds harsh, but allow me to elaborate.  GOP aide Elizabeth Lauten specifically said

“Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department.  Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events.”

That is quite the quote. Even if we ignore the blatant disrespect dished out towards the President and First Lady, it’s still a bit shocking (at least to me).  Sasha and Malia are respectively 13 and 16 years old.  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have been able to show half of the maturity they do every day when I was that age.  So they made some faces.  So they showed their knees.  Elizabeth Lauten is an adult, and the lack of sympathy and harsh judgements she showed these young girls is awe-inspiring.

So why do I care?  Why is this being talked about on Carnal Politics?

It’s just another manifestation of rape culture, in my eyes.  Women in short skirts/shorts are sluts.  Women with low tops are sluts.  Women who spend too much time focusing on their appearance are sluts.  Apparently, now underage girls wearing perfectly sensible holiday-wear are also sluts.  “A spot at the bar?”  THEY AREN’T EVEN OLD ENOUGH TO HAVE BEEN IN ONE.  Why is it that, especially in politics, women are judged so harshly?  Even the women on the sidelines who aren’t there to be judged or assessed?  They didn’t ask for dad to be one of the most visible men in the world.  They aren’t thinking about whether their outfits ask for the right kinds of attention.  They got dressed for Thanksgiving, had to stand on national TV for a couple hours, and made a few funny faces in the process.  Good for them.  They deserve to be kids.  Why can’t we, for once, remember that’s exactly what they are?

Genderless Ideas

I meant to post this on Transgender Day of Remembrance, but missed by one day.  In all fairness, my Thursday was absolutely insane.  I’m making up for it by posting an extra-long blog for y’all today!

Transgender rights has been something that has weighed heavily on my mind lately.  I’m not sure why exactly, but every situation where a trans person would be uncomfortable seems to trigger me.  I think that with all of the developments being made in the arena of gay marriage and gay rights I feel like the basic, simple, everyday rights of transgender people are being forgotten (or at least overshadowed).

So I decided to take a basic internet survey (via posting in several completely non-related groups), regarding transgender bathroom assignment.  To me, this seems relatively straightforward, so I wanted to see how many people agree.  I was also hoping to prompt some interesting conversations for people who haven’t spent any time researching or considering transgender rights.  The survey was fairly simple.  You were asked three questions regarding what bathroom transgender people should use (each question identified a different age group), and you were given three options for answers.  There was then a space for people to express why they had chosen what they had chosen, but this wasn’t required.  I feel that I got responses from people on just about every part of the spectrum, opinion-wise.

The first question was “Do you believe that transgender elementary students should be able to use the bathroom they are most comfortable with?”  They were given the options of “Yes; they should use the bathroom that matches their gender,” “No; they should use the restroom that matches their biological sex,” or “They should use a single-stall separate restroom.”  Out of 65 responses, 38 chose “yes,” 20 chose “no,” and 7 chose “single-stall.”

The second question was “Do you believe that transgender high school students should be able to use the bathroom they are most comfortable with?”  They were given the same answer options as question one.  I decided to choose two different school settings because of the controversy surrounding younger transgender people transitioning while in school.  I was also interested in the younger vs older comparison because of the arguments surrounding the possibility of sexual assault, if restrooms are used by transgender students.  Again, out of 65 responses, 42 chose “yes,” 11 chose “no,” and 12 chose “single-stall.”

The third question was “Do you believe transgender people should be able to use the public bathroom they are most comfortable with?”  They were given the same “yes” and “no” options, but the third option was phrased slightly differently for clarity’s sake.  The third option said “They should use single-stall alternate (family) restrooms.”  I knew that there would be a significant amount of adults taking the survey, and considered them more likely to approach the student questions from a mindset of protecting younger people.  I inserted this questions to attempt to force them to investigate their own personal feelings regarding both being in a restroom with a trans person, and forcing someone their own age to use a restroom they may be uncomfortable with.  I had hoped they would put themselves in the trans person’s shoes when asked from this perspective.  Out of the same 65 people, 46 said “yes,” 8 said “no,” and 11 said “single-stall.”

I was a bit shocked that the statistics didn’t significantly change between questions.  Most people picked all of one answer (i.e. 3 yes or 3 no).  There were only a few people who selected different options for different scenarios.  It seemed that people either decidedly were uncomfortable with people using bathrooms based on gender, or they simply weren’t.  The open responses brought all types of responses; the open-minded, the angry, the explicit, the indifferent, and the generally unrelated.  The prompt simply read “Why or why not?”  Responses ranged from “Biological sex is their true gender regardless of what gender they believe themselves.” to “Because that is their gender even if they weren’t born that way.”  There was on response that used the prompt as an opportunity to criticize America’s handling of restrooms in general, saying

“I personally see no problem with both genders, and sex, sharing the same bathrooms. I think that in America going to the bathroom is over sexualized, where people are appalled at the idea of men and women sharing. The main argument I’ve heard against it is that men will attack women in the bathroom, however, if something like that were to happen I think that would have much more to do with the amount of violence in that area. If someone is twisted enough to attack someone in a bathroom then they’re going to do it regardless of if they’re “allowed” to be in that particular stall or not. A bathroom is a bathroom, we all have to use it, so what’s the big deal with keeping everything separated?”

There were slightly humorous takes on the situation, such as “Because everyone has a right to pee in peace.” and there were also very serious observations, such as “they’re just trying to apply to our socially ascribed rules as fits them.”  There was even a response that simply listed “tough questions” at the end of the survey.

Out of everything contained in this, the thing that shocked me the most were people who seemed to believe that the single-stall bathrooms were a way to make everyone comfortable.  I purposefully placed that answer to see if people genuinely believed that this was a fair solution for all involved, and it seems that many do.  The people who chose the single-stall answers left comments like “It doesn’t bother anyone if they use a family bathroom, and it’s probably less awkward for them, not getting stares and what not.”  They argued that “It’s disrespectful to others that aren’t comfortable with the transgender population.”  They even left responses as blatant as “Because I can’t pee if a person with a penis is in the stall next to me.” I’m not kidding.  I was shocked.  I can’t imagine being told, my whole life, that I can’t use the same restrooms as almost everyone else around me.  Wouldn’t that feel, to you, like you were shouting to the whole world “HEY, LOOK AT ME.  I’M TRANSGENDER.” every time you walked into the single-stall handicapped/family restroom?  There are so many transgender people who go to great lengths to conceal the fact that they are transgender that we don’t even have any accurate statistics on how many people transgender people there are.  Asking them to identify themselves in public by using a specifically dictated bathroom is inhumane.  It’s embarrassing.  It’s hard for me to believe that people think that it’s fair in any respect.

There were two remarks that expressed concern for the safety of the transgender person themselves, saying “I don’t think our society is ready to responsibly and humanely integrate transgender students/adult in a public restroom setting.” I think that this is a valid concern, especially right now.  As this survey clearly indicates, there are a lot of people who are still incredibly uncomfortable with even the idea of a transgender person, forget an actual human being.  That being said, there are many hard-fought wars over basic human rights that have happened within even the past 100 years.  Most of them have resulted in some bloodshed.  I know plenty of transgender people who are willing to fight, and fight hard, for rights as basic as using a public restroom.  There are plenty of LGBTQ people and LGBTQ Allies that will join in that fight (and already have) and shed blood right alongside them.

I don’t think that this survey itself will change the world.  I don’t even know how many people will make it to the end of this post.  What I do know, is that this has opened my eyes to the discrimination coming from all around me, to people who have done nothing to deserve it.  I hope that I’m not the only one it impacts, but if I am?  I’ve certainly taken on a new respect for what’s happening around me.  And with that, I’ve taken on a new fight.

Shaming and Blaming

referenced from whaleoil.co.nz

referenced from whaleoil.co.nz

It’s been interesting growing up and into a society that is learning how to be sensitive.  U.S. society is learning how to use language that doesn’t offend, to make laws that are inclusive of more people, and to understand those that are different than most of us.  It’s happening more slowly than many people would like, but it’s coming along.  There’s one area that constantly confuses me, however.

Rape culture.

It seems that no matter how many trends emerge, or how many studies are done, people continue to make the same mistakes in asking the wrong questions, blaming the victim, and generally displaying an inability to empathize in any way.  If you were dressed provocatively, you asked for it.  If you were out alone after dark, you should have known better.  If you’ve had sex with lots of men, what’s the big deal?  If you were drinking, you probably didn’t realize the signals you sent off.  If you can’t remember, how do know you didn’t want it?  You should have fought harder, you should have gone to the police, you should have screamed for help.

No one asks the man why he raped the woman.  No one questions what was going through his mind, or why he thought that was something he was allowed to do.  I think, in a manner of speaking, we already know all of that.  When we ask questions of the victim, we show everyone that we agree with those causes.  Men (especially young men), see that women get raped all the time, and there are lots of reasons it happens.  We, as a society, drill into people’s heads that sex is built for men.  They need it, and will go to extraordinary lengths to get it.  Women simply exist to accept or not accept the sexual advances of men.  They’re sexy beings built for sexy adventures.  They, however, don’t get to ask for sex or be excited about it.  Women are built to be loved by men.

When this story began to come out and develop, I was intrigued to see what would happen.  Here’s a public figure being accused by more than one woman of abuse in the bedroom.  He’s beloved, admired, and followed heavily.  Immediately people began asking why the women waited.  It doesn’t seem to have occurred to these people that bringing forth something so private and serious against someone who is well-known and liked could be incredibly intimidating.  He has money for lawyers and protection that most people couldn’t dream of.  In fact, one woman was a lawyer.  She still didn’t come forward.  As she explained “I was aware that I, as a woman who had had a drink or two, shared a joint, had gone to his house willingly and had a sexual past, would be eviscerated. Cultural frameworks on this are powerful.”

If a successful lawyer shies away from a case like this in her own life; there’s not much more to be said.  Victim-shaming and victim-blaming are immensely widespread trends.  People don’t even seem to understand that they’re doing it anymore.  Hopefully at some point this will become a big “trigger issue” that people want to talk about and work towards eliminating.  For now, the more we bring it up, the more people it reaches.

Incongruous Terminology

referenced from grimmy.com

referenced from grimmy.com

I almost wish I hadn’t used the “personhood” cartoon in my “History Ignored” post, because it would fit perfectly here.  How was I to know that it was becoming such a current issue in North Dakota?
This article is the first I’ve seen that indicates the the personhood movement may be making serious progress.  Dangerous progress.  They’re relying on confusion to pass a very significant legal decision in the form of an amendment qualifying an embryo at any stage as a person with inalienable rights.  The article lists some of the many issues with both the ambiguous phrasing and the momentous potential behind them.  It would open up pathways for fertility clinic regulation and lawsuits, birth control restrictions, and basically anything else that could be even remotely connected with the idea of “personhood.”  The amendment is designed to attract people who would otherwise be unsure about the pro-life vs pro-choice arguments that are typically made.  It essentially seems designed to trick people.  I don’t know about you, but I tend to think that amendments should be passed based on informed decision.

Photographic Revelations

by Mike Keefe at InToon.com

by Mike Keefe at InToon.com

There are very few people who haven’t heard about sexual assault in the military.  These are similar issues to those I’ve discussed in Universities and Colleges.  Sexual assaults aren’t often reported (though both institutions commonly present themselves as very caring and protective), and when they are, they often aren’t dealt with properly.  The punishments are nonexistent/muted in comparison to the legal ramifications in general society.  This photographic essay is an incredibly powerful depiction of the personal damage that these situations can cause.  It’s something that needs to continue being addressed and fought for.

Don’t Carry it Alone

I’m sure a lot of you heard about Emma Sulkowicz and her project “Carry that Weight,” in response to her school (Columbia University) refusing to expel her rapist.  She vowed to carry her dorm mattress around until he was removed from the University.  The project gained a significant amount of support, with other students assisting her and waiting outside of her classes to help carry the mattress.  The project has now taken even more exciting turns, gaining notoriety and support from within the university and around the world.  She has inspired other students, even some so close as the same floor of her dorm, to join in the mattress-carrying, awareness-raising, change-demanding movement.  Students all over the world joined together for one day to air out their mattresses and their personal struggles in a demonstration of how poorly sexual assaults are often handled on college campuses everywhere.  Huffington Post reports over 10,000 RSVPs for “attending” on the facebook event page for the protest.

Now, I’ve written about this issue before, both in my “Objectification Nation” post and in my “Not So Frat-tastic” post, so it should come as no surprise that I’ve been following this as well.  What should surprise you, is that there haven’t been many responses from schools.  This article from Time.com displays link after link of investigative reporting and opinion reporting of sexual assaults on campuses (specifically regarding their handling by administration).  That in itself should show you this isn’t one person’s problem.  This isn’t one school’s problem.  This isn’t even one country’s problem.  This is something that affects all of us and it needs to be addressed until it’s changed.  Whether we use demonstrations, articles, petitions, or simple conversations, we need to keep reminding ourselves and others that problems like this exist because we let them, and we shouldn’t continue that cycle.

History Ignored

by Pat Bagley of the Salt Lake Tribune

by Pat Bagley of the Salt Lake Tribune

I’ve covered the topic of abortion from a sort of abstract perspective in the past.  I’ve talked about the political perspective and the women’s rights perspective, but here is yet another angle.  Historical instances of abortion and pregnancy terminations are rarely discussed.  This article from Katha Pollitt’s Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, which can be purchased here.  Alternet was able to post an excerpt that recalls instances and trends of abortion throughout cultures and decades of history.

It’s an incredible perspective on an issue that is viewed as very current and divisive.  Even I tend to tiptoe around the subject.  However, when you consider how long abortions have been occurring, how ubiquitous they were between locations and cultures, and how similar previous legal battles and limitations have been, it adds another dimension to the debate.

The article addresses misconceptions and stereotypes projected by the media relating to abortions today, even though a lot of the statements aren’t exactly popular.  It strongly focuses on how abortion needs to be viewed as something that affects both woman and child.  Typically people address the fetus while viewing the woman as simply a vessel, as if her body (and mind) are no longer something to be taken into account.  It discusses how abortion has positive impacts on some women, and negative on others (and for some, a mix of both).  Many pro-life movements will state how abortion induces depression, suicidal tendencies, and a variety of other things that aren’t universal reactions.  There are even regulations requiring the results of these (incredibly biased) studies to be read to those considering abortion procedures in certain places.

This article takes an incredible standpoint in an old and tired discussion.  It seems that all religious reasons, personal reasons, medical reasons, and women’s rights reasons for pro-life or pro-choice standpoints have been said again and again.  This is the first thing I have read in a long time that has offered an alternative perspective.  Regardless of where you stand in relation to this schismatic topic, this is an article well worth reading.  It may not change your mind on anything, but it will definitely offer you an education that you won’t find easily anywhere else.