Monday, December 17, 2012

The line between slut shaming and personal responsibility

If you are a YouTube watcher you may have seen popular vlogger Jenna Marbles' Things I don't understand about women: sluts edition and the responses from fellow vloggers Chescaleigh, Laci Green and others speaking out against her 'slut shaming.'  The women and their followers speak passionately from their positions - calling women on irresponsible behaviors or defending women against derogatory perceptions.
In her video Chescaleigh refers to a 2011 New York Times article that focused on an 11-year-old rape victim's dress and demeanor as an example of society's tendency to blame victims of sexual assaults. The inclination, like journalist James McKinley's, to find the 'why' of a rape in the behavior of the victim is not new.  Laws have had to be enacted to prevent that kind of thinking from affecting rape trials.  Statistics indicate that one of the primary reasons many rape victims hesitate to report their assaults is the fear of being tried in the court of public opinion.  In theory, we all know that a question like "What was she wearing?" is irrelevant to the crime.  Yet moral judgments about victims, and character assassinations in defense of accused perpetrators persist. Sexual assaults continue to be the only crimes about which people commonly wonder if the victim was not maybe asking for it.  And before Chescaleigh and others were slapping Jenna Marbles on the wrist in cyberspace, groups (such as those that have organized Slut Walks in Toronto, New York, and other cities around the world) were condemning these attitudes in the media and in other arenas as dangerous and misogynous.

Has our defense of women been one-sided though?  As we defend the rights of women, shouldn't we also promote personal responsibility? 'Slut shaming' and victim-blaming have become synonymous terms and it is now politically incorrect to criticize women for any kind of sexual behavior.  That there is never any circumstance in which a woman deserves to be raped is no reason for women to relinquish all responsibility for their behavior. We all take precautions to prevent personal harm - we lock our doors at night, we look both ways before crossing the road, we keep our social security and banking numbers private.  Those are all smart things to do. Why, in the name of feminine rights and equality, would we advocate anything less for women?  I will not be telling my little sisters, young female cousins or my co-eds that they should be throwing all sexual morality and self-respect to the wind because no one has the right to judge them.  Rather than telling women in my sphere of influence that they should be able to do all the things that men stereotypically do and not be besmirched, I will be giving my little brothers and nephews all the reasons why they should respect themselves and respect all women.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The right to murder

" A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."  Second Amendment to the US Constitution

I am open to being convinced. I have never held a gun but I'm not anti-gun, so I am open to being convinced.  I  do not believe that guns are vile and the source of all of society's ill, so I am open to being convinced.  I teach my students that we are all better for sharing in the marketplace of ideas, so I am willing to wade into the debate with an open mind.  Convince me that anyone's rights are being violated with stricter gun controls.  Other than the politically powerful and moneyed gun lobby, who loses with laws intended to clean up gun ownership and make us all safer?

The second amendment to the United States constitution is held up by some as an irrevocable right of every American to freely buy, own, use firearms of all kinds. Even if I suspend my understanding of the sentence - that citizens may not be prevented from bearing arms in protection of the country - and agree that we are endowed with an inalienable right to own and carry a M16, I still cannot fathom the resistance to gun control laws that will create safeguards against murders like those in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday.

What is the resistance to requiring a license to sell firearms?  What legitimate purpose is being impeded by requiring thorough federal standards for background checks?  For what purpose does a law-abiding citizen need finger print resistant grips?  Is there a non-violent reason to own an assault rifle like the semiautomatic Bushmaster rifle, or other weapons with large magazines?  How are my rights being violated if everything is done to prevent someone with a mental or psychological illness from getting a gun?

We have all heard the adage: guns don't kill people; people kill people.  That may be true, but guns sure make it easier to do.  Could 20 children and seven adults have been killed with a knife?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Right to work laws show a forgetfulness of history

This nation was built. Arduously and on the backs of the disenfranchised. Railroad tracks were lubricated with the sweat of men who worked 12-hour days and saw little of the wealth the lines carried.  Skyscrapers were erected on the blood and bones of men working without harnesses or advocates.  Miners, field hands; they all had a heavy hand in the growth and wealth of the United States.  For many years they held no hope of sharing in its prosperity.

It was the establishment of labor unions that gave these workers an opportunity to share in the American dream.  Labor unions gave workers a voice to secure fairer wages, safer work conditions, and shorter work hours.  It is because of the work of labor unions that Americans can look at poor working conditions in China and other countries with righteous indignation.

Contrary to the attacks on labor unions over the years, neither democracy nor capitalism has suffered from workers joining forces.  The "right to work" laws, like the ones passed in Wisconsin last year and approved by Michigan legislatures on Tuesday, aim to cripple unions by limiting their ability to represent workers and to collect operation funds.  Proponents of these laws seem unwilling to remember the role unions played in this country's history and unwilling to see how the preservation of every employee's rights is imperative to our continued success as a nation.  Rather, they seem focused on giving employers every advantage in protecting their bottom line at the demise of social justice.

Not, without blame, unions - particularly those like teachers' unions that have been in the spotlight recently - need to ensure that their intent is not to glean all they can without thought to the overall efficiency, profitability and success of their employees, their customers, and their municipalities.

Getting rid of unions is not the way to increased productivity.  Engaging workers in a cooperative atmosphere to seek genuine consensus, rather than compromise; transformational leadership, rather than top-down autocracy.  These are the ideas that will move America forward economically, while preserving her integrity.