I Call Bullsh*t.

March 18, 2013 § 29 Comments

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Apologies in advance.  This post will contain foul language, grammatical errors and abuse of parenthetical statements, and a really poor drawing of a gavel.  I am sorrier for the grammatical errors and abuse of parentheses.

(If you have trouble with my using the word bullshit and other profanity, I have the okay from Norman Lear.  Good enough for me.)

I wanted to do a post entitled “I Call Bullshit” last week, and here’s what I wanted to include:

1.  Upworthy and Nicole Sherzinger.  Here’s the link to a video and commentary on Upworthy.  Normally I really enjoy Upworthy posts, but this one made me roll my eyes.  In it, NS is being interviewed on Conan O’Brien wearing a dress out of which 3/4 of her 8th Wonder Of The World breasts spill.  Upworthy gives her “props” for “matching wits” with Conan, by reminding him to focus on her face.  Gimme a break.  She not only didn’t match wits with him, he gave her EXACTLY what she deserved.  I’m not saying she was asking to be abused, but she sure as hell was asking for attention to be paid to her breasts-o-magnificence by EXPOSING most of them.  Even *I* couldn’t take my eyes of those orbs. Please.

2.  ESPN.  Here’s the link to a Deadspin article detailing the firing of an ESPN executive for sexting a stripper.  A STRIPPER.  A single man.  Sexting a STRIPPER.  The stripper and her boyfriend tried to extort Scott Sassa, and he refused to pay up.  So the stripper and her boyfriend forwarded the texts to an ESPN colleague, and ESPN FIRES Sassa. ESPN is owned by Hearst publishing company, and justified the firing thusly:

“Hearst ‘prides itself on being a very ethical, clean-cut company.'”

HAHAHAHAHAH.  Journalism as a rule is so ethical and clean-cut.  Especially at Hearst, the inventor of yellow journalism way back in the 20th century.  Especially SPORTS journalism, wherein the very nature of the culture of professional sports involves sexualizing and objectifying women.  If sports journalism was so concerned with ethics and cleanliness, how about banning Go Daddy and Cialis ads instead of giving a shit if one of their single (or married, for that matter) partners was sexting privately with some woman (and apparently her boyfriend) who takes off her clothes (and apparently is into extortion) for a living?  How is this ANY of ESPN’s business?  How about capping salaries at slightly less than obscene rates and charging a little less for beer?

Since I’m a big believer in lists having at least three items on them, I didn’t publish the above.  Until now.  Why?  Because the universe dropped the biggest opportunity to call bullshit in my lap over the weekend.  Steubenville.  Now I have three.  Cue the thunder and lightning and bats and maniacal laughter from the Count on Sesame Street.

3.  Awwwwwww.  Those poor boys.  Can Mommy come wipe your face with a tissue as you cry remorsefully about having TAKEN PICTURES of the girl you raped and dragged around to various parties for people to witness said rape????  You pieces of SHIT?  How dare anyone, ANYONE , let alone CNN express the tiniest iota of sympathy for these “boys?”  How dare they???  Have they even SEEN this video where drunk onlookers are laughing at how dead and raped she was?  What do DESPICABLE, lower than slime, pieces of fucking shit like these kids deserve but derision, dismissal and jail?  Now, I’m sorry, but being drunk doesn’t turn you into a different person – I firmly believe that in most cases, it turns you into more of the person you already are.  And these boys are sociopaths.

When this video was leaked, a friend on Facebook urged us to show it to our daughters.  I didn’t – she’s already got a healthy terror in her about losing control of her senses and actions via alcohol, but I sure as hell showed it to my son.  My son who is in his first year of high school, and entering the world of high school sports.  I watched him come to the computer happy, and walk away sickened.  I didn’t make him watch all 12 minutes.  It went without saying (but I said it anyway) engaging in any type of sexual activity with a girl this drunk was rape, and while I’m not worried he’d perpetrate such an act, I want him to be aware he might witness and/or hear of something like this going on.  And if he does, for god’s sake, get the hell out of there and get help for the GIRL.  Make use of the technology in your hands to HELP HER.  Text the address to 911.  Take a snapshot and forward it to the police.  Get the hell OUT OF THERE and get her help. Or, even STAY THERE and help her.  Believe me, kids are as susceptible to peer pressure to do good as to do evil.  And if anyone, ANYONE gives him a hard time about doing the fucking right thing, they will suffer my wrath – so help me fucking god, I will have his back.

What do all three of these instances of bullshit have in common?  Well, dear readers, they all have the effect of making women harder to take seriously.  They reinforce the sterotype of women as sexual objects above all else.  Nicole with her peek-a-boobs, the stripper with her extortion, ESPN and Hearst with their hypocrisy.   But the CNN coverage of Steubenville is the worst, because it perpetuates the culture of victim blaming in cases of rape and sexual abuse.  It distorts beyond recognition the notion that bullies are victims, too.  Oh, how SAD to see these promising young men have their lives ruined.  What about the ACTUAL fucking victim???  How about being ENCOURAGED that the two most blatantly responsible for the VICTIM’S potentially lifelong nightmare are being held responsible???  Where is our sense of justice?

I once read (and I cannot remember who wrote it – apologies for that, too) that the advancement of a civilization is directly proportional to its treatment of women.  Well, it would appear we have a lot of goddamned work to do.

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You say “Aphasia,” I say “Tomahto.”

March 16, 2013 § 3 Comments

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I like to think I’m a hands-on parent.  Somewhere between absent and hovering.  In an attempt to “participate” in my children’s “upbringing,”  I will sometimes look over their shoulder to see what they’re listening to/watching on their various devices.  Shockingly, the 16-year-old and the 14-year-old find this annoying.  The 9-year-old, however, STILL LOVES ME, and willingly participates in conversations with me.

So, it comes to pass that Leo’s at the table, headphones in, eyes glued to iPod screen.  I stealthily (not really) come up behind him to see what’s on the screen.  A wave of relief washes over me as I see that it is an episode of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” and not “Drake and Josh.”  (There are few things I hate more than “Drake and Josh.”  Like, we’re talking with the fire and heat of a thousand suns.  Now that he had the iPod he was able to watch it without my having to hold it together through even 45 seconds of that show.  But I digress…)

I watched a minute or so of the DSN episode over his shoulder, without the benefit of sound.  The main characters all looked tired, worn, and annoyed.

I said, loudly enough to be heard over his headphones, “Boy, they sure look tired!”  (I can’t BELIEVE the teenagers don’t find my conversation skills thrilling.)

He said, “No, mom, they’re not tired.”

“Oh,” I said.  “They sure look annoyed, though!”

Sweet boy that he is, he paused the show, took out his headphones, and excitedly explained the plot line to me.

“They all have aphasia, mom!  It’s this problem when you know words and language, but when you try to say them, DIFFERENT words come out.  They’re all gonna die unless they can figure out how to communicate!”

“That’s a really cool plot,” I said.  What I was thinking, though, was “Did my f*cking NINE-year-old just competently explain aphasia to me?”  Then I dug back, with fond memories, to when my parents taught me what aphasia was…waaaaaaay back.  Two WHOLE WEEKS back, when they explained the condition to me because one of their close friends had a stroke and suffers from it now.  I was all of 43 years old.  Isn’t that sweet?

Still, I picked up what remained of my authority on the matter, and he went back to watching.  Then he paused the show again and asked, “What causes aphasia?”  Yay!  Now’s my chance to sound knowledgeable!

“Well, Sweetie, Grandma and Grandpa have a friend with aphasia, and his was caused by a stroke.”  There.

“What else causes it?”

“Uh…um…some other illnesses, I’m sure – or maybe a virus or bacteria…or maybe the brain isn’t…WHY DON’T WE JUST LOOK IT UP???”  I forced a smile and went to the laptop.

“How do you spell it?”

“E-P-H…” I started…but then I had to correct myself, as according to the computer (know-it-all) it was spelled with an “A.”

“A-P-H-A-S-I-A.”  We were directed to this site, Medical News Today, which had an in-depth explanation and examples.  I scrolled down to look for the causes, and he stopped me – “Wait!  I’m still reading!”

“Sorry,” I said.  Sorry I scrolled too fast while you were READING AND UNDERSTANDING the differences between “Global Aphasia,” “Fluent Aphasia” and “Non-fluent Aphasia.”  Sorry.  Good lord.

Then he gave the all clear to scroll down to the causes of aphasia:

That last one wasn’t really listed on the website as a cause.  But, I could make a damn good argument that it should have been.

Are Feminists the New Republicans?

March 8, 2013 § 13 Comments

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This is not, I repeat, NOT a review of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In.”  So there.

Is this what it’s come to?  Fairly or not, Republicans have the reputation of being the party of “My-Way-Or-The-Highway” mentality of policy and politics.  They are famous for closing ranks around the most powerful among them, and flinging anyone who dares to deviate from the standard party line to the ground.  If a Republican deviates, suggests a compromise, or reaches across the aisle he or she is met with derision and accusations of anti-patriotism from fellow Republicans.  Frozen out.  (While this is, of course, not true of all Republicans, and Democrats engage in this behavior, too, it’s a fairly common perception.)  At any rate, as a result of this infighting and the results of the last election, many are (rightly or wrongly) ringing the death knell for the Republican Party.  Are Feminists heading down the same road?

Not only are women slamming Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg for being out of touch with the average worker, we’re slamming each other for slamming them.  How many layers of disgust and venom must we pile on one another before the insanity stops?  Dare to call BS on Mayer’s new Yahoo! policy or Sandberg’s new feminesto (feminist + manifesto = feminesto.  It’s just fewer syllables, k?) and you are a “hater,” “absurd,” and (I loved this one…) “Dowdian.”  As if it were in insult to be quoted by Maureen Dowd.  Dare to support or defend Mayer or Sandberg, and you’re setting back the cause of Feminism or insensitive to the needs of mothers.  Why such polarization?  Is it necessary?  Is it productive?

What are we doing to elevate the level of discourse?  Joanne Bamberger (full disclosure – a friend of mine) wrote a powerful piece in USA Today about Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg.  She cogently argued that the duo is setting standards for the workplace that are destined to foster resentment and guilt among mothers in the workforce.  I don’t agree with everything in the piece (I’m not sure, for example, that Sandberg isn’t interested in giving women a hand up,) but much of it rings true, and I definitely get where she is coming from.  Mayer’s decree is tone-deaf and feels much more like it comes from the castle tower – though as I’ve said before, time will tell if her banning flextime and working from home was a good business decision.  Sandberg’s exhortations that women stand up for themselves in the workplace and not be afraid to ask for more than they’re offered seems to come from a better place, but still leaves a bad taste in the mouths of people who don’t have the luxury of using their vacation days to launch a movement or a book tour.

In the meantime, Joanne was called a “hater” and had her scholarship questioned because she didn’t explicitly state in her piece that she had read Sandberg’s book, “Lean In,” before she critiqued it.  (She HAD read the book, by the way.)  When I heard this, I marched (as much as one can march on a laptop) right over to those other articles, my protective side having been called to the surface, ready to defend my friend.  I read Joan Walsh’s piece in Salon magazine.  Apart from lumping Joanne in with the “haters,”  I actually found myself agreeing with a lot of this article.  I haven’t read “Leaning In” myself, but I certainly would now, just to see whose version I feel it more closely resembles.  I like the advice Walsh described about asking for more than you’re offered, and choosing your spouse wisely so that you are supported in ALL of your important goals, including career, and her defense of Sandberg seems sound to me.  I disregarded the snark (which was definitely there,) detracted from the piece.

Anna Holmes’ piece in the New Yorker also smacked down many who criticized Sandberg, but with much more derisive language and, it seemed to me, outright hostility.  She takes great liberties in her assumptions of the critics (my friend, included).  However, I actually happen to agree with her on other points, particularly when she identifies one important problem with the criticism of Sandberg.  She’s “galled…by the subtext that because Sandberg is rich she can’t possibly be sincere in her advocacy of women.”  So even as I truly disliked the tone and knew some of her presumptions to be false, I found something of value in the piece.

At the risk of sounding like I’m sighing, and saying, “Why can’t everyone think more like I do?” – well, WHY CAN’T EVERYONE THINK MORE LIKE I DO???? I can disagree without resorting to name-calling.  (Though I did call the guy from Suspension Notice a Drama Queen.)  I can hear an opposing viewpoint without taking it personally.  You know what?  I can even hear someone being critical of my viewpoint without being insulted!  Unless, of course, we’re talking about the Mets or the Orioles.  That’s personal.

I’m a big believer in diversity of opinion and background being a strength rather than a weakness.  The intense pressure to conform to the thinking of whatever the group troubles me deeply.  Joanne has every right to be critical of Sandberg and Mayer without being labeled a hater.  Holmes and Walsh have the right to disagree with Joanne’s criticism, and can do so very eloquently WITHOUT the name-calling and baseless accusations of her not having read the book.  Why must we make this PERSONAL, people?  Shouldn’t we, as women and feminists, be setting the standard for mature discourse – given the appalling LACK of it from our predominantly male legislators?

Maybe I’m naive, but I believe everyone has something to contribute.  Furthermore, I feel a responsibility to distill the information and discussion down to what speaks to me and helps me learn.  To take from the criticism what makes sense, and maybe call BS on the parts that don’t – while doing my damnedest to be respectful of the people with whom I’m disagreeing.  The more rational the critique, the more powerful in my eyes.  But when was the last time rationality sold magazines?  That might explain why I don’t make enough to file taxes…or buy a copy of “Lean In.”

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