What happened on the 8th? Women

I thought I had posted something, but apparently it doesn’t exist.  I know I typed here then, but there is no post.  I don’t remember everything I typed that day, so I’m not going to try to recreate it.  However, I’m going to bring up one topic from it:  International Women’s Day.  That was March 8th, exactly a week ago.  What I really want to talk about, though, is the UN Commission on the Status of Women 57.  Three years ago, I was part of an organization’s delegation to the CSW 54.  Before I collapsed in the streets of New York and was forced to stay at the convent the rest of the week (which was still pretty awesome), I was having a great time.  It wasn’t that it was particularly entertaining or anything, but it was amazing to be there with people from around the world connected for the purpose of talking about women’s issues.  It was so interesting to learn about international gender and sex issues, and be able to participate in concurrent events and talks about these topics that so often are forgotten or ignored.  The delegation I was with is particularly interested in education and the rights of the girl child, so I went to a few presentations about education internationally.  I got so many resources that I still haven’t completely sorted through.  It was truly amazing.  I also attended a Planned Parenthood gathering with a Catholic nun from my group.  Though we have very differing views on the issues discussed, it was nice to be able to discuss them in a civil manner and with authorities on the matters.  They also had really good food.

I hope to travel to another CSW in the future, with this same organization (I’m friends with some of the leaders on Facebook, so I can make it happen, hopefully).  The only problem is that the CSW occurs for two weeks in March, a time when I generally have school.  When I went, the program was coordinated through the school, so missing a week of classes–though I had a lot of work to make up–was excusable.  Now that I’m at a different school, I think that would be much more troublesome.  Once I graduate, I will hopefully get a teaching job soon after, which would, of course, most likely have me teaching in March.  It is too late for me to go this year, and next year I will likely be student teaching.  However, I really want to go again, this time for at least a whole week without falling over and needing to be helped up by the police.  (Good thing I collapsed next to them so they could keep me from being trampled or lost by my group.)

The focus of CSW 57 is ending violence against women.  This is a huge issue globally, manifested in many ways.  In a city near me, there have recently been a lot of news stories about domestic violence (one of the manifestations of violence against women).  There was a shooting in which uninvolved people died, along with the husband (the shooter) and wife (the intended victim).  The thing that struck me about this case in particular was that, according to the press coverage, the police had been involved with this couple on many occasions, and saw clear warning signs and even acts of violence.  The police officers, multiple times, pretty much ignored the issue.  The man should probably have been in prison, or at least treatment, at the time of the final incident.

These things happen across the world every day.  A lot of people, especially in the US, think that the feminist movement is over, that women are treated equally and have equal opportunity.  This simply is not the case.  Sure, there are female CEOs and even presidents of some countries, but too many women are hurt every day simply because they are women.  They are raped, murdered, mutilated, kidnapped and sold.  They are not allowed to go to school or get jobs.  They cannot feed the children they had no choice not to create.  Maybe the world is better for women and girls than it was 100 years ago, but the effort should not end now.  The state of the world’s females is sad.  Even sadder is the complacency of so many that allows it to happen.

Some people think there’s not really much that can be done to change these huge problems.  Again, that’s not true.  Every step anyone takes against an issue like violence against women impacts someone.  Maybe the entire world will never be safe, but each relationship we build with others can be a safe place.  We can support women’s shelters in our neighborhoods.  We can spread the word  about what we care about and can take action to get world leaders (and local leaders) to change what happens.  Perhaps things like rape can’t be prevented (though I think some cases might be), but they can be treated differently.  Victims can be supported, not blamed or even killed.  Perpetrators can be punished and prevented from harming others.  In some cases, they can be treated.  Other cases, like those involving war, may take more time and a larger task force to solve, but empowering women is an important step in stopping violence against them.

I encourage you to check out the many resources available concerning these matters, and pick one you care about to act on.  As I sort through my resources, I’ll periodically post links for you.  To start, visit the UN CSW website.  There, you can read about what’s going on and even watch webcasts of events.  Even if you’re not really interested in women’s issues, there are other problems in the world that you can learn about and help remedy.

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Dr. Phil, Feminism, and Hands

In two of my classes this week, we’re talking about gender and related topics.  One, an education class, is about diversity and differences in education.  The other, contemporary art, is about feminism in art, starting in the ’60s and ’70s (although we touched on earlier movements a bit, they aren’t as key in the visual arts).  Of course, this has me thinking more than I usually do about social justice.  Really, I think about it a lot, but now it’s a lot a lot.

My assignment for the education class was to make a poster about the female gender, stereotypes, expectations, etc.  With only Time, National Geographic, and a few AARPs and AAAs, I had no problem filling the posterboard with images and words cut from the pages of these admired magazines.  At first, I thought I might have a problem, because they don’t have the typical models and fashion ads and sex tips that other magazines do (Cosmo, anyone?).  Well, I worried for no reason.  They were full of plenty of images of women, though rarely in “important” roles like the men they featured.  Women, in the ads and articles, were portrayed as emotional, needy, pretty, caretakers, and, well, feminine.  Other posters from the women in the class (the men are presenting theirs tomorrow) included similar themes, along with more overt sexual images and language.  The men in the class mostly seemed to realize that this could be a problem, especially after reading some articles about girls and education.  However, one man continuously made comments about how he was “enjoying the view” and liked the posters.  I found this offensive, but he was too far away for me to say anything directly.  I think, however, that I will talk to the (female) professor and ask her to address such situations immediately in the future.  We had another comment earlier in the semester from a woman in the class, speaking about Toddlers and Tiaras, saying that the dad was “supposedly not gay” and implying that, in fact, you could tell someone was lying about their sexual orientation through a TLC show and that only gay men could encourage their daughters in beauty pageants.  This, I thought, was a bit of a problem, but everybody let it slide and the professor kept talking.  Next time, I will speak up, I think (though it’s hard for me to do with my psych issues; I’d rather just blog about it).

Oh, the hands in the title.  The professor of my art class today, after a brief discussion of feminism, asked if anyone identified themselves as being feminist.  No hands were raised.  Later, after some more explanation and a bit of a “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” attitude, everyone’s hands raised.  The most surprising part to me was that the class is all women, except for one man who, after prodding, joined the class as a feminist (even before some of the women did).

Why wouldn’t someone want to identify as a feminist?  Because the group is wrong, of course.  At least, it is according to this opinion piece on the Fox New website (which, by the way, is absolutely ridiculous).

Last night, driving home from school, the radio was on.  I was kind of listening, and an ad for Dr. Phil came on.  It was about a woman and her sister (we’ll call them A and B for clarity).  Well, A, apparently, had relationships with men.  B, apparently, liked to ruin them by having sex with the men.  Eventually, A got married.  B moved in with A and her husband.  And then B had sex with the husband.  Multiple times.  And all Dr. Phil had to say about it (at least on the ad; I didn’t watch the show) was that maybe the sisters needed some distance.  The way it was presented implied that it was all B’s fault.  What about the men?  They do tend to have control of whether or not they have sex with someone (sure, B could be a serial rapist, but that’s highly unlikely and should have been mentioned if the sex wasn’t consensual).

This brings light (though dim) to an issue that pervades our culture:  the idea that “boys will be boys” and that men have no control over their sexual practices, that it’s always the woman’s responsibility to make sure a condom is on, that rape victims are “asking for it” by what they wear (except in rare, hypothetical situations of rape fantasy, this is simply a stupid and harmful idea, at best).

That’s really a bad ending, but I don’t have anything else to say right now.  I’ll be back, though, don’t worry.  And I’ll certainly have more to say.

The Pledge

I’m going to assume that most people reading this are familiar with the fact that the U.S. has a pledge of allegiance and a national anthem.  If you’re not…well, they exist.  Now you’re all caught up.

One of my Facebook friends, who happens to live in the Midwest, is male, white, heterosexual (and strongly opposed to any other option), Roman Catholic (because he likes the Sacraments; otherwise, he might be Lutheran, ’cause, after all, women should maybe be able to be priests), an Eagle Scout, and Republican, recently posted an interesting question.  He’s been out of the primary and secondary school system for a while, seeing as he’s nearing 30, but is planning on working with kids (he wants to be a camp director).  Did I mention he’s also patriotic, in a push-his-beliefs-on-you kind of way?  Well, he is.  I think he honestly believes that the US is the best place ever in the history of anywhere.  And, of course, Obama and the gays are ruining it.  Whatever.  His Facebook question was directed at his “education friends”…of which I am one, I guess…and was wondering if the pledge of allegiance is still said in schools, and if so, until what grade.  Well, this was a stupid question that could easily have been answered with a 2 second Google search…which is, of course, what I used to find my copy-paste law about it.  I’m not sure what the law is in other states (haven’t bothered to look it up yet), but in his state, public schools must provide the pledge or national anthem every day, and private schools must unless it goes against their religious beliefs.  However, no one can be compelled to recite against their or their guardians’ objections.  This is required for every grade, 1-12 (and often applied to kindergarten, since they’re usually in the same schools and it’s done over the announcements or speaker system for everybody).

So where is this post going, you may ask…well, I’m a bit annoyed.  Just a bit, though.  Not enough to really care or express a strong opinion to him on Facebook, but enough to write about it here (though that may be out of boredom more than annoyance).

My question is, should this really be required in schools?  Do the kids even know what they’re saying?

I am a proud product of the public school system.  Beginning in kindergarten, I stood up with my class and recited the pledge each school morning.  Of course, at age five, I didn’t really get it, but that’s okay, whatever.  It was just one more thing school told me to memorize and recite.  And I did.  Then, in fourth or fifth grade, some schools merged and there were suddenly new kids in my class.  One of them identified as Jehovah’s Witness.  At age 10, we didn’t really talk about that much, but somebody in class did notice that she didn’t stand for the pledge (which, as everyone knows, is the most important part), or even say it sitting down.  Well, this apparently caused some drama, though I don’t really remember it, and the teacher had to address the class and explain that this was because of the girl’s religious beliefs.  That’s all fine and dandy, but it got me thinking, briefly, about why they would object.  After all, it did mention God (which, even at that point in my life, I realized was kind of contentious).  That thought didn’t last long, at least that I can remember.  I had important tests to get 100s on, and was far too busy making sure kids didn’t copy my spelling tests to think about philosophical ideas.

Somewhere between 12 and 14, I started thinking about it again.  One girl in my class chose not to stand, not for religious reasons (she was a professed atheist), but for some reason she never really articulated to me, though she was one of my good friends at that time.  As I remember it, it became a bit trendy for kids to sit (and converse) during the pledge and ensuing morning announcements.  This was in a world shortly after 9/11, when we were expected to give full support to every governmental action.  Most of them did it because they finally realized they could (not for any deeper political or spiritual reason).  The teachers couldn’t make them stand and recite.  Of course, there was a faction of kids who did not agree with this show of apathy and diligently stood each day for the recitation.  In fact, most of us stood, at least on some days.  Most days, I didn’t think about what I was saying or doing during that time, but on occasion, I did start to think it was a bit silly, and I wondered about why I was doing it and what I was saying.

In high school, at some point, I pretty much stopped standing for the pledge.  When the national anthem was played at school events (I didn’t attend sports), I would stand, and maybe put my hand on my heart out of respect, but the pledge wasn’t important, if it ever had been.  Politics was a pretty big thing in my high school, and there were certainly strong representatives of both major parties.  One girl, during a gubernatorial election time, told the class that “the only people who benefit from Democrats in office are teachers and welfare workers!”  After class, the teacher told her that, in saying that, she was being “closemindedly stupid.”  He was a pretty great teacher.  My immediate thoughts were “So…that’s supposed to be bad?” and “You do realize you’re saying that to a teacher, right?”  She was one who always said the pledge.  Sitting became a way to show dissent to President Bush’s policies (and showing laziness, depending on the student).

I sat because it simply didn’t hold meaning for me, and I didn’t want to be forced to do something that meant nothing to me.  I started wondering why other people bothered, why we did this every day, what it was supposed to mean.

The pledge reads:  I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The whole thing just seems off to me.  I mean, first we pledge allegiance to the flag.  Then, we say it’s one nation under God, totally ignoring anybody who believes differently (and maybe implying that other nations aren’t).  And we say it’s indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.  We were never really taught what it meant or the history of what we were saying.

There’s a lot more to this, but I think I’ll be done for now.

Another Post!

Well, it looks like I might be posting more frequently this semester.  I have this awkward 1/2 hour break between two classes, but they’re in the same room, so there’s really no point in leaving.  I guess that means I’ll blog.

If I’m going to be blogging a lot, I suppose I should try to come up with something more interesting to write about.  I mean, I know the details of my life are fascinating…but really.

Let’s see…what to write about…oh, I know.

Here’s an article that one of my education professors asked our class to read today.  Basically, the issue at hand, though it’s a bit clouded in this article, is student privacy.  Specifically, a teacher posted a class picture on her personal Facebook account.  Now, she might be fired, but the school board is unclear as of this moment.

So the question is, should she be fired and did she do something wrong…well, that’s complicated.  I don’t know of any laws that specifically state that teachers can’t put pictures of kids online like that (but there certainly could be).  However, in my experience, a lot (most?) organizations, schools, etc. that work with kids have policies against that sort of thing.  For instance, at camp, we are not allowed to post photos of campers.  The camp can, on official sites, but only with written permission from guardians.  From reading this article (which, let’s be honest, isn’t an example of very rigorous journalistic investigation), it seems that this school/district did not have such a policy in place.  If they did, and she violated it, of course she should be fired.  But if they didn’t…remove the picture, of course…but, more importantly, make a rule about it to prevent future problems.

I think she should have used some common sense and not done that, but if they don’t have a policy, there’s really no grounds to fire her.  Move on.

The larger issue this brings up, I think, is that times, they are a’changin’.  Schools, and everything, basically, need to keep up with technology, media, and society as a whole to prevent things like this from happening.  Posting pictures of kids who aren’t yours on the internet without permission is, frankly, stupid, and people need to realize that.  Maybe it’s the individual’s responsibility to learn that for themselves, or maybe the organizations need to take initiative and do some leading.  Either way, things like this, I think, will continue happening as long as people try to ignore or avoid change.

Well, time for class now.  Type to you later.

Apples

I am eating an apple.  It’s kind of difficult to type while eating an apple.  But that’s not going to stop me!  Adversity?  I laugh in the face of adversity!  Hahahaha!

Granted, that adversity is mild and self-imposed…but still…I laugh…rhetorically…

Alright, apple is in my belly and trash can now and I can type properly.  What shall I type about?  This always is the question.

Oh, I know.  There was this little thing called a national election yesterday.  Perhaps you’ve heard of it.  President Obama has been elected to another four years in that office.  There were many notable races for other offices throughout the country, but I’m not going to type about that today.  After all, that’s what the news is for.

What I will type about in regards to politics is my new plan for world domination…I mean…something that sounds less bad…I noticed that, on the ballot in my area, many of the races were uncontested.  The incumbent, in most cases, or somebody new who was in that same party, was the only option (besides write-in) for most of the local and state offices.  This is fine.  In fact, it may even be good.  For me.  And my world domination plans.  You see, by simply getting onto the ballot and being in the opposite party, I would have a fairly decent chance at getting quite a few votes.  In an area where a few votes are the total…well…I could, conceivably, win.  Of course, with some advertising and campaigning, that likelihood would increase.  By starting at the local level and building a name for myself, getting to the state level wouldn’t be too difficult (really.  Don’t argue this point.  It’s undeniably true).  After that, it would be only a matter of time before I was elected to national office…and then…THE WORLD!!!!!!  Yup, that’s my plan and my goal.  The sheep from Alaska will rule the world! Muahahahahaha.  Plus, as we already established in this post, adversity will not stop me.  I will not give up.  I will take over.

Seriously, though, I could run for local office or state senate or something without too much trouble, theoretically.  At least until someone found this post about taking over the world and took it out of context and turned it against me.  Then I might have some difficulty.  But I could still pull through.  Maybe I should give up on my teaching aspirations and start politicking.  I think, though, that I could do more good without running for office.  Like use that theoretical money to start up my nonprofit.  Or finish my education and be an excellent teacher.

That was a relatively short post, but I think I’m done for now.  Perhaps more will come this afternoon.  Then again, perhaps not.  We shall see.

 

Words from a teacher and Person-first language

As I’ve mentioned previously, I am currently taking a class on special education.  It’s an introductory course, and I already have background in a lot of the topics because of my psychology and art therapy courses.  This makes the class rather easy but still informative (in the specifics of educational laws and functioning).  The professor has years of experience in the field of special education, teaching children in public schools and education students in universities.  She seems fairly knowledgeable on the subjects we discuss and doesn’t generally make mistakes.  Until today.

Now, I’m certainly not saying that people aren’t allowed to make mistakes or misspeak.  However, basic understanding of the proper use of terms one is using to teach is, I think, a fairly reasonable expectation.

Today, our lecture was about emotional and behavioral disorders (also known by many other terms, but that’s the gist of it).  When we got to the definition part, which was quite early in the short class, the professor began talking about the federal definition and other definitions of various organizations and such.  Well, the federal definition, apparently, includes an exclusion for social maladjustment, such as “conduct disorder–aggressive, disorderly, antisocial behavior.”  Besides that wording and punctuation being a bit odd, the professor’s explanation did not properly address it.  Maybe I’m misinterpreting the statement, but it seems to me that, especially with that combination of words (conduct disorder, aggressive, etc.), the antisocial behavior mentioned is just that–antisocial behavior.  My professor, however, seems to think that antisocial behavior means social awkwardness and avoidance.  Although this is a popular interpretation of the word antisocial, it is an actual disorder, with a specific set of antisocial characteristics and behaviors.  It is my understanding that, when discussing diagnostic things, one should use the correct diagnostic definitions.  In this case, antisocial behavior is obviously behavior that is against society, not simply unsocial.  My professor did not address any of the other words in the exception of the category.  It bothers me that people don’t understand things like this and perpetuate such misunderstandings in their teaching.

This wasn’t a major incident, but it did remind me of another post I’m working on, so I thought I’d talk about that topic now, too.  That topic, which this particular professor seems to enjoy emphasizing, is person-first language.  Basically, person-first language means that, when describing someone, you should put the person or humanizing adjective before a disability or disorder.  For instance, instead of saying something like “The autistic boy went to McDonald’s,” you would say “The boy who is autistic went to McDonald’s.”  The purpose of this is to emphasize the human aspect and deemphasize the label, reducing negative connotations and focusing on commonalities.  This seems fine and dandy, but I’m not convinced.  First of all, from a purely linguistic point of view, the wording is, well, off, and seems to emphasize that there is a difference.  In our language and culture, we generally say things like “the blonde girl,” “the good lawyer,” “the fat man,” “the distracted child,” while person-first language makes us think about this and, only for specific cases, makes us change the wording.  It is less common and more cumbersome to say “the girl who has blonde hair,” “the lawyer who is good,” “the man who is fat,” “the child who is distracted,” and people just don’t do it.  Moreover, it’s not suggested by person-first language.  At what point do we draw a line in rewording our descriptions?  Is “The German boy who has autism” better than “The German boy is autistic” (is versus has is another issue altogether) or “The boy who is German has autism” or “The boy with autism is German” or “The autistic boy is German” or any other combination of those words?  I think it depends on what one is trying to say, but I don’t believe any of those is inherently dehumanizing.  Should we say “The young male person of German heritage exhibits behaviors commonly associated with the set of symptoms known as autism”?  This rewording, to me, while well-intentioned, actually puts unneeded emphasis on the condition being discussed.

In addition, some communities, such as the Deaf community, do not approve of this type of language.  Deaf people, according to literature, would rather be called “Deaf people” than be called “people who are deaf” because they have a culture, a community, a language all their own, and it’s not dehumanizing to identify them as being a part of that.  In fact, it is empowering in many cases.

I’m not suggesting that every possible wording is okay in every circumstance, but I do think that the wordings we use should fit what we are trying to say.  There are also differences between saying “The depressed girl” and “The girl with depression” and “The girl who is depressed” and “The girl who has depression” but I don’t think one is inherently wrong or dehumanizing.  What can be dehumanizing is how people use the words.  “That guy is sooo bipolar,” for example, puts the person first but is still demeaning, while saying “The bipolar man shared his lunch” is not.

Sitting in Ceramics Again

This time, I’m done throwing.  I’ve trimmed four plates today (that I threw on Wednesday) and thrown four more.  Now, I’m waiting for those four to stiffen up so that I can trim them.  Then, I’m done with ceramics and won’t have to come in to the studio on the weekend!  Come to think of it, I won’t really have any school work I have to do this weekend!  I can sleep and craft and teach Sunday school and read and hang out with my family and eat ice cream!  But that’s not until tomorrow.  Right now, I’m waiting.  Oh, and doing the notes that are due at midnight for my special education class.  I’m taking a break from that, obviously, to write here.  I already finished and submitted one chapter; now I have one more to do.  This next chapter is a bit longer, but not too much.  Plus, the reading level of the book doesn’t make it very difficult, so I get through it pretty quickly.

Speaking of that book, one of the sections I read today about cultural diversity and disability as culture reminded me of a post I started yesterday.  I thought about it on the drive home and, instead of forgetting it as I usually do, I made a point to remember and type a couple of notes for it and save as a draft right away.  It’ll be a pretty interesting post, I think, hopefully.  But I’m not doing that right now, either.

I’m also not eating ice cream.  I’ve decided to stay in this building, mostly this room, until my plates are done so that I don’t lose motivation or “forget” to come back in time to do work.

So what am I going to write about now?  Ummm…good question.

Well, I’ve been listening to NPR the last couple days while driving as it helps me feel more…awake (?) and aware than listening to music.  I listened to the last 45 minutes or so of the presidential debate while driving home on Wednesday, and have heard quite a bit of commentary on it since (along with conversations about pets, TV shows, books, and other random things I don’t particularly remember).  That’s been interesting.  I don’t really have much to say about it.  What I tend to have things to say about are social issues, and that wasn’t covered too much.  Yeah, there was mention of Medicare and PBS, which are very interesting and important, but I just don’t have much of an informed opinion on the healthcare situation (more research needed), and PBS is obviously the coolest thing ever, so why would I need to argue about that?  I care about rights.  Human rights.  For everyone.  I care about education.  For everyone.  I happen to think that my views on human rights and education are a bit too different from Romney’s and the Republican party’s as a whole to vote for him, but I don’t really feel like discussing partisan politics right now right here.  What I do feel like discussing is the idea that everyone do the best they’re able to get informed (from the least biased resources they can find) about the issues they care about (and maybe even ones they don’t) and make a sincere effort to vote for people who share their views.  Whether that means voting for a school board member, the President of the United States, or anything in between, do it, whenever you can.  ‘Cause if you don’t, somebody else still will, and your opinions won’t really matter in some ways then.  That was a very poorly worded sentence, but I’m leaving it that way because I trust you know what I’m trying to say.

What else?  I’m hungry.  I could eat some fruit snacks or go to the vending machine to get something, but I don’t really feel like getting up right now.  I’m kinda comfy, and I want to stay that way.

I should probably get up and check my plates, but I’m sure they’re not dry yet, as I checked them about half an hour ago and they were quite moist.  Actually, some of them I just flipped then, so they’re definitely not ready.  I could start my notes for that special education chapter now, but then what would I do later?  I think I’m going to start working on that post I mentioned earlier, the one I had the idea for while driving and actually didn’t forget.  Yes, that’s what I’ll do.