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August 3, 2013

What an unconditional apology looks like…

Filed under: Just life,Observations — Tags: , , , — sbj @ 10:26 am

Despite Googles best efforts to make this impossible, I am running out of space in my Gmail inbox and, as such am deleting old emails. Which is where I found this:

Usually when I apologize there is at least some aspect of that apology that I do not mean sincerely; but rather I simply say to keep the peace or to absorb your portion of the blame so that we can move on amicably. This is no such apology. There is nothing justifiable or or redeeming in any of my actions. You did not start, contribute to or escalate the situation, and yet in the face of my disgusting impersonation of pure evil, instead maintained a respectful and civil demeanor. Your quality of character, in stark contrast to mine at the moment, is unimpeachable.

Not that I deserve any quarter from your – as yet imperceptible – scorn, but rather so that you can at least have the knowledge – or perhaps take some comfort in the fact – that you have not completely wasted your investment in our friendship; I will explain why and how my grotesque actions do not reconcile with my usual attempts at more affable comportment…

I’d like to say, at this point, I said “stop… you had me at affable comportment” but of course this was an email so I lacked the ability to interrupt… plus I’d be lying if I said I thought of it at the time.

From there the author went on to describe what they were thinking and how those thoughts translated into their actions (those details are completely unimportant and astonishingly uninteresting given their introduction. it is amazing how trivial the things that seem to be devastating to our world can appear in retrospect.). The apology, of course, was accepted and the relationship maintained… at least until the authors recent passing… a transgression I am still working on forgiving…

As with so many other things that I could learn from my friends and family, this friend certainly demonstrates some acumen in an area in which I could stand some improvement. Most of my apologies take on a form similar this:

oops

I’m glad I saved this email (and am continuing to do so)… with any luck I’ll learn from it and become a better person for knowing my now departed friend (who, I should point out, wrote the most fantastic thank you notes in history as well).

I’d like to add a pithy wrap up one liner… but it’s 4:22 am… so I’m just going to say good night and try to fall asleep…

Good night :)

August 2, 2013

Riley Cooper should not be punished…

… but he should be shunned.

shun

Some folks might think that is overly harsh and personal, to them I say… you just don’t get it. Racism does not exist because a bunch of cowardly idiots wearing bed sheets and dunce caps (coincidence… I think not) burn the occasional cross or harass a random minority. It exists because a bunch of overly entitled white guys in an upscale bar can get together and when someone tells a “black joke” they all laugh and accept it (even if they feel uncomfortable about it inside).

Freedom of speech is a fundamental right in our country, and it is so for many very good reasons. I take advantage of that right each and every time i click on “Publish” while writing in this space. We all do it day in and day out, we should, it’s our right, and its a good things. But, while it is your right to think I’m an asshole for some of the things I write and you can elect to stop reading (or even discourage other people from reading my drivel) you are not entitled to punish me for what I say… because, no matter what it is, it is my protected right to say it and I violate no laws in doing so.

Neither did Riley Cooper. Which is why I say he should not be punished. The thing is, as a society, we need to stop trying to punish individuals and start dealing with our tolerance for intolerance (what did I just say???). Racism is a social issue, it gains its power from group acceptance not individual adherence.

LeSeann McCoy hit the nail on the head with his approach:

“He’s still a teammate. I’m still going to block for him. I’m still gonna show great effort. Just on a friendship level, and as a person, I can’t really respect somebody like that.”

Of course those first three sentences are only correct because our acceptance of racism at the corporate level is institutionalized. You see, McCoy, as an individual can make the choice to distance himself from Cooper; however, the Eagles cannot practically say “I don’t approve of your actions and I’m not going to be your friend anymore” (read: cut him). Why? because someone else will pick him right up, probably at a bargain price, creating a situation where the Eagles would be disadvantaged by doing so.

In other words, it’s not a financially sound practice to be morally or ethically upstanding; and when the choice is between money and morality we all know which was that door is going to swing. So the Eagles won’t drop him (some of them will even support him) and the beat will go one, the lessons about economics over ethics continuing to be reinforced, and the mock apologies over future incidents ensured because our corporate culture has given his actions its tacit approval. Even if they fine him (which really should not be illegal) it will not fix anything or send the message that his actions are unacceptable. It will simply set the market prices for being a racist. A price far too many people are willing to pay as a cost of doing bigoted-business.

July 29, 2013

And another thing… (Trayvon Martin thoughts, cont.)

murder

I do not mean to be insensitive to the Martin Family (or any of Trayvon’s other loved ones), nor do I mean to offend anyone who has taken up or adopted his plight but I am concerned about the singular attention this case has been given and the exclusion of so many other stories and other families who are suffering no less than his.

Over the past two years (for which we have statistics ’10 and ’11) there are an average of 42 homicides a day (roughly 30,000 over that time, 22,000 of which were by gunshot). Which means that during the jury deliberation portion of the trial alone (16 hours) 28 people would have been murdered (if the averages were maintained during that time).

That’s 28 people neither you or I (in all likelihood) will ever know the names of, or the circumstances of their demise. That’s also 28 people who are no less dead than Trayvon, with families no less torn apart than his.

We know that only 10% of homicides victims are under the age of 18, so maybe that makes it a bit more palatable that only 3 children murdered while those deliberations took place. The same source (the U.S. Bureau of Justice) tells us that 48.1% of those murdered are black… so that gets us close to only one murdered black child during that time.

Perhaps that child was Darious Simmons, or Nazia Banks or perhaps it was one of the several hundred other black youths that I was able to find that had been shot to death within the last year or so – none of whom I have heard of (including those in this tribute to the 108 Chicago area children killed in 2012)

My point is that while Martin, his family (along and Zimmerman et. al.) have become (certainly unwilling) celebrities, the circumstances of this tragedy continue to repeat themselves each and every day. So, while I think it is great that there is a growth in national awareness that is coming from the Trayvon Martin case, I fear that the wrong conversations are being had.

All of the conversations are important, but, this case has gone on long enough… lets start talking about Darious now. Lets discuss Nazia (and Kentan, and Porshe, and Sergio… and… and… and so many others from the Chicago list… all 15 or younger), then lets get over the racial aspect and talk about Latino children, and white children and every single child that is in harms way.

42 people a day (30 of them murdered with a firearm, for the record – and before the NRA apologists get into the act, these are homicide numbers, suicides etc. have already been baked out of the equation)…and yet for over a year our nation (and news media) was gripped by the drama generated by just one of these cases.

Trayvon Martin has become the face of the problem, the personification of it, and as such, I fear that when the news about him dies down… so will the associated (and very important) conversations. Put another way, the reality of young black people (or people of any age or color for that matter) being murdered will continue but the national awareness will not because our focus will have moved from the ongoing issue to a temporarily sensationalized example of it.

If we are not careful, the tragedy of February 26th may be re-doubled because we miss out on the chance to talk about the entire forest due to our interest in this particular tree.

July 16, 2013

Trayvon Martin (no fancy titles today)

I’ll start with a disalaimer, I did not start following the Trayvon Martin case closely until this weekend… so I am absolutely a johnny-come-lately on this issue. However, that does not mean I do not have things to share. The very first thing I saw this morning (on my computer) was this:

And with that, for the first time since February 26th of last year I felt good about something related to this case. Far to often we focus on who did what wrong and how should we hold them accountable for it. Few and far between are the conversations about what could have been done better and how can we learn to conduct ourselves better in the future as a result of this instance.

Even when we do see the latter, it is usually in the form of “slut-shaming” (perhaps we could call it “slum-shaming” in the case of a hooded teen walking alone on the streets at night?). You know the routine, “what did you expect to have happen wearing those clothes?” “I wouldn’t let my son walk around in the dead of night looking all gangster and stuff” etc. etc. etc.; ignoring the fact that the victim, by definition, does not commit the crime.

At this point I’m going to take a moment to point out that I do not know what happened that night in Florida. Based on the small sample of evidence I have heard from the trial and my limited knowledge of Florida law, I probably would have had a tough time convicting Zimmerman on the charges brought before the court. However, that should not imply in any way that I consider him innocent. I do not “stand with” Florida’s “Stand your ground” laws. For a more detailed look at my views written by someone other than me, check out this piece. His opinions mirror mine to the point that I’m willing to just let them speak for me.

Getting back to my point, what was so nice about the tweet above (if we were to look at it in specific reference to this situation) was that it focused on what could be done different not by the kid in the hoodie, but by the guy who shot him. Even better though, is that it can be applied to any situation where someone in Zimmerman’s shoes encounters someone in Martin’s. Further, and this is the best part, it is a blueprint for life even if you aren’t a volunteer neighborhood watchman on patroll, or even if you don’t run into a kid in a hoodie who you feel might be a touch menacing.

I love this because it says you can be a good person anytime you like. You (probably) do it all the time when you hold open a door for someone else or let them scootch in front of you in traffic when they don’t even have the right of way (what madness is this!!!). This simply encourages is raising the bar a little and doing it when it really matters.

I love this because whether you think George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin in cold blood, got caught up in the moment and foolishly took his life in a bit of a rage, or truly was justifiably fearful of his life and acted in self-defense… this advice still works and is a blueprint that would have (most likely) prevented the entire event from occurring.

I love this because, well, I want to live in a world where people hear a result like the Trayvon Martin verdict and respond with “how cool would it have been if he had offered him a ride instead.” Today, I didn’t have to pretend or wish… it was the first thing I saw (on my computer) when I woke up. And while that won’t bring Martin back or allow Zimmerman to undo his actions, it might just give some other people who have not faced their Feburary 26th yet a little perspective when they do… perspective which might save the life (or lives) of the next Trayvon Martin(s).

July 10, 2013

This is why we can’t (or shouldn’t) have nice things…

Filed under: Environment,Observations,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 10:26 pm

A few weeks ago I took (public) umbrage with the faux-fact based facebook post:

My issue with it was (and remains) the distorted use of facts taken out of context (not to mention the poor methodology and small sample size of the actual study cited). Rearing it’s face again, the over simplification and reduction to a few choice, targeted words of a complex topic so that is is digestible and easy to repeat for the ignorant masses.

Note: I am not saying everyone who read or repeated this post is ignorant… I am simply talking about the objectives of its creators

If that notions offends you, I’m sorry… but unless you read the entire study (I did, for the record) you really shouldn’t be quoting it… let alone passing on someone else’s quote from it. Bottom line, you don’t understand it and shouldn’t be passing it off as fact (or anything else for that matter).

But this is just background for what I want to talk about today. More of the same to be sure, but on this one I can actually chime in with my opinion. You see, on most issues, like abortion, because I work for a non-partisan office, I cannot share my views (which has made for some interesting reading of some of the comments I have received… as people have assumed quite incorrectly what side of the fence I am on regarding some issues and railed against “people like me” when in fact “people like me” are “people like them” since we share the same view).

Alas, once again, I digress…

Today I saw this juicy tidbit on Facebook (take note of the highlighted text and the circled link in the image):

As I am prone to do before commenting, sharing, or even liking something on Facebook, I clicked on the available link (the one circled in the image above) to read the background and detailed information about the post. So, imagine my surprise when I read, less than half way through the article, the following:

It is a very natural process and scientists say it should not be tied directly to the very real climate changes that are also affecting this part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

You read that right… in the article referenced by the post stating “the time for half measures is over — we need climate action now” we are told in no uncertain terms that what we are reading about is “very natural” and that it shouldn’t be linked to climate changes.

Seriously, people???!?!??!?!??!?!?

This is particularly galling to me because I happen to believe in “Global Warming” and happen to agree with the folks that think we are creating our own extinction event on carbon emission at a time. And I don’t even care (…gasp…) how it effect profits (profits are of little concern to a uninhabited world, IMO). In other words… I completely agree with the message, and want to be able to re-post this. But I can’t, because it is rubbish (with regard to global warming… it’s still interesting from a purely scientific standpoint).

Simple minds are easily swayed, and I realize the path to political success is paved with mass ideological conscription. However, I can’t help feeling that with every Facebook post and Pinterest pin (of this ilk), we are chipping away our national intelligence quotient. And I’m not sure that’s a price worth paying to acquire a vote, or even an election, here and there. Democracy (representative or not) is based on an informed electorate casting informed responsible votes. When was the last time we could say that was the case for the majority of our voters? When was the last time we were even trending in that direction?

I don’t think the propaganda machines are going to stop any time soon (there is too much money and power to be accumulated), so it’s up to us, the “consumers” of this drivel to do our part. Read the underlying stories, research the so called facts, and most important… call people out on false or misleading statements (even, as is the case with the ice berg above) it runs contrary to your point of view.

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” – Thomas Jefferson

June 11, 2013

Verizon, the feds, and privacy (paranoia?)…

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , , , , — sbj @ 5:33 pm

I find myself wondering why I should be more concerned with the government having my information (which they will presumably use to catch or prosecute “bad guys”) than Verizon or Google or Apple or Microsoft (who will certainly use it to try to make a profit… at my expense). Especially since said government can go get that information from those companies any time they want down the road if they ever need it to prosecute anyway.

We live in an age of stored data. I, for example, keep all of my texts and email (especially the ones from exiled Nigerian dictators… those bad boys are worth a fortune!!!). That’s right, if you have ever sent me an email or a text message… I still have it (probably many of you do the same thing). You may begin fearing me and my massive Orwellian powers now. As data capacity improves, the amount of data being stored goes up as well this is simply a product of the information society in which we live.

I’m not saying I want everyone (or anyone)to have it… but… if I’m going to lose my mind about it, I think I’d be more inclined to start with corporate entities for storing the information over time than with the government for getting a copy of it.

nsa

I keep being told, by pretty much everyone – including Mr. Snowdon the whistle-blower himself, that I should care because it means they (read: the government) can reverse engineer a case against me by using my old phone call records and former acquaintances coupled with a surly drunken Facebook post or two and a tweet about GWB’s DWI as a patchwork quilt of indictment (AKA call me an “evil doer”). To all of those who would make that argument I say… if you really think that is what your country and its government are about… why are you here? I cannot imagine a scenario in which I thought this of my country, wherein my country remained my country.

Corporate entities trying to make a buck by leveraging my habits and preferences… yeah that makes sense. My government spending its time building mock-cases against otherwise innocent people just because… I don’t know… its Wednesday. You’re gonna have to sell that stuff somewhere else, ’cause, I’m not buy’n it (and as soon as I do… I’ll be living in Bermuda… where – bonus – there is no sales or income tax)

Perhaps I’m wrong (this happens far more than I’d like to admit) and I should be a-scared. But for me, right now, this just all seems to be much ado about nothing…

June 4, 2013

There she is… She’s Miss how-you-have-to-look-to-be-acceptable…

Filed under: Conversations,Observations,Values — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 11:45 pm

This post might seem a touch self-contradictory at best and outright hypocritical at worst… it’s probably a bit of both in reality. Yesterday I saluted a friend for an outstanding blog post on the ills (well, one specific ill, to be fair) of beauty pageants. Today I was called on the carpet by an old friend for doing so. Now, in front of you… I’m going to investigate that. I’m not sure where this is going to end up, because I haven’t really thought much about it… I just opened the “new post” dialog box and started typing…

Let me start by saying I still completely agree with Jeanne’s stance and actions and my subsequent words about them yesterday.

bsuits

The background:

The link (to her piece): http://idahobusinessreview.com/2013/06/03/a-judgment-call/

My comment on her Facebook page:

My Comment on my share of her piece on my Facebook wall:

Needless to say I was supportive… and again, I remain so…

But then I got an email from an old college friend… an excerpt:

Have you really changed this much, or are you pandering? To be blunt, we spent hours talking about physical attraction in school and one of your main tenants was always that beauty should be equal in stature to other qualities you might evaluate about another person – SO LONG AS – it was given equal weight with all of the other qualities of the woman. This seems to be the model in these pageants, so what gives? What has changed? Why are “intelligence,” “sense of humor,” or “compassion” (etc.) valid qualities yet “how well someone takes care of themselves” is not?

I’ll start by pointing out what is missing from her email… context. Our discussions centered on dating. Specifically, selecting a single person out of the myriad of potential companions in whom one would invest their relationship equity (AKA time). Within that context, I probably hold the same beliefs that I held back then (again, I haven’t given it much thought… I just read her words and started typing). I have long held that 1. it is wrong to judge someone solely based on their looks, body, or other physical attributes and b. that is is also wrong to ignore physical attraction when selecting a potential mate or life partner. I do believe that violating either of these (lets call them) “principles” almost completely precludes success in long-term relationships.

I’m going to assume everyone understands why physical attraction is important to the coupling process, and move on to the meat of the subject (if you are unclear, or think others might be… there is a comments area below… ask and you shall receive).

While physical attributes in a one to one relationship go beyond “fair” and move more toward “critical” in making one’s choices, that does not mean that they should be a key component in a societal view of a particular gender (or any other group of people). What it does (among other things, some of which I intend to talk about some I do not) is detract from peoples ability to find the best match for them. When we, as a society, define the perfect waist, chest, arm, or thigh size; we deprecate the ability of individuals to make decisions on what they personally find attractive. It creates an artificially high weight on the attractiveness factor based on the knowledge of what public opinion is.

In other words, if you know 90% of people like cool-aide and you are selecting a drink, there is a decent chance you will select cool-aide even if you prefer water simply to avoid dealing with comments regarding your choice. If you don’t believe me… order a water the next time you and the guys (I assume it is the same for girls… but I can’t say for sure) go out for a drink and see what happens. There will be comments… I assure you. For many, this is enough pressure to lead them to have a beer or a glass of wine they don’t really want resulting in an evening that isn’t as rewarding as it could have been.

This pressure is over a drink… now imagine how much greater is to for selecting your life partner. Someone you will introduce to your parents, your friends, your co-workers etc. If you KNOW someone you might otherwise like does not measure up to the image society has given you for a successful “hunt” how is that going to effect your actions?

Ignored (but not forgotten) so far in my ramblings is the effect on the folks on the other side of the equation… the ones trying to fit into that norm so that they will be considered attractive. I’ll let a few numbers talk to this point:

  • Of female students surveyed on a typical college campus, 58% felt pressure to be a certain weight
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys nationwide use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives
  • The mortality rate associated with Anorexia Nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15-24 years old

I’m pretty sure I don’t need to explain or expand on those numbers and what they mean to both individuals and society on the whole. When society establishes a norm and exerts pressure on people to comply with that norm, the health of that society (and the individuals within it) suffers… the end.

Which brings me back to Jeanne’s piece. Pageants are not deciding, in a one-to-one-life-partner way, what is attractive for an individual. Rather, they are setting a standard for an entire society; and it is in this that they are wrong. One of the comments on her article reads:

Another read:

As I read these I couldn’t help but think about a radio interview I had recently heard about a woman who spent time in jail (for civil disobedience in protest of something… can’t remember what right now). The shows host asked her why she didn’t just pay the fine and avoid jail time and she responded that’s what the big corporations that she was protesting did. They built the fines for their unethical actions into their business model and treated them as just another cost of doing business; “right and wrong” were replaced by “profit and loss” as their guiding principle or moral compass. In her view, if it was wrong for them, it was wrong for her as well and so she didn’t just write a check to excuse her behavior, she paid the full price of incarceration.

But enough about other people, what about me.

Have I changed my views? Am I pandering? … No, I don’t think so.

I still believe that when an individual is finding their life partner all things should be considered (including attractiveness). I have a proclivity toward brunettes (sorry blondes… it’s nothing personal)… for whatever reason they simply trip a trigger in me that blondes don’t. As such I tended to gravitate that way when I was dating. Since I (typically, this piece being a bit of an exception) do not advocate or even share that preference, I do not feel badly about it effecting my personal choices.

Pageants do something different, however. They pit one (toned, fit and usually slight) body against another, in a contest to see who’s body is the best. It’s this public judging of one against the other than helps to establish, enhance, and uphold a cultural “norm” that our society – as a whole – embraces… with some pretty awful results.

I think, as Jeanne points out in her piece, it is wonderful what the Miss X pageants do in the way of community service efforts. For me though, it’s just not enough to offset the damage that being a standard bearer for what is and is not “attractive” in society causes. As Jeanne adroitly points out, with a few tweaks, this could probably work for everyone. However, if I am to blunt – as my friend was with me – as long as there are women parading around in bikini’s and high heals in front of other people judging them on how they look… all of that charitable giving just smacks of “blood money” and the ends simply don’t justify the means…

May 22, 2013

Tiger and Sergio Sitt’n in a Tree… (or Grown Children Acting like Little Adults)

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 9:12 pm

I’ll preface this by saying that I buy the sincerity and believe genuine Sergio Garcia’s apology. I completely believe that his comment was not meant with malice of forethought and that his regret was both (at least nearly) instant and overwhelming. If I’m wrong about that, you might want to print this and use it to kick start your fire-pit because what follows has little value if that is not true…

For you non-golfers (or golf news followers) out there, here is the mini version of the events in question:

  • Tiger Woods grabs a club a little early (while Sergio Garcia is still swinging). Sergio, distracted by the crowd responding hits a bad shot and glares at Tiger
  • Sergio, interviewed after the round alludes to the fact that Tiger may have done it on purpose and comments on how tiger is not “the nicest guy in the world”
  • tiger counters with something like “it’s no surprise he is whining about something” (Sergio has a reputation for looking outside himself for explanations for his less than stellar moments)
  • For the remainder of the last two weeks the media has consistently kept the story alive seeking (and getting) comments from either golfer whenever possible
  • This reaches its zenith when Sergio, sarcastically asked if he would entertain Tiger for dinner during the next tournament they played together in, responded (in jest) affirmatively… including disclosing the menu for the soiree… “fried chicken” (oops)

Now, if you’ve ever read any consecutive string of my posts containing more than three or four posts, you know my position on reaffirming stereotypes (you know this because I won’t shut up about it). If you have never read anything else I have written, in short, I think it is one of the leading causes of racial, gender, and most (if not all) other types of bias, inequality and bigotry. Therefore, the following will probably come as a bit of a surprise to many of you.

While I certainly do not condone Sergios comment or any other similar comment by anyone, I also do not condemn him to the ranks of racist, villain, or bigot as so much of the media and general public has done.

Why, you might ask, the sudden “tolerance” for this sort of outburst? I’ll tell you…

Because, while for the past two weeks Tiger and Sergio (at the encouragement and to the delight of the media) have acted like petulant children having a spat, for the last 24 hours or so, after Sergio’s Kentucky-Fried F*%# up, both of our protagonists (I’d call them antagonists, but I think that’s the media in this story) have risen above the muck and mire and conducted themselves like self-respecting adults.

tigernsergio

Starting with Sergio, he issued a (relatively) instant apology. He didn’t follow the standard “I’m sorry to anyone I might have offended with my remark that didn’t mean what you thought it meant” script (well, he did that… but he did more… I’ll continue), but instead stepped up to the plate in a very personal way to take accountability for his transgression. He called himself and his actions “stupid,” he said he felt “sick about it,” he tried to call Tiger (through is agent) despite both him and Tiger saying over the past two weeks that no reconciliation was going to happen. Sergio has spent the past two weeks trying to paint himself as a victim (many would say he has spent his entire career doing this). This week, when excuses and deflections would have best served him, he eschewed them and stood tall in the face of his egregious error. This is admirable, and is the most valuable lesson I can see coming out of this whole fiasco.

Tiger, for his part, (correctly) refused to diminish the effects or importance of this type of racial stereotyping:

While acknowledging Sergio’s earnest effort to demonstrate his regret (read: his apology):

And finally, directing the attention of everyone where it really should have been for the past few weeks (which, if it had been, would have prevented this unfortunate incident from every happening):

That last point really resonates with me. If the media had just let this story die, and not poked and prodded each golfer at every chance for another pissy soundbite, Sergio would never have been in position to make his blundering buffoonish remark.

Again, I’m not excusing the remark, however I do refuse to ignore the circumstances leading up to it. If you let (condone/encourage) people to act like children for weeks on end, someone is going to say something colossally stupid. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say this is nearly universally true. I can’t even have an extended argument with a loved one without saying something I regret, and yet we are somehow shocked when two rivals with no love lost between them wind up resorting to sordid personal attacks? Sorry friends, but Sergio is not the only “stupid” one in this story (although, he is the only one who has admitted as much about himself).

Which brings me back to my big takeaway from this. My hope is that people will look at Sergio’s response and see how a person can (and arguably should) respond to a huge mistake and bout of monumental irresponsibility. Further, that they will look at Tigers retort and see the importance of acknowledging the real issues these situations represent while also recognizing regret and a sincere effort at apology, and finally moving on from there without taking the baggage of the situation along with you.

The media doesn’t appear to have changed it’s tack and I’ve seen no sign – based on reading comments from a few online articles (never a pleasant task) – that the general public has had it’s appetite for conflict curbed. However, from Sergio and Tiger, I have seen actual responsible adult behavior. I find some level of comfort in that, and a real life example I can use the next time I’m giving my “it’s not the messes you get yourself into; it’s how you handle them that defines you” speech to my children (or myself).

May 8, 2013

What’s wrong with porn (three numbers to keep you up at night)…

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , , , — sbj @ 12:36 am

When I was younger, I gave subscriptions to Playboy to some friends and even (gasp) family. So, right out of the gate, I want to be sure everyone knows I am not preaching from a pristine pulpit. However, not having a perfect past should not preclude someone from advocating for what is right going forward. I’ve made lots of mistakes in my life, I like to think I learn from them. In fact, I’d like to think we all do…

There will be more than three numbers in this post, but, the three I refer to in the title will be in bold and the others Will simply be supporting figures. This post is not meant to be entertaining, it will be completely bereft of my normal attempts at humor. It will be factual and to the point… what you do with it from there is up to you.

Without further ado, the numbers:

74% of … sex buyers reported that they learned about sex from pornography. Meaning that pornography can be safely viewed as a “gateway drug” to purchasing sex. Okay, so why do we care so much about what some would call a victim-less crime? First of all we probably need some idea of what we might include as a victim. For example, we have statutory rape laws in this nation to protect children from being taken advantage upon by sexual predators. So lets call anyone selling sex under the age of 16 (18 in most places but I’m feeling generous right now) a victim. A survey of 169 women working in prostitution showed that the average age they were first sold for sex was 14 (other data show a starting age of 12-13), I’m going to go out on a limb and call them victims. The following results also came from those same women: “75% reported being abused as children, 58% have been assaulted and an overwhelming 92% of women said they would quit if they could afford to.” Prostitution is not (for the most part) a victim-less crime and the (vast) majority of sex buyers get started with porn.

Sex buyers were more than 7 (seven) times more likely than non-sex buyers to acknowledge that they would rape a woman if they could get away with it and if no one knew about it.. Multiple studies have produced results like this: Of working adult women in the sex trade, 82% have been physically assaulted; 83% have been threatened with a weapon; 68% have been raped while working and 68% of women interviewed in 9 countries met the criteria for a clinical diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). (the 68% PTSD rate is the same as combat veterans and torture victims); or this: nearly a third of the sex buyers told surveyors that the acts they sought out from women in prostitution gradually changed and increased in violence, including more sadomasochistic sex acts (mind you, much like the 7X more likely to rape if they could get away with it, these were the buyers being surveyed, not the prostitutes… it is not much of a stretch to imagine that the percentage would be much higher from the sex workers point of view).

The average life span of a woman being sold in the sex trade is 7 years. Seven years and you are dead. Police have an average mortality rate (number of deaths per 100,000 people) of 16.8; firemen 16.6; loggers 87.4; fishermen (the worst rate I could easily find) 147.2. Prostitutes are estimated to have a ** homicide rate** (not all deaths, but homicides only) of 204. By contrast the highest mortality rate, by state, from Vietnam was 84.1 (West Virginia). Meaning you are 2.43 times more likely to be killed as a prostitute than you were in the Vietnam war (**IF** you were from the state with the highest mortality rate… compared to any other state or the national average that number grows even higher).

To me, those are some pretty staggering numbers. I’m not saying that the Playboy subscription I bought my brothers when they were younger has led directly to the deaths of any sex workers; however, the link is clear and undeniable. Pornography is the market maker for sex workers, and is the “gateway drug” for sex-buyers. The sex industry kills women at a rate that is nearly 3 times that of soldiers in Vietnam and 12.75 times that of the first-responders that we all acknowledge put their lives on the line for us every day. This is the very real price women pay for our sexual pleasure and entertainment… the question you have to ask yourself is… is it worth it?

May 6, 2013

Why stupidity is worse than porn…

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , , — sbj @ 4:53 pm

Actually, stupidity may not be worse than porn, but since I was going to write about some of the evils of porn today and that was usurped by this stupidity, I guess, at least for today, I think that is the case.

Rather than attempt to restate ABC’s news report better than them, I’m just going to include it right here… as they presented it:

First of all, kudos to Josh for being dialed in enough to recognize street-harassment when he see’s it (even from a child’s plaything) and moreover for doing something about it. I’d be happy if most people simply recognized this type of sexualization/commodification, given that so many of us spend our days in some blissful oblivion about being surrounded by it.

After the above, the article goes on to point out how he went back and forth with Lego, and they eventually apologized and have taken steps to remove the product from the market and (more importantly) ensure nothing like it will make its way to store shelves again. Should be the happy(ish) end of the story, right???

Nope…

Here is a clip from the top of the comments section on that story:

Take a moment to note that these are the “Popular now” comments (highlighted in yellow at the top of the image). Not the most recent, not the most distasteful, not the most replied to… no, the most popular. I can only screen capture so many, but let me assure you it goes on (the next one down reads as follows “Wow. dude i think you might want to look around cause I am pretty sure your balls fell off somewhere”).

So, now we have compounded our sexualization of women with gross gender stereotyping; and this, right here, is why I harp on and on about stereotyping. This is the insidious nature of the beast. Would-be defenders of decency are shamed by idiotic gender bias into silence (or at least that is the attempt). “Take his man card away,” “peed sitting down,” and “shouldn’t he be doing laundry or the dishes” are all comments meant to demean Josh for his stance. Why are they “insulting” because they all mean you are more like a woman than a man, and what could be worse than that?

I have confidence in Josh… I believe his response to that question (“what could be worse than that?”) would be something like “if being a man means berating other people for having the courage to stand up for what’s right, I’m pretty sure I’d rather be more like a woman.” He might also go on to say “however, I don’t think being decent is a hallmark of either sex; rather, I think it is a defining trait of someone with character and integrity.”

The problem is, there are a lot more not-Josh’s than Josh’s out there. People – most of them – are cowed by shame, confrontation, lack of approval and any number of other disabling human interactions. Life can be challenging enough without having insults thrown your way or being treated like a social pariah (I’m looking at you “Kat” and your “American needs a sense of humor” comment). You see, while I didn’t choose to highlight them in the image above, “Kat’s” comment along with “G. Manitley’s” “thicker skin” observation they are just as damaging, perhaps even worse at times.

While many reasonable people are capable of looking at the “peed sitting down” comment and dismissing it as being rude, bigoted, or asinine far fewer are able to take a strong stance against someone saying “have a sense of humor.” No one wants to be the drag, the party pooper, or boring. As such this little “helper” comment gives legs to the more egregious ones, it chips away at the defenses of good people, and it emboldens (and as such empowers) the “Michael P’s” of the world.

A good man (Josh) did a good thing, and has since been pilloried for it. If that is not the poster child for stupidity, I don’t know what is. The result of that stupidity is a foundational furtherance of institutionalized bigotry. So, yeah, I guess I do think stupidity is worse than porn… in fact – as what I believe to be the true root of all evil – it just might be worse than pretty much everything…

April 30, 2013

Without tolerance, there’s something missing…

So, I’ll just admit it. Five years ago, I was a hater. A big time hater who eschewed most of what he believed in in order to advocate for what he believed in. I think the technical term for this is hypocrite. And like most things, it got worse before it got better (assuming I can justifiably call where I am now better… I have no idea how I will judge myself in five more years).

hater

This little epiphany came to me shortly after I was sorting through and processing news related to Jason Collins, specifically the reactions of other people to his announcement. This may seem unrelated to what follows, but bear with me… they connect (at least in they mystical ether more commonly referred to as my brain). A friend came up to me and showed me a picture on Facebook with President Bush and President Obama standing together with a caption that read something like “like if you think Bush was a better President.”

Laughter ensued, and a few snarky comments as well. But then it struck me, there are a lot of people who would be inclined to hit that like button. A lot of good, intelligent, compassionate people for that matter. And here I was mocking them, and then… suddenly… I was transported back in time to 1984 with the sage words of none other than the great prophet General Public resounding through my mind and into my soul:

I don’t know where I am but I know I don’t like it
I open my mouth and out pops something spiteful
Words are so cheap, but they can turn out expensive
Words like conviction can turn into a sentence

Hyperbole aside, this is where my mind went. I pointed out to my friend that, in fact, there is a group of people who really sincerely believe that President Bush was the better leader of the free world. I went on to say (in my mind) “who am I to berate them for that?” Our country is deeply divided right now over… well.. pretty much everything. This is not because one side is clearly right and the other side is clearly wrong (if that were true we wouldn’t be so deeply and evenly divided); more-so, it is because we are investing so much time and energy in pretending that the other side is clearly wrong – and deriding them for it – that we aren’t spending any (or at least enough) time actually trying to come up with solutions.

I, for example, in my excitement to support the candidate I had chosen, jumped firmly on the waxing tide of vitriol being heaped on outgoing President Bush as part of the Obama campaign. Completely ignoring the fact that Bush was not running in 2008, so anything dumped on him had nothing to do with the election that year. What I saw in Obama, a chance for progress toward general equality and tolerance I was conveniently evading in my own political rhetoric.

Coming back to Mr Collins announcement yesterday. I am happy, impressed and (more than anything else) thankful with/to him for taking that all important first step and “coming out.” I was also overwhelmed with the initial outpouring of positive emotion and support for him from athletes and others. Then some of the “other” responses started to trickle in. Mark Jackson said:

“As a Christian man, I have beliefs of what’s right and what’s wrong. That being said, I know Jason Collins, I know his family and I’m certainly praying for them at this time.”

This was actually filed under the “positive” responses… I didn’t take it that way (I’m not going to go into how I did take it as that would run contrary to what I’m trying to say with this post… you can be your own judge).

Mike Wallace posted an update on twitter wondering why, with so many attractive females around, a guy would want to mess around with another guy. An ESPN reporter went off on a bit of a rant about living in sin and what it was or was not to be Christian.

It was Mr. Wallace’s comments that really struck me. My instant (in my mind, again) response was something along the lines of:

That’s like asking a football player (which he is) – “with so many good basketball games going on, why would you want to waste your time on football” – or, asking a person who is eating Thai food – “with so many good Italian joints out there, why would you take your chances on Thai”…

In short, it’s a matter of taste. My sister (despite being brought up in a good family and being loved as a child) loves (**LOVES**) mayonnaise. I, by contrast, loath the fact that it exists and might accidentally get on a spoon I could possibly use months (and numerous washings) later. Other than the fact that *I think* she is bat-shit crazy for liking the stuff, there is nothing wrong with my sisters view. Further, no amount of intense personal loathing of the creamy white menace on my part will make her wrong (let alone change her taste for it).

There is also nothing wrong with Mr. Collins being more attracted to men than to women. In a more open, equal society he might be just as confused about why Mr. Wallace likes women as Mr. Wallace is currently confused about Collins predilection toward men. And that’s the thing, we should be able to treat someones sexual orientation (or political views) like my sister and I treat her taste (or my lack thereof) for mayonnaise (with respectful levity if anything at all).

But somehow we can’t. Bush has to be a villain and the worst President in history, God has to hate fags, I’m supposed to hate Mike Wallace (or Chris Culliver before him) and on and on it goes. What we fail to grasp, at times, is that while something may be a complete abomination to some of us (I’m looking at you, mayonnaise), what someone else feels about it is none of our business. Even when we view it as a sin or a blight against humanity we also need to remember that people are blessed with free will and can sin, blight, and abominate to their hearts content… so long as they are not harming others in the process. It is not our job to “fix” them, and even if it were… hating on them won’t do it.

The same friend who brought me the picture this morning also made the point to me yesterday that people shouldn’t be chided for openly and honestly sharing their feelings (ALA Mr. Wallace), even if they run contrary to the feel good mood of the day. And he’s right. He’s right because at the end of the day it’s not how well we articulate our opinions of someone else’s views that will make the world a better place, but rather, how well we tolerate, understand and ultimately respect those views no matter how much we might disagree with them.

April 25, 2013

Go home Ken, you’re drunk.

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , , — sbj @ 9:18 pm

I am sure, all things considered, being a plantation owner can be tough, with its own set of problems to overcome. However, I do not believe that meas that you get equate your issues with those of your slaves. Is this an unfair comparison, am I being too rough on this guy? Perhaps… lets take a look. I’ll describe what went on during slavery, and then we’ll see if we can swap out the word “men” for “slave owners” and the word “women” for “slaves.” If we can, I might be on to something, if not… I owe “Ken” and all of the men of the world an apology, here we go…

Slave owners oppressed, comodified, and degraded (among other things, like raped) their slaves. They build a culture which institutionalized the oppression of slaves while enabling and empowering the socioeconomic and political dominance of slave owners.

Hmmmm…

Although, to be fair, no one is advocating seceding from the union or a civil war based on the feminist movement (yet)… so perhaps I went slightly overboard.

Going further down the “fair” track, I do not believe that “Ken” really wants to equate himself with Barbie. I think he just wants to say “don’t forget about me, things can be tough over here as well. Everyone has issues, even Ken.” And, if he had said that, he’d be right (and I’d have nothing to write about today). But he didn’t… he said “…just as hard…”

With all due respect, “Ken,” no, it’s not. It’s not and – in all likelihood – it never will be. As I have pointed out about myself many times in this blog… white males hold all the cards in our society; every advantage is tilted our way. Can we still fail? Sure. Can we still have miserable lives? Sure. But, is it “just as hard to be Ken as it is to be Barbie?” No, no, and hell no.

Metaphorical Ken oppresses, comodifies, and degrades (among other things, like raping) metaphorical Barbie. He has built a culture which has institutionalized the oppression of metaphorical Barbie and enables and empowers the socioeconomic and political dominance of metaphorical Ken.

This individual Ken (picture above) might not be doing it, but more of the Kens throughout the years have been doing it than not and they have, through their collective efforts, created an entirely uneven playing field. If one side, in general, is running up hill and the other side, in general, is running down hill… guess who is going to win the race?

I’m not mad at ken. I don’t dislike Ken. I certainly don’t think Ken is a bad guy. Fact is, he’s obviously struggling a little, and I really wish there was some way I could help him out, to be honest. However, what cannot come from that is a notion of implied equality between Ken and Barbie.

Ken and Barbie are not equal… that is what the struggle for equal rights is all about. While men can and do suffer, it is not the same, and it is certainly not “just as hard.”

April 24, 2013

Inspired by segregation???

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , — sbj @ 9:30 pm

In a word, no. However, I was, nonetheless, inspired as a result of this story. Today I received links to the following video by three different people:

The reason the video exists is appalling. In the year 2013, it appears, we still have a (partially) segregated south. This is shocking, offensive, mind-numbing, and (perhaps surprisingly) not at all what I want to talk about.

Instead I want to focus on the 7 conversations I have had about it today; each and every one of which contained some version of the following observation on the part of the person I was talking to:

Can this really be happening

or

This can’t be real, right?

And, as difficult as this is for me (and if you’ve known me or followed my writing for any length of time, I’m sure you know how hard this really is), I want to focus on that for a moment rather than the offense of the situation itself.

Because that is what gives me hope. The fact that every person I know (that I have discussed this with) has moved beyond offended and entered the world of bewildered and a touch incredulous is very encouraging to me.

Change starts (and stops and starts and stops and starts… you get the idea) when people get angry about things; however, change becomes embraced, owned and institutionalized when actions contrary to it are more befuddling and more of an assault to common sense than they are infuriating. I think we, in general, are starting to get there on this issue, and that excites me.

So, a big sticker to these girls (in the video) for taking a stand and working toward righting the ship in their corner of the world… and another one for all of you who looked on in shock and disbelief as the video played out. Your mind set, and that of those you interact with and effect, will be the instruments that will make this cultural shift a reality.

And to the folks tearing down the signs and trying to maintain the segregated dance… no sticker for you.

Actually, on second thought…

April 23, 2013

Five technologies that every PTA/PTO (parent teacher organization) should consider using…

In addition to annoying half of the internet with my views on various social topics, I spend some of my time serving as the President of the parent (although we call it “community”) organization at my youngest sons school. I have held some sort of position at my children’s school PTA/PTO/parent/community organizations for the past nine years.

Given that my day job is that of IT grunt, I naturally have pushed these organizations to try out the newest, coolest, and (even occasionally) the most effective technologies available to enhance our service offerings and efficiency.

Over the last few years a handful of technologies have distinguished themselves in my eyes, so I thought I’d pass them on in case someone else is just starting down this path.

1. VolunteerSpot: My son’s school is a charter which is K-9 (will be K-12 in 3 years when the current 9th graders get to their senior year). The students are divided into two physical locations half way across town from one another. Every month the Community Network hosts a teacher appreciation lunch at each school. We typically do soups (2 regular, one vegetarian) and salads (2) with some bread (3) and desserts (3). We also have someone provide bowles, spoons, forks, napkins etc. as well as recruiting a set up and cleanup crew. We provide this for roughly 30 teachers per school. Enter VolunteerSpot. Each month I go in and set up the event complete with all of the roles that need to be filled. One week before the event I send out an email to the class that is providing the lunch that month (we rotate through the classes each month to try to distribute the load as evenly as possible) and then I sit back and watch the magic. Usually the majority of the spots are filled within 48 hours and I almost never have to send out a second solicitation. We never have too much food, too much of a particular item, or a shortage of anything (i.e. vegetarian soup). Whats more the VolunteerSpot system automatically sends out reminder emails to each volunteer prior to the event and has the ability to shoot out thank you notes to all of the volunteers as well. And… if that’s not enough, at tax time it sends the volunteers a summary of their activities in case they want to include them on their tax returns. All for the very reasonable price of free. I consider this online service (or something similar to it) to be an absolute must for planning and managing events.

2. MailChimp: If you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers, you can send up to 12,000 emails per month for the (once again) low low price of free. We’ve used MailChimp for monthly newsletters (formatted in HTML for a professional look), soliciting volunteers for events and more. You can group your recipients (say by grade or availability to volunteer during the day, etc.), track your mailings effectiveness, and avoid being blocked by spam filters. MailChimp does pretty much everything that its more well know “big brother” ConstantContact does and for most folks there is no need to use the pay version. This is another service that I couldn’t imagine running a parent organization without.

3. SurveyMonkey: Yes, it is another service named after a banana eater… I don’t make the news (or the names) I just report it! SurveyMonkey is another free web based solution I find invaluable. it is, as you might imagine software set up to survey your members on how you are doing, what they might want to see happen in the future… or pretty much anything you might want to know more information about. The free version is limited to 10 questions, but based on being able to lay them out in a grid (i.e. rank the following 10 things on a scale of 1 to 10) you can really ask far more than 10 questions. This is especially true given that each question also allows for a free form comment box that can be used to solicit more information. You are limited to 100 respondents, so remember keep that in mind as you are sending out your questionnaires.

Note: at this point the list become a little more flavored toward my taste. There are options to these last two if you are not inclined toward using them.

4. Evernote: Evernote is a free web based data collection service. What we have done is convert all of our manuals, forms, instructions, etc. into Evernote. All of the documentation for our organization is in one place. Additionally we use the Evernote web clipper to capture useful articles and sources of information that might be useful to the group in the future. Evernote has sort of become our brain. The end goal is to have a living “document” that can change and expand over the years as the organization does… collecting out institutional knowledge. If every member of the current organization were to leave the school after this year, in theory another group of parents could step in and keep the ball rolling fairly effortlessly based on the collected information in our Evernote account.

5. Facebook: It’s unlikely you found this blog if you don’t know what Facebook is, but here is a quick rundown on why we use it. One of our main goals as an organization is to maintain a communications thread across the entire school – to parents, students, and faculty/staff, Facebook is the closest thing to “common ground” we have found. Clearly we don’t get everyone with Facebook, but given the push nature and the cross demographic reach, it is our go to application for communications. Obviously we still email (see #2 above) but for quick communication blasts or to broaden the base (via the viral effect of social media) of who sees what we are trying to communicate Facebook is the answer.

While they may not be every answer to everyone, these five services, coupled with a generic web based email address for the organization (we use gmail, but any service would be fine) that can be used as the common login for all of them, should allow your organization to hit the ground running from a technology standpoint. This should allow you to focus on other things, like how to avoid writing sentences as “run on” as my last one! ;)

April 21, 2013

For better or for worse…

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 5:32 pm

There’s probably some danger in titling a post “For better or for worse” and then starting it off with “I was talking to my wife this morning” … but that’s exactly what I’m about to do…

I was talking to my wife this morning about Facebook, specifically why she doesn’t really get all that into it… and doesn’t really get the rush that leads people to get “addicted” (words that came from an ad we heard while driving). She spoke of political propaganda, people spreading things they had heard without verifying the (in many cases lack of) facts, and of how folks manipulated situations toward their own ends (etc. etc. etc.). I can’t say I disagree with anything she said (although this doesn’t stop me from being a moderate Facebook user).

So then we got home, and I pored a bowl of cereal and headed to my computer to browse the internet while eating (kind of like reading the paper over breakfast but woefully less cool). Over time I drifted over to facebook, and the first thing I saw was this picture:

To which I responded:

I’m not really sure what makes me sadder, the fact that someone intentionally co-opted this policeman’s good dead for a malicious and small attack, or the fact that over 60,000 people have liked it, over 18,000 have shared it and lord knows how many people have commented upon it.

I take solace in my belief that many (if not the majority) of the people who have propagated this are doing so based on the picture itself, and perhaps the first few lines. That they have not seen, have chosen to ignore, or have dismissed the last line as trivial.

Nonetheless, it is an embarrassing and candid look at the downside of social media in general… and a strong argument for not over investing in such. If this was my primary exposure to Facebook (et. al.)… I’m certain I’d have the same view as my wife; because, this certainly qualifies as “worse.”

ps – this is a particularly difficult post, and this image struck me harder than it normally would have – I am sure – on the heals of what I wrote on Friday about the bombing in Boston. I was actively looking for the good in this story… thought I had found (some of) it – which, in reality I did, of course – only to have my optimism dashed by some simpletons idea of wit.

April 20, 2013

It’s not what you know…

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 4:47 am

As many of you have been around for a while know, I listen – almost exclusively – to NPR while driving my car. Today, while picking up my son and subsequently heading to the store I learned more about Tamerlan Tsarnaev (26) and Dzhokar Tsarnaev (19) than I have learned about Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson combined since I graduated from high school.

I learned about their college party years, and how the degenerated. I learned about their sports careers, boxing and wrestling mostly. I got to hear about their twitter accounts and the types of things they posted in the past, from this I know they were Guns N’ Roses fans. I’ve heard about their homeland, and its attempted rebellions and subsequent struggles. I heard from their mother, their uncle and various friends as well.

In short, I know all about the two men who tried to kill as many innocent bystanders as they could last Monday. I know more about them than I do some of my cousins (which is more an indictment upon me than anyone or anything else).

What I don’t know anything – or at least very little – about; however, are any of the victims, first responders, or hospital staff that worked on the victims. I don’t know anything about the family and friends who sat and waited for hours during surgeries and other procedures (for all I know some are still standing vigil over their loved ones).

I understand why we don’t hear much about the victims, they last thing they need are their lives rocked by media right after being victimized in a senseless act of violence. But why don’t we make a bigger deal about the people that help, why don’t we have hour upon hour of coverage on the positive side of humanity?

I don’t care to glorify, or even learn about two man who’s lives went so horribly wrong that they turned to an act of terror as a means of self expression. What I want to know more about are people that I can look up to… people who act heroically, or at least selflessly.

While listening to the coverage driving home today, my son said to me “why do people want to hear or see this stuff… it’s just depressing.” And they way it is typically portrayed I can’t really argue with him.

What said to him, though, was that while it is true that these situations can be very depressing, they can also show you the beauty in people as well. True, there were two boys that demonstrated the darker side of humanity, but there were hundreds of people who showed compassion, caring and courage as well.

There is a Mr Rogers quote that has been making the rounds recently. Not just this week, but in the aftermath of other tragedies as well. It it popular to the point that I am hesitant to use it. However, I think it eloquently articulates what I was trying to say to my son:

As with most things in life, what you get out of something is often very much hinged on how you view it and what perspective you use to interpret it. There is a good positive message in the reporting of these stories. I just wish it was as easy to find as a slideshow of Mr. Tsarnaev’s golden gloves boxing history.

April 17, 2013

If nice guys finish last… it’s because we let them…

So, I was minding my own business this afternoon, lying in bed browsing facebook intending to do nothing productive at all… when this popped up in my timeline:

There goes the neighborhood…

I spent last week attacking some of the stereotypes that plague women… focusing largely on sexpliotation in advertising and in practice. What I didn’t address at all was the sexist humor sub-culture. Because, honestly, I completely forgot all about it… which is part of why it is so insidious.

When someone tells you a joke (or even if you just see it online, to a lesser extent) it tends to be much harder to run contrary to it than some of the more blatant things we have seen recently. I’m sure very few people had trouble being put off by the cologne ad that was in the sexploitation post; but its much harder to respond harshly to a joke.

“It’s just a joke!” … “Lighten up!” … “You are no fun!”

Not only do you seldom get a meaningful conversation, but, often, you wind up being the bad guy (and not the good kind of bad guy… if there is such a thing). Speaking of which… there is this one floating around out there as well:

That rings more true, I think, and is far less a part of the problem… here’s why.

The first image nearly begs you to treat a woman poorly. It very clearly indicates that, in order to succeed with women (not be single) you mustn’t treat them nicely. Far and away, the number one reason for being single (read: failing in the dating game) – according to this epiphany filled experts guide to relationship Shangri-La – is treating women nicely.

Culturally, if I do not want to be shunned, I am allowed two reactions to this 1. I can think it is funny and laugh… giving it my tacit approval, or 2. I can attempt to imply empathy or comradeship (i.e. “true story, bro”)… seemingly giving it my explicit approval.

Either way, even if I don’t personally treat women poorly, I am enabling and advancing a society that encourages me (and everyone else) to do so.* A culture that fails by creating kids like the Steubinville football players we all know so well. A lot of things contributed to their depravity, to be sure. Not insignificant in it’s influence, I’m certain, is the cornucopia of exposure points for this type of subtle abuse-empowering messaging.

The fact of the matter is, however, that it isn’t funny or true. You can enhance your chances with women by being confident, assertive, and perhaps even a little brazen, but you cannot enhance them by being an ass (read: by being mean, neglectful or abusive). You may succeed in shaming or intimidating a women into not leaving you… but don’t be mistaken… you have not accomplished or “won” anything.

(For the record, being nice to her and no one else is only one small step in the right direction, and is not victory either. But I really feel the intent behind that “bad boy” is more the confidant, take charge kind of guy who is not by definition the bad kind of bad.)

The old phrase that goes “nice guys finish last” – thankfully – is typically (or at least universally) not true. However, jokes like the pie chart above advance a society that supports that mind set and, subsequently, a culture of abuse. It’s not easy to stand up to the weight of a social situation, especially against something the vast majority of people consider innocuous, and say “hey, that’s not funny (or true)” but if not you, than who?

Because at the end of the day, the only way nice guys (or gals) actually finish last is if we allow them to do so, and I really don’t want to live in that world, do you?

*The effect of this is, by the way, no different than it would be with any ethnic, racial, gay, or other stereotype supporting joke you may hear (or choose to tell), I just happen to be focused on women for whatever reason right now. Probably leftover angst over Steubinville, Halifax, San Jose etc.

April 15, 2013

The Tipping Point

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 5:22 pm

Time and again, on these pages, I have opined about the ills of our society. As often as not, that has boiled down to money, specifically corporate profit. We seem to have a established habit of opting for the choice that is healthier for the business bottom line than the human race in general.

Today, the Supreme Court will be hearing a case that would appear to put a magnifying glass on this trend. A case that could well be a benchmark on where we go as a species. The question boils down to this, should recouping a businesses efforts and expenses toward a medical breakthrough be more important than making said breakthrough generally available so that the benefits can be taken advantage of to save more lives.

What they will be debating in front of the court will be whether extracting part of a human DNA strand constitutes “invention” and therefore is protected by patent law, or if it is closer to “effort” which is great, but not subject to patent protection. Those arguing in defense of the patent will tell the judges that what they are doing with the strand segments is new and discernibly different than what occurs in nature (you can’t patent an act or state of nature). Those arguing against will say that, while the company’s work was good and certainly pain-staking and expensive… it does not fundamentally change the nature of the DNA components being tested and therefore is ineligible for patent protection.

At first I thought this was a horrible case of greed vs. saving lives. However upon reflection I realize it is beyond silly to assume that the other companies wanting to use these markers are doing so for humanitarian reasons… their bottom line stands to benefit significantly from this as well, which is likely their primary motivation for being in court.

However, at the end of the day, the Supreme Court is either going make a ruling that says one company gets to make as much money off of this advancement (toward paying off all of the research they did to get to this point), or multiple companies are going to be able to use this technology/science to save lives. And if they take the former path rather than the latter, this may be a bit of a tipping point for me (and not the good kind). I feel myself starting to give up, to lose hope… and if the Supreme Court agrees that the profit margins of a company are more important than the lives of those who might benefit from advances in gene sequencing… I’m not sure that my decent will be easily put in check down the road.

We have (d?)evolved from an age when Dr Salk, when asked about patenting his Polio vaccine said “There is no patent … could you patent the sun?” to an era where Myriad Genetics wants to own (in the form of a patent) part of the human genome. Sometimes the old ways are better… and certainly more honorable.

April 14, 2013

Sexpliotation, is it really that big a deal… you tell me. (somewhat unsafe for work)

Filed under: Observations,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — sbj @ 5:07 am

“What’s wrong with caring what you look like/wanting to look your best all the time/being pretty.” I have been asked some variation of this question literally dozens of times since I posted “Putting your worst foot forward” on Thursday.

As I stated in my responses to these comments, I don’t have a problem with any of those things. In fact, I think doing your best is an admirable (and, if you want to be successful, mandatory) thing to do. However, as I pointed out to my good friend who has a sister who is (according to her) widely considered the “pretty, smart one” vs. her description of herself as the “helpful, quiet one”…

And there, in the final paragraph, is the rub. Women today are ranked first and foremost by their looks, and if you don’t “get it done” from an attraction standpoint in that area, you are instantly a second class citizen (you aren’t hopeless… but the deck is definitely stacked against you). Further, lets say you do make the grade. Lets say you are attractive… even “hot”… what happens then?

Well, you might be suitable for uncomfortable sex in the front seat of a car (although what you are really doing is selling Axe… for men):

You might be equated to (confused with?) an airbag (for the purpose of selling luxury cars… for men):

Your sexual past might not be considered important enough to eschew you (but **only** if you were hot enough, and you were willing to be used to sell used luxury cars… for men… of course):

If you are super hot and a philanthropist, you could even be a positive force for change in the world (if you were willing to imply indirect sexual conquest/consent… for men):

Orm best yet, you could be afforded the fantastic privilege of spreading ‘em for whoever happens to spray on a touch of Tom Ford cologne (you guessed it… for men):

All of this, mind you, is for the “winners,” for women who are at the top of the ladder in the category most commonly related to their success and closely tied to their value in society… attractiveness and sexuality.

Are there other ways to be successful as a woman? Sure, you could be a tennis player for example:

But two out of the top four Google search results would be about how sexy you were or were not.

You could be a soccer player:

Three out of the top six.

You could even be one of the most powerful people in the world. However, if you decided to not wear makeup and maintain your appearance you would be talked about for having been forgetful, having given up your ambition, or both.

And there you have it. You can, as a woman, reach the the pinnacle of success – Clinton could very easily have been our last president and she was a Senator and our Secretary of State – however, if you elect to go without make-up or contacts, you are news.

The simple fact is that women today are evaluated by how good looking they are… their waist, bust and hip measurements… how they dress and present themselves… and how they interact with men. If we are being honest – and speaking in general terms – that’s pretty much it. Certainly there are exceptions, but again, taken on the whole this is the state of our society.

So I say again, while I have no issues with the attributes of “pretty,” “beautiful,” or even “hot” in and of themselves, and I certainly appreciate attractive people and things… I do have an issue with those being the primary tools for evaluating another human being. Collectively, we need to get over judging our women by their covers. If that starts by letting our guard down a little regarding how we present ourselves on a regular basis, so be it.

April 11, 2013

Putting your worst foot forward

Filed under: Make the world better,Observations — Tags: , , , — sbj @ 3:27 pm

Yesterday I posted a kind of ranty, kind or preachy, pseudo call to action piece. The theme (at least at the end during the “call to action” part) had to do with the exploitation of women, particularly their sexuality, in today’s society. In response to this (one of a few interesting responses I received) I got an email with the simple subject “practice what you preach!” and this link:

Bad Picture Monday

For those not inclined to follow the link, it suggests – in short – that people post a bad picture of themselves each Monday in order to reject the idea that ones value is based on your appearance. Don’t hide the real you behind a wall of flattering posed pictures taken at just the right angle in just the right light… show the real you.

My instant, admittedly thoughtless, response was (and I quote) “Love it… I’m in… you?” And the fact is, I do (love it) and I am (in). It feeds fantastically into what I have said (or want to say) over and over again. To borrow and build upon (which is not meant to imply improving upon… simply acknowledging that I am adding additional words to his quote) a little from Dr King… people should be judged by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin, the shape of their bodies, the clarity of their skin, or the bone structure of their faces.

It also reminded me of my crusade against(ish) make-up. I’ve never been a fan and I’ve yet to encounter a time when I think it has been an improvement to a persons appearance. I acknowledge that it can *change* a persons appearance, which is something someone might want to do (like changing the color or design of a shirt, jacket or whatever they are wearing); but that is not the same as improving. In my mind makeup is a facade placed over how someone really looks. Which, is fine, if they are doing it because they want to look different (much like one might get a tattoo if you want your arm, back, leg, whatever, to look a certain way). However, all too often make-up is worn because the person feels they “need it” to look better (or even acceptable), and that is where this here rubber meets that thar road and I take umbrage. No one should feel forced to change their appearance to fit a norm or a standard.

But I digress (I do that a lot)…

In short, it’s what’s inside that counts. Anything that lends credence or support to that idea is “top of the list” stuff to me. To me, this “bad picture Monday” idea is right in the wheelhouse.

But then I gave it a bit more thought on the way into work today, and, frankly, I’m not as enthused as I was. I still like the idea just as much… the problem is this: I already post bad pictures of myself… a couple of random examples (with varying -increasing, I think – degrees of “bad”):

It turns out that it is no big deal to me to post unflattering pictures. This is probably mostly due to the fact that I am tall, employed, relatively fit and healthy, white, and male… with a good family… in America. What, really, do I have to be insecure about? In fact, when I post those pictures it is typically to get a laugh at my own expense.

Which got me to thinking… have I, in the past, been positive/secure/confident and mentally healthy in posting these… or have I been an oblivious participant in an oppressive culture? Am I, without my own knowledge, poking fun at people who are insecure with their appearance, mocking those who do not have the time or resources to make themselves “presentable?” Am I, in fact, part of the problem rather than my objective of being part of the solution? I’m not sure what the answers to these questions are (I’m game to hear from anyone with ideas).

More to the point, a woman rejecting the idea she needs conform to a certain image in order to have value makes sense because that addresses what is broken in society. For a man it is different, typically we are judged by something like our earning potential… so perhaps I should start there. This train of thought reminds me of this image I saw a while back (which I’ve been saving for a blog of it’s own… which may still happen). It paints about as clear a picture as I’ve seen of how society values the respective genders:

study

It is something I’ll have to ponder and explore a bit more. For now I’m going forward with the plan to post bad pictures on Monday’s; however, I am reserving the right to pull back after re-evaluation. Perhaps, given who I am and the position of privilege fate has given me… there is something more appropriate for me to be doing that assaults some other stereotype.

However, until I figure that all out… viva la mala imagen!!!

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