March 24, 2015

Of books, covers and other errors in judgement…

One of my favorite phrases is “I love it when I’m wrong.” I don’t actually love being a dolt, jerk, or simply being ignorant mind you. But I do love the learning opportunities being incorrect present, and last weekend’s NCAA tournament provided just such a chance.

For years, I’ve watched cheerleaders cry after their teams lost tournament games and, for what now seems strange reasoning, thought they were all broken up about their team losing. Part of that was probably my ego or something; since I’ve always been the one on the court it’s easy to look at things from that perspective. The media certainly portrays it as such… the broken hearted cheerleader, the devastated fan, etc.

But thanks to @roxiechalifoxie (Roxanne Chalifoux – ps super twitter handle!), I’ve been forced to re-focus my lens. I’m sure most (many?) of you know who she is by now, the Villanova piccoloist who “played on” through tears after the surprising defeat of her school in the second round of the NCAA tournament (they were a #1 Seed and lost to a #8).

Where my eyes opened up (pun not intended) though was when I heard an interview with her after the fact. During that discussion, she revealed she was crying because, as a senior, she was going to take off her uniform for the last time after that game.

Boom! Goes the dynamite!

Again, I have no idea why it took me this long to realize/process/accept/whatever this… but there it was. Darrun Hilliard (a senior guard on the Villanova team) was crestfallen at the end of the game, and it was discussed how tough it was for him that his career was coming to an end. Roxanne Chalifoux was having the same experience.

Years of practice, sacrifice, and dedication to her craft – a foundational part of her existence – was coming to an end. She was not an extra in the Hilliard/Villanova story, she was a headliner in her own (and the Villanova pep band’s) story. The same can be said for those countless cheerleaders. These events (which also happen to feature a basketball game) are the culmination of their college career and the long effort filled journey that brought them there.

I’ve never felt sorry for the Hilliards of the world. I have certainly felt compassion for what they were experiencing, but my overall feeling was more a celebratory one for what they had accomplished. “He has nothing to be ashamed of,” “when he looks back on his career, he will have much to be proud of,” “this game does not define him,” and other quotes like this come quickly to mind. When I saw Miss Chalifoux crying what came out of my mouth was (and I quote) “awwww.”

That was wrong, I was wrong, I get that now. Roxie Chalifoxie deserves more than “awww” for all of her effort. Those tears will not define her, she has nothing to be ashamed of (to her credit, she appears to have the “not ashamed” thing figured out), and she has much to be proud of. She is an accomplished piccoloist (who as of this publishing has played with The Roots on Jimmie Fallon) who appears to have a very bright future in front of her. One she built herself, the culmination of which we were lucky enough to experience with her.

I do love to be wrong, and in this case I really did learn (or at least recognize) and for that I’m grateful to the Villanova pep band and Roxanne Chalifoux… best finish of the 2015 NCAA tournament so far.

March 18, 2015

An Open Letter to the Open Letter to Starbucks and USAToday

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , , , , , — sbj @ 10:07 pm

Note: I’ll start by saying that the open letter to which I’m writing is here, and is well worth your time to read. It talks about the importance of addressing and attacking the systemic roots of racism rather than identifying and personifying the issue via individual instances (that summary is what I got from it, apologies to Race Forward if I misinterpreted or misunderstood the intent).


Dear Open Letter to Starbucks and USAToday (AKA Race Forward, AKA Rinku Sen),

I appreciate the focus you have placed on the institutionalized aspect of race and the importance of understanding these underlying tenets of our cultural fabric. I could not agree more (and, in fact, have written numerous times about this very need) regarding the urgency of pulling back the curtain in order to expose and address these issues.

Having said that, I cannot agree that individual conversations are unimportant – or – as stated by Jay Smooth in a tv interview, that it is sometimes better not to have a conversation if that conversation is not focused on the big picture. I get (and, again, agree with) the idea that entering the blame game does nothing but create defensive, closed off people who are no longer a potential part of the solution.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be like that. My father, for years, said “that was mighty white of you” whenever someone did something particularly praiseworthy. He grew up hearing it on a daily basis (never as a contrast to something being mighty black or brown by the way… it had nothing to do with race to him). *I* grew up hearing it on a regular basis (from him) and not really thinking much of it… until I went off to college that is.

I played basketball in college, and – as such – the racial makeup of my friends changed significantly (not a lot of diversity in a private Catholic high school in Reno Nevada). I never really got into my dads pet phrase so I never ran into a problem using it, but as I hung out with my new friends I found myself becoming increasingly aware of what was and was not racially charged. Suddenly, for example, the Cleveland Indians mascot was significant to me. Over the years, I sort of forgot about dear old dads expression. But then I went home to visit and *boom* there it was, big as life, and through my new world lens… unconscionable.

So I talked to my father about race, about bigotry, about reinforcing negative (or falsely positive) stereotypes… about “mighty white.” He was shell-shocked. What he was saying (the meaning rather than the words) had never occurred to him. Some would say my father doesn’t have a racist bone in his body, other would say everyone has some racism or bigotry in them and he is no exception; but either way, it is highly unlikely that anyone has ever said (nor are they likely to ever say) he is a racist in any way shape or form. The guy simply doesn’t have “race” or anything like it in his value system… people are people, their actions determine “good” or “bad.”

But here’s the thing, I could have talked to him for days on end about systemic racism or about institutionalized bigotry and it really wouldn’t have been something he could relate to. In his insulated world (he moved to Boise Idaho after I left for college… also not a hotbed of racial variety, especially in 1984) those idea just wouldn’t (couldn’t) resonate with him. His world, consisting largely of one race, didn’t really contain any racism. However, once I was able to illustrate how he, himself, was acting, it opened the door to the bigger, more substantive, conversation. Simply put, once he realized he could be doing racist things (without actually having any racist thoughts or ideals) the idea of a society so conditioned was no longer such a far-reaching concept.

My (long-winded) point is that the individual conversations do matter, in fact, they are important. It’s not the existence of these conversations that cause defensiveness, it is the method of delivery or approach. Most of society is not ready to take on big conceptual issues. Heck, much of society is already pretty occupied trying to get the kids fed and the house cleaned up in time to get some sleep before they start all over the next day. And, if they are potentially open to waxing philosophical about race (or gender, or sexual preference, or gender identity et. al.) they are probably more likely to do so if they are invested or the subject resonates with them in some personal way.

Again, I appreciate your focus on the more entrenched societal norms and how they effect race (and other issues) today. Those are the areas in which real and lasting change can take place. I’d just encourage you not to lose track of the value of everyday, personally relevant, conversation in the mix. It’s not a matter of settling, it’s a matter if being comprehensive and fully vested in your efforts, and I think that goes well beyond the shallow bar of settling for “okay.”

With Respect,

November 20, 2014

All I want for Christmas…

I’ve decided if I can’t beat them, I’ll join them. Since “everyone” is ramping up for Christmas already; despite the fact that it’s still November and Thanksgiving is a full week away I figure I might as well try to do something constructive with the momentum. So here is my Christmas list (fully inclusive of all of my desires for this year).

1. Stop the bigotry, hate, derision, and fear. Break free of the onerous trappings of ignorance and embrace others for what they truly are… people, just like you and I, trying to move through and make the best of their lives.

That’s it… that’s all. Ready go!

This starts with stereotyping, and I’m not even thinking about “little black sambo,” the drunken indian, or the nerdy socially awkward (but super smart) Asian (or any of the other myriad of examples where minorities are marginalized by the generalities we cast upon them). No, today I’l focused a little closer to home (at least for me)… this has popped up on my facebook timeline four or five times over the last 24 hours:

Now, based on the tried and (arguably not) true axiom that “it’s okay if we say it to/about ourselves,” I should be okay going through the machinations of figuring out my redneck elf name. It’s all in good fun, and I’m not making fun of anyone but myself.

Except… I am. In reality this effects everyone. First and most directly, of course, it effects any and all “white” people who see it. Beyond that, though, it effects literally everyone… in so many ways. Once I get comfortable disparaging myself or those who are like me, the bar (of resistance) is lowered when it comes to grouping other people (and subsequently, potentially stereotyping them as well). I am tacitly approving of a society based on inclusion (and therefore also exclusion)… a culture of “us and them,” rather than “we.”

This type of thing is the toughest to get away from as well. Because it seems harmless, and self-effacing/deprecating, so why should anyone else be offended. The thing is, not offending someone (even though, perhaps it should) doesn’t mean what you have said or done is right; or, more importantly, best.

We don’t need to live in a divisive, unkind world. But if we are going to try to exist another way, it will take effort… including giving up some of our creature comforts like making fun of ourselves (and others) in a mean spirited way.

So there is it. my Christmas wish for 2014. And, since I am certainly guilty of doing this myself, I’ll go ahead and double down and make it my New Years resolution while I’m at it.

PS: Not judging anyone who did this and/or had fun doing so. This sort of thing is absolutely a societal norm in our culture and noone should be belittled for taking part in it. I just have a vision for what I believe is a better world for my children and their children to grow up in… and it starts with treating each other (and ourselves) better than we currently do.

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).

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???


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 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 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:


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!!!

April 10, 2013

Much ado about something…

I have heard a steady and incessant stream of criticism for Brad Paisley’s new song (featuring LL Cool J) today. Let me start by saying most of it is bush-league and unenlightened and if you don’t have the ability to discern the difference between ignoring history and trying to create a better future, you do not belong in the “critiquing game.” Small minded people with limited depth of thought really need not apply.

bra and ll

Here is what I see in the song, first and foremost, an attempt by two artists to do what the rest of the country (world?) should be doing; specifically, moving toward a better place. The lessons of the past should not be forgotten, and I’m certain that no one, Paisley or Cool J included, wants to pretend slavery didn’t happen. However, in the real world of today, established social conditions of fear and bigotry are a real and tangible problems and attempts to get beyond those are worth far more than clinging or giving deference to atrocities of the past.

There is not a single black person alive in the United States today who has felt the sting of a foreman’s whip on a plantation, who has been denigrated and treated as less than human by their “master” or who has had all of their liberties systematically striped from them (assuming they ever had them to begin with). There is not one who cannot vote because they are property rather than people and they can drink from the same water fountains (et. al.) as everyone else. However, each and every black person in the United States today, does continue to suffer from the residual effects of slavery. They do not enjoy parity as citizens, equality in the workplace, or uniformity of perception by their peers. They live their lives cast in an inescapable societal role defined by outdated and in most cases never accurate assumptions, perceptions and stereotypes. Or, in simpler terms, they exist in the context of institutionalized ignorance and (hopefully an ever reducing amount of) bigotry.

Therefore, while I agree it is important to remember our history so that we do not repeat it, I do not agree that we need to let it take priority over anything attempting to promote communications and understanding. There is no greater potential power against inequality than knowledge. Comprehending someone else’s reality allows one to understand that they are not the enemy, simply another person (or group of people) moving through life, just like you and me. This is the crux of this song, Paisley trying to clear up what his flag shirt means to him, as opposed to what it might mean to someone who has seen it without any context with which to interpret it. LL hits the nail on the head with this (much maligned) line “I’d love to buy you a beer, conversate and clear the air but I see that red flag and I think you wish I wasn’t here.”

I am flabbergasted that critics have elected to point out that “conversate” is not in the dictionary while ignoring the significance of this outreach (the same critic who used the oh-so-compelling argument of “oh LL” – full stop – to make a point and said “…you can’t be no…” ’nuff said). The intent (read: the substance) here is a stated interest in understanding and a candid admission of what scares him about going down that road. There is more actionable content in that sentence than in the entirety of all of the articles/blogs/videos I have seen bashing the song combined.

If people can begin to understand each other and stop crossing the street in fear because a bunch of black kids are approaching from the opposite direction (or because of a bunch of tattoo’d white kids, or whatever) then that is real progress, something that can make a difference in the world. Understanding that a guy can wear a do-rag without being in a gang, or whistle Dixie without being a racist is a worthy goal… something for which we should be saluting these two artists, not disparaging them.

There are some historical issues in the song, for sure. It is even debatable if the song (musically) is good. However, what is undeniable is that two people from opposite sides of the spectrum got together to produce a piece of art that attempts to unify rather then divide. And if you can’t get behind that, then frankly (and bluntly), I can’t get behind you.

August 17, 2012

Pigskin Feminism??? Not in New York (or Sunnyvale, CA)

So I read this today, and I’m not sure that I came away from it with the same thing everyone else did.

The article, in short for those not interested in reading it, talks about LSU’s “Honey Badger” (Tyrann Mathieu), his dismissal from the football program and a former LSU players attempts to mentor (and later, even reach) him in an effort to help him get his life together.

The article turned, for me, when LaRon Landry (the former Tiger and currently playing for the NFL’s New York Jets describe his feelings for being ignored as follows:

“Don’t treat me like a female.”

Clearly, this is not what I (or, I suspect, most of my regular readers) would call “good form.” Connotatively speaking, denotatively speaking… any old “atively” speaking this is offensive, unevolved and (depending on the intent of the speaker) entering into the realm of misogyny.

This piece might turn, for you, with what I am about to say… because while I don’t hold harmless LaRon Landry, I choose to focus my attention and disappointment on Yahoo Sports and the articles author Eric Adelson.

I can completely see where, why and how that comment could come out of Mr Landry’s mouth. Fact of the matter is, I’m a bit (pleasantly) surprised the last word was what it was. Again, that is not to condone it. If I were to send a message directly to LaRon it would be along the lines of:

“clean up your own back yard before you worry about that of your neighbor. If you can’t be bothered to speak respectfully about half the world… I’m pretty sure I don’t want you trying to influence *ANYONE* let alone someone who is already clearly struggling with his role in society.”

… but that doesn’t prevent me from understanding the world he lives in and how there might not be an automatic filter that says “oh wait… I shouldn’t say that” let alone a base mind set the precludes even having the thought.

Yahoo and Mr. Adelson enjoy no such quarter from me. They not only should know better, they not only have staff editors etc. that should also know better (an entire system built around massaging their message to the point that it is maximized for profit), but they are, as members of a mass media outlet, a big part of the reason we have these types of stereotypes in the first place.

I spent a good part of this year traveling back and forth to Wickenberg Arizona where a family member was an in-patient resident of a eating disorder treatment center. Why? Partly because our society… our media… shapes the images our children have of themselves and the people around them.

What does “Don’t treat me like a female” say, if not, “I am a man and therefore deserve better treatment” “this would be fine if I were an inferior woman, but i’m not and therefore it is not” etc. etc. etc. Once more, I do not believe Landry meant it that way (or at least to that degree), but that’s still what it says (and if you read the article, and it didn’t cause you a moments pause, congratulations… you too have been indoctrinated into societies little game).

Back to Yahoo, Eric and the article. I have read it about three times now in full (more after to pull out the quote etc.) and what is abundantly clear to me is that while saying that may have added meaning and aided understanding regarding Mr Landry’s position during the interview process… it added nothing of value to the article. go back and read it again (or for the first time), omitting that sentence/paragraph. Guess what…nothing about the article changes…other than its (un?)witting assault on women.

Yet, they, the fine literary minds at Yahoo, elected to keep it in there, and kick that can just a little further down the road. Inexcusable.

It might not be a hate crime, but for a professional media outlet I would hope there would be a higher bar than “not outright misogyny.”

November 14, 2011

Occupy Us: Character – What a B!$%@

When I was a young angst ridden youth (early 20′s to be specific) I sat down for a heart to heart intervention with one of my most beloved relatives (the names have been omitted to protect the innocent… in this case… the remarkably innocent). This was the first step in my grand plan for impacting/changing/saving the world (after all when you are ~23, nothing is more clear than that “fact” that the world is just one “you” away from being saved).

We were talking because I had heard the term “mighty white of you” for the one-too-many’ith time and something needed to be done about it. I was strong in my convictions, on point with my arguments, and relentless in my assault on his (presumably) hardened positions; pointing out that being white does not by default make you better, therefore “mighty white of you” does not mean what you think it means – in fact, it pretty much means the opposite of that… at least where the speaker is concerned.

I hammered my point home and went in for the kill… “does this make sense, what I’m saying… do you see why it is wrong… do you see why you need to stop!!!”

Only then did I notice the crestfallen look upon his face. Only then did I realize I had him at “have you thought about what you are implying, or would be implying to a person that was not white, if you said that around them” (which was my first sentence).

The simple fact is that he had never thought about it, it is how he had grown up. Further he was mortified about the message he was projecting, and I’m happy to report I have never heard those words from his mouth again. To him, it was a common phrase, genuinely no different than “nice work,” “good job,” or “that was thoughtful.” It had no basis in bigotry or race, it was “just a phrase.”

Which, of course, is the real and true evil of such phrases. They become part of the fabric of our society and bigotry is propagated by the unknowing. As such, generation after generation continues the subconscious (and in some cases conscious, deliberate, and malicious) process of stereotyping.

I don’t have enough fingers on both of my hands to count the number of people I personally know who grew up listening to Brazil Nuts being referred to as “Nigger Toes.” As part of Operation All-The-World-Needs-is-Soren (TM) I have spoken to every one of them about this at one point or another.

I have one nose more than is required to count the number of people who thought it was a racist remark, or harbor any dislike toward people of (any) color. All of them, when confronted, said that, again, it was “just a phrase” to those saying it… that they had no idea how it might be perceived (that may or may not be true in all cases… but that argument was made universally, and for the purposes of today’s conversation that is more than good enough for me… on another day probably not… but today, yep).

Which brings me to this gem making its way around the internet (etc.).


As I scan that “checklist”, I realize that I know many people (including myself) that use (or have used) many of those phrases to refer to “weak” or “inferior” people.

Dear World (including myself):

Have you ever stopped to think how that phrase might make a woman (or homosexual) feel?

Best regards – your self-appointed savior (and guilty partner),

Options two through five on that list are easily and patently offensive, one and six are bad in their own right but perhaps passable, eight implies things that I’d rather not get into (cough Sandusky cough)… but… lets just say anyone who uses that phrase with understanding and intent has some serious issues. I’m also not so sure why turning to ones mother (or anyone else for that matter) for support is such a bad idea???

But I digress…

Items two through five are my focus right now. These phrases are part of our lexicon (along with “that is so gay” and “you are such a fag” and “awww… did you get some sand in you v@%$#&.” This is how we talk to each other and convey messages of disapproval. In other words it is part of our cultural norm – with or without intent – to vilify and disrespect over half of our population, and most of us probably aren’t even aware (at a consistently conscious level anyway) that we are doing it.

“Nigger Toes” doesn’t fly as a term anymore (at least not in any of the circles I hang around in). If you were to say it, you would, at the very least, have to endure a mini-sermon from the newest/nearest defender of the universe. In other circles, you’d probably just get your butt kicked. “Mighty White,” I feel safe in saying has met a similar fate, along with the majority of its (covertly?) bigoted brethren.

It is 2012, I’d like to think it was about time for the terms on the above checklist (and any others like them) to meet the same fate.

With all due respect to mammals, insects and fish (et. al.) … I think that’d be might human of us…

PS… for the record, I didn’t mention it above because I was on another tilt…but… the implication that somehow some way “real-men” are superior to women – especially as differentiated by having successfully hurt someone else – is wrong in so many ways I don’t have enough blog space (which is, of course, pretty close to infinite) to begin to cover it. Suffice it to say… its just stupid.

Note – “Occupy Us” is a (potential) series focusing on what I think is the first thing that needs to be changed in our country (the world?) in order to make any lasting substantive improvements… specifically – ourselves.

November 2, 2011

You get what you pay for (especially if you pay for it over and over again)

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 5:15 pm

Fair warning: If you read this blog with any regularity (well, if you did when I wrote with any regularity, that is), and are here because you like what you read when you visit… this post may not be for you…

Having said that, what I know about my readers, in general, is that they are a thoughtful, reflective, open-minded bunch. As I begin, I am counting on those qualities to stay alive (or at least keep my car and home free from eggs).

Having said THAT… I shall begin.

This morning I saw the following picture/satire/cartoon/whatever making its way around Facebook. It instantly resonated with me on many levels… I’m sure it will with you as well:

disney women

~insert outrage here~

(actually, no, insert the outrage in the comments area below… it sparks conversation and exposes more people to the thought process… in short… its good to do!)

Did you get enough off your chest… do you feel better yet? Probably not…

~insert more outrage – with a side order or anger and/or despair ~

I agree with most of what just went through your collective minds… 110%.


I also have other thoughts. Since I think we can all agree on the reprehensible (or at least objectionable) ones… I’m going to skip over those and move on to the more potentially esoteric or fringe thoughts.

First of all, I’m not at all sure that beauty is any more or less relevant or valid of a judgment criteria, assuming you are going to judge someone in the first place. Secondly, I think if you were to assemble all of the Disney princes, you’d find the same criteria applies. The difference would be that instead of saying “if you are beautiful, you will be approved of and courted” it would say something closer to “if you are handsome you can get away with pretty much any aberrant or otherwise poor behavior and you will still be thought of as desirable and pined over.”

In fact, inspired by this train of thought, I have found just such a picture:

disney men

See what I mean? But lets get back to beauty as a criteria…

I’m not sure I can go along with the mass think that using someones attractiveness (as it effects you) is somehow a lesser criteria than something else. Using it to the exclusion of all others, is probably going to get you into some trouble, sure, but to discount it as shallow and base I think is wrong. The proverbial baby is getting thrown out with the bath water.

Different people certainly have different strengths; some are more conventionally attractive, some more intelligent, some more humorous… others may be all of these things. However, I don’t think that being more intelligent trumps being more attractive or being funnier, in a general sense. At its base, human life is about survival (some would add “of the fittest” to that statement) and beauty has its place in the area of survival, just like any other attribute (if you don’t believe me, interview a flower someday).

Clearly, society today has placed far to great an emphasis on appearance… and within that, to great an emphasis on micro-waistlines. Even more than the the Disney gals, the Disney guys picture demonstrate this to be true. But again, just because someone does too much of- or with – a good thing… that does not make it a bad thing (it’s kind of like a top 40 song ;) ).

I short, Disney’s deficiency, in my opinion, is not in makeing the women (or men) attractive, but rather in rendering them lacking in other attributes, or convictions. And, I’m not even really sure that argument stands, really. We all learned in school that hero’s (good, interesting ones anyway) are burdened by a tragic flaw (aside: it constantly amazes me how I am not a super-hero… as I am resplendent in tragic – and not as tragic – flaws). They must work through this burden in order to be the transformative beings we want them to become by the end of the story.

In the Disney version of The Little Mermaid… written for kids… there are some very clear (and crushing to those who know the original story) plot deviations made for its audience. What kids do not want to see, is the person they have spent the last 90 minutes bonding with turn into the (highly suspect, and kind of icky) bubble bath like stuff that gets on your ankles at the beach in an act of Shakespearean level love and devotion. Lacking an appropriate ending, Disney did what all good capitalists do, and took the path of least resistance. Unfortunate, but who am I (or you) to decide that giving up your identity and becoming human is more tragic or wrong than giving up your life and becoming sea foam? In the end, in both stories, she makes a sacrifice for love… and I’m not sure that is the worst thing for which glorious sacrifices have ever been made.

Just like (most of) you, I have issues with reducing women into eye candy and elevating men into risk-taking-result-creating-world-saving machines, I really do. However, much like I believe subjugating the (traditionally attributed) feminine quality of intuition in favor of the (regularly assigned) masculine mode of applying logic to a situation when seeking solutions is a mistake; I, likewise, question the wisdom of reducing the role or importance of beauty.

What I am more inclined to take to task is the overly simplistic black and white thinking that permeates our modern discourse. We are, by and large, a laze society that no longer even takes the full cover into consideration when judging a book, let alone its internal contents. When we aren’t being lazy we are moving too fast to recognize the attributes in others that distinguish one biped from another. Is she funny? How could i begin to know… who has the time to chit chat, unless there is some other visible ROI for doing so.

Can we seriously blame Disney for “dumbing down” classic stories when we as a society in general are unwilling to palate them as originally written?

Disney is a business, existing to entertain people. They are not here to establish social norms, rather they are tasked to work within what is established by you and I… the actual members of our society. By contrast John and Jane Doe (AKA you and I) and our daily activities do define social norms, cultural values and acceptable behaviors. If there is a scantily clad co-ed selling us beer, an ruggedly handsome man selling us after shave, or a Disney princess extolling the virtues of caking on makeup to catch a man… its because we as a society have instructed the creators of this drivel to do so. Those comercials and movies are not made because someone thinks they are cool and wants to dump that thought process on us, they are created from hours of extensive market research, customer surveys and – more than anything else – retail response to the previous campaigns that paved the way for what we are watching today.

As I have said time and time again about things like sports (or entertainer, or CEO, or teacher, etc. etc. etc.) salaries if you don’t like what you are being served… change your order. If there is one thing I know about business – all business – they are going to produce that which is going to be purchased. Businesses don’t care what they sell, only that they sell. All we have to do, as a society, is send a clear message that we want something different, something other than heaving breasts and massive biceps, something different than cookie cuter barbie’s and chiseled Ken doll/GI Joes types.

Assuming, of course, that we really do want something different. We all do want something different… right???

July 8, 2010

If you’re not part of the solution…

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , , — sbj @ 4:43 pm

First of all, by way of full disclosure, let me get the dirty work out of the way (and probably lose half of my potential readers in the process).  I am against Arizona SB1070.  I believe it promotes racial profiling and in doing so perpetuates negative stereotypes. I believe that there is no room in our supposedly advanced and evolved society for such legislation.  That is my opinion, it is battle tested, and I assure you, you are not going to change it.  But that’s not what this post is about…

Now that I have reduced the people reading this to those who also oppose the law – my intended target audience anyway… I will proceed with pissing many of you off as well.

Why, because I don’t believe, for one minute, that the majority of citizens (or even legislators) in Arizona are filled, or even guided by hate, and I think those of you out there who oppose this bill and are touting hate as the root cause of it are barking up the wrong tree and causing more harm than good for yourselves and your cause.

While it is convenient, easy and emotionally stirring to point to someone and say they are motivated by hate, fear, or other “evil” forces.  The fact is that, rarely, is that the case.

In Arizona, I believe the motivating factor is intense – and justified – frustration.  However, as is often the case, a decision made from frustration is not the best (or even close to the best, again, IMO) one available.

US Representative Gabrielle Gifford appears to agree, recently issuing the following statement:

I am disappointed with the federal lawsuit against SB 1070 for the same reason I was disappointed when this bill became law: Neither will do anything to make Arizona’s border communities more secure.

Both the law and the lawsuit challenging the law are unnecessary distractions. Arizonans want our nation to control its borders and bring a halt to the violence, smugglers and drugs that threaten our way of life

I believe SB 1070 is a mistake, and it does bad things.  However, grouping the people of Arizona and their elected officials as hate mongers is not only also bad, it is, in fact, the exact same “bad thing” that many bill opponents are up in arms about in the first place.  It is a grand generalization, launched out of frustration, at a group of people composed largely of individuals to which the accusation does not apply.

If concerned citizens from outside the state of Arizona want to take the time and make the effort to get involved in Arizona politics, I would encourage them to do so in a constructive manner.  Don’t attack the people or the legislators, attack the law, and, if you are going to do that, be willing to stand WITH the citizens of Arizona in forging a good solution to a very real problem.

If not, put simply, you are part of the problem…

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