Utah Claims Porn a Crisis, Does Nothing About It

The big news in Utah for the last few days is that our state government has officially declared pornography a public health crisis for Utah. I don’t disagree with the legislature that porn is problematic. Studies show Utah has a high use of porn. Other studies show the damage porn addiction can inflict on the porn user as well as current or potential relationships a porn user might have. Not to mention porn’s connection to sex trafficking and rape culture.

However, for the last few days I have encountered a niggling voice saying, “There’s something wrong with this.” So, here’s what’s wrong with it:
Utah lacks comprehensive sex education in schools. What exists is abstinence-based (a form of sex edo-MEN-WOMEN-DIFFERENCES-facebook notorious for being ineffectual), if there is any discussion at all. In my high school health class, there was NO sex ed. There were snippets of anatomy, but even that was incomplete. My school pretended sex didn’t exist and sent pregnant teens to a “special” school.

Utah also has a culture that is extremely sex-negative. With no proper sex ed in schools, and a sex-negative culture that limits teens’ comfort in asking questions, teens turn to porn for their education.

It’s a nice gesture to call porn a public health crisis, but if during the last legislative session, our representatives vetoed a bill that would have broadened sex ed to be comprehensive, a nice gesture is all it is–it accomplishes nothing.

Oh, and let’s not forget the number of untested rape kits in Utah. More than 60 percent of rape kits in Utah are untested. If you’re going to decry porn because you think it can lead to rape (it can), you have to do something about the rape culture at large!

And what about Utah’s other great public health crisis? It doesn’t take much research to know that our air is toxic–a deep breath outside in January will suffice on that front. Doctors say the air can cause infertility, miscarriage, and other fetal health risks. Those at risk for asthma or other respiratory ailments are warned to limit their exposure to outside. Runners have to choose between continuing to run and risk their health, or hightail it to a treadmill–neither one a compelling option.

Air-Quality-Utah-2And what has the legislature done about that public health crisis? Not much, that’s what. But don’t worry, they did sign a bill to invest in a Californian coal port.

Another potential crisis is our location on the Wasatch Fault. A recent study suggests the Wasatch Front could have a 6.7 earthquake within the next 50 years. It’s not a secret that the Wasatch Front is an earthquake waiting to happen, yet we are woefully unprepared for a large quake. Studies estimate that the death and injury toll would be devastating. And yet all we have in terms of preparation is the ridiculous Great Shake Out each spring. Hiding under my desk for a few minutes while I’m at work does nothing to prepare for an earthquake. We need investments to retrofit hazardous buildings, not a yearly gimmick that most people ignore.

fault sign

So, yes, porn is an addictive media that causes problems for relationships and society. Many feminists have been saying so for years (while also broadening the scope of the problem to include regular movies, ads, TV and other media, decrying female objectification and normalized porn). But what’s the plan here? This nice gesture feels like an attempt at a moral high ground that ignores the obvious realities that surround it, that others have noted for years and years. It feels like a slap in the face to other health issues that have more direct solutions.

Thanks for the nice gesture Herbie, but if it’s not followed up with some serious action, I’m going to continue to assume you are next to useless.

How We Lose to ISIS

There is nothing simple about warfare, terrorism, or the senseless deaths of innocent people. But there is something simple about love.

“Love thy neighbor as thyself.” –Jesus Christ

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” –eden ahbez

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” –His Holiness the Dalai Lama

And with love comes inclusion and seeing in your fellow human a reflection of yourself. And yet, there are those who would try to make you believe that the best way to end hate is to to perpetuate it in other forms. We lose to ISIS when we do this. And more importantly, we lose our souls when we do this. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

The funny thing about humanity is we spend so much time trying to divide ourselves but when it comes down to it, we’re all pretty much the same. We want love, sustenance of the body and spirit. We have likes and dislikes, we laugh, we play–we live.

ISIS doesn’t represent Islam. Most members of Islam in this world are decent people, just like you and me. Most Muslims don’t have an enemy in Americans or other Westerners or Western countries. But we give them an enemy when we murder their family members and destroy their livelihoods through carpet bombing and other modes of destruction. We give them an enemy when we treat Muslim-American citizens or residents like criminals and second class humans. We give them an enemy when we deny compassion to people fleeing for their lives from the same enemy we strive to defeat. We give them an enemy when we remove love from our hearts and replace it with fear.

I don’t need to mention the GOP candidates who would cause us to lose to ISIS so I’ll leave you to fill in the blanks. But these people are full of hate and fury and fear. They will not lead us to peace, but instead will create the problems they purport to solve.

Choose peace and love today. The world already has too much hate.

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And because I quoted a song used in Moulin Rouge, here’s Ewan McGregor.

On Ad Hominem, Empathy, and Other Things

It is entirely rare for someone who disagrees with me on almost every point to argue against me in a calm, considerate, respectful and thoughtful way. Instead, people rely on ad hominem arguments, complaining that I am a millennial thus idiotic and ignorant; that I simply have no idea what I’m on about; that I’m a crazy feminist therefore should be ignored.

Do you see how that gets us nowhere? I am not perfect, but one of my talents is listening to what people say and trying to understand their perspective, even if I disagree with everything coming out of their mouth. Just yesterday I listened for a good while to someone go on about how supporting Bernie Sanders means I don’t support the Constitution, even daring to ask if I’d ever heard of our founding fathers. I listened and listened. When I finally had a chance to explain my perspective, he immediately interrupted me, trying to talk over me. And when I touched his shoulder and said, “Stop interrupting me, you have to listen sometimes,” he acted miffed that I would dare suggest he doesn’t listen because he is such a good listener.

This kind of behavior is not conducive to solving problems. The argument itself becomes a problem instead of the issues we claim we are trying to solve.

I am tired of ad hominem arguments. I am tired of being interrupted all the time. I am tired of people looking at the bad behavior of the few and punishing the masses because of it, such as in cases of welfare programs (a favorite of the GOP to attack).

Do you know how to overcome these hangups, at least to some degree? Empathy. It’s okay to disagree with people. But by putting yourself in their place, you can at least try to understand why they feel the way they do. Sometimes it’s still too difficult to understand. (For example, I can’t wrap my head around why any decent human being would support Trump. If elected he just might be the American Hitler.) But even the effort allows you to connect with someone just a little bit more, and that connection is a first step to accomplishing something beyond pointless arguments and hurt feelings.

A while ago as I drove home from work listening to NPR, I heard Marco Rubio say in reference to Republican candidate bickering during debates that the enemy isn’t each other, the enemy is the democrats. That attitude is a perfect way to run a nation into the ground. Different philosophies and parties might disagree on how to accomplish certain tasks and solve problems, but those differences should never amount to seeing each other as the enemy. When you approach a colleague as an enemy, your tactics will be like those in a war or vendetta. If you approach each other as friends with different philosophies, you can work together to find solutions. We need to commit to a political ceasefire, and instead be like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, who despite their political differences and different interpretations of the law, were great friends and had a successful working relationship.

The recent death of Justice Scalia is a perfect example of what not to do. It is the president’s job to appoint new justices and yet GOP members are already lining up to deny President Obama’s constitutional right to appoint a new justice. Not even a day after Scalia was found deceased did the GOP start to raise their hackles at the idea of Obama appointing a new justice. That Obama has less than a year left as president is irrelevant. He is still the president and if we wait for the election to be over and the new president to be sworn in and the appointing process to take place, we’re looking at likely over a year for a ninth justice to take the bench. That is unacceptable. We need a fully functioning judicial branch of our government, and an even number of justices does not a fully functioning court make. Regardless of the need for all branches of government to be in working order, it appears to be more important to the GOP to stop Obama from doing his job at any cost. That is not what the founding fathers had in mind.

(I know it probably seems like I am picking on conservatives, and I apologize. Liberals are in no way perfect, but I have to admit in my personal realm of acquaintances, friends, and family members, it is usually my good ol’ conservative pallies who issue the ad hominem attacks and forget their empathy. That is not a fair representation of all conservatives, but this is what I have to work with. In addition, the GOP in this primary election cycle is a farce and we all know it. That’s where we are, that’s why the GOP keeps being the example in my points.)

We need to stop this. It’s not okay to doubt people’s understanding of U.S. history or the Constitution simply because you disagree with them. It is not okay to hold that history and Constitution hostage because your views are reactionary. The Constitution is a living document thus enabling us as a nation to make needed changes as time progresses, and new and unforeseen problems arise.

We need to stop blaming the other party. We need to stop punishing the poor and the underrepresented. We need to embrace empathy and set aside pride long enough to listen and understand. There are many wise quotes about the importance of listening but this one is probably the most apropos to political debates:

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. –Stephen Covey

Don’t be “most people.” Interrupting and shouting and grinding your teeth while you wait to speak again, it’s all about pride. It isn’t about solving problems, it isn’t about understanding. If we build this nation on pride, we are doomed to fall.

Everyone could stand to lose a little pride, myself included. Dare yourself to listen to someone you disagree with. Dare yourself to understand. If we refuse to do such things, this great nation, regardless of your interpretation of the Constitution, will never be the land of the free and brave. It will be the land of the arguing children who pointed fingers while the union plummeted into the annals of history as a nation that merely once was.

(There is also this fantastic thought by His Holiness the Dalai Lama):

listen

 

 

“What’s With Today, Today?” Musings on Trump and Christmas

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The Nativity by Brian Kershisnik

I don’t know if it’s just me feeling suddenly overwhelmed, or if this Yuletide season in the good ol’ U.S. of A is abnormally… turbulent.

In the midst of putting up Christmas trees and Nativity scenes and lauding the Christmas Spirit, and through bold defenses of the Second Amendment, Americans nationwide are decrying Muslims and refugees, seeming to forget or purposefully ignore the tragic irony of it all. Too many have forgotten that before the Second Amendment comes the First, which guarantees citizens the freedom of religion; and that there is a Fourteenth, which protects citizens from laws that infringe upon privileges and freedoms.

And that brings me to Trump, the fascist running for president. I have withheld from writing about Trump because I keep hoping he’ll just go away and I really don’t want to direct anymore attention to that ghastly soul. Unfortunately, he hasn’t gone away and what I hoped when he first announced his candidacy for President of the United States of America would be a short-lived joke of a run, has instead resulted in Donald Trump as the frontrunner for the Republican candidate as of the time of my writing this blog post.

Time and again I have heard my more conservative fellows complain about Wars on Christmas, Constitutional rights being removed, and how un-American various policies have become. And yet, Donald Trump is the current conservative leader in the polls.

Donald Trump, who generalized Latino immigrants as rapists and murderers. Donald Trump, who wants to register Muslim Americans and monitor mosques. Donald Trump, who insulted a New York Times journalist with a physical disability. Donald Trump, whose creative insults about women are never-ending. And let’s not forget that time he tried to dupe black religious leaders into supporting him and even went so far as to claim certain leaders had given him their support when they never did. Oh, and when he tried to stir up even more Islamophobia claiming he saw thousands of Muslims celebrating in New Jersey post-9/11, claims that have gone unsubstantiated. (Trump is so ridiculous and disgraceful it is difficult to keep up with all his horrific nonsense.)

And now, Trump wants to close U.S. borders to all Muslims, in addition to having Muslim Americans in a database.

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This is the photo approved for the cover of his book. Scary.

If these were just the ramblings of an anomalous character whom no one takes seriously, while still alarming, it would not be as disconcerting as it has become. But, Trump is first place in the polls for Republican candidate.

When he speaks, people cheer.

Trump represents everything America claims to be against, and yet he is the GOP favorite–and that is utterly terrifying.

Trump is just one man so, despite all the outlined evidence decrying Trump’s humanity I just presented, I really want to address the American people as a whole because it is the populace that elects frightening people like Trump.

If you set up a Nativity and claim you seek to be Christ-like, you can’t turn away people seeking refuge, like the thousands of people fleeing Syria. If you claim to adhere to America’s ideals, you can’t be comfortable registering an entire portion of our population in a database. If you care so much about the Second Amendment, you can’t ignore the First and Fourteenth Amendments because you are scared or bigoted.

Furthermore, if you don’t claim that all Christians are terrorists after the shooting at Planned Parenthood, you can’t claim all Muslims are terrorists after the shooting in San Bernadino. The fact that one shooter’s culture and belief system is unfamiliar to you doesn’t make that shooter representative of all people you classify as similar.

I read an article today in my local newspaper about a Muslim community leader who is contemplating whether or not she should stop wearing her hijab in order to preserve her safety. If Muslim American women feel they are unsafe in their religious garb, we fail as a nation. Americans need to stand united in defense of all citizens, and dispel fear and misunderstanding.

We don’t have the best track record in that regard. Japanese internment camps, slavery, the Trail of Tears, and the extreme necessity for civil rights all come to mind, among others. But we have the power to stop this ship before it even sets sail. We can say no to Trump and others like him, and instead embrace our fellow Muslim Americans. This doesn’t need to become another blight on America’s history.

So this Christmas season if you really want to get in the Christmas Spirit, don’t say there’s no room at the figurative inn that is our country. Instead, truly embrace the Christmas Spirit and channel Tiny Tim’s notion for God to bless each and every one of us.

*Quote in title is from Empire Records–1995

Musings on Gun Violence in America

second-amendment-rifleI feel like a mere drop of water in a sea of voices now discussing guns in the United States. But, I still feel the need to contribute my thoughts on the matter.

The gun culture in the United States is unique. To us, guns are a romantic vestige of the Wild Wild West and a fierce reminder that there will always be a need to defend ourselves. In a culture born of revolution, guns have remained a hard-wired need in our collective consciousness.

At the time the Second Amendment was penned, Americans were fresh from brutal treatment at the hands of the British Army. It made sense to include a method for protection against similar violence in our new Constitution. However, whenever people declare, “But the Second Amendment!” in defending gun ownership rights, I wonder what “well regulated Militia,” that person is a part of. That is a line I don’t think people think about, and I honestly think many of the people touting the Second Amendment probably haven’t even read it. In case you are wondering, the Second Amendment reads thusly:

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

In the span of a week, three campus shootings occurred, two on the same day. During the summer, I spent about a month in Alaska two weeks at a time. During my first two weeks there, two shootings occurred, with another happening just before I arrived. And I can think of a handful of recent shootings besides. So many mass shootings happen in this country whenever I read about another one I feel no shock, no surprise, just mere numbness. Mass shootings are so common, they are no longer news.

Let’s get a little more personal. About two years ago, I was training for a half marathon and did one of my long runs up a seven-mile trail near my home. It was a Sunday and pouring rain, which meant the trail was mostly empty. However, on my way down I encountered a hunter. He was also heading down so didn’t see me coming. When he heard me behind him, he whipped around and stuck his rifle in my face. Needless to say, I was terrified. The hunter quickly put down his gun, apologized, and explained that he had thought I was a deer.

First of all, a hunter shouldn’t be sticking his gun up on a trail even if it is a deer coming along instead of a human. Actual trails are generally too populated to safely take down a deer. Second of all, if this guy is so trigger-happy his instinct is to stick a gun in a human’s face, he shouldn’t have a gun.

I didn’t stick around after he put his gun down. I took off and learned what it feels like to run from something instead of just run for exercise.

I reported this incident to the local police department. They said because it was on the mountain instead of in town it wasn’t their jurisdiction and did nothing to help.

Here in America, we’re not going to give up our guns lightly. That is plain cultural fact. But, when we choose what could arguably be called a certain level of lawlessness about our guns, we ignore a huge problem. We ignore the lives that have been lost because our collective pride matters more than human life. And that is an atrocious sin against humankind.

All this is not to say I think all guns should be banned. Despite my horrid encounter with a hunter, I do think subsistence living is a good thing. Hunting responsibly and sustainably can be an enormously positive lifestyle. I also have a hard time imagining a farm or a ranch being without guns. Regardless, things regarding guns in our country must change.

imagesPeople can’t have the ability wantonly stock their gun safes. The function of a gun is to rip a hole through a body. That function shouldn’t be taken lightly, and as such people who want to own guns should have to prove they have the training and health to safeguard and handle their weapons responsibly.

And you know, we need to stop calling every person who commits a mass shooting crazy. Mental illness is complicated and comes with a massive stigma that isn’t helped by calling every criminal crazy.

Sometimes mental illness is a factor in committing a crime, sometimes it isn’t. The reality is, a mentally ill person is more likely to be the victim of violence than the perpetrator. Calling every shooter crazy doesn’t get to the root of the problem. It denies the many facets of our culture that contribute to violence, a major one being that we simply have a high tolerance for violence, another being that we glorify warfare in our history and our entertainment. It also does a huge disservice to people who suffer from any kind of mental illness. And let’s not forget that most people in their lifetime will have to deal with some kind of mental illness at some point, whether it is minor or major. So in light of that ask yourself: do most people go on shooting rampages?

Now, a lot of people argue that we shouldn’t change the gun laws because criminals will always find a way to hurt people if they want to. Humans unfortunately excel when it comes to devising ways to hurt each other, so it is probably true criminals will always find a way. However, many of the people shooting up schools and churches aren’t hardened criminals with connections to the black market. These are people who had easy access to a weapon capable of large impact with fairly minimal effort. These are people who obtained their weapons legally and didn’t have criminal backgrounds. For many of these people, there was no reason prior to their crime to suspect they would commit such atrocities. So. Tell me again how “criminals will always find a way” is relevant.

Criminals will find a way, if they are clever or determined enough. But does that mean we stop trying? Does that mean we make it as easy as possible for them, just because we have this romantic and fantastical misunderstanding of what the Second Amendment actually says? Without hesitation, no. I’m going to throw in a Hell no, in fact. If we stop trying, we are part of the problem. If we stop trying, we might as well be pulling the trigger ourselves.

Positive Change–Supporting the President

Politics are a hot button issue around town, “town” being everywhere. People rant, people decant thoughts, people argue, people debate. Sometimes friendships are made or ended over politics. I’ve even heard people declare members of the opposing party as sinful or unrighteous just for holding an opposing political philosophy (I’ve heard this from both sides, so please stop those self-righteous comments before they’re borne).

But here’s the problem with most political debates I’ve seen: They focus on name-calling or checklists of supposed “crimes” or the character (or lack of character) of politicians. I’m hugely in favor of politicians who avoid the bandwagon of corruption and lies and buy-outs. But you know what none of these debates addresses? Solutions.

Right now the world is in crisis. There is an epidemic of ebola (the disease I am irrationally terrified of thanks to an Anthropology class I took once). Over 200 girls in Nigeria were kidnapped from school, most of whom still haven’t been found. The Islamic State threatens life in the Middle East, while also threatening the United Kingdom and its allies. Russia invaded Ukraine. There’s conflict in Gaza. Drought is so severe people are losing their livelihoods. Campus rape is rampant. An unarmed young man was murdered by a police officer. Ecosystems are breaking down. Climates are changing. Locally, my precious desert is threatened by oil and business and greedy politicians.

That’s an entire paragraph’s worth of problems that to a certain degree as individuals, there’s not much we can do. But our world leaders are in the position to do something significant. Their role, whether we like the individual or not, is vital for these problems to be solved and for justice to be served. Their role does NOT negate the need for activism on an individual basis, whether that activism is in the form of doing what you can to solve the problem or in the form of pushing your politicians to do the right thing.

Unfortunately, I’m no idealist when it comes to esteeming politicians. In fact, the opposite is true where I have a very cynical view of them. And it is imperative to sound the alarm when politicians have a heavy misstep or completely go wrong. But that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize their position as an opportunity to do great things. And that is where how we as citizens behave comes in.

It is frustrating when you see politicians do horrible things. And truly horrible things should result in removal from office. But what I see most frequently is people going on and on about how horrible of a president President Obama is. Do they offer solutions? (Saying, “If only my candidate had won the election,” doesn’t count as a solution.) No. Do they offer a diplomatic solution to the strife in Russia and Ukraine? No. They simply complain.

When we spend all our time complaining about politicians we aren’t giving them the positive energy they need to do a good job. That might sound new age-y or something, but I believe it to be true.

So. My call to action in this post is to ask everyone to instead of complaining, send good energy to our leaders. Whether that is by prayer or meditation or good vibes or whatever your method of directing positive energy is, just do it. Making the world a better place and solving problems isn’t an easy job. In fact, it’s often a thankless job that merits more condemnation than praise, whether the mover and shaker is a politician, activist, or average citizen. Reserving judgement and offering solutions is what will ultimately make positive headway, whether your party is in office or not.

So maybe you don’t like the current president or past presidents. Maybe you don’t like the dominant party. Maybe you don’t like ANYBODY! But if we want our government to meet its potential, when the election is over opposing candidates cease to matter in terms of running the government. There are countless issues facing the world today. Making your distaste of an individual one of those problems helps no one and harms the world.

Let’s send a big wave of positive energy out there, shall we?

Standing Up For Your Sisters

To me, standing up for your fellow sisters in situations of harassment is a big deal. It can be scary because you don’t know how the harasser will react. It could be simple annoyance, or it could be violent. But when a woman is being harassed, the feeling is often one of fear and being completely alone. Thus, as a woman, I feel it is vital to stand up for my sisters, to prove that she is not alone when she’s being harassed.

Yet despite that point of view, yesterday I failed to stand up.

I was walking down a hall at my church when I saw a guy badgering a girl and saying, “You’re always so quiet. Why are you so quiet?” Instead of interceding, I simply muttered to myself, “Because she wants to be! It’s none of your business anyway!”

Love this art series. Visit http://stoptellingwomentosmile.com/About

Love this art series. Visit http://stoptellingwomentosmile.com/About

There are obviously worse ways to harass a woman. But that fact doesn’t negate this incident as harassment. There is a misogynistic belief that women owe men our best smiles, our best selves, our best conversations. But really, we don’t owe men that. We are allowed to be quiet. We are allowed to keep to ourselves. We are allowed to not have a smile plastered to our faces at every moment of the day. We aren’t here to entertain men or to feed their ego. And when it comes to church, we are there to learn and to worship. Sure, we socialize. But we are definitely not there to engage in a witty repartee just because men think we should be.

I’ve interacted with this guy before. This is a guy who thinks his comfort level is much more important than everybody else’s, as indicated by the time he flipped out at me because I dared to turn the air down a notch. Never mind that oodles of people were freezing instead of paying attention to the church speakers. He is also the kind of guy who thinks it is wrong for a girl he claims to love to serve a church mission instead of marry him. That’s respect for you.

But even knowing this I did not stand up. I saw her face, I had a response, I muttered to myself and kept walking. Why? Why did I do nothing knowing that even the slightest form of harassment has potential to make a woman fall into a dark and lonely place?

Harassment kind of feels like this.

Harassment kind of feels like this.

I suppose it could be fear. It is always terrifying to stand up to other people. And there’s always the standby, “Oh, she’s be fine. There’s nothing to worry about.” But it is my job to make sure my sisters feel safe at church. It is my job to work towards a world where my sisters feel safe at school or on the street or in their hotels or at the movies or in their cars or anywhere they feel inclined to go.

So I guess this post is a confession of my cowardice as well as a call to myself and to everyone to be better. Sometimes our perceptions might be off, but it is always better to make sure everyone involved in a strange situation feels safe and okay, than to assume everyone is safe and okay.

Even as I am writing this I am second-guessing myself. “Maybe I’m overreacting,” I keep thinking. But here’s the thing: If it feels wrong it’s wrong! Don’t second-guess yourself in these situations–just stand up.

We need to be better. As bystanders to harassment it is our responsibility to let harassers know that what they are doing is not okay. It is our responsibility to make sure the person being harassed is safe and knows someone will stand beside them. It is our responsibility to stand up.

Author: Tamsen Maloy |

Revolutionary Women: Introduction

This Independence Day I went to my town’s parade, a typical part of my Independence Day celebrations. There was a fly-by featuring two old airplanes I know nothing about (I admire aviatrixes but am not one myself). There were old cars hauling the city governmental officials. There were marching bands. There was a Baptist choir (a great new addition). There was a boat float (puns!) featuring flags of other nations recognizing the various countries from which we as a nation draw our heritage.

There was also a float depicting important figures from American history. Of ten or so figures filling a borrowed flat-bed trailer, only two were female. Two! One was the Statue of Liberty (not a real woman) and the other was the idealized version of Betsy Ross, thus depicting the beloved and accepted version of woman: A woman who makes history by sewing things. (By the way, sewing is great. I sew costumes and it is loads of fun. Quilters are some of the most talented people around. But guess what? The idea that a woman is acceptable because she portrays that idealized and incomplete version of womanhood is frustrating to say the least.)

So on a float designed to reflect great people from American history, we have a statue woman and a woman who sewed something. That is very limiting. What young girls sitting front row at a parade see matters. I don’t want young girls (or old girls or somewhere-in-between girls) to think their options are limited to being a statue (read: admired as an object) or being glorified for stereotypical homemaking skills.

In response to this float, I had the brilliant idea to have a float in next year’s parade that spotlights women in American history. In preparation for that, and in order to learn new things and share them, I am starting a series on this blog that will feature female historical figures. This series could honestly keep going until I die because there really isn’t a limit to the number of amazing women in American history. I will attempt to include one Revolutionary Woman per month at a minimum.

Stay tuned to learn more about Revolutionary Women.

Only demure women are worthy of being on a float.

Only demure women are worthy of being on a float.

America the Beautiful

Ray-CharlesGearing up for Independence Day (more often called the Fourth of July) I always listen to Ray Charles–especially his version of “America the Beautiful.”

Once you hear his version of that song, every other rendition feels empty. I think his version of that song is a far superior personification of this country than our current national anthem. But that’s just me.

As I listened to Ray Charles sing that song again, a few lines stuck out to me:

“America! America!

May God thy gold refine

Till all success be nobleness

And every gain Divine!”

It is common that I receive a lot of angry feedback to any criticisms I make about my country. It is no secret that I don’t exactly fit in with American culture and would love to live abroad. But I am continually frustrated by the attitude that by criticising America’s faults I am somehow detracting from its “greatness.”

Those lines from “America the Beautiful” stuck out to me today because I want them to become true. I don’t want America to happily skip down the path of arrogant self-righteousness it has been travelling. I want all our successes to be noble. I want to see the end of what I consider to be a mockery of our claimed values. I want the inscription on the Statue of Liberty to be true. I want America to stop acting like Regina George.

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We proclaim liberty, equality, and freedom. Yet we have a distressing legacy of inequality, hatred, paternalism, and imperialism. When people try to come to our country for a better life, we kick them out, separate them from their families, spit on them–and that has been true with each wave of immigration.

All cultures experience some level of ethnocentrism, meaning each culture believes it is the best culture–it’s an “Us v. Them” attitude. The United States is no exception, except we take it to the next level. An Italian might say Italy is the best, but  the sentiment won’t be filled with resentment toward everyone else. Italians might think Italian-made pasta and leather and football is the best (come on, they’re probably right) but they won’t behave like it’s their way or the highway. Instead of attempting to enforce their culture, they’ll share it.

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We constantly judge other cultures by our own standards and conclude that non-Americans must suffer so, or are pitiful because they don’t live here. We are not better than everyone else. Country lines do not decide value and happiness and worth. All cultures are different, all cultures matter.

I don’t like to say there is a “best” country in the world. That is impossible to measure, especially since so much depends on personal opinion and values. However, of the measurable markers, the U.S. does not measure up. We are one of three countries that doesn’t require maternity or paternity leave. A recent report says at the current rate it will take until 2121 to reach parity in the federal government. On the Global Peace Index our rank is 101 out of 162 (a drop from 99 several weeks ago). Our government is basically owned by big business. We claim to welcome the tired, poor, and huddled masses, but we absolutely reject anyone who dares come.

We are categorically not the best, but not only do we insist we are the best, we stomp on anyone who disagrees–even if that someone is not American.

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My purpose in writing this isn’t to spew America-hate. My purpose is to propose an alternate way of thinking. Namely, instead of insisting America is perfect the way it is, we work to make all our successes noble. Instead of yelling, “We’re the best! We’re the best!” while running an interior monologue detailing why America is better than everyone else, we embrace our culture while loving everyone else’s. It is possible to love your own culture without hating on others.

And the idea that ignoring a country’s problems is the ideal form of patriotism is just plain bizarre. As the song says, we need to refine our gold. Or in other words, we need to refine ourselves. We need to refine our attitudes, our politics, our intercultural relations. The world doesn’t revolve around us and it’s time we stop acting like it does.

So this Independence Day, celebrate the great things in our history. Celebrate that a small band of revolutionaries beat the British army and navy against all odds. Celebrate that we value freedom and independence and individuality and bravery. Celebrate the men and women who have worked and fought to preserve those values. Please, celebrate these things! But don’t forget that America is far from perfect. Don’t forget that other cultures and countries matter and don’t define themselves against an American backdrop. Don’t forget that there are people within our country-lines who suffer and don’t experience the freedom we claim to value so highly.

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America has a long way to go. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get there.

Author: Tamsen Maloy |

 

#WhenConservativesGoTooFar

 

#despicable

#despicable

Sometimes, a girl’s just gotta rant. Now is one of those times.

By now we’re all familiar with the devastating kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian girls by the Boko Haram. Most of us feel outrage and helplessness, while some of us feel that maybe–just maybe–the use of hashtag #BringBackOurGirls will do something, just anything to help the situation.

Whether or not hashtag activism makes any difference is a great topic for debate. It’s effectiveness aside, it is simply deplorable for conservative commentators to use this hashtag as a tool to mock opposing parties.

AWFUL REPUGNANT FOUL GHASTLY ATROCIOUS INFURIATING!

This morning it came to my attention that certain public figures thought it would be a great idea to mock this campaign, and some of those who have participated. Ann Coulter took a photo of herself bearing a piece of paper that read, #Bring Back Our Country, complete with sad face in an attempt to mock Michelle Obama’s contribution to #BringBackOurGirls.

#OurFirstLady

#OurFirstLady

Ann Coulter was mocked via Twitter for doing this, but the fact remains (and I’m about to use all caps because serious) WHEN GIRLS ARE KIDNAPPED BY TERRORISTS IS NOT THE TIME TO MOCK THE OPPOSING PARTY!!!!! Does that really require saying?

Whether you like the current presidential administration; whether you think hashtag activism accomplishes anything; whether you want to set off a Twitter storm just for kicks, don’t react by appropriating a cause linked to the serious horror and plight of a group of girls!

I know Ann Coulter has come under serious fire for her photo, thus my post will probably just be white noise. However, this was more than just a gaffe. Using a severe crisis as fodder for mocking a person or party you don’t like is simply unacceptable. It is a crass act of levity in the face of tragedy. This act signifies a refuge for a mediocre mind.

#Malala

#Malala #ILoveMalala

Are you going to mock Malala, too?

Author: Tamsen Maloy |