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Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Good Week for Hate

It was a good week for racism and hate.  Two so-called “leaders” decided to make public statements about African-Americans and slavery, causing a stir. The first, LA Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, in a recorded conversation with his girlfriend, Vivian Stiviano, who is Mexican and African-American, admits he doesn’t like it when his girlfriend takes pictures with black people?  WHAT????

— “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” (3:30)

— “You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want.  The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games.” (5:15)

“I’m just saying, in your lousy f******* Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people.” (7:45)

— “…Don’t put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me.  And don’t bring him to my games.” (9:13)

Listen to the full audio here, if you can stand it.

I loved President Obama’s response, “When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk. That’s what happened here.”

About the same time as Sterling was spouting his own personal racism with his mixed race girlfriend, Nevada Rancher, Cliven Bundy (I’m sorry, but doesn’t his name creep you out just a little?), was quoted in The New York Times  “referring to black people as ‘the Negro’ and recalling a time decades ago when he drove past homes in North Las Vegas and saw black people who ‘didn’t have nothing to do.’ He said he wondered if they were ‘better off as slaves’ than ‘under government subsidy'” (See ABC News story here).  Republican supporters of Bundy are quickly backing away. Surprise, surprise.

We can chalk this up to white male privilege and ignorance or we can dig deeper and examine the profound roots of racism that still cling to the dirt that is this country.  We should talk about these issues with young people and support organizations, like the YWCA, whose work on racial justice is about raising young people who do not hold these outdated, yet still so prevalent ideologies.

The YWCA’s Stand Against Racism, which took place last Friday, is a great example of how to publicly and positively address racism.

sar-logo12

What do you to stand against racism?  Are you comfortable calling it out?  Do you tell people when their words offend you?  Do you share information about racist people like Bundy and Sterling so others are aware?  Do you boycott organizations and businesses who promote hate?  Do you work to diversity your workplace?  Your friendships? Are you a member of the YWCA?  If not, here’s how to join.

Let’s hope next week is a good week for love.

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Reflections on Free to Be You and Me Turning 40

Last month I mailed a copy of the CD version of Free to Be You and Me, the 1974 musical collection developed by Marlo Thomas to my feminist friend who is having her first baby.  Thomas got her “famous” friends together (Alan Alda, Rosey Grier, Tom Smothers, Diana Ross, Mel Brooks, Billy de Wolfe, Carol Channing, Dick Cavett, and Shirley Jones) to make this album of songs and stories as an antidote to the lack of gender free toys and books on the shelves as she searched for a birthday gift for her niece.  (Imagine getting this present from your Aunt Marlo?).

I don’t know how old I was when my parents gave me this album, but it came with a songbook of the words and I learned every one of them.  As I entered adulthood, I made copies for baby shower favors for my brother and for my best friend.  And while a 40 year old songbook seems dated, it is still very relevant.

220px-Free_to_Be..._You_and_Me_(album_cover)

Christina Hoff Sommers provides a trenchant tribute in her March 11th Time Magazine article “‘Free to Be’ Boys and Girls: 40 Years After the Failed Gender Revolution.” She negatively summarizes some of the songs and stories, stating “the songs drive home the idea that we are all androgynous beings unfairly constrained by social stereotypes.”  Then she goes on to use the example of the American Girl Doll franchise to demonstrate how boys do not go for dolls; and that is another failure of the women’s movement for gender equality.  WHAT?

Ms Hoff Sommers, you are clearly missing the point.  The point is not that boys want dolls.  The point is that men want to be active engaged daddies and that mommies want help.  And yes, Ms Hoff Sommers, there has been a shift in 40 years toward this endeavor I call equality.  I know many of you would cite examples like this, but my little brother and his wife are true equal parents to their little boy.  They take turns doing all the parenting pieces required to raise a child in today’s world.

But then Ms Hoff Sommers begins her descent down the slippery slope of stereotyping.

But, after 40 years of gender activism, boys and girls show few signs of liking to do the same things. From the earliest age, boys show a distinct preference for active outdoor play, with a strong predilection for games with body contact, conflict, and clearly defined winners and losers. Girls, too, enjoy raucous outdoor play, but they engage in it less. Girls, as a rule, are more drawn to imaginative theatrical games — playing house, playing school — as well as exchanging confidences with a best friend. Boys playing kickball together in the schoolyard are not only having a great deal of fun, they are forging friendships with other males in ways that are critical to their healthy socialization. Similarly, little girls who spend hours in deep conversation with other girls or playing theatrical games are happily and actively honing their social skills.

To suggest that the ways in which boys and girls like to play, as socialized by their parents and our culture, is a prediction for whether they will parent in sex stereotyped roles is a reach.  Free to Be You and Me was about looking ahead to the future where limits wouldn’t be placed on what girls and boys wanted to do with their lives. (This was really happening in 1974.  Remember “Help Wanted” ads for men only or girls only?)  Free to Be You and Me was not, and is not, what Hoff Sommers calls “a cautionary example of how an idealistic social fantasy can turn into a blueprint for repression.”  Sex stereotyping and limiting women’s and men’s ability to develop their own free expression is repression. Patriarchy, which still exists, Ms Hoff Sommers, is the blueprint for repression and continues its architecture in many places across the globe.

Marlo Thomas and her friends planted within me, from this album, a passion for equality, justice, freedom, and theatrical expression.  And forty years later, I am thankful to her for that.

Hobby Lobby Needs a New Hobby

The Supreme Court heard Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, last week, which asks the justices to consider whether for-profit companies can refuse certain types of medical coverage, citing religious objections. Hobby Lobby President Steve Green stated, “We do not have a problem with contraceptives . . . it is those that are abortive in nature—that is when it becomes a problem for us.”

As women are now blessed to have full contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the basis of this complaint, I maintain, is discriminatory in nature. Only contraceptives used by women are at question, like the morning after pill and the IUD. Hobby Lobby contends that these birth control methods are abortifacients, which they are not. Perhaps before allowing a case to come before the Supreme Court, the lawyers representing the organization should be required to take a class on how these methods actually prevent pregnancy.

The morning after pill prevents an egg from fertilizing but if the fertilized egg is already implanted in the uterus, it will not. Likewise, the IUD makes the uterus a hostile environment for the sperm so that the sperm can’t make it to the egg and the egg doesn’t want to hang out there.

Hobby Lobby is pushing, with this case, for corporations to be recognized as religious. Um . . . we already have that provision for not-for-profit religious organizations. They are called churches. And synagogues. And mosques. If the owners of Hobby Lobby want to go open a church and call it Hobby Church and not provide birth control and abortion to their employees, go for it. But you’re not going to make money off consumers who want to buy model air plane kits if you don’t obey the law like all the other companies.

Here’s some background on this company.Image

Hobby Lobby is a privately held, for-profit corporation with 13,000 employees. It’s owned by a trust managed by the Green family, devout Christians who run the company based on biblical principles. They close their stores on Sundays; start staff meetings with Bible readings, pay above minimum wage, and use a Christian-based mediation practice to resolve employee disputes. The Greens are even attempting to build a Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC. [Mother Jones, 3/21/14]

The Greens feel that they are being forced to pick between their religious convictions or pay penalties. This is why we have that lovely piece in our constitution on the “separation of church and state.” Where does one draw the line on religious convictions in these circumstances? What if a company is run by Christian Scientists who oppose all sorts of medical intervention? Then you’ll have no coverage. What if it is a company run by Jehovah’s Witnesses? You won’t be covered for blood transfusions or dialysis, for starters. Here we are again, at the precipice of a slippery slope. Let’s hope the Supreme Court, already divided on this one by gender (surprise!), makes a decision that keeps religious beliefs out of capitalism and allows women to have the same access to healthcare wherever they choose to work.

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