Friday, December 10, 2010

Asking for it

IMG_0273 Tonight, a Facebook friend posted that her middle school-aged daughter came home and told her about what her teacher said in her sex ed class: "How a girl dresses can send signals she wants to have sex."

But wait...there was more. Naturally, my friend was incensed by this remark and had a discussion with him...and yes, it was a male teacher. Here are some words of wisdom from this guy.

"If a girl dresses in a mini skirt with cleavage [sic], I mean, doesn't that imply she wants to have sex?"

In the course of conversation with my friend, she said that he mentioned fishnet stockings.

He tried this analogy on her: "You see a guy flexing his muscles on the beach scantily clad, doesn't that make you think he's trying to be sexy?"

I can't begin to tell you how outraged this made me. This is the typical "she was asking for it" attitude that far too many defense attorneys and self-righteous moralistic idiots have used for years. Rather than placing the blame solely on the attacker, it is somehow turned around to be all the woman's fault. After all, if she wasn't wearing those provocative clothes, that attack never would have happened, right? It's HER fault for dressing like a slut, not HIS fault for giving into his uncontrollable urges.

First of all, this is incredibly insulting to both men and women. Not only does it assume that women somehow "want it" if they dress provocatively, it assumes that men are such testosterone-laden idiots that they are incapable of controlling their urges and simply have to get all rapey and junk if they see a flash of leg or gaze down an epic cleavage. What century are we living in again?

Secondly, it shows the incredible ignorance concerning the crime of rape. It is not simply a sex crime; it is one of power, dominance, and anger. There are rape victims who are elderly women; there are those that are pre-kindergarten girls. These are not women who are dressing provocatively. Their only crime is that of being female.

For a public school teacher to espouse such horrifically sexist attitudes is just beyond comprehension, and leads me to think that he has his own issues with women and perhaps a fair amount of anger towards them. This is a mentality that I thought we'd put behind us, and I find it very disturbing that it is being spouted by teachers.

My friend's post generated a lot of comments. Most people were also appalled, and others didn't care for the guy's remarks but felt that some of us were being too hard on him. I don't think so, not by a long shot. Anyone who knows me, or if you've been reading me for a while, knows that I am not a man basher. I happen to like you guys and you'll never hear me saying "All men are [fill in the blank]." But this is simply unacceptable, a horrible lesson to young girls which tells them that they are the ones who provoke unwanted attention or even worse, actual attacks upon themselves, because of their dress or attitudes. It is also a horrible lesson to the young men in that class, telling them that it's not their fault if they have urges to go after a woman because she is wearing a short dress or a tight shirt, essentially forgiving them for any wrongdoing because "she asked for it." I am still stunned that a teacher said this!

Many of us have been subjected to harassment in the workplace or in our private lives. I've had two incidents in my career in which I had to deal with it. One was a coworker--not even in the same department, but on the same shift--who was apparently telling people exactly what he wanted to do to me, in very graphic terms. I can assure you that I never once encouraged this person, or led him to believe that we were anything but work acquaintances, but he felt that it was okay for him to talk about me to my other coworkers in very sexual terms. I told him to cut it out, and if he didn't, I'd go to my manager and discuss a sexual harassment complaint. That put a stop to it. The other incident was when I was drawing blood from a patient in Intensive Care. The patient was a hard stick, so the doctor who was in the room put his hands firmly around my waist, lingering, and moved me aside, telling the patient, "It probably doesn't hurt as much when they're as pretty as this one, does it?" I'm sure that my white lab coat was what really set him off. My fault for dressing so provocatively. I was so shaken up that I was...well, I was literally shaking when I came back down to the lab. I went to my manager and told her about the incident; she investigated and told me that there were nurses that had also complained about this doctor being inappropriate with them. It never happened again, so I didn't pursue it, but my complaint was on file.

Bottom line: any teacher telling impressionable young people that a woman's attire, no matter how provocative--and who is this guy to decide what is overly provocative, anyway?--is possibly an invitation to have sex with her is grossly negligent and verging on criminal. There is absolutely no excuse for such behavior or for perpetuating these myths that a woman is asking for harassment or rape because of her behavior or attire. I'm a big fan of fishnet stockings because they're fun and cute and they don't get runs in them. Those are my legs in that picture up there. Do the fishnets and/or the short skirt make my male readers feel rapey? Because I wear them, does that mean I'm putting forth an invitation to every guy to come onto me? That is crazy, stupid, and incredibly sexist.

I was reminded of the movie "The Accused," in which Jodie Foster's character gets drunk and stupid and ends up getting gang raped on a pinball table. This wasn't complete fiction. It was based on a real case. I found the rape scene one of the most horrifying and disturbing scenes I've ever watched in a movie. Any teacher who passes on such attitudes to their students has no place in the classroom. I don't know what my friend will end up doing, but I'm certain that she will pitch one helluva fit, and rightly so. I will be interested to see what comes of this; if it were me in that situation, and the teacher refused to see what was wrong with what he told his students, I'd be filing a formal complaint with the school board and doing my best to get him out of the least the sex education classroom. His moralistic, judgmental pronouncements on "what women want" have no place among our students.

It's odd, though...I had no idea that Mel Gibson was working as a teacher in northern Indiana.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Shades of Grey

Tax deal I hesitated to write about this, because it is seriously harshing my mellow.

The bubble chart you see on the left is a representation of the numbers in the tax deal currently being negotiated in Washington right now. The blue is what the Democrats got, and the lone red one is what the Republicans got. However, that lone red ball is tax cut extensions for the wealthiest 2%, and that is what has people in a tizzy.

Except 'tizzy' doesn't begin to cover it. I'd say it's pretty close to foaming at the mouth. Some of my fellow liberals say that they are leaving Organizing For America; some are predicting that this undoubtedly means that President Obama will not win re-election in 2012; all are saying that he "caved" and he should have shown up ready to kick ass and chew bubblegum (but of course, he'd be all out of bubblegum...anyone get that reference?); there are rumblings about putting someone up against him in the primaries.

May I politely say...everyone take a deep breath and just chill the fuck out, okay?

I don't like the tax cut extensions, either. I think that the wealthiest among us should pay more on a progressive scale, and the best case scenario would have been to have the middle class cuts extended and let the higher end tax cuts expire. Unfortunately, politics got in the way. I'm sure most of you who read this know that the extensions got all tangled up with unemployment benefits extensions, and Obama made the decision to cut a deal to extend all tax cuts in order to extend unemployment benefits in this extremely tough economic atmosphere.

Is it perfect? No. Is it the end of the world, the demise of the Democratic Party, the death knell of the Obama presidency? No, no, and no.

Let's have a reality check. First a little harsh clarity, then a healthy dose of optimism.

Obama cannot legislate. Congress passes the bills, he signs them into law. The Democrats didn't have the votes to pass the best case scenario I mentioned above. Might they have before the election? Yes. Go ahead and blame the Democrats for that one, but don't put it all on Obama's shoulders.

As the Stones said, you can't always get what you want...but if you try sometimes you get what you need. We wanted the tax cuts for the wealthy to expire; those whose unemployment benefits were close to running out got what they needed.

It's Washington, D.C., and deals are brokered all the time. It's politics; that is the nature of the beast. Would I love to see Jimmy Stewart go to Washington and change hearts with his integrity and honesty and steadfastness in the face of fierce opposition? Sure. But that's a movie. This is real life.

As for running a challenger against Obama in the primaries, please, PLEASE stop thinking this is a viable option. It's a rarity that anyone successfully runs against a sitting President in a primary, and it would do nothing but create discord, and would be political suicide for whoever decided to try. Does anyone think the Democratic Party would go against their sitting President? Also, who would you choose that could actually win? Hillary? She could win...but she is part of Obama's Cabinet, and has said repeatedly that she will not run in 2012, and probably not even in 2016. I don't believe for a moment that she would ever run in a primary against Obama. So who else would you pit against whoever the Republican candidate ends up being? Howard Dean? After his "scream" meltdown, do you seriously think that he could get enough Independents to get the win? Dean has also gone on record saying that he is not running and will support Obama in 2012. I have friends who love former Florida Congressman Alan Grayson and Minnesota Senator Al Franken. I love them, too. But again, please think pragmatically here: if you think they could beat someone like Romney, you are simply wrong. It wouldn't happen. Independents would never go for anyone that far to the left.

And here is a real nightmare scenario for you. Say you have someone like Grayson as your nominee...and the Republican nominee is Palin. Do you really want to take the chance that Palin might pull off a win? Someone sent an email to Jack Cafferty on CNN saying that he was a Democrat, and if it were Obama against Palin, he'd vote for Obama. If it were Obama against someone like Romney, he'd stay home. Really? You'd rather give up the Presidency to Mittens than get out and make sure the Republicans don't end up in control of the Presidency, the House, AND the Senate?

Please everyone...just get a grip and calm down. This really is not the end of the world.

In fact (here comes the optimism), some feel that Obama’s tax deal is effectively the extra stimulus that most economists feel was needed (that article is where I got the above chart). It was a back door stimulus, if you will, because if the Democrats had tried to introduce another such plan and called it Stimulus Part Deux, you can bet it would have died a swift death in the House. Some very prominent Democrat mayors support the deal. If you take a look at the whole package, you'll see that there are some very good things in it that will help a lot of people. The focus right now is very much on the "millionaire tax cut," but there is a lot more there. I hope that folks will take a breath and stop going bugshit about this.

I suspect this post won't be very popular with some of my friends and readers. Believe me, I share your anger that the richest 2% are getting a continued tax break. However, the middle class tax cuts and extended unemployment benefits are the real prize here. The former will make people feel better about spending for this Christmas and beyond, and the latter will keep some people in their homes and hanging on until they can hopefully find a job. Stop and think for a moment that perhaps this was a pretty good end run, where we gained more than we conceded. And please stop the breathless hysteria that is going to keep you at home next election day, confined to bed with a bad case of the vapors.

I mentioned on Facebook that this was not a black and white matter, that it in fact has infinite shades of grey. It made me think of the Monkees song (yes, I like the Monkees), and as I read the lyrics, I realized just how appropriate it was (video first, followed by lyrics). At heart, I am an idealist. In practice, I'm a pragmatist and a realist. It's good to have a combination of both.

When the world and I were young, just yesterday
Life was such a simple game a child could play

It was easy then to tell right from wrong
Easy then to tell weak from strong
When a man should stand and fight
Or just go along

But today, there is no day or night

Today, there is no dark or light
Today, there is no black or white
Only shades of grey

I remember when the answer seemed so clear
We had never lived with doubt, or tasted fear

It was easy then to tell truth from lies
Selling out from compromise
Who to love and who to hate
The foolish from the wise

But today, there is no day or night
Today, there is no dark or light
Today, there is no black or white
Only shades of grey

It was easy then to know what was fair
When to keep and when to share
How much to protect your heart
And how much to care

But today, there is no day or night
Today, there is no dark or light
Today, there is no black or white
Only shades of grey
Only shades of grey...