Friday, December 17, 2010

Bitter living through chemistry

Bitter fruit No political stuff today. It's a holiday miracle!

Frankly, I'm more than a little burned out on politics. It's a temporary setback. I suppose if I'm going to go through this, now is the time to do it. I'm still following things, but I'm just worn out. I'm tired of debating, I'm tired of the partisan fighting and lately, the infighting. I need a break, and I am happy to take one before things start heating up in the spring. A handful of GOP debates have already been set, and I'll admit to having a little sunshiney thought that Sarah Palin might be taking part in those debates. That should be some major entertainment! I think I'm just going to sit back and watch things develop, and then enjoy the circus. [rubbing my hands together with glee] I've got all winter to formulate my master plan. Bahahahaha!

Instead, I'm thinking tonight about those who let their own anger and bitterness get in the way of the right thing to do. As I watch my friend dealing with her kids' school district because she feels that her kids are being taught some very disastrous and wrong thinking about sexuality and sexual mores, I wonder about the difference between defending your kids or loved ones based on protecting them from a genuine threat versus one that you have raised to threatening status in your own mind. I wonder what is wrong with anyone who would ignore the best interests of their own family because they are unable to let go of their own notions and perceived hurts.

I've seen it in my own family. The bitterness and anger is passed on to those who are innocent, the acerbic commentary is shared both in the written and spoken word, and it's made very clear that one party is the enemy and to be hated. I'll never fathom how anyone can so blatantly pass on their anger to those who it is their duty to protect and keep from harm—that includes both physically and mentally. Passing on the baton of your own bitterness due to perceived slights is so unhealthy, especially when you are clinging to incidents that happened years before. If you want to continue to hang onto what has hurt you in the past, I suppose you have that right (although it really isn't very healthy); spreading your misery and misconceptions to others is dangerous and simply not right. 

When the recipients of your bitterness are subjected to a constant barrage of negativity and erratic behavior, they have no exposure to a healthy perspective or chance at discussion and resolution. When other family members support such behavior and enable the hater to keep on hating, what chance at a normal life do the recipients have? When much of your life and your personal interactions consist of nothing but chaos, disorder, and dysfunction, how can other family members thrive and be healthy in such an atmosphere? I find that really sad. I suppose that seeing your own negativity reflected in those around you is satisfying for some. I see it as mentally unhealthy and a very unsound state of mind. Especially when you put the future of your loved ones in jeopardy.

All because of your own bitterness.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Asking for it: Update

Sex ed On this cold and snowy day here at Nutwood, I'll revisit my previous post. My friend has sent a letter to the school board about her discussion with the teacher. Names have been changed to protect the innocent (I've always wanted to say that!) and I have removed some things for the sake of both her privacy and brevity here. Printed here with her permission. Commentary to follow.

Dear Dr. So-and-So,

I’m writing to you today to address an area that I find personally offensive on many levels concerning the specific practices of a certain teacher. You are my first step in this matter, as I feel you are a man of integrity and very open. I am not sure where to proceed from here. I have considered consulting the ACLU and/or taking this up with the school board if I don’t have resolution. However, that seems extreme at this moment. I’d prefer to consult with you first and see if perhaps this can be dealt with on a personal level first.

Here is the situation:

My youngest daughter, J., attends 8th grade at W. School—a school I’ve greatly enjoyed and have had, until this moment, the utmost respect for the staff and administrators. Yesterday, 12/09/2010, J. came home from sex education, taught by Mr. Jones. She informed me that during this class, Mr. Jones told the children, (a mixed group of boys and girls) that, “Girls should be careful how they dress, as they can send ‘signals’ to boys that mean they want to have sex.” And also talked about girls being “provocatively dressed,” and how this could turn on boys and incur unwanted sexual advances. To quote him, “These things make girls look like they want sex.”

I contacted Mr. Jones about this to confirm his opinion. In a rather heated discussion, Mr. Jones not only confirmed these statements, but also informed me that he felt girls in miniskirts with cleavage, were indeed a “type” that did incite male attention. He further related that fishnet tights that girls or women wore were “inviting trouble.” (It could be pointed out that many career women wear these in the board room and that the well-respected Principal of W. School has worn short skirts in a very professional and becoming fashion).

During the 20 minute conversation, Mr. Jones shared that he felt women in such attire essentially were wide open to male advances. And when I asked him if he felt that these girls, who might be “provocative” by his standards, looked trashy, he said, “Not all of them.” His exact words were, “Cleavage and miniskirts make a woman or a girl look like they want sex.” And "If a girl dresses in a mini skirt with cleavage, I mean, doesn't that imply she wants to have sex or is thinking about sex?"

He also gave me the analogy of me seeing a muscular body-builder on the beach, flexing his muscles while scantily clad and asked if I thought that man was sending sexual messages. Mr. Jones seemed shocked when I told him, “No” to both questions.

Here are the problems I have with this:

1. To tell girls their attire is responsible for male advances is to lay blame on the female culture for sexual inappropriateness. We women have tried the gambit of dressing man-like in business (and I’m one of those females) to wearing no makeup to shabby attire and we still gain unwanted and unwelcome advances. How we dress is a personal statement and often independent of anyone else’s approval. Believe it or not, when I get up in the morning, whether I opt for a skirt, jeans, sweats or a business suit, has nothing to do with inviting male advances--and yet, we women will acquire these regardless of our choice of attire.

I resent this cultural throwback. I resent the work I do to make myself, my daughters and my sister females appear credible, intelligent and with something to offer which is lightly cast aside by archaic, detrimental statements such as those uttered by Mr. Jones. Neither I, nor my daughters, nor any woman should be “blamed” by virtue of how she dresses for males acting inappropriately.

I do not want “sex” if I wear a miniskirt. I do not want “sex” if I have cleavage showing. Likewise, my daughters do not want to have sex because they are wearing certain items. And I am deeply offended that Mr. Jones told a group of young women that these things were what men or boys would think of them—that girls look like they want sex because they wore a miniskirt.

While women do receive too frequent male attention, I don’t believe all males respond this way. Unlike Mr. Jones, I have a better opinion of the male race because I have also encountered men who did not regard me as a sexual object, regardless of what I wore, but instead treated me like an equal human being. So in this mindset, Mr. Jones also demeaned males by lowering them universally to his standards.

It’s appalling to me that my daughter was told this today. It lays the blame in her mind for times when boys do act inappropriately. “Did I do something wrong?” “Was it me?” I could see her ask, like many women before her. Whether male or female, the person responsible for inappropriate behavior is the offender--not the victim. I do not send my daughter to a public school to have this message taught to her, that in the future when she’s victimized and discriminated against in college or in the workforce someday, this is her fault for choosing to wear a tank top or a skirt.

2. As this was told in a classroom of mixed group of boys and girls, this same message has an even more detrimental effect on young males—males that will someday grow up into adult men. These men armed with this information will see a woman they regard as “sexually provocative” and will feel she must therefore “want sex.” I may point out that there have been numerous and well published rapes of women who were victims of this mentality. And the truth of the matter is that date rape, an all too common event that young women tragically experience, has often been blamed by the perpetrator on what a woman wore. Although vastly underreported, this crime been proven in courts across the United States to have NOTHING to do with female attire.

Boys do not suddenly wake up and decide to rape young women, victimize or sexually discriminate against them. However the classic male predator develops a feeling of “entitlement” to what is in front of them and some act on this in horrific ways. That sense of “entitlement” is what is being cultivated in Mr. Jones’s class, along with a sickening dose of blaming the female and removing the culpability from young men for inappropriate behavior.

Last I checked, accepting responsibility for one’s actions is a principle that IS being taught in W. School—except perhaps in Mr. Jones’s classroom. Even apart from rape, sexual pressure will increase not decrease due to this teaching. I imagine now, boys will look around the room, based on knowing “girls who dress provocatively want sex” and begin selecting females they can easily pressure into sex, due to what the girls are wearing.

3. I would also ask, “Precisely what is inappropriate attire that incites the male testosterone to extreme and unacceptable proportions?” What is defined as “sexy” and “provocative” has a great cultural variance, even among young men in the same classroom. To some kids from very conservative homes, a girl in jeans is “provocative” based on the child’s world view of mothers or sisters who wear dresses all the time. I asked Mr. Jones this question and he replied, “Clothing that draws attention to their breasts.”

What Mr. Jones defines as attire “inviting male advances” is not what the next man may find sexually charged clothing. Hence, this entire topic is horrifically ridden with blame, inappropriate doling of culpability, vague definitions and incites the opposite of what is intended by an abstinence based sex ed class.

Mr. Jones asked me if I approved of the dress code. Of course I do, because the purpose of a dress code is to develop a bit of uniformity amongst kids and prevent gang involvement. The purpose of a dress code is NOT to protect innocent boys from evil, scantily-clad girls who may tempt them into sex. The topic of a dress code and my objections to discriminatory teaching are two entirely different matters. However this only demonstrated Mr. Jones’s inability to grasp of the seriousness of my statements.

The topic should have been simply and easily addressed with the following:

“No matter what a woman wears, or how sexy you think she is, does NOT mean she wants sex. Therefore you shouldn’t expect sex or pressure her or assume she’s easy.”

“A girl is a human being with feelings and does not always dress for inviting males or even want sex, no matter how “cute” she looks to you.” You are responsible for your own hormones and actions. It is therefore not the fault of the woman if you think she’s hot.”

That is how I’d expect a seasoned teacher, in a public school, to teach my child. I’d also expect teaching about date rape and how to avoid the pressure of, “But I thought you wanted it, you were dressed so sexy” that guys do tell girls. I’D EXPECT MY DAUGHTER TO BE TOLD THE REVERSE OF WHAT MR. JONES IS TELLING THE CLASS—THAT WOMEN DO NOT DESERVE TO BE TREATED AS OBJECTS, REGARDLESS OF WHAT THEY ARE WEARING.

And the above statements are precisely what I’m requesting. I am also requesting that you revisit having Mr. Jones teach this to students, especially females—since obviously his view of the female race is sexist, and repressive of their civil rights as equal human beings. I will not tolerate, not only for my daughter’s sake, but for the other and future students to have their rights infringed upon, nor have sexually discriminatory talk be posed in a classroom.

I look forward to your response.

Abstinence I have impressive friends, or what? As my friend investigated this further, it seems that this teacher attends a church in which the previous Sunday's sermon was about women's attire and the problems it can cause. He had scheduled a pastor to come in and discuss things with the kids. Well, cut off my legs and call me Shorty! Of course, such attitudes aren't exclusive to the religious right, but I've seen it in a higher proportion there.

I find it disturbing that such things are being taught in abstinence-only curricula. It is perpetuating an attitude of discrimination, prejudice, and an unrealistic and unhealthy view of sexuality. I hope my friend is successful in keeping this teacher from heading up sex ed classes, and I have told her that I will do whatever I can to help. The U.S. is already ignorant enough about sexuality, and I blame some of that on our repressive religious attitudes and some on the continued prudishness fostered by those who think that exposure to sexuality is much more of a problem than exposure to violence. My friend has worked hard to engender a healthy attitude about sex in her children, and has been very open to discussions and questions from them. All of her hard work is in jeopardy with the attitude of idiots like Mr. Jones. Not that her kids would buy into such ignorance, but what about the other kids in the class who aren't as lucky to have such open and responsive parents? What are they taking away from Mr. Jones's instructions?