Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Greatest Spectacle in Creepiness

So, I'm from Indianapolis. Indianapolis is known for very few things, and most of them sports related. Perhaps the most well known is the Indianapolis 500, held this past weekend:

...The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, is considered one of the three most significant motorsports events in the world. The official attendance is not disclosed by Speedway management, but the permanent seating capacity is more than 257,000 people, and infield seating raises capacity to an approximate 400,000.
So in the motorsports world, it's kind of a big deal. It's THE big deal. And in Indianapolis, it has a huge following. In fact, my grandfather went to every race during his lifetime and settled in Speedway to raise his family.

As a result, I grew up steeped in race life. As a teen (from ages 13-17, if I recall correctly) I volunteered at a souvenir stand at the track. I worked the 500, Brickyard, and even the short lived Formula One race. Race culture is fairly divided and I could see a difference between the crowds at each event type. The Europeans brought a relative air of sophistication and worldliness. The Brickyard seemed overall family oriented. And then there was the 500. What the Wikipedia page fails to elaborate upon (especially in the "culture" part of the page) is how very misogynistic and creepy Indy car race fans were to a young teen girl.

For example, you're very, very likely to hear someone shout, "Show me your boobs!" In fact, you'll probably hear it multiple times, and you might be as young as 13 when you hear it...directed at you. Additionally, both my friends and I were hit on and propositioned by multiple older men, including offers to take care of us or take us home. One particularly disturbing situation involved being asked if I was for sale (I worked at a souvenir stand after all.) And the entire time this stuff happened, I was totally underage. I guess I should be thankful that we were relatively stable teens who weren't looking for an escape or a father figure.

At the time we played it off, as teens are apt to do. We laughed and many of the situations turned into inside jokes, but when push came to shove we understood how extremely creepy the whole thing was. Truth is, it set a pretty scary environment for us whether we verbalized it or not. One of those gut feelings you just have.

Now, I'll put a disclaimer on it. These are, of course, just the observations and experiences of me reflecting upon what happened to my friends and I. However, I'd bet that the things we encountered were not limited to us. Besides, it's fairly well known in Indy that race day gets rowdy, especially in the infield, and historically in the "snake pit." (That part of the Wikipedia entry allllmost mentions these problems, but doesn't actually call out the gendered nature of the "revelry" and alludes to things being much more calm by the 1990s.)

Anyway, I haven't been since the early 2000s, so perhaps things have changed, but I highly doubt it. Either way, I'm always going to have a creepy association with the whole thing.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Very Definition of Entitlement

Remember when I said nothing had moved me to write in a while? Problem solved! I'm in a rage right now. So much so that I need to just blog it out. My panties are in quite the bunch.

When many people think of "entitlement" they think of this buzzword "entitlement programs" that is floating around in regards to budget cuts. They think of poor people accessing government programs.

I want to offer you a real life example of entitlement, which much more fits in with this lovely Wikipedia definition (as Wikipedia is the source of all good information, naturally):

"In a casual sense, the term "entitlement" refers to a notion or belief that one (or oneself) is deserving of some particular reward or benefit."

A youth serving organization I am familiar with runs a summer camp. This summer camp, as a nonprofit, has scholarships available for people who really, really need them. LIMITED scholarships that their development department works hard to fundraise for. The typical family who applies for these scholarships has an annual income of $5-15,000 per person annually.

But wait! That's not all! The "full price" cost of camp is very, very, very low. In fact, it works out to be approximately $2.50 per hour of care--and this care is not babysitting. It utilizes intensive, detailed curriculum on truly life enriching topics led by qualified staff people. The true cost of the camp for the organization is actually about $12.50 an hour per child.

Ok, you with me? We're talking about an extremely affordable camp. But as we know, if you are grossing $10,000 per person in your household a year, you don't have $100 a week for a summer camp. So this is where those scholarships come in.

By now I'm sure you're wondering, "Where is this definition of entitlement of which you speak?" Don't worry, I'm getting to it...

Recently, there was a request to be considered for a scholarship from a family that grosses $135,000.

Let's take a look at that---this is about $115,000 MORE a year than the average single mom, single child family who requests a scholarship. This family makes a little over $11,000 a month, which is more than the other families are existing on per person each year.

I just...I don't even...I can't...

This is what I think of when I hear the word "entitlement." This is thinking you are deserving of a special benefit. Requesting help with basics (food, healthcare, child care) when you cannot afford them is not entitlement. Requesting help with basics when you EASILY can afford them IS entitlement. This example here stems from a total lack of perspective.

In case my description of the typical scholarship recipient didn't give enough perspective on this situation, let me contribute some more:

  • The salary of the average full time, highly qualified youth development worker at an organization like this makes about $100,000-$105,000 LESS a year than this family.
  • The pay rate for the seasonal and part time staff (who hold bachelors degrees and have extensive youth work experience) is $12-14 an hour. This family makes in the range of $66 an hour.
  • The federal poverty limit for a family of EIGHT is $37,620. In order to be considered "impoverished" by the federal government, a family making $135,000 a year would need to consist of 33 members.
  • Their annual income is roughly the cost needed to run the entire summer camp.

No. NO. NO. NO.

You don't get to ask for help when you make this kind of money. I'm sorry--I don't know the particular circumstances of their lives, but trust me, I can say that they haven't faced some catastrophe and they don't have 33 people who are supported by them. If they can't pay $100 a week for a full time summer camp, then they need to do some serious budgeting. They do NOT need a scholarship. They do not need any financial assistance, they just need financial planning. The people in this income bracket should be giving back, not taking.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Don't Mess With Texas

The old feminist brain isn't working much lately. That or I just haven't been outraged enough recently to feel inspired to write. In either case, things are quiet around here. (I like to pretend that people notice if things are quiet around here.)

BUT! Here's this! Watch it! It's awesome!

That very much fits my evolving perception of many Texans. They might not agree with what you do, but dammit, they will grant you dignity.

The people in the video just all around rock.

In other, less awesome news, am I going to have to start a label for "contradictory advertising" on this blog? Check it:

At least the ad I see popping up now is for TOMS. Wonderful, wonderful TOMS.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Good Fatty"

I've written about this blog before, but if you're interested in health at every size, I HIGHLY recommend you check out Dances With Fat. She has some really great stuff going on over there.

Today, she wrote about what it means to her to be a "good fatty:"

To me a “Good Fatty” is a fat person who is viewed (by the faction of our society who have decided that they are Judgey McJudgersons of health) as taking “appropriate steps” to lose weight or, at the very least, “struggling” with their weight, thereby earning a modicum of very contingent respect from someone who would otherwise be a fat hater.
If you read this blog regularly you know that I support and respect other people’s decisions about their bodies and health just as I require respect for my decisions. This is not about bashing people who have chosen weight loss. The “Good Fatty” title as I understand it is not a self-identity, but rather a conferred title indicating that the the fat person is behaving as the fat hater thinks they should.
The whole post is definitely worth a read and overall reminds me about how our fat shaming culture continuously sends the message that bigger=bad. However, it can also create a lot of self-loathing for an overweight person (ie me.) Sometimes, the fat person her/himself tries to play into "good fatty." I have found myself trying desperately not be viewed as a "bad fatty." For example, this summer when training a group of high school girls, we did an activity where we talked about how people view us on the outside vs. how we really are on the inside. One of my outside identifiers was being overweight and I balanced that with my inside attribute which was loving classes like yoga, Zumba, and Turbokick.

You know what? It's really great to want to break down the stereotype that fatness automatically = laziness, but if I really, truly think about my internal motivations of sharing this information, they probably weren't pure and they probably contributed to fat shaming. I was trying to differentiate myself from other "bad fatties" who eat too much and move to little and are just EWwehatethem!

Not good...not good at all.

I'm trying to take a more health motivated and less size motivated approach to viewing myself, my body, and my life. I think I'm making strides and actually growing in this area, but damn it can be easy to fall into wanting to be a "good fatty." People constantly praise others for weight loss or attempted weight loss, even when those attempts might be downright unhealthy. It can be really hard being the person in the room trying to remind everyone that life's not just about shape and size.

It's also really hard to be a "bad fatty." All too often the perspective is that fat people's food choices are open for public ridicule. You're eating donuts for breakfast? Well here, let me make some asinine comment about calories in order to "educate" you...because well I just want to help! And yet, a thin person eats a donut in front of that same "helpful" observer and the comment changes to "Oh, how do you eat so bad and stay so small? I could *never* eat like that. You are *so* lucky!" Somehow when the thin person eats it, there's no "concern" for their health...because ya know...they couldn't possibly have atherosclerosis! Never! They're thin! (Cue eye roll.)

Anyway, I guess my point is that while it can be really hard being the person who's trying really hard not to focus on size or shape, someone's got to do it--it takes people jumping on board with any movement for it to pick up steam.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Myth #516

So as you might have heard by now if you follow me on Twitter--I'm having a shitty day. It's the first day without one of my favorite (now ex-) coworkers. Pandora can't stream. I messed up my calendar and carpooled w/ Ronald when I actually have a meeting that would have been when I was supposed to go pick him up. I pulled my back and it's throbbing on top of inexplicable pain in my ankle.

I know that whole rant is a whole lot of #firstworldproblems but to top it off, I've had to hear waaaay too much rape apologism and it's only 1pm.

I was innocently driving in my car and NPR was on, as it is apt to be. It was the Brian Lehrer show--not my favorite, but whatev. Not but two minutes into whatever they are talking about, I realized I'm listening to some straight up lies. The guest was making the point that that when multiple women come forward with rape allegations against one dude, it means there's probably just some piling on effect and it's just a media frenzy or something.

My blood was boiling. It IS boiling.

Rape Myth #516: If the guy is high profile and there are multiple accusers, then it's probably just a ploy to bring him down.

We have seen this Myth before...Julian Assange, Dov Charney, Ben Roethlisberger, etc. etc. Let me enlighten you, if you can't already see where I'm going. The fact of the matter is that many rapists are repeat rapists. If it seems like more and more women are coming out of the woodwork and claiming rape, it's probably because they were raped! When one survivor steps forward, I would imagine others are more likely to do so as well. You see, because of our rape culture, the social penalties for coming forward with rape allegations are steep--and even more so if the man in question is well known or powerful. If someone breaks the ice, his other victims likely feel more comfortable also speaking up.

None of this makes each individual rape any less real.

I don't know who the guy saying this was. I don't know where he was going with it. I don't know if Brian Leherer let him continue. I had to turn the station lest my blood pressure sky rocket and give me a heart attack. But I can safely assume that he was talking about this, since it's all over the news today.

Sometimes, it's really hard to see our rape culture for what it really is. You start to notice things all around you, and it makes facing our society all the more scary. Sometimes, it might be easier to live with my head in the sand.

Uck. I need to go do something productive and take my mind off of this bull.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What Will My Daughter Wear Someday?

I've been in a bit of a blogging funk lately. Not that I haven't had tons of fodder for a feminist blogger--people throwing around rape apologism in my life, the US ranking the lowest amongst the industrialized world for mothers, and South Dakota trying their damnedest to outlaw abortion, for example.

But I'm going to gloss over that and instead talk about this, which I found on Jezebel.

Some young girls' clothing available online is sexy or sexualizing and U.S. researchers say this contributes to socializing girls as sexually objectified woman.

Samantha Goodin...examined the frequency and nature of sexualizing clothing available for young girls -- children, not adolescents -- on the Web sites of 15 popular U.S. stores.

The study, published in the journal Sex Roles, finds of the 5,666 clothing items studied, 69 percent of the clothing had only childlike characteristics. Of the remaining 31 percent, 4 percent had only sexualized characteristics, 25 percent had both sexualizing and childlike features and 4 percent had neither sexualized nor childlike elements.

If you are surprised by these findings you either haven't shopped for tween clothing or worked with the tween demographic. It's truly appalling how clothing aimed at girl as young as toddlers has become "sexy." Now far be it from me to say that an adult woman shouldn't be able to wear whatever the hell she wants. But when 10 year olds are wanting mini skirts and an 8 year old has a low cut top, something has gone awry. It's particularly scary when you consider the fact that our society blames victims of sexual assault based upon what they were wearing. But there's also some pretty strict gender policing in place too, so if you're a little girl, you're pretty much damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I can't lie and pretend that I wasn't bombarded with sexualized images at a young age, but truthfully the grunge influences of the 90's yielded much more baggy and generally covering clothing than now. My favorite TV characters looked more like this:

And less like this:
The differences are subtle, but do make an impact. The makeup, the cut of the jeans, the heels and even the pose all suggest a maturity that 7-10 year old Ami didn't watch or try to emulate.

It all leaves me wondering what my hypothetical-future daughter will wear someday. What will her options be? Perhaps we will enter an era of throwback and girls' clothing will return to looking like little kid clothes. Or perhaps the androgynous hipsters will take over the fashion industry?

I don't know but either way I hope something changes before this becomes a reality.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Teen Moms

Today is the tenth annual National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. I think most people would see this as a worthy cause, and of course, I agree.

However, in a recent project with my job, I have been working with high risk girls.* In these workshops, I have encountered dozens of pregnant and parenting teens.

Working directly with young mothers and young mothers to be has truly changed how I feel about the way we, as a society, treat teen pregnancy. On one hand, we utterly vilianize young mothers, stereotype them as welfare queens, drop outs, and dead ends. On the other hand, we do a piss poor job of giving teens the tools and information needed to prevent unintended pregnancies.

What gets me most is how the prevalent idea is that the worst thing a teen girl can possibly do is get pregnant. It's like that scene in Juno:

Mac (Juno's dad): Did you see that coming?
Bren (Juno's step mom): Yeah... but I was hoping she was expelled, or into hard drugs.
Mac: That was my first instinct too. Or a DWI... anything but this!
Now, far be it from me to promote the idea that teen parenting isn't difficult. It is. It's extremely difficult and can often prevent the moms from finishing their educations, perpetuates cycles of poverty, and puts the children at risk for all sorts of challenges.

But at the end of the day, teen parents are not the biggest evil our society faces. So long as hatred and violence still run rampant, we've got bigger fish to fry. Besides spend a few minutes with some of the pregnant and parenting girls I work with, and let them tell you first hand if they see their futures as dead ends.

When it comes down to it, I have and will continue to advocate for ways to prevent teen pregnancy. But I've also come to understand that shaming and condemning teen parents is not the solution either. I've been thinking about writing this for a while. Then today Feministing shared this video and I thought, how appropriate?

Oh, and on a totally unrelated note, this is my 100th blog post! AWWWWW YEEEEEAH!

*I say "high risk" because I think the term "at risk" is a misnomer. Every girl is at risk for certain things...eating disorders, drug abuse, pregnancy. However, some girls are more at risk than others, hence, high risk.

Monday, May 2, 2011

I Feel Weird

I was going to write a whole blog about the worst movie I've seen in a long, long time, then this whole Osama Bin Laden thing popped up and threw me for a loop. I'll get to that in a moment, but before I do, I will say that the movie, Super, is a steaming pile of crap. Let me put it like this...if you would like to sit through no less than three extended rape scenes/jokes feel free to go see it. But you'll be making a huge mistake becuase offensive stuff aside, it was also just boring and not funny.

"(Bin Laden's death) should be welcome by all who believe in peace and human dignity." President Obama, addressing the nation yesterday.

Ok...so Osama's dead. Let the masses rejoice.

Um wait, what?

Here's my take on all of this. (And I realize by posting this I am forgoing my chance of ever running for any political office in America, ever.)

It's really weirding me out how people are quite literally celebrating someone's death. Facebook posts about it were pretty chilling. I mean, I'm able to understand that this was a consequence of the war on terror. I'm able to see that he was an evil man. I'm able to see how this can provide the relief of justice for the families of those killed on 9/11. But, to me, none of that excuses celebrating another human's death.

How does this make us any different than the masses over seas burning American flags that we so fully scorn?

Besides, this is not the end of anything. If there is one thing we know, it is that organizations like Al Qaeda are not dependent upon a single, unified authority. And I'm fairly certain that cultural clashes will never be solved through deaths. Is it really our plan to kill all of them? Is it their plan to kill all of us? Where is that taking us? I don't know the solution, but adding more and more tallies to the death count isn't creating the tolerance we need in order for cultures to exist peacefully. Our short time on this planet is unfortunately filled with violence, hate, death, and suffering. I don't see a reason to throw a party about it.

Update: Here's some great reading that says how I feel much more clearly.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I Used a Men's Razor Today

My razors were out--my dainty pink and purple razors that were clearly designed for my strictly feminine curves. So I stole one of Ronald's* manly black and green ones that are to be used on only grizzly man beards and for no other body hair removal purposes. Full stop.

The result? My legs are silky smooth like only a lady's should be.

It's so ridiculous how gendered personal care products are. Take a walk down any deodorant aisle, for example, and you can see the stark contrast. It's always reinforcing that little cultural narrative that women are flowery, dainty, and beautiful while men are bold, strong, and well...smelly. (Need I remind you of the long running deodorant slogan "Strong enough for a man, made for a woman?")

It's an absurd lie that we (or at least most of us) buy into. We get to believing that there is some substantive difference between the pink razor and the black one. Or the flower deodorant and the spice one.

We even put up with (and at times prefer) totally arbitrary pricing structures. For example, if a dude goes into an eyebrow threading place, he's going to pay more because, you know, all guys are automatically hairier than all girls, right? And if a guy goes into a hair salon, he's going to pay less because all guys hair cuts are short and thereby much more simple than all girls haircuts, right?

Somehow, I ain't buying that. But if you end gendered pricing schemes at these places, then people will get mad. The girl asked to pay the hairy rate for her brows will probably be just as offended as the guy asked to pay the female haircut rate. We're that invested in this cultural narrative.

I don't know, it's all just more or less annoying to me. So I'm just gonna sit here and enjoy my silky smooth (and gender appropriate) legs brought to me by my manly razor. So whatevs.