We Need to Do Better

I’m sure there are many people writing about the pitiful sentence the Stanford rapist got when the guilty verdict was finally rendered.  I’ll keep this short, because I’m sure there are plenty of writers saying everything that needs to be said, so maybe this is more for me.

His sentence…It was because of his money, his pedegree…  His blue eyes, his “nice smile….” Rape culture…something.  All of those things.  I don’t know.  Without a shadow of a doubt (and without personal bias) I believe that a young black man would be spending his life in prison, were he found guilty of the same crime in the same circumstances.  And that is only right for a crime this serious.   So why should Brock Turner be any different? Why should he deserve any leniency or deference to how the sentence might affect his life?

I also have a friend who was kidnapped, held against her will, and assaulted by her “boyfriend” for several days. That man got a month in jail…

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Even those of you who agree wholeheartedly that Turner deserves to rot in the deepest, darkest cell the state has for 10-20 years may doubt just how often this sort of thing happens, this sentencing disparity…this caring more for the rapist’s future than for his victim.  What message does this send to a victim of assault or rape?  Victims already feel violated, worthless, lost, dead inside…

We have to do better, and the first step is getting more people to acknowledge that these things still happen.  We may like to have faith in the justice system, but it is clearly misplaced.  Judges apparently have more judicial discretion than sense with regards to sentencing, so maybe it’s time to set some very rigid minimum standards…  Not the “minimum sentences” for a crime that we already have, the ones that this judge apparently decided could just patently ignored out of sympathy for the rich kid.

Finally, if you can say “I’m tired of hearing about this rapist,” or “I’m tired of hearing about sexism/racism…etc”
TOO DAMN BAD!  That attitude is part of the problem.

We need to do better.

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I Need Feminism Because…Insurance Companies

There seems to be those who still doubt that there is a “war on women” in this country, even in the midst of the Republican’s attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.  I have discussed and subsequently argued with friends who don’t believe sexism exists and don’t think they should have to pay for women’s health care.  Let me first note the irony in how the first statement is contradicted by the second.  I already addressed the second issue in a previous post specific to Planned Parenthood.

Now let me offer you some anecdotal evidence about the first statement.  Sexism exists.  It’s even institutionalized…which is likely a direct result of lobbyists for insurance companies and the effect they have on legislation politicians attempt to pass.

Fair warning: the following contains mentions of “lady parts” and women’s health.  If you can’t handle that…you’re too much of a sissy to be on this blog and especially not this post.

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Microsoft’s “Rape Joke” Flub and Feminism (from a female gamer’s perspective)

In the wake of the Tosh O rape joke scandal, Microsoft goes and flubs their shit during a game demonstration at a Microsoft Xbox one event.  I provided the link, but the general gist of things was a game banter gone wrong kinda deal that came out disgusting and offending a lot of people for it’s tastelessness and what some see as blaze’ reference to rape.

“I can’t even block correctly, and you’re too fast,” she says.

“Here we go. Just let it happen. It’ll be over soon,” he says.

The audience laughs at the remark that many have been interpreted as a rape joke. The banter continues between the two, further adding fuel to the allegations that the joke mimicked a sexual assault scenario.

“You have a fight stick,” she says.

“Wow, you like those,” he says.

“No, I don’t like this,” she says.

I didn’t actually hear about this until a gamer friend of mine, with whom I regularly have “debates,” asked me what I thought of the whole thing.  Even though we are very like-minded, it seems our conversations always take on tangentially adversarial note.  As if we agree, but not exactly.

My initial take on what I read about the “rape joke” was judging from the info in this link, was that it was intended to be normal, harmless gamer banter.  If you’re a gamer, you know how we like our trash talk!   That said, considering how damn sensitive everybody is about everything, it was not something that should be done “on stage” as it were. The first comment was fairly ambiguous, but the following comments made the situation worse, and added additional sexual connotations. The fact that Microsoft claimed the “banter” was unscripted and they were aiming for “friendly game-play banter”, but used two employees (who are not improv actors) to give said unscripted banter strikes me as a rookie mistake for a big company to make.

My gamer buddy, we’ll call him *Leon Kennedy, had this to say:

Well what bugs me about this is that it’s normal gamer trash talk. I’ve said stuff like that to guys I was beating and heard the same when they were beating me. Hell you know how we get playing Resident Evil.

His point brought me to an important idea…something I’ve noticed before in other aspects of my life as well.  Well, yes it is normal trash talk, but why is it that trash talk almost always seems to have sexual connotations?   Especially in an industry still rife with sexism (Anita Sarkeesian, anyone?), in a world that has become super-sensitive (sometimes to a fault) but very vocal, one would think Microsoft should know better.  SOMEONE is gonna get their panties in a bunch over SOMETHING.  (See what I did there? 🙂 )

And yet, the fact that all our trash talk is still geared overtly or subtly to sexual domination or gender stereotypes says something, doesn’t it?  Maybe it’s because I hung around with a lot of guys when I was younger, or maybe it’s because I have always struggled to be strong, independent, take no bullshit, not girly girl… but I have caught myself making misogynistic remarks too, in the form of banter.  For instance, when hearing about some of my husband’s co-workers or “friends,” and their bad behavior, I have been known to tell him they were acting like “whiny bitches,” or ask him if they had “sand in their vaginas.”  I know, terrible, isn’t it?  But it seems like this aspect of gender stereotyping is, to an extent, so ingrained in our culture that I don’t even take offense to it in the traditional sense.  I’ll admit, the fact that this is the case is probably indicative of further need for a shift in attitudes in this country… I’m just not sure what to do about it, because railing against “the man” or the status quo over it seems to me, a largely futile pursuit.  At least, to it’s not worth the aggravation it would cause me.

Edit: Leon adds:

I think this Microsoft thing brings up so many issues.  If he was playing with a guy no one would have blinked. If we are supposed to be equal than we have to be equal. It can’t be equal until its inconvenient.

This statement also struck a chord with me, because it ties into role of feminism in my life lately.  And it’s not what you might think.  If anything, I am apparently not enough of a feminist for some people, I mean, to the point where I am losing friends…which is ironic to me.

Have you seen any of the photos from the “I Need Feminism Because…” project?

Well, I came up with my own, and I don’t even know if it’s really relevant to the Microsoft thing, but it certainly applies to the concept of feminism in my life.  It also applies to other aspects of social equality and humanity that one would think are a given, but for some reason are not… like for instance, the right for gays to marry.

I NEED FEMINISM BECAUSE:  there are still some “feminists” who believe that I’m “not enough of a feminist” because I am a Stay At Home Mom.

Consider that a hyperbole if you will.  It generalizes to mean basically this: Having the “right” to do something does not mean you have an “obligation” to do it.

Basically, equal rights is not about following a prescribed set of behavior “because you can/should,” it’s about having choices to begin with.  

Scooby Doo “Misogyny Incorporated”

I’ve always liked Scooby Doo cartoons.  Maybe the “spooky” plots appealed to my budding love of horror (as a child), or maybe I just had the same love of the ginormous and dopey Scooby that I imagine was pretty common.  And in it’s current incarnation Mystery Incorporated, I can enjoy a show that has survived, relatively unchanged, with my daughter.  

But maybe that’s the problem.  It is relatively unchanged.  Despite the more modern technology included in the newer episodes, and the added element of fairly shallow relationship drama between the characters, the same ol’ costumes the characters have always worn are not the only thing that is painfully retro about this show.

I'm always stoked to see the characters in anything besides their normal outfits, even if it is a stereotypically sexist situation like...ugh...the girls at a spa.

I’m always stoked to see the characters in anything besides their normal outfits…even if it is a stereotypically sexist situation.

Though featuring some pretty decent names in the voice cast– Matthew Lillard as Shaggy, Patrick Warburton as the recurring character, Sheriff Stone, Gary Cole, Vivica Fox, Francis Conroy, Tia Carrere, Jeff Bennett (animated voice actor heavy weight!), Clancy Brown (Mr. Krabs!!!) and Casey Kasem (radio personality and the original Shaggy)– I’m a bit disappointed in Mystery Incorporated.

Hanna- Barbera, Warner Bros., and Cartoon Network had an opportunity here to not only revamp this old series, but to reel in a new generation of kids with trickier plots, smarter technology, and better role models…and they failed miserably.  I realize it’s just a cartoon, and but doesn’t the inclusion of an element of mystery sort of imply they want kids to be interested while they are entertained, and to think?  

Instead. what we got was the same old boring formula.  Sure, the some of the monsters may be a little more innovative, and the Scooby and “the gang” have more electronic toys available to them to help them on their way, but that’s pretty much the extent of the changes.  I realize the creators and producers likely want to stay sort of loyal to the originals; if they changed too much, the show might lose some of it’s nostalgic appeal for older viewers like me.  Playing devil’s advocate though, how many of today’s viewers really have any frame of reference in regards to the older Scooby shows??? Wikipedia is more generous in their assessment of the show, stating:

 […]the series takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the classic Scooby-Doo formula (similar to A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get A Clue!), with increasingly outlandish technology, skills and scenarios making up each villain’s story, and a different spin on the famous “meddling kids” quote at the end of every episode. Contrasting sharply with this, however, are two elements that have never been used in a Scooby-Doo series before: a serial format with an ongoing story arc featuring many dark plot elements that are treated with near-total seriousness, and ongoing relationship drama between the characters.

But what rankled me the most about the show is something that was probably present in the earlier shows as well, but was likely something I just didn’t pick up on as much in my younger days, and that is the overall superficiality of the characters and the reinforcement of cliquishness and stereotypes.

Daphne is the “pretty one.”  She’s a rich girl from a rich, snobby family, and she simpers over Fred as if being the object of his affection and attention her life’s dream.

And poor Velma.  She’s smart and she’s the techie of the group (if you discount Fred’s obsession with ridiculously elaborate traps.)   She’s curvy and wears her signature skirt, turtleneck, knee socks, and glasses…  And she is still alluded to as being the homely, nerdy, lonely, and even fat girl of the group.  Fat???  Since when is having boobs and a butt a bad thing?  Oh, right…in this country the “prettiest” women on our magazine covers are as narrow and devoid of curves as a twelve year old boy…  And everyone is subject to our scrutiny.

I forgot...this is America, so apparently, this is fat...

I forgot…this is America, so apparently, this is fat…

The other day I saw an episode about a villain that was performing some sort of love spell on people, resulting in immediate and random pairings of characters– just whoever they happened to be standing next to at the moment.  Granted, it was always a perfectly even ration of male to female characters– no sexually ambiguous pairings on this show!–  But that didn’t stop Daphne from pointing out,  in a shocked and appalled voice, the fact that “nerds” and “cool people” were suddenly in love!  Eeek! The humanity!

There’s another character on the show named Marcie Fleach.  Her nickname is “hot dog water.”  It made me giggle at first…until the characters went on to characterize her;  she’s smart… but she’s rumpled and messy looking, and she allegedly smells like “recycled water used to cook hot dogs.”  In short, she’s the class freak, and she’s portrayed with in the same “ugly betty” way as Velma (basically, if they didn’t tell you she was supposed to be ugly, you probably wouldn’t think it.)  I know I’m not the first person to notice the way “smart” people are always categorically considered “ugly.”

Ugly Betties

Ugly Betties

Those of you who are regular readers know that I’m not generally in the habit of making mountains out of mole hills, but for some reason, this annoys the piss out of me.  If I really think about it, it’s probably because this type of categorization is so adolescent.  It’s introducing our young children to “the IN-crowd,” teaching kids that it’s normal and okay to ostracize people based on how they look.  It’s reinforcing immature stereotypes that start in elementary school and (more and more frequently lately) result in bullying and violence in high school.

I’m not trying to be all chicken little here.  The sky’s not falling, or anything because of this stupid kid’s show.  I just basically don’t like snobby people or bullies.  That kind of behavior is not something I want my daughter to learn, pigeon-holing people into groups (which are then basically judged as worthy or not worthy of inclusion.)

What do you think, gentle readers?