Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Let's not forget who's talking here

Generally speaking I think there's not really much more to be said on the issue of gun violence in the U.S. But I think it is an interesting (and tragic) study in how commerce drives culture in our style of capitalism + democracy.

According to this article, "the NRA has given more than $36 million to the 56 Republican senators who blocked the gun control measures on Monday." Where does that funding come from? The gun industry, of course. When the economic interests of our industries are more powerful than our collective beliefs and values, it's time to reevaluate how we do shit. Of course this has been said a million times before, but there it is. As long as we're willing to allow the industry to shape and dominate the dialogue, we'll continue to get what we've always gotten. In the meantime, Republicans can't claim to be the "pro-life" party as long as they're the minions of the firearms industry. And as a nation, we can't claim to value the lives of the people who are killed in mass shootings until we're willing to do something about it.

I'm sure this is what the founding fathers intended - aren't you?

Friday, June 10, 2016

The perils of changing your brand midstream

Now that primary season is effectively over, people are visibly shifting into general election mode. Most prominent Republicans have fallen in line and endorsed Trump, at least to some extent. And now there's some concern about broader appeal and independent voters and all that, and now it behooves the campaign to soften up on the racism and misogyny. Which is of course the strategic thing to do.

Unfortunately it's not a terribly realistic thing to do, from a marketing perspective. It helps to make a distinction here between a brand and a set of talking points. Your talking points can change from day to day. They reflect your current priorities - the things that you take to be important in the short term. In contrast, your brand is who you are - or at least the public perception of who you are.*

Given the timeline of a political campaign, the brand that brought you into the arena is crucial, because there really isn't sufficient time to change your brand in significant ways in a general election. This could be seen as a flaw in the primary system - the things that bring success in the primaries may not be the same things that bring success in the general election.

Either way, the pertinent question at this point is how will Trump go about changing his brand? It's clear that other Republicans want him to, as they recoil from his attacks on Gonzalo Curiel. But the racist and misogynist stances that Trump has always taken are not talking points for him. They're central to his brand. And this is not something you can change overnight. It's also not clear that he wants to change his brand. And in fact, changing brands midstream can be a very tricky and potentially disastrous thing. Can you work to place more emphasis on different aspects of your brand? Sure. But changing it wholesale on this kind of timeline is highly unlikely.

So the only question is, how many voters outside of Trump's base can be persuaded to swallow the unsavory aspects of his brand in order to attain the benefits they think they'll get from his presidency? It will be interesting to find out...

*The distinction between who you are and how your brand is perceived is an endlessly interesting and important one, particularly in the context of conversations on business ethics and marketing strategies.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Not the kind of change I can believe in

Content note: sexual assault

Remember a couple of years ago when the news stories came out about sexual assault at conservative Christian colleges and how extremely bad their response to sexual assault tends to be? And then shortly after that there were news reports about how the Duggar's had responded to their molestation (non)crisis, and screenshots of pages from counseling textbooks used in conservative churches made the rounds and there was all kinds of shock and pearl clutching and hand wringing for about 10 minutes until the next news cycle hit?

Well, now it's the same song, second verse, but with the Mormons. I understand that if you didn't grow up in a conservative religious environment this stuff may continue to be shocking, but in fact it shouldn't be. And asking institutions like Bob Jones University and BYU to change their approach to sexual assault and sexual assault victims is asking them not to be who they are. It rests on a lack of understanding of the most fundamental views of these groups concerning women's bodies and sexuality. This is not a surface-level, cosmetic fix. It's deep in the roots.

Used chewing gum, stuck to the bottom of a shoe
Your vagina, on sex
Think about how rape victims were treated in the Bible. Now think about the analogies that are most often used for women's bodies in purity culture. Women who have had sex are like pieces of used chewing gum. It's completely meaningless to ask chewing gum whether it consents to being chewed or not. Even if it could consent, whether it had consented to be chewed or not would not make even the tiniest bit of difference concerning the outcome. Chewed gum is no longer useful and can only be spit out in the trash.

Trash can with duct tape on it
Used tape. Don't stick it on your dick.
Similarly, tape cannot consent to being stuck to anything, much less a trash can. Even if it could consent, whether it had consented to be stuck to something or not would not make even the tiniest bit of difference concerning the outcome. Used tape is no longer useful so it can only be thrown out.

And so it is with women who have been used. In this culture it's just an odd thing to consider whether they had consented to being used or not. The simple fact that their bodies are no longer "pure" is taken as a sign of some sin, or a violation of the school code, or whatever. And the reality is, sin or no, their gum has been chewed. Their tape has lost it's stickiness. You don't want to stick your dick in that. (I maybe don't completely get how these analogies are supposed to work.)

What's surprising to me about these stories is that people who are from these churches go to these universities and are then shocked by the response when they get assaulted. The church is supposed to be a safe space - it's supposed to be about love and all that, so I get why you might expect a compassionate response. But these core beliefs make it so that, in my experience and in the experience of those individuals featured in these stories, these environments will never be a safe space for women.

So maybe what's more distressing about these stories is not just that the women who were assaulted found that is wasn't a safe space. It's that at the end of the day, it's not a safe space for any of the women there. Living your day-to-day life immersed in an environment that views you as being similar to a piece of chewing gum or used tape just isn't good for you, and kills you with a million tiny cuts that you barely perceive. Maybe you're better off to experience the big dramatic cut right away, so you become aware that you need to get out. Or you get expelled. Either way, at least you have a shot at recovery now.

Monday, May 16, 2016

What you know vs. who you are

I've heard this thing three times in the last two days now, and it's finally irritated me enough that I have to post about it. When asked about Donald Trump's record on "women's issues," conservative female politicians and pundits suggest that he can make up for his "weakness" in that area by surrounding himself with strong women in his administration. As if this is something like being weak on foreign policy.

Let's make a distinction here. Being weak on foreign policy is a matter of knowledge and experience. It's about your history and your background. You can learn that shit and rely on some good advisers. Every candidate is going to be weak in some area. But being a misogynist is an orientation. It's a stance and a fundamental way you approach the world. It's who you are.

Of course you can change your attitudes and your stance, but you have to want to do it, you have to work to educate yourself, and it takes time. Note Caitlyn Jenner's attitudes toward women's and transgender issues. That shit doesn't happen overnight, and surrounding yourself with smart and strong women doesn't make you smart about women's issues by some mysterious process of osmosis.

So for now, let the record be clear. Trump is an unapologetic misogynist, and that's not changing any time soon. It's about who he is, not what he knows.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Death and Taxes

Or maybe just taxes.

I just got my tax return (yay!) and in honor of the event, here's a graphic showing where our taxes from 2015 went:

You can read more here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Women of the Bible: Rizpah

I've been chided for discontinuing this series, so here's a new one.

2 Samuel 21:1-14
During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the Lord. The Lord said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.”
2 The king summoned the Gibeonites and spoke to them. (Now the Gibeonites were not a part of Israel but were survivors of the Amorites; the Israelites had sworn to spare them, but Saul in his zeal for Israel and Judah had tried to annihilate them.) 3 David asked the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? How shall I make atonement so that you will bless the Lord’s inheritance?”
4 The Gibeonites answered him, “We have no right to demand silver or gold from Saul or his family, nor do we have the right to put anyone in Israel to death.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” David asked.
5 They answered the king, “As for the man who destroyed us and plotted against us so that we have been decimated and have no place anywhere in Israel, 6 let seven of his male descendants be given to us to be killed and their bodies exposed before the Lord at Gibeah of Saul—the Lord’s chosen one.”
So the king said, “I will give them to you.”
7 The king spared Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the oath before the Lord between David and Jonathan son of Saul. 8 But the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, whom she had borne to Saul, together with the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab, whom she had borne to Adriel son of Barzillai the Meholathite. 9 He handed them over to the Gibeonites, who killed them and exposed their bodies on a hill before the Lord. All seven of them fell together; they were put to death during the first days of the harvest, just as the barley harvest was beginning.
10 Rizpah daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock. From the beginning of the harvest till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds touch them by day or the wild animals by night. 11 When David was told what Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, 12 he went and took the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the citizens of Jabesh Gilead. (They had stolen their bodies from the public square at Beth Shan, where the Philistines had hung them after they struck Saul down on Gilboa.) 13 David brought the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from there, and the bones of those who had been killed and exposed were gathered up.
14 They buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the tomb of Saul’s father Kish, at Zela in Benjamin, and did everything the king commanded. After that, God answered prayer in behalf of the land.
I guess the moral of the story is you're supposed to do a better job of choosing the man you're going to be concubined to (new word; you're welcome) so that your kids don't end up getting murdered after that man pisses off God. Lesson learned. The end.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Happy Equal Pay Day


Is it just me, or has there been basically no conversation on equal pay from the presidential candidates? In case you're wondering where they stand on the issue, here's the most up-to-date summary I could find. From Cosmopolitan, no less. Don't say I've never linked to Cosmopolitan.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Monday fun post

Here's something to geek out on. Hannah Anderson and Matt Daniels counted the number of lines in about 2000 movie screenplays by gender and age. You can check it out here. Even if you're not a data geek, I think you'll enjoy this one.


Happy Monday!

Friday, April 8, 2016


Imagine a world in which we consulted the data and calmly made evidence-based policy decisions rather than fueling a bunch of unnecessary fear-mongering and divisive dialogue.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Radical Act of Being Enough

It seems like everyone I know is trying to fix themselves - lose weight, get in shape, clear their house of anything that doesn't bring them joy, be more productive, be a perfect parent, etc. In this environment it feels like a radical act to say "I am enough." And yet, ironically, many of those things become unimportant or fix themselves once you decide that you're enough. Do you want to raise calm, confident, compassionate, creative kids? If they see you feeling that you constantly have to do, be, and have more, that's going to be a tough job. Do you want to be better at self-care? Starting from a place of emotional deficit and self-judgment makes that a steep path to walk. So be radical. Be subversive. Be enough.