Sunday, May 31, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
|Princesses are nice to everyone||1) Being nice to everyone is a female virtue that often works to disadvantage women in the real world. And anyway, one can “be nice” to those who deserve it and still kick some ass when necessary. Look at Princess Fiona (who is really an anti-princess, in many ways), for example.|
2) Classic fairy tale Princesses (including the Disney variety) generally are nice. But the pop-culture notion of a princess has come to involve the idea of a materialistic, spoiled, self-centered, bossy little brat who will do anything to get her way. And we’re supposed to be all indulgent of these characteristics, as long as the child displaying them is cute enough?
|Princesses are beautiful and have beautiful voices||Being beautiful and having a beautiful voice is not the most important thing about a woman.|
|Princesses are “sweet”||What exactly does “sweet” mean here? Sexually pure? Acquiescent and passive? Tolerant of inconsiderate, rude, and/or abusive behavior?|
|Princess play boost a girl’s self-esteem||Traditional princess mythology ties a girl’s self-esteem to her appearance and her desirability from the perspective of the prince. In our culture this translates into the necessity to be thin, pretty, and white.As for the pop-culture princess ideal, a spoiled and self-involved child may initially appear to be confident and have high self-esteem. However, there’s a world of difference between being self-centered and having high self-esteem. A small amount of experience in the real world will shatter her vision of this imaginary world where she’s the boss of everyone, and then she’ll have no other skills or abilities to fall back on, having put all her eggs in the pretty, pretty princess basket.|
|Princesses are helped out of dire situations by acts of love, courage, and friendship||Princesses are helpless creatures who languish in bad situations waiting for a rescuer rather than doing anything to help themselves.|
|Princess play encourages girls to reach all their potential||How, exactly? Do princesses ever do anything other than wait for a prince, do some menial tasks around the house, and sing? And how do you reach your potential while in a coma or locked in a tower? And why would you even attempt to reach your potential when there’s a prince on his way to rescue you and solve all your problems?|
|Princesses are good role models||Seriously? They go running off with princes they either just met or barely know. Generally speaking they can’t lift a finger to help themselves. They have no skills or abilities that would allow them to be financially independent or care for the children that are sure to result from the implied tryst with the prince. In fact, snaring said prince is really their only goal in life. They’re gullible and easily duped into things like eating poisonous apples from very suspicious-looking characters. In the midst of a night of magic and romance they can’t even stay level-headed enough to leave for home on time. They’re constantly falling into a coma or getting stuck in captivity. And, in the more recent Disney incarnations, they don’t hesitate to show a little cleavage and/or asscrack if it will garner a little extra attention. Maybe they are good role models, but for whom?|
Have a great weekend!
Thank God I'm Pretty by Emilie Autumn
Thank god I’m pretty
The occasional free drink I never asked for
The occasional admission to a seedy little bar
Invitation to a stranger’s car
With the ability to render grown men tongue-tied
Which only means that when it’s dark outside
I have to run and hide
Can’t look behind me
Thank god I’m pretty
Thank god I’m pretty
Every skill I ever have will be in question
Every ill that I must suffer
Clearly brought on by myself
Though the cops would come for someone else
I’m truly privileged to look this good without clothes on
Which only means that when I sing you’re jerking off
And when I’m gone you won’t remember
Thank god I’m pretty
Thank you god
Thank you god
And when a gaggle of faces appears around me
It’s lucky I hate to be taken seriously
I think my ego would fall right through the cracks in the floor
If I couldn’t count on men to slap my ass anymore
I know my destiny’s such
That I must stocking and curl
So everybody thinks that I’m
A fucking Suicide Girl
Thank you god
For the occasional champagne I never asked for
The occasional admission to a seedy little bar
Invitation to a stranger’s car
With the ability to render grown men tongue-tied
Which only means that when it’s dark outside
I have to run and hide
Can’t look behind me
Thank god I’m pretty
Thank you thank you thank you thank you
Thank you god...
Thursday, May 21, 2009
I am a senior in high school and stuck in the midst of prom season. Everywhere I turn, other girls are talking about dresses, and makeup, and dates. My problem is that, unlike most of the other girls, I have no interest in attending prom. It's not that I don't have a date, or a dress for that matter; I just don't get the whole "prom" thing. When other girls hear that I don't intend to attend, it stirs up a flurry of questioning and disbelief; they don't seem to understand why I wouldn't want to go. Do you have any advice for how to deal with these people? Or should I just bite the bullet and go to please everyone else?
—Not a Prom Queen
Dear Not a Prom Queen,
Don't go to please everyone else—go to please your future self. I felt the same way as you (I was really good at being alienated), so I didn't go to my high-school prom. It helped that no one asked me, but still, I shouldn't have let that stop me. I'm sure I would have had a good time. But even if I hadn't, every time I watched a prom scene in a movie or saw kids in stretch limos on their way to the prom, a part of me wouldn't say, "Why was I such a cluck not to go to my own prom? I don't even know what a prom is really like." You don't even sound as alienated as I was, just indifferent to the whole rigmarole. Good—this also means you're the kind of person who won't become hysterical when the cocktail napkins at your wedding reception are the wrong color. You have only one high-school prom. Don't miss it.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
One woman that has always seemed like a feminist icon to me is Adelle Davis. Adelle Davis was a nutritionist in the 40s, 50s, and 60s who lived a fascinating life and wrote many books that were foundational in the healthy eating movement. She was highly educated for a woman of her time period, earning an MS in Biochemistry in the late 30s. She was also widely criticized by other scientists due to her disparagement of the food industry, much of which was based on her research and experience treating patients with nutritional deficiencies.
And what I love most about the story of Davis is that many, many of the things she said and was criticized for are now being proven and acknowledged by scientists. For instance, you might be familiar with all the hype about trans fats, right? Well, Davis was condemning hydrogenated oils and explaining the negative effects of trans fats on the body back when everyone else was extolling the benefits of margarine, and 25 years before other prominent scientists would even acknowledge the problems caused by trans fats. Similarly, she warned against preventing any sun exposure whatever on the grounds that your skin naturally produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun, and this vitamin D is more easily absorbed and utilized by the body than the vitamin D in supplements. Sure enough, now that everyone is properly trained to slather themselves and their kids down with strong sunscreens every time they step outside, ailments that relate to a lack of vitamin D are on the rise.
And the list of things Davis was right about goes on and on. She was the first to criticize processed foods with chemical additives and preservatives and recommend whole unprocessed foods. She recommended restricting daily intake of processed sugars and refined grains and instead advocated for whole grains, fruits and veggies grown without pesticides, and meat produced without hormones. In addition, her work anticipated the Atkins diet craze by 30+ years, only better, because she distinguished between simple and complex carbs and rightfully noted that it's the simple carbs (white bread, white rice, etc. rather than whole grains and veggies) that contribute to weight gain in those leading a sedentary lifestyle.
In all these ways Adelle Davis was a leader in the field of nutrition, as well as being intellectually curious and productive, courageous, and a well-rounded, adventurous person. While some of the criticisms of her work are not unfounded, many were no doubt driven by misogyny and professional territorial motives. Davis appeared to be impervious to this environment, and continued her work unscathed during a time when college-educated women were widely expected to give up their work once they became wives and mothers. In my view, this makes Davis a feminist icon.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Such is the case with the plethora of fat-shaming messages that are cleverly disguised as rhetoric about being healthy in our culture. So much of the talk about being healthy involves calorie restriction and a pursuit of fat-free foods, which is not really healthy at all. Eating a completely fat-free diet (if that were even possible) would be the opposite of healthy eating for anyone. And calorie restriction can be very dangerous for a growing body and developing brain. And beyond all that, there's absolutely no reason why calorie restriction should be equated with healthy eating, for anyone of any size at any stage of development. It simply isn't true that being the best you can be equates to counting every calorie, as the old Crystal Light commercial claimed. And yet, this is the very strong, very pervasive implicit message behind much of the rhetoric about being healthy in our culture. So much so that kids are absorbing the message from a very early age. According to this article, kids as young as 5 years old are showing up at hospitals with eating disorders. In increasing numbers. And they all report that they believe they're fat and need to be thinner.
This story hit home for me this weekend when my 5 y/o stepdaughter looked at the Kellogg's logo on a box of Nutri-Grain bars and told me "This means special K, which is what we eat when we want to be skinnier." Nobody in her life eats Special K or is on a diet, and we use DVDs and a DVR to try to limit the number of commercials our kids see. But somehow she's already internalized the idea that some people should be dieting, and to do that you need to buy certain foods. How naive would we have to be to believe that kids won't immediately pick up on the fact that when we say "healthy" we really mean "skinny"?
Another infuriating fact about our cultural equation of "healthy" with "thin" is that it glosses over vital facts about healthy eating and causes us to miss an opportunity to develop truly healthy habits and a healthy relationship with food that could last a lifetime. For instance, it is not the case that it's healthier to eat a 100-calorie pack of cookies containing hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup than 2 homemade cookies with neither of these ingredients that nevertheless contain 140 calories. But most of my coworkers believe that the 100-calorie pack is a better choice and look askance at my homemade goodies, because they've been trained by advertising and our cultural fear of calories. And the message that the numbers on the scale and the calories in your food are the only things you should be concerned (more like obsessed) about is so prevalent and loud and repeated and everywhere that it's hard to approach food in any other way. And forget about the healthy mindset of viewing food as fuel for your body and a source of nutrition and enjoyment.
We often talk about how our cultural attitudes toward fat and food impact adults, especially women. But to me the scarier fact is that there's a whole generation of kids who are internalizing this stuff at a very suggestible age. Once these attitudes toward body shape and food are internalized, it's incredibly difficult to change them. And the more a person is immersed in a particular attitude or worldview, the harder it is to be critical of it or challenge it in any way.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
So I foolishly clicked on the link in the email and proceeded to read a blog post entitled Whine, Womyn, and Thongs by Christina Rosen. According to Rosen, feminism has been an epic failure. This is because the goal of second-wave feminists was to bring about profound social change, but women today are shallow, unhappy, and obsessed with their piercings. In spite of the fact that they seem to have it all, they're discontented and whiny. Rosen attributes this to a major fact that feminists overlooked: choice is bad. Very bad:
In fact, for women today, the challenge is not a problem with no name that can be solved with a few simple changes in public policy. It is a paradox: the paradox of choice. The more options we have, the more anxiety we experience about the choices we eventually make, as economists who study choice theory have shown but as the feminist movement never acknowledged.For one thing, this explains why all the men are so miserable. 'Cause choice itself is a terrible thing, and if second wave feminists had had more foresight, they would have realized this.
Second, the only thing that could possibly be causing the discontent and frivolity of today's women must be the increased range of choices available to them. It couldn't be the fact that women's lives have in fact changed while societal views and expectations of them have lagged behind shamefully. It couldn't be because having a career and children generally results in double the stress and workload for women but not men. It couldn't be because they experience reciprocal pressure to both work outside the home and be a model parent, to be healthy and energetic while starving themselves to fit into the ridiculous beauty standard, to be wise, mature, and self-sacrificing while looking like an 18 y/o. Could it perhaps have to do with the fact that, while many women desire to be taken seriously, our culture in general and media outlets like Slate continue to portray them as interested only in fashion, celebrity gossip, and parenting? Could it have anything to do with the disparate parenting burden and associated guilt and shame that's placed on women but not men, as evidenced by the fact that the default male version of Slate is largely uninterested in parenting articles?
The myopic view of feminism - both today and in the 60s - that Rosen takes is both puzzling and reveals that she is either out of touch or intellectually lazy. In any case, it seems clear that Rosen missed the part where feminism is not monolithic. It wasn't in the 60s and it certainly isn't now. Who are these Facebook feminists to whom she refers? I know a lot of women who identify as feminists on Facebook, and also organize, march, blog, aggitate, raise awareness, research, teach, write letters to Congressional representatives, and live feminist principles and values every day. We're not whining and we're not wearing thongs. At least I'm not, being opposed to torture in any form.
If Rosen had been interested in really analysing the situation of women today and how feminism has impacted their lives, she could have explored the fact that second wave thought pushed for a wider range of choices while largely overlooking the necessary changes in cultural attitudes that would need to accompany these choices. She could have looked at the underlying causes of the resentments that, according to her, women are always running around nurturing rather than shrugging it all off as a failure of feminism. But that would require a departure from intellectual laziness, which apparently is not required on a site like Double X. And that is profoundly depressing.
Friday, May 8, 2009
I know from previous posts that this is a sensitive issue, so I want to clarify a couple of things right up front. To say that PMS is a social construction does not mean that women don’t experience it. It does not mean that “it’s all in your head.” It does not mean that your experience doesn’t exist, or is invalid in some way. Rather, the claim is that the explanatory framework surrounding this set of experiences is faulty, and that it would be more constructive to look for and attempt to address the true causes behind this phenomenon.
So, what does it mean to say that PMS is a social construction? A social construction is any contingent phenomenon that is created by a society. Social constructs exist only because the members of a society implicitly agree to behave as if they do. Generally speaking, there are conventions around social constructs that guide our behavior regarding them. The most common example used to illustrate this is paper money. Paper money would be worthless if it weren’t for our practices and conventions.
What evidence is there that PMS is a social construction? First, there’s a great deal of cultural mythology surrounding the concept of PMS that has no grounding in science. There is no identifiable hormonal cause for the symptoms of PMS. This is particularly significant when you consider how much research has been done. There is no consensus within the medical community on how to diagnose PMS, on which symptoms must be displayed, or on when in the menstrual cycle they should occur. Over 150 symptoms are attributed to PMS, many of which are experienced by men and post-menopausal women with the same frequency as menstruating women. In countries which don’t have a construct corresponding to the Western idea of PMS, women don’t report experiencing the symptoms in any pattern tied to menstruation.
Add to this the benefit a patriarchal culture derives from any mechanism which serves to marginalize women and explain away their behavior and cognition as merely the result of some bio-chemical event. When women voice legitimate complaints or concerns, it is common to suggest that they are “feeling hormonal.” This serves to delegitimize their claims and cast them as irrational, overemotional creatures. Further, PMS has historically been used as a mechanism to keep women out of the work force when jobs were scarce for men due to the Depression and the end of wars. Of course, in times when women were in demand in the workforce, research was used to demonstrate that PMS was not an issue and would not prevent women from being productive members of the workforce (for a fascinating history of this topic read Emily Martin, The woman in the body: A cultural analysis of reproduction ). In addition, the economic motives of the medical and pharmaceutical industries are solidly at play here. PMS and PMDD have been useful in allowing pharmaceutical companies to extend their patents and thus retain a monopoly on revenues. Although the underlying causes of the symptoms of PMS have not been identified, the pharmaceutical companies continue to offer remedies.
Finally, reports of PMS symptoms are far more severe in women who are in or have a history of abusive relationships , are experiencing high levels of stress, feel overwhelmed by their workload, or are unhappy with their lives in general. This correlation suggests that women who are unhappy with their lives subconsciously utilize the construct of PMS as a socially acceptable outlet for the suppressed frustration and rage they feel, since expression of these emotions is widely viewed as “unfeminine.”
All of these things suggest that PMS is a social construction. If PMS was a disease or a syndrome there would be some underlying bio-medical cause, as well as some consensus among women who are diagnosed as to what the symptoms are and when they are experienced in the menstrual cycle. But there isn’t. Retaining PMS as a medical and cultural fact does not benefit women. Researching PMS with an open mind regarding other possible causes and related phenomenon would benefit women far more than clinging to the notion that women are fundamentally flawed by the normal functions of their reproductive systems. Finally, simply prescribing antidepressants to help women deal with the hardships in their lives is one way to avoid addressing the more challenging and important issues regarding the societal causes of their depression and unhappiness.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
- It's unclear to me why women like this are expected to parade around in teeny tiny bikinis on stage during pageants, but posing in a bikini bottom with no top is thought to be morally unacceptable. Seriously? What's the real difference between being photographed in a bikini and being photographed topless? That (maybe) 4 square inches of fabric contained in her bikini top is really that important? Like you can't already see every feature of her body when she's strutting around on stage in a bikini? Seems like a distinction without a difference to me.
- We're told that according to pageant rules, Miss California could lose her crown for being "photographed in a state of partial or total nudity," which is deeply ironic, given the fact that she earned her crown by being photographed in a state of partial or total nudity. Perplexing.
- And I don't get this whole "I'm a Christian and they're persecuting me because of it" shtick. I guess the story goes like this: Good conservative Christians oppose same-sex marriage on the basis of biblical teachings; I'm a good conservative Christian so I oppose same-sex marriage; My oppressors don't like my view on same-sex marriage, so they're trying to call my Christian credentials into question." The problem with this is that the conservative Christians I know (my entire extended family, and it's a big family...) believe it's immoral and "worldly" for a woman to parade around on stage in a bikini. Good Christian girls are demure and modest. They wear simple one-piece suits when swimming, and only when swimming. They are not supposed to flaunt their bodies or their sexuality. They're not supposed to get plastic surgery in order to conform to the beauty standards of the world, as their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. And in this worldview, we as a culture have a responsibility not to sexualize girls and women, but to value them for the creatures that God made them to be: self-sacrificing helpmeet, mother, cook, maid...
This story is cut from the same fabric as the Britney-Spears-is-a-virgin shtick. Or the Miley-Cyrus-took-a-purity-pledge shtick. I can't comprehend why it would matter that these creatures who are sexualized from their heads to their toes actually have teh sexx or not. When every ounce of your physical being is sexualized, what's the function of virginity? In fact, I don't understand the concept of taking a purity pledge at all if you're going to make your living by flinging your flesh around the stage in as sexual a manner as possible. If the implicit message of everything you do is "I am a highly desireable being whose sole purpose and value is sexual," then why would you refrain from sexual activity and from nude photos? It doesn't make any sense. The only people for whom a purity pledge actually makes sense is for the uber-humble, uber-modest, long-skirt-wearing daughters of the Duggar family and their ilk. I mean, I might disagree with all of the most fundamental aspects of their worldview and their values, but at least they're consistent. You wouldn't catch one of them extolling the virtues of Christianity and modesty and virginity while arching her back in order to shove her tits and ass out for the camera.
- Doubt the idea of one "right" body shape.
- Raise awareness to weight discrimination, size bias and fatphobia.
- Declare a free day from diets and obsessions to body weight.
- Present the facts about the diet industry, emphasizing the inefficacy of commercial diets.
- Show how diets perpetuates violence against women.
- Honor the victims of eating disorders and weight-loss surgeries.
- Enjoy a food that you typically deny yourself
- Eat at least three healthy meals and two snacks today
- Give away clothes you've been waiting to be thin enough to wear
- Don't compare your body to anyone else's. Remind yourself that you are unique
- Pay someone a compliment based on something other than weight-related qualities
- Do something you've been putting off until you're 'thin' enough to do it
- Make a top ten list of things you love about your body
When I was a personal trainer, clients would come in and tell me their goals and ask for a exercise and diet regime that would help them accomplish these goals. Often, toward the end of the first consultation they would ask "what would you do if you were me?" At the risk of them never taking me seriously as a trainer again, I would reply "I would avoid dieting." I would go on to explain that changing your eating habits to be healthy, moderate, and balanced should be a lifetime thing, and shouldn't require starving yourself or refusing to allow yourself an occasional treat in moderation. If the goal is fueling and nourishing your body in a healthy way, weight loss often happens as a secondary effect.
For one thing, getting your 5-9 daily servings of fruits and veggies and drinking a reasonable amount of water doesn't leave that much room for giant portions of fatty foods full of simple carbs and refined sugars. But also, telling yourself that you can have any reasonably healthy food in moderation as long as it's balanced by other healthy foods takes off the pressure and allows you to nurture your body instead of punishing it. And the fact is, when you stick to a healthy balanced diet and get a moderate amount of exercise, your body will return to the weight it wants to be (which may not be the weight you want it to be, or the weight our culture tells you it should be), and you'll sleep great, have tons of energy, and have strong and glowing hair, skin, and nails. In other words, health is beautiful at any size, and valuing and caring for your body rather than punishing it gives you a sort of confidence and centeredness that are visible and very appealing to others.
So regarding the first recommendation for celebrating INDD, I think the only foods you should be denying yourself on a daily basis are foods that are inherently unhealthy to begin with. I avoid foods with ingredients like hydrogenated oils (trans fats) and high fructose corn syrup everyday, but I don't deny myself a little bit of chocolate (real chocolate) or the baked goods I crave all the time or any other foods that are thought to be off limits because of their calorie content. I do eat them in moderation, but I don't deny myself althogether. But avoiding the trans fats and HFCS means that you can't eat the cookies and muffins from the bakery or the grocery store. It generally means if you want a cookie or muffin or piece of carrot cake, you're going to make it at home. And that means you can control the ingredients, tweak the recipe to be healthier, and control the portion size. It also means that you'll find yourself baking a batch of healthy cookies and muffins on the weekend and putting them into baggies in individual servings and freezing them so that your family can dole them out all week. But having access to healthy treats in reasonable portions is a huge benefit for someone like me who craves the baked goods but shuns the unhealthy crap used in industrial baking. And it changes your approach to food and to your body. Instead of shaming yourself for wanting treats and denying yourself constantly, you took the time to care for yourself at the beginning of the week and provide a healthy treat for yourself each day. And it makes the giant muffins at the coffee shop lose their charm when you know you have a healthy, reasonably-sized muffin or cookie tucked in your lunch just waiting to be savored with your afternoon coffee. So I intend to celebrate INDD not by allowing myself to eat some pre-packaged snack that's full of unhealthy crap (since these are the only foods I typically deny myself), but by eating the same way I eat every day.
Happy International No Diet Day!
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Kimberle Crenshaw is a field-defining critical race scholar who earned a law degree from Harvard. Her writings on race, gender, and the power of law dynamically altered the academic discourse in law schools throughout the world. Her work has been central to political movements here in the United States and to the development of emerging democracies globally. She is a prolific legal scholar and a respected public intellectual.
There is no one on the current court with the expansive, progressive, clarity of legal reasoning that Crenshaw has demonstrated for more than twenty years. As a justice Crenshaw would have the potential to substantially revise our understanding of American constitutional law by articulating elements of the American experience that have never before been integrated into our constitutional interpretation. She would open up the unique possibility of black feminist scholarship and practice challenging American jurisprudence from the inside out.
A close friend of mine recently accepted a job in Behavior Health Services (aka the psych ward) at a hospital. Obviously there are confidentiality concerns and employees are not supposed to talk about the patients outside of work. But the job is emotionally taxing at times, depressing, uplifting, sobering, etc. So people who work there do talk to their friends and families about it, withholding any names or details that would reveal the identity of the patients of course, because they need to "decompress" after work. So all of these fascinating and depressing stories of the individuals who find themselves there have been rolling around in my head, and here are some of the things I'm thinking.
It's disturbing to me that so much behavior that seems absolutely reasonable and normal to me, given the person's history, is pathologized. For example, most of the women who show up in BHS have been abused in one way or another. Some of them in extreme and disturbing ways. When you're in your mid-twenties and have several children by your own father, you have a right to be messed up. But although the abuse is acknowledged and taken into account by the therapists involved, this person is still diagnosed with a mental illness according to her symptoms. And this strikes me as problematic. To say that she's bipolar or schizophrenic or borderline personality suggests that something is wrong with her. Like there's something broken in her head. And this seems all wrong to me. The symptoms and coping mechanisms she's developed are just absolutely right given the violent and skewed environment she emerged from. She's not broken, her world is. Of course now she needs a lot of assistance and compassion to learn how to cope and function in the world outside of the warped one she grew up in. But that's her abusers fault, not hers. He's the one who's fucked up, but she gets labeled and stigmatized because of it.
Similarly, many young women who suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts have been systematically excluded in our culture that values women based on the beauty and usefulness of their bodies. These women are socially awkward and don't meet our strict beauty standard, so they've been cast aside and isolated by their peers. When they show up at BHS feeling lonely and sad, they're diagnosed as clinically depressed or borderline personality. Once again, the problem lies with them - they're broken; something's wrong in their heads. But I feel like this is deeply unjust. The culture they're submerged in, which can't see them and value them for who they are, is what's broken. Responding to isolation and neglect by feeling sad and lonely is not abnormal, it's not irrational, it doesn't make you sick. In fact, it's a more natural and healthy response than many other possible responses.
Men's behavior is often pathologized too. It seems like a lot of the men who show up at BHS have substance abuse issues and engage in inappropriate or violent behavior while under the influence. No doubt many of them have been abused too, but there's more stigma attached to abuse for a man than a woman in our culture, so the liklihood that they would have gotten help dealing with their abuse or PTSD is lower than for women. But substance abuse and violence are among the ways men are taught to cope with trauma, so these are the behaviors they tend to exhibit. And because of this they're often criminalized in addition to being institutionalized for mental disorders.
And many of these types, both male and female, display a lot of drug-seeking behavior and have learned what to say and how to manipulate staff to get the narcotics they crave. Of course, drug-seeking behavior is frowned upon, stigmatized, and shamed. And these patients are aware of the attitudes toward drug-seeking behavior and have internalized the associated guilt and shame. While I agree that drug-seeking behavior shouldn't be encouraged, I have real issues with the way we make it into this shameful and immoral thing. Using drugs to deal with the pain of abuse or other traumatic experiences is one coping mechanism among many. If I had experienced the kind of trauma they have, I don't doubt I would want to be drunk or high every day for the rest of my life too. It's a totally reasonable response. It's true that these people had the misfortune of seizing upon a particularly problematic coping mechanism, but we shouldn't shame them for it, but should rather see it as a simple coping mechanism and try to help them learn how to replace it with more healthy coping mechanisms. Because treating them for substance abuse and then returning them to their world without any more constructive ways of handling their pain and their issues is ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst.
I realize, of course, that the medical professionals who are dealing with these people on a daily basis have little control over the person's environment. Given this fact, it often makes sense to medicate them and make them as comfortable as possible. But this model is so limited and places so much of the problem and the stigma on victims' shoulders that it seems deeply unjust to me. Rather than taking a critical look at our culture and the way it so casually disposes of bodies and lives, we pathologize the behavior of victims and medicated them and shame them for their desire to numb the pain using substances that have been arbitrarily criminalized by the government while treating them with substances that have the government's stamp of approval because the right rich white guys are getting rich off of them. Instead of looking at the systemic causes of abuse, trauma, and the resulting "mental illnesses," we label the victims and put them in a neat little box, hoping they won't cause too much trouble or be too disruptive. And maybe, just maybe, they'll return to the gold standard of being a productive worker/consumer in our capitalist society. Because in a capitalist, patriarchal culture, the norm is established by appealing to hierarchical roles and expectations and cultural conceptions of healthy functioning, i.e. going to work everyday and being a good, non-disruptive little sheep. But that is another story for another post on another day...
Monday, May 4, 2009
Their purity pledge:
I, [MY NAME], hereby pledge:
1. To never let grubby boys touch me – unless it's just fun innocent stuff like tripping me and pulling my hair. (But only the hair on my head!)
2. To never wear trampy stuff like shorts or t-shirts or open-toed shoes, which basically tell horny perverts that I'm a major tramp who's just asking for it.
3. To never do rough stuff like ride horsies or bikes with hard seats, which could break my vagina's freshness seal and make me totally unlovable.
4. To never let tampons violate the sanctity of my hoo-hoo, because tampons are really nothing more than thirsty little albino penises.
5. To never have premarital sex, because Jesus doesn't want anyone messing around inside my girly hole until after His church makes some money off a wedding.
I understand that abstaining from sex protects me from:
Super-expensive dry cleaning bills for getting crusty sex goop off all my good silk and cashmere stuff.
Forcing my wonderful parents to use "tough love" and kick me out of the house for embarrassing them by being such a little whore.
Having adoption-hungry homosexuals circle my pregnant belly like vultures, hell-bent on corrupting my unwanted bastard child with their sicko "love."