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Some of our staff and volunteer's fave links and reading from our Facebook and Twitter feeds this week:
Alice's Faves: Op-ed: Why Don’t Male Children Matter:
Girls are most often the victims of child sexual assault. When boys are assaulted, it is likely by men like Sandusky—mentors who prey on their vulnerability and to whom they feel loyal and thus unable to tell anyone what is happening to them. Because boys are considered less vulnerable than girls, when they do dare complain of abuse, often the assaults are minimized or dismissed. In the case of older children, there is a presumption that they are complicit in the assaults because of their budding sexuality, much like adult women are often portrayed as complicit when they have been raped. These cases are often represented as he said/he said and in the hyper-masculine world of sports, the victims lose.
Karyn's Faves: Sex Ed's Straight Edge: Queering sex-ed can save lives:
Though learning about reproductive sex and associated health risks is a component of public education in most Canadian schools, the matter of whether there is discussion of anything other than non-heterosexual intercourse is still left to the discretion of teachers.
“It's all well and good to tell teachers to talk about queer and trans sex,” says Jamila Ghaddar, a sex education advocate with The Well LGBTTIQQ community centre in Hamilton, Ontario. “But who's going to support those teachers when they face backlash from angry parents? They know what the reaction will be, and they won't touch this issue with a ten-foot pole.”
The social and human impacts of teaching gender binaries and privileging heterosexual relations in schools are severe. According to the Gay and Lesbian Educators of British Columbia, nearly 40 per cent of gay and lesbian youth report dramatically low self esteem. The 2003 Centre for Suicide Prevention Alert reported that Canadian youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or questioning their sexuality are 3.4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.
U.S. parents fear that sex is everywhere and they want to protect kids from it. I argue that you want to have a positive vision that you can lay out there, not a vision of keeping sex away from you. Because then, you have two options: either a very sensationalized unrealistic scoring type of mentality or no sex until marriage. Those are not two good alternatives.
“What if our kids really believed we wanted them to have great sex?” Vernacchio asked near the end of an evening talk he gave in January primarily for parents of ninth graders who would attend his sex-ed minicourse. “What if they really believed that we want them to be so passionately in love with someone that they can’t keep their hands off them? What if they really believed we want them to know their own bodies?”
Vernacchio didn’t imagine that his audience, who gave him an enthusiastic ovation when his presentation ended, wanted their 14- and 15-year-olds to go out tomorrow and jump into bed or the backseat. Sex education, he and others point out, is one of the few classes where it’s not understood that young people are being prepared for the future.
Vero's Faves: Shaming and taming teenage girls:
Look away now if you don’t like to watch the media revel in shaming young female celebrities. The above quote wasn’t lifted from of the plethora of “trash” mags, but rather from online site Jezebel, a site that claims to be offering “celebrity, sex and fashion…without airbrushing.” No airbrushing but, it would seem, with an extra dose of female venom – or, as we like to call it, fem-ven. Sadly, Jezebel is not alone in reveling in dishing up the dirt on young women.
Much of popular culture perpetuates the idea that young women can simply not be trusted, particularly if they have money, fame or any kind of power. Think everyone’s favorite targets; Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian… Going by all the recent reports which document young women stripping off and partying on, you would be forgiven for thinking that young women are simply out of control.
Think too of the more troubling way in which teen girls are presented by those who are supposed to have their best interests at heart. How many books on teen parenting have featured either surly looking misses with arms folded on their covers, or titles which claim to help parents “survive” adolescent girls (please note – girls aren’t carcinogenic).
The general consensus seems to be that girls are running wild and must be tamed, or shamed- stat!
Opponents also attempt to discredit sex education by claiming that it undermines parents’ rights to educate their own children. George and Moschella mistakenly view parents as a monolithic group and neglect to mention polls that show that most adults support sex education programs by wide margins. They are also in for a surprise if they think their piece will galvanize parents to demand a more spacious “opt out” policy. Only a tiny fraction of parents in most school districts opt their children out of certain sex ed lessons.
New York City’s sex ed policy lets parents remove their children only from instruction about birth control and contraception, which George and Moschella argue is too narrow. I’m against any “opt out” provision, especially given that our children will inherit a world where STDs rage on. They must know how to protect themselves, and sex education is the first line of defense for public health. Most parents want their children to learn how to stay sexually healthy and understand that teachers can deliver unbiased, accurate information better than they can.
Heather's Faves: There Are Victims in the Penn State Tragedy, Not "Accusers" :
This language usage plays a powerful ideological function. Consider: the public is inclined to sympathize -- even empathize -- with female and male victims of rape, or prior to a finding of guilt of the accused/defendant, "alleged victims." Unless our psyches have been hopelessly distorted by misogyny or desensitization we not only feel badly about what has happened to them; we identify with them. Victim-blaming often distorts this sympathetic identification, but the sentiment derives in part from an understanding that "the victim could just as easily have been someone I love -- or me."
Referring to the victim as the "accuser" reverses this process. She is no longer the victim of his (alleged) attack. She is the one doing something -- to him. She is accusing him. In other words, she is now the perpetrator of an accusation against him. At the same time, he is transformed from the alleged perpetrator of sexual assault to the actual victim of her accusation. The public is thus positioned to identify sympathetically with him -- to feel sorry for him - as the true victim.
Every time a well-meaning journalist or commentator refers to sexual assault victims as "accusers" they contribute to this dynamic. They tilt the scales of justice away from victims and toward alleged perpetrators. The presumption of innocence for accused men -- and women -- is a critical feature of our judicial system. It represents a basic commitment to equal justice and fairness that is well worth fighting to preserve.
No one should be surprised at what is trending on Twitter. No one. While body hair has been discussed from time to time in the women’s movement, it hasn’t spread to the mainstream discussion. That’s because the progress that has been made for body image in the media has for the most part been about weight and body size. While weight and body size are important issues that must be addressed, they are not the only gendered issues around body image. I’m still waiting hopefully for the Glee kids to sing about leg fuzz.
Yes, there is increasing pressure for men to wax their backs and chests. And yes, men in fashion magazines often have trimmed armpit hair. Fashion tends to dictate what we should look like, and the appearance of hairless men in magazines is no exception. One could also argue that men’s garments are often less revealing, making shaving armpits or backs a moot point. So what’s the difference between the expectation of hairless men and hairless women?
Despite being someone who enjoys staying abreast of women’s issues, I was left stunned after a viewing of the provocative documentary Eggsploitation last week at the Capitol Building. In her documentary, Executive Producer, Director, and Writer Jennifer Lahl exposes the negative consequences of female egg donation which fertility centers all too often conceal from the public eye. Though not an expert on egg retrieval or the self-administered hormone injections, I knew female egg donation existed and has gained increasing momentum in recent years. I also recognized that the risks and possible complications for female egg donors were far more dangerous than those for male sperm donors. What I failed to understand about female egg donation is that the vulnerable women having their eggs harvested are all too often left anonymous victims in the process.
Some people might say, so what? Life is violent. Childbirth, at the very least, is violent. And they’re right. Nobody would stand in line for hours in the pouring rain to see a movie in which every character floated around on an ambrosia-scented cloud and ate bon-bons until the credits rolled. But my point isn’t that this movie is violent; it’s that while Edward stares out the window and mopes and Jacob storms around in various stages of undress, Bella bears the brunt of the movie’s violence at the hands of the people she loves. This is the central message of the movie: love comes hand-in-hand with physical violence. We’re supposed to revel in Bella’s suffering; the bigger her bruises, the louder her bones crack, the better wife she is, the better mother, the better woman. Twilight’s audience skews young—there were nine-year-old girls in the theater with me—so what are they supposed to take away from this?
Those too young to have experienced a sexual relationship and certainly too young to have experienced a pregnancy only see the normalization of violence against a woman’s body. And when the movie ended, they cheered for it.
What was going on here at Scarleteen in the last week?