On March 27th, Former Vice President Dick Cheney came to my alma mater, American University, to discuss Russia, Iran, gay rights, and his life in politics. Sure, an interesting choice for the Kennedy Political Union, and for AU in general, but still makes perfect sense – after all, American is often ranked as the number one politically active school in the nation, and is based on Washington, D.C., and is home to a student body remarkably impassioned, inspired, and interested in politics.
Which is why I was so incredibly disappointed to hear about what happened on Thursday.
As I had expected, a number of students gathered outside of Bender Arena, where Cheney was speaking, holding protest signs and really epic protest attire (Seriously, I didn’t even know they still made “Dick Cheney in prison uniform” costumes anymore. Kudos, AU student body).
This protest was the American University students that makes me proud to be an alumni – they respectfully obeyed the rules, kept their signs and protest outside the event; in a way that was respectful of the rules, the event, and still got their point across.
Then I saw this video, of American University students screaming during Dick Cheney’s speech, and walking out:
And then I was disappointed. My time at American taught me to keep an open mind, hear the other side, be an informed, knowledgeable member of society. What these students did was the opposite. While I’m sure I wouldn’t have agreed with many of the things Vice President Cheney said, I would have either protested outside or sat in on the discussion, politely listened, come up with a few questions to ask at the microphone at the end of the speech, taken a moment to consider his point of view, and channeled my outrage and frustration into activism on an issue, volunteering, or even just plain old writing a blog. The answer to an open discourse and solving our country’s problems isn’t angrily screaming and walking out – it’s asking informed questions and taking action.
Enrique Jones has expanded his “Because of Them, We Can…” series to Women’s History Month, and the results are wonderful.
A few highlights:
This week, Sheryl Sandberg and LeanIn began their “Ban Bossy” campaign. I like the idea of being more sensitive about how seemingly innocuous words we use primarily to describe young girls can affect their confidence to lead and contribute in the future (although I hate the word “ban”), but something else came out this week that made me more concerned about women leaders..
This week, The Atlantic published an article about how young girls who played with a Barbie as opposed to a Mrs. Potato Head were less likely to believe that they could do jobs in the future as well as boys could:
The children played with their respective toys for five minutes. Then they were presented with photos of 11 male- and female-dominated professions, so appointed according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Depressingly, all of the girls thought a boy would more likely be able to do more of both the male- and female jobs:
But the girls who played with the Mrs. Potato Head doll thought they could do more of both kinds of jobs than the girls who played with either kind of Barbie. And the “Doctor Barbie,” they found, did not yield better results than “Standard Barbie.”
Last week, I wrote an article on Policy Mic about the selfie as a tool of self-confidence. As someone who has struggled greatly with weight, body image, and self confidence, I use the selfie for my own self-empowerment. Slate published a great article earlier today about selfies being “tiny bursts of pride” for girls, which, while that isn’t quite the way I’d phrase it, I agree wholeheartedly.
Jezebel responded with an incredibly judgemental, hypocritical, and rude response. An excerpt:
But the typical selfie is not taken by women who have just completed Iron Man Triathlons or finally finished reading Infinite Jest (caption: Me N DFW 4 eva! XOXO #blessed #reading #smart #rip); selfies don’t typically contain job offer letters, successful grant applications, their face in front of a gorgeously rendered still life the woman drew by hand. They’re literally just pictures of a woman’s face not talking (grey-area exception: selfies where a person’s face is not the point of the picture. Some women I follow on Instagram, for example, post pictures of themselves wearing cool sunglasses or lipstick or hats, which I feel is not technically a selfie because the point of a pure selfie is “HERE’S MY FACE” and not “here’s a cool hat/lipstick shade/pair of sunglasses”).
Further, self-taken digital portraits are typically posted on social media, ostensibly with the intent of getting people to respond to them — that’s what social media is. In that respect, selfies aren’t expressions of pride, but rather calls for affirmation. In real life, walking up to a stranger, tilting your head downward at a 45-degree angle, duckfacing, pushing your tits together, and screaming “DO YOU THINK I’M PRETTY!” would be summon the authorities. On the internet, it’s just how people operate.
Wow. Uncalled for.
Yes – I will concede that we live in a society where girls feel they need validation from others to feel beautiful and therefore worthy. There are a number of things wrong with that. Which is why I praised the idea in my piece of a selfie forum that is designed only for positive feedback, instead of people writing ugly, hateful things. The messages we receive about our physical appearance should be encouraging ones that make us feel good.
However, I don’t really think a selfie is necessarily a reflection of that. It makes me feel good, take ownership of myself and what I look like. Yes – often I’m showing off my cute hairdo, or new earrings, or funny shirt. I’m not always wearing makeup, or doing a duckface, and I don’t think I’ve ever “pushed my tits together”. Sometimes I take a selfie, but most of the time I’m thinking about the things I need to do at work, the conversation I had with my mother, the interesting article I just read. Selfies are vain sometimes. Humans are vain sometimes. Get over it.
There is a huge amount of judgement being thrown out in this piece on how people choose to express themselves. Everyone has a different style. That shirt that you find wonderful at Target may not call out to me. Those boots are screaming my name, but you couldn’t care less – you’re over by the heels. Because that is your style. That is who you are. And how you dress or how you look externally has NO reflection on the content of your character. Why are only some selfies acceptable and others aren’t? How do YOU know that I’m not taking a selfie after I finished my first 5K with the book I just finished? (Both of which I have actually done.)
I can be a feminist, advocate for women’s equality and inner worth, and still care about the way I present myself. Caring at least a little about how I look to the rest of the world is not a bad thing.
#selfie #nomakeup #feministselfie
Hong Kong’s Security Secretary’s response to a rise in reported rapes this past year (via):
“Some of these cases…involved the victims being raped after drinking quite a lot of alcohol,” Hong Kong security secretary Lai Tung-kwok said on Tuesday during a press briefing, in describing this year’s jump in sexual violence. “So I would appeal that young ladies should not drink too much.”
WHAT THE WHAT WHAT?!?
Many people I have spoken to when I discuss rape culture dismiss it as a item only in popular culture; not something that exists in the government, or in any of our institutions. But this quote and the recent onslaught of scandals regarding rape in the military proves that is not the case. Politics, culture, society – they all intertwine constantly. Rape culture is real, it is global, and it is a problem.