Why I’m Boycotting The Oscars This Year

In front of the screen, Hollywood seems progressive, with its sexy TV shows and growing number of strong female leads. But if you truly dissect what your eyes are consuming, you’d find that things are a bit more problematic. Hollywood is years behind cultural standards in terms of social progression. And it’s even worse behind the screen, with many of the leadership roles, both on set and off, still predominantly filled by white men.

I’m not normally one to take a public stance on these issues. I usually don’t speak my mind in this way because I feel that I often don’t have the right perspective to do so – I do not face the same discriminations that others do, and therefore don’t feel that it’s right that I assert my own opinions about struggles I know nothing about.

But now I feel I must say – and do – something. Even something as minuscule as not bothering to watch The Oscars this weekend. Why, when I’m not some Hollywood celebrity, when my viewership pretty much holds no weight? Because I do not wish to support a system that is, at its core, broken and refuses to acknowledge that it is so.

This extends beyond issues of racism, and my investment in the issue extends beyond that of the outspoken bystander. Though women get their fair half of Academy Award categories, sexism is rampant in Hollywood, and the issue of race in The Oscars points to an even more problematic Hollywood: one that still lives in social standards dripping with old school world views. While my single viewership might not count for anything, I do not wish to support a system that turns a blind eye to the fact that, in the year 2016, our stories of the world around us still abide by false depictions of white-washed life, of trope-filled minorities and female characters whose personalities are more determined by curves and surrounding men than by legitimate challenges and relatable struggles.

I’ve been lucky. My personal experience working in this industry has only brought me within solar rotation of some of the horribly sexist and/or racist people making their marks in Hollywood. I’ve worked for the good eggs, the rare nice guys you sometimes hear about in faint outlier stories. But I’ve heard horrific things, shocking things from friends – women who couldn’t get hired as set PAs because they weren’t “strong enough,” whose bosses made increasingly sexual remarks about their actions, or clothing, until finally, passes were made, etc. And these stories don’t even scrape the tip of the ice berg when you open the discussion to issues of race, sexuality, diversity, and inclusion behind the screen. Even when a show is led by a promisingly diverse cast, the writer’s room and production crew may not be so.

So my boycotting The Oscars is only a small step in raising my voice against a predominantly straight-white-male institution. Hollywood is first and foremost a financial pursuit and business endeavor, a creative machine second. I’m not sure if it will ever treat issues of race and minority as more than trendy subject matters unless more people – those with power, and consumers, like myself – step up and demand change. We need to get to a point where the Reys and the Finns are not some novel Disney dream, but a natural result of good writing and enthusiastic casting. We need to get to a point where the Academy hires Chris Rock to host The Oscars because he’s an awesome, funny guy, and not questionably because The Oscars would otherwise be “Too White”. We need to get to a point where LGBTQ creatives are equally represented in all fields. We need to get to a place where it’s natural and easy to staff a writers room with more than one or two people of color and/or women.

The change won’t come while we continue to quietly consume – and subsequently support – a broken Hollywood. We need to speak out. We need to demand change. We need to put actions to our words to make it happen.

Check out this awesome NYTimes article about really cool people discussing their own experiences with broken Hollywood.

-tlc

Musing Mondays: Make America “Great” Again

In light of Trump missing the latest GOP debate, and because I recently watched the most terrifying video clip from CNN interviewing three adorably naive 18 year olds about why they’re voting for Trump, I thought I’d get a little political with you for a minute.

Normally, I try to avoid overtly political posts here, because this isn’t a blog that has a liberal or conservative agenda. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely have strong opinions about a lot of things, including politics, but this blog isn’t about politics. And frankly, I don’t take the time to keep up with every idiot who decides to run for president to really have a justifiably strong opinion to share with you. What I can tell you is this: Trump’s motto, his whole campaign platform, ‘Make America Great Again’ is wrong.

But Tasha, how can a campaign slogan, that states no facts, be wrong?

Well, let’s break it down here: ‘Make America Great Again’ has two connotations. First, it implies that America is not great. Okay, well you have me there. This is a completely unmeasurable assumption based on opinion that can neither be confirmed nor denied. It is entirely possible that America is, in fact, not great. However, ‘Make America Great Again’ also implies that there was, at one point, a time in which America was great. While this, too, is an entirely unmeasurable assumption with no solidified dates to point us to a time in which we can say, “Ahh, yes, I remember [insert designated date], America was great then,” we can break this down a little bit further.

Let’s start first by asking what we mean by ‘great’. What is great? When we say America is great, to what are we referring? Are we discussing America’s financial success? The morale of the American population? America’s standard of living? America’s military dominance? Any combination of those things? As you can see, we’re already running into problems because there is simply no way to know what it is exactly that Trump’s campaign slogan is referring to. But, just for kicks, let’s try and ride this logic train all the way through to the station.

Let’s assume that ‘Make America Great Again’ is referring to America’s financial greatness. Seems logical enough, given that Trump is a business man who has made his fortune playing the capitalist game in corporate America. This assumption is further supported by the fact that much of Trump’s campaign has played into his successes in the private sector, distinguishing his experience running businesses from your average politician who only has experience, you know, running parts of the government.

So, when has America been financial great? Economics is a horridly depressing subject and way too complicated for me to understand and put into layman’s terms here, but for the sake of being simple, let’s guess. Are we talking about 1980’s during the era of Reaganomics, which are still highly esteemed by many conservatives but ultimately proved to be short-sighted and short-lived as the market fell in the 2000’s?  Could we be discussing the Boomer economy of the 1950’s, which rode the money wave out of an era of war and accelerated invention into an era of blue collar jobs? How about the Roaring ’20’s–we all know how that ended. Some earlier time perhaps, not in the twentieth or twenty-first centuries? FUN FACT: America as a country has always been in debt, ever since the revolution. Google it. Thanks, Obama.

Okay, so if we’re not talking about America’s greatness as a fiscally responsible country, are we talking about America’s military dominance? Does that really make us great? Certainly it was great that we were able to help Europe (which had already done most of the work by the time we got there, fyi) beat Hitler. Phew, that certainly was a close one! But does it make us “great” that we’ve been single-handedly responsible for the military intervention and disruption of several governing states’ autonomies? America was universally founded upon one belief: We don’t like other people ordering us around and generally being all up in our business. I mean, we freak out the second we think our “secure” borders are at risk, to the point where we’re willing to look the other way while we let our president listen in on all of our phone calls. (I bet Bush has some pretty juicy secrets to share from it, too.) Are we great for being big whopping hypocrites? Most of these military interventions wind up blowing up in our faces, anyways. (Research Vietnam, or just watch the end of Charlie Wilson’s War.)

So if not military dominance, then what makes us great? I could go around and around discussing how every historical aspect of a specific period of time in America’s history is both good and bad, but I don’t want to bore you with too many generalizations*. Instead, I’ll let you in on a secret about a fallacy that many of us (including myself) have fallen prey to: There has never been a “Golden Era” of time in which America–or the world in general, for that matter–has been “great”. Every century, every decade, every year has its ups and downs, its different problems faced.

So don’t be victim to the naive–and frankly, prejudiced–view of the world that Donald Trump, and every politician tries to paint for you. And the end of the day, they’re all just salesmen trying to sell you different products in the same ways. Take the time to wade through all of the bullshit.

*I realize I have not provided you with any facts here to back up my claims. The truth is, I didn’t want to take the time. This isn’t a scholarly article. I’m just trying to get to a singular point here. But if you’re really dying for some facts, feel free to Google anything and everything that I’ve talked about here. You’ll be much smarter than me by the time you’re through, and definitely a more well-informed voter come the next election. And if you find any glaringly wrong generalizations, comment below. I’d love to be more informed, myself.

-tlc

Use Your Brain

Today I would like to write a short PSA about using your brain.  You see, in today’s world, we don’t function as a society without social media. It’s how we consume and digest information, and–scarily–how we learn to understand issues.

Particularly with presidential campaigns gearing up, I would like to ask–no, implore–you to educate yourselves on the facts before sharing info-graphs, articles, or any other biased source of information. Here’s why:

It’s easy to see something, agree with it, and want to pass it on. But if that information is not accurate, out of context, or in any way twisted to create a misconception, you aren’t doing the world any good by passing it on and getting more people to agree with your POV. In fact, you’re actually slowing down progressive change and actually may be hurting a lot of people in the process. Think of it this way:

When you allow yourself to become part of the problem by spreading stereotypes and social/cultural myths, you prevent parts of society  that you may not understand completely from getting the basic human rights that they are entitled to. Like worrying that child predators will take advantage of using opposite-gender bathrooms if laws are passed to make public restrooms transgender-friendly. John Oliver, who I recommend as a good source for getting yourself educated on all the hot-topic issues (and for a good laugh) does a really good job of explaining why this is ridiculous fear-mongering and actually holds no real substance or statistics to back it up as a real problem.

Truth be told, I am being a teensie weensie little bit of a hypocrite here; I, too, am guilty  of posting a lot of things that have no solid facts to back them up, or researching the source behind the information to make sure that the information is solid, primary source material.

So why did I feel entitled to tell you not to do it? Because I’m not perfect, I know better, and I’m working towards posting only accurate, educational stuff that I can feel good about passing on to others because it’s good information to know, not just information that I personally agree with that I would like others to know about and agree with, too.

Something I get accused of a lot is being “Too Liberal.” I often find that people get defensive because so much of the time their conservative views are on the wrong side of progress, and they worry about morality and whether or not “progress is actually good.” And here’s how I think about it: I’m not liberal or conservative. True, I tend to agree more with the liberal side of any issue, but I want what I think will create the best opportunities and safest living environments for everyone. So really, I just agree with what I either know is right, or think will work best to create what is “right”. If you have to get angry at the facts and discount the truth behind your opinions (i.e. the truth being that your opinions are not grounded in facts but in stereotypes, etc.) or call others names or get angry at them simply for disagreeing with your views–but not being able to back that disagreement up with facts–then you should really consider the validity of your own opinions. Perhaps you’ll discover that your view of the world is a little inaccurate and skewed. Or perhaps you won’t. But at least you’ll know.

So–especially as we jump into this God-forsaken 2016 presidential run–please, PLEASE think before you post. Sparks start fires. And only YOU can prevent false social media fires. (See what I did there?)

Until next time,

-tlc

An Open Letter to Sam Brownback

Dear Governor Brownback,

Here’s the deal. I realize that the blame for the $400 Million deficit that Kansas is in can’t  be laid entirely upon your shoulders. I realize that the think-tank that you’ve surrounded yourself with, and that the senate and house have been a part of, somehow got the crazy, naive idea that the trickle-down system works, and y’all just rolled with it. And I truly think that with the way this furlough thing is landing, you’re FINALLY starting to question your original opinions on feeding the full and starving the hungry.

What I can’t understand is, how the HELL did it take you this long to see this (that is, if you really can see it)? Oh, and please stop pointing fingers at everyone else. The blame might not fully be on your shoulders, but when you chose to run for Governor–and then chose to run for Governor AGAIN–you entered an unspoken contract in which you, being the voice and head of Kansas state government and legislature, would also take responsibility for your actions, and the actions of those working beneath you. So, it might not be your fault, but it IS your fault. You signed it into legislature. So, yeah.

But more infuriating than what seems to be your honest, naive, stupidity and selfishness in wanting to use Kansas in what seems to be an economic and social experiment, is what seems to be your opinion on what is important and what isn’t. Both my parents are teachers in Kansas, and for as long as I have been alive, I have watched them work harder than anyone else I have ever known, and still strain to make sure that the bills were paid, food was on the table, a roof was over our heads, and that my brother and I were provided for. They are the most amazing people I have ever met, and they are damn good at their jobs. I know that both my parents have touched the lives of many students, helping them succeed, preparing them for their futures, and instilling a desire for learning. This is a very rare thing these days, with as much non-productive stimulation as kids can receive from video games and TV. My parents have been praised by their colleagues, and have received nothing but the highest recommendations from their administrators in every school that they have taught in. My parents are involved in their schools–My mother single-handedly instituted and manages an annual science fair for every grade in her school, and students prepare their projects all year long. My father holds an administrative degree and often stands in as assistant principal when other school administrators cannot be at school. My father also helped implement the school’s after-school PBD program, which helps students who fall behind in classes and grades catch up to their peers, and you can bet that he is there, helping those students after school hours are over, too. And probably most endearing, my father volunteers as a prom valet every year. Last spring, my father broke his leg, and even though he was in a wheelchair and couldn’t drive, he still showed up at Prom to wish his students a fun night.

My parents love their students and take a lot of pride in what they do. So you can imagine their sadness, and my heartbreak, when they are told that their work is essentially worthless. Why are they being told this? Because you, Governor Brownback, tell them that everyday that you allow budget cuts to continue for Kansas schools and education. Since you decided that a small percentage of Kansas’s tax dollars were worth more than funding our schools, you have caused salary freezes, supply cuts, and stricter regulations on paid teacher time, which does not mean that teachers are working less–it means that teachers are simply working more unpaid time.

You see, what you might not realize about working in education is that it isn’t like a normal 9-5 job. You don’t just go in to work, do your time, and then leave it in the classroom. Many teachers–even ones who work in states that actually care about education and paying their instructors–put in hundreds of hours outside of those they get paid, just prepping their classrooms and lesson plans, not to mention being a visible part of their students’ lives, so that their students feel supported. Many teachers also spend their own money suppling their classrooms, as–even on a regulated budget–schools do not typically have enough funding to cover every classroom purchase. Teachers do this out of love; love for their jobs and love for their students, because teaching isn’t a job, it’s a calling.

But when, for nearly five years, you continually “thank” them for their dedication by providing them less and less financial support, spirits begin to break. Educators who were once eager in their work are looking for ways out. My own parents, who have dedicated a combined 50+ years towards education, are at their breaking points. People are tired, and they can only carry the weight of your ignorance for so long.

And what’s really sad is what this means for our children. A whole generation has lost five years’ worth of quality education because their teachers’ hands have been tied, their wills broken, and their funding made nonexistent. And the cherry on top? The fact that schools closed early this year because of your budget cuts. Why has education been so unimportant to you? Do you hope that by dumbing down the masses, you might be able to continue on in an otherwise damned career? Frankly, I would like to know what idiot politician cut school funding while you were learning economics, because the damage is evident.

Though I can only speak directly for the education realm, I have no doubt that every other facet of this state that has felt your budget cuts has similar woes. No, I don’t think there is really anything you can do to make up for the idiocy that you’ve instilled trying to run this state for the last four and a half years. You can start trying, though, by eliminating the tax cuts that you’ve put in place for the last four and a half years. Just remember, you can’t change the damaged past.

For everyone reading this who isn’t Brownback (which is probably all of you) I can’t stress enough how important it is to be an educated voter and VOTE EVERY TIME. Please, for everyone’s sanity, VOTE VOTE VOTE, and educate yourself ahead of time.

Thank you, and please get your shit together, Brownback.

-A concerned ex-Kansas-resident (that’s right, I left because I couldn’t stand you), tlc

What No One Will Tell You About Minimum Wage and Capitalism

I’ve been told too many times to count that I’m naive when it comes to the way I think about the world and the “liberal” views that I hold on the way things work–or at least, the way I think they should work. And I willingly admit that I am a deeply opinionated person who probably holds too many opinions on things she knows very little about. But on the flip side, everyone who’s ever told me I’m naive has just as many opinions on things that they equally know nothing about. I’m no economist, but I am living the hourly grind, and with all the fuss that comes with cities like Los Angeles and Seattle raising the minimum wage, I wanted to share something that I’ve had a lot of time to think about: My thoughts on minimum wage.

Let’s begin with the concept of “deserve” because this buzz word seems to come up a lot in conversations about minimum wage salaries. Let me breeze through this one quickly by saying if you use this as an argument for, or against, raising minimum wage–either way–just go home now. Whether a person “deserves” to be paid more or less is a totally inoperable way of thinking, as not only does everyone have differing opinions as to who deserves what, it’s invalid in its reasoning because everyone “deserves” to live, and part of living is making a living wage. (In this case, the term “living wage” is used to mean a specific income that is required to meet basic human needs.)

Speaking of the “living wage,” did you know that the living wage for Los Angeles is around $13/hr? Do you want to know how much minimum wage in Los Angeles is? $9/hr.

Huh.

Well that seems weird because that would mean that men and women who work full-time minimum wage jobs are not making enough to provide for their own basic needs. Which means that they aren’t making what they “deserve” (just to drill it home for you).

Yep.

But doesn’t that go against the whole idea of “minimum” wage? Like, there’s a minimum wage possible that you can pay your employees because they have to be able to live?

mmmhhmm.

I once took a class in college that studied the history of peace and conflict and the historical causes of certain instances of peace and instances of conflict and war. The class was amazing, and I learned so much about structural and hidden violence, stereotypes, and think tanks. However, something that my teacher told me that has not only stuck with me, but also haunted me since is this: “Capitalism was built on slavery, and survives on slavery. The only difference being that in today’s world, capitalism is functioning on less visible forms of slavery. So, sweatshops, minimum wage, unpaid internships–you know, the things you’re already used to seeing/hearing about, might have experienced yourself. If a company isn’t outsourcing, then they are acquiring source materials for a free or extremely cheap rate to keep costs low and competitive–this usually results in some form of abuse on natural resources, like bottling companies that drain community water reservoirs because they are not strictly regulated.

In other words, the “greed” which “fuels” corporations and businesses to compete and grow or die trying (the philosophy behind Capitalism) also fuels “resources” like poorly-paid sweatshop and field workers in third-world countries and creates reasons as to why minimum wage workers here can’t be paid a proper living wage.

And yes, there are arguments against increasing minimum wage because of the damaging inflation it causes and the fact that sooner rather than later inflation will catch up to the wage (probably before a new minimum wage even goes into effect) which will render the new minimum wage obsolete. It’s a vicious cycle. But it’s a vicious cycle that’s also partly fueled (again) by the desire to make as big a profit margin as possible. Yes, companies raise prices to cover larger staffing expenses. But they also raise prices to keep their profit margins the same, because they can’t accept living on a smaller profit.

Now, this obviously isn’t a perfect argument, as small business often get thrown under the bus with big corporations when they are simply trying to keep their heads above water. I’m not saying that every single business has a huge, greedy profit margin. That’s not always the case. But it does bother me that there are people who work at places like Walmart and still need public assistance, and while that’s going on, others are being ignorant assholes using the whole “deserve” argument I mentioned earlier.

The living wage is different in every city, and so perhaps $15/hr minimum wage doesn’t make sense in every place. But my bet is that with inflation the way it is now, by the time LA hits the year 2020, even $15/hr won’t be livable.

So that’s my two cents. Hate me, call me names for trying to knock capitalism off its stupid pedestal, say I’m a socialist (I’m okay with that), whatever. I don’t care. This is how I view the world.

-tlc

 

 

The Thing About LA

Okay, so there are lots of things about LA, but here’s one that’s really been on my mind lately: the wealth disparity that is rampant in this city.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been searching like a mad man to find an apartment I can FINALLY call my own (and afford), or maybe it’s the countless Ferraris, BMW Convertibles, and Teslas I watch speed past the street buskers, vagabonds, and tent cities camped out on curbs everyday, but hot damn if the immensity of wealth and lack thereof isn’t plastered on the billboards out here! (Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of Orange Is The New Black lately, so the voice in my head has been coming out a little prison-queeny, if that’s a thing.)

I’ve struggled off and on for the last nine months to like LA, and I’m telling you, it’s hard. It’s really, really hard. Don’t get me wrong, there are fantastic things about LA: the weather, the beautiful people, the horizon, the beach, the beautiful people, the iconic landscapes, the beautiful people–but even the beautiful people have a tough time making me forget about the smog, the traffic, and the shame that there are probably hundreds of beautiful, big houses that sit empty around this city, while there are thousands who go cold and hungry living on the streets every night. Check out this article about how Jessica Alba is turning her old house (which sat EMPTY) into a vacation/travel home for renters. I mean, I applaud the woman for her business savvy and wanting to do something to fill a need she saw, but come on! I know she’s not the only one with property just lying around this city going to far less use. And even though LA is full of employment opportunities (not just in the entertainment industry) rent is still too damn high.

LA is difficult because it’s a lonely city, and the traffic issue bites residents in the butt in more than one way. Consider: yes, getting anywhere during high traffic hours is stressful and, frankly dangerous, but more so than that is the fact that you can’t go anywhere without a car (which costs money), you can’t park anywhere for free, and if you aren’t EXTREMELY careful, you’ll earn yourself a traffic or parking ticket of some sort, (which costs a BOATLOAD of money). Needing a car to get anywhere makes LA extremely isolating, but it also makes it difficult to split an apartment with multiple roommates–something New Yorkers have down to an art. Often, apartments in LA don’t come with enough designated parking to even match the number of bedrooms within an apartment–frequently, they don’t come with designated parking at all. And as I’ve just said, parking in LA is hardly ever free. If you live on a street where there is always ample street parking, count your blessings because you have found a gem, m’dear.

So, the need for parking and the isolating factor of the city’s culture and structure makes it not only difficult to meet potential roommates, but also finding that sweet balance of fitting the needs of everyone you live with and still being affordable. It’s hard enough for me–someone with a full time job AND side jobs (so I actually have some money I can put towards savings)–I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for someone who works a similarly paid gig while having to support a family, or someone who can barely afford rent but also needs a car for work–you get my drift. And all the while, I only have to look towards the hills to see those sparkling mansions with their private pools and 5-acre yards.

To get to the point, I guess what I’m saying is that I am starting to like LA. (What? That didn’t come across in what I’ve just mentioned?) No, really, it’s grown on me a lot since I got here, and that’s why I care so much (well, that, and also because social injustice). But the wealth disparity is a real hard lump to swallow.

So, if you want to move to LA, just know that there are still very visual injustices in this world. But the weather is nice.

-tlc

Things That Make Me Really Angry

Alright, real talk here. Though I do have a million and one opinions on a million and one things, and though I do let myself get worked up rather easily, there are only a few things that truly boil my blood. These few things just happen to be very prevalent in today’s society. Here, in order, are the things that make me really angry:

1) Stupid people.

2) People doing stupid things.

3) Stupid people.

4) People who have stupid assumptions and the ability to change the world around them because of those stupid assumptions.

Let me elaborate on this last point:

There are a million and one things I could complain about to illustrate this last point: Sam Brownback and his stupid politics, beauty magazines (particularly geared at teenage markets) and their stupid beauty ideals, or even consumerism in general and its stupid ability to brainwash the societal masses. Instead, I would like to complain about people who take up issue with Feminism.

First of all, let me remark that I saw several posts across social media linking to articles about Patricia Arquette’s comments both during her Oscar acceptance speech and afterwards. Most of these articles consisted of negative reactions to her call to action, particularly among the gay and black communities. Let me also take this moment to acknowledge the fact that while yes, I am a woman, and therefore considered a minority in some respects, I also acknowledge that by being white, I have a certain amount of privilege over my fellow minority communities. I cannot speak for every ethnicity, race, gender, and identity. But I can use my privilege to raise my voice and bring light to the inherent issues at hand, just as Patricia Arquette used hers to do the same.

So, here’s my beef with all those articles written out of anger at Patricia Arquette’s call for other oppressed communities to band together and fight for women:

First of all, I am ashamed that there are people out there who think that they are entitled to fight for their own equal rights without fighting for the equal rights of all citizens, no matter race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. People who take issue supporting equal rights for all women–including white women–are people who don’t see that their arguments are inherently flawed. Saying that one community owes another community nothing is like saying, “Well I expect you to give me the respect that I demand, but I won’t give you that same respect in return.” And yes, I am fully aware of the problem of whitewashing feminism. But you know what changes that? All people, of all colors, genders, orientations, and what not, supporting women of color speaking out, and speaking out LOUDLY! Yes, I realize that my privilege, and Patricia’s privilege makes it easier to be seen and heard because other minority voices are often ignored, but if this is your beef, it’s not with me and Patricia. Your beef should be with the jerkwads who choose not to seek out and find those voices, because believe me–those voices are there. And we’re all trying to lift our voices together in a choir of kick-ass rainbow feminism.

A few years ago I read Gail Collins’ When Everything Changed and it changed my entire viewpoint on feminism. Something that struck me deeply, and has stuck with me since then is the subtly with which women face oppression. Did you know that throughout the Civil Rights movement, and particularly during the March on Washington, women and their voices were left largely unheard? The Civil Rights movement was led mainly by men appealing to other men, and to be honest, when I try to think of women associated with the cause, the only name that comes to the top of my head without a Google search is Rosa Parks.

Did you also know that during what was called the Women’s movement–which happened around the same time as the Civil Rights movement–feminism not only advocated for the equal rights of the sexes, but also for gay rights? The ERA that Patricia Arquette mentioned in her comments after the Oscars? It stands for Equal Rights Amendment, and it was a bill that almost passed through congress way back in the 1970’s, after Alice Paul started advocating for its realization back in 1923. If that bill had been passed, America would likely have been looking at the legal acknowledgement of gay marriage three decades ago.

And do you know why the Women’s movement quieted down in the ’70’s, and became almost stagnant during the ’80’s, ’90’s, and early 2000’s? It was because enough voices raised up, nitpicking the women advocating for change, and misunderstanding the foundational aim of feminism. Sound familiar? The media began depicting stereotyped images of ugly, haggard “feminists” who burned their bras and hated the idea of family and men. None of which is true, by the way, and if any bra burning did happen, it was such a small and incidental thing that really, why would anyone care? (Besides, bras are really, really uncomfortable after several hours anyways.)

And what’s scariest of all (and probably most angering) is that there are people in this world who think that there is no need for feminism any longer. I’ve had close friends–and even family–tell me that the wage gap doesn’t exist, that sexism isn’t real, and even that women and men are truly equal now, so what am I huffing and puffing about?

Let me tell you a little story about something that happened just the other day. I was walking down the street in a dress and tights. This dress was a little bit shorter than what I’m used to wearing (we’re talking maybe an inch or two) and so I was wearing biker shorts underneath it, just incase the wind picked up and my hands were full, or my bag worked my skirt up without me realizing it. I was happily walking down the street checking myself every few minutes, when a man pulled to the side of the road and told me to “Pull your skirt down”. Embarrassed that my bag must have worked my skirt up just as I feared, I sheepishly pulled at the hem of my dress, said a quick thank-you, and began continuing on my way. However, the man wasn’t finished yet. Now, I don’t know why he felt he had to continue on after this first remark–maybe he saw the embarrassment on my face and felt compelled to ease my mind–but he proceeded to say to me, “I mean, I don’t mind the view, but…” And he shrugged.

The first part, embarrassing and maybe a little rude, as after I had tugged at the hem on all sides, I was a bit confused because my dress didn’t seem to have ridden up like I thought, but the second part? Completely, and utterly, uncalled for. Why would a person–man or woman–feel that it’s alright to say something like that? If he was hitting on me, it was completely tasteless, and also, he was definitely 20 years my senior, so gross.

This is why feminism is not dead, and sexism does exist. While there are still people on this Earth that believe that comments such as this toward women are acceptable, there is a need for feminism. Comments like this show the inherent lack of respect with which women are often treated. Anyone who respected me just as a human being on a basic level would understand that this comment is degrading. If I was your daughter, your sister, your mother, or even just your friend, would you think it was okay to hear someone speak to me this way? When this man said, “I mean, I don’t mind the view, but…” what I heard was, “You are an object I find attractive, but you’re coming off as scandalous, and I assume that’s not your intention. Though, if it is, I give you permission to be that way.” News flash: I don’t want, or need, your permission.

This is why people of every class, category, identity, race, orientation, gender, and species for that matter, need to stand together and realize that until we are all equal, equal rights does not exist. If you do not fight for women, you do not fight for racial equality, gay rights, or any other kind of rights. So stop nitpicking and start fighting harder for justice and equality for all. We are all in this together, and if you don’t see that, then you’re stupid and you make me very, very angry.

-tlc

P.S. Here are two articles that shed a little bit of light on the Patricia Arquette issue. I’d like to add that while I agree with the issue of intersectionality, I still think that her comments were nitpicked completely out of proportion, and I don’t think she at all meant what she said the way the media portrayed it. But please read and enlighten yourself, and form your own conclusions.

What Patricia Arquette got wrong at the Oscars

Black America’s hidden tax: Why this feminist of color is going on strike

^While I think this second article is a good example of how Arquette’s words were skewed, (“Patricia Arquette seemed wholly unaware of these histories, elaborating backstage that it was now time for all other groups to fight for white women”) I love the information provided on the history of black feminists and everything they’ve fought for and accomplished in the last century. I definitely learned something!

Torchwood and the Death Penalty

As I promised in my last blog, I am keeping up on these weekly posts!  I still have not decided whether to set an official weekly posting day; I guess we’ll see what day I end up posting most frequently and go from there.  Anywho, I thought today I’d write about something that has been on my mind ever since I took a human rights course two years ago this fall: The Death Penalty.  It’s not a particularly light subject, so I thought, what better way to talk about an issue than through the lens of television and popular culture? Okay, okay, give it half a chance. I’m just as curious to see how this turns out as you are (despite your lack of interest, pretend to be just as curious as I am, for my sake?)

As is a typical and unsurprising habit of mine, I have been using my free time this summer to get caught up on several television shows (Marvelous use of time, isn’t it?–Well perhaps for this post’s sake, yes).  One show that I have become particularly keen on is Doctor Who.  In fact, I fell in love with the show so much that at Christmas time (after only having seen the first season of the new “regeneration” of the show–2005, ninth Doctor: Christopher Eccleston) I got so excited about all the Doctor Who gifts my sister-in-law was giving to my brother that I unintentionally made both her and my brother feel bad about not having bought any Doctor Who items for me (so, if anyone reading this would like to send me a sympathy sonic screwdriver, I would have no objections).

Jumping forward to now, having caught up on the most recent episode of the new series, I’ve returned to finish the one spin-off series of the show that I’ve started: Torchwood.  Now, there are several Doctor Who spin-off series–seven or eight official ones, not counting the numerous special appearances, special episodes, and special-everythings that include Comic Relief and other charities, comedy shows with guest appearances, and even a very special episode of Britain’s “The Weakest Link” (I spend way too much time bored on Youtube). Torchwood, however, is the only spin-off that I have so far allowed myself the time to get into. Eventually, assuming I don’t ever let my inner child and sci-fi nerd grow up, I will watch all the rest, and then I will become the most Whovian, nerdy, knowledgeable Doctor Who fan around (or at least, that’s what I will obnoxiously and–unfortunately–uninhibitedly claim to everyone).

Alright, I know, now you’re wondering: How in the world does this relate to the death penalty? And why?

Well, to first satisfy your leeriness about watching the show, if you were considering it before I tied it so desperately to this controversial subject, I don’t think the writers ever intended the show to make any statement about the death penalty. As a typical English major would do, I’ve taken it upon myself to connect the dots between what was said and done, and what no one ever probably wanted it to mean, and I’m applying that into a life lesson here. Or maybe just a political and moral opinion.

Okay, so a bit of background:  Torchwood is a spin-off series that started its main character’s story line–Captain Jack Harkness–in the first season of the new series of Doctor Who, but began airing around the start of the third season of the new series (at least, that’s how the timing of the two different show’s story lines line up, roughly). Torchwood is Britain’s defense against alien invaders–it was a government-affiliated institution until the (spoiler alert!) Cybermen and Daleks essentially destroyed it in the finale of the second season of the new series.  Now our lead, Captain Jack Harkness, and Gwen Cooper, the determined, mouthy, and head-strong, bad-ass female lead, protect the world from alien invasions and investigate disturbing and seemingly extraterrestrial crimes in typical CSI fashion (sort-of) from the tucked-away Cardiff branch of the facility.  Or, at least, they did through the first and second seasons.  In the third season (which aired in five-part, hour-long specials) the Cardiff branch is destroyed and Torchwood is essentially decimated, to the point that the one character working for Torchwood who was not a lead and hadn’t been (spoiler alert!) killed off in the second season, Ianto, is killed.  At the end of the specials, Gwen and Jack part ways, presumably to let their emotional scars heal and learn to live their new lives, post-Torchwood.  But I’m not really concerned with any of these seasons.  What I’m really interested in here is the fourth season.

That’s right, Torchwood has a fourth season.  It’s interesting to see that the show developed so far into what it did, considering that after both the second and third seasons the show seemed to be saying, “Okay, we’re done now. You can leave it be–no, just leave it–stop, okay! Just leave it–well, alright, maybe one more.”

But I digress.  Despite my initial disappointment in the show’s “Americanization” by being brought over seas (and also just the general feeling of overdone-ness) I concern myself with it in this blog because it has a morality to it that fits really well into the conversation about the death penalty.

Now, I’m not going to lie; I am wholeheartedly, and unashamedly, against the death penalty.  No one should have the right to end another person’s life intentionally, even in the name of the law.  The fourth season of Torchwood, entitled, “Miracle Day,” strikes this chord right at it’s heart.  The season centers on the “miracle day”–the day no one died, and everyone started living forever, and attempting to investigate the cause of the miracle day, and to stop it, before the world goes bizonkers.  In the midst of time between the  miracle starting and Torchwood stopping it, the world turns into quite the dystopian novel–population numbers rise above sustainable rates, hospitals are over-flowing, the stock market crashes, concentration camps are set-up for the sick and injured, and those dubbed category ones–those who should be dead, though they are still living–are burned alive to regulate population numbers.   All the while, these injustices are felt most deeply because, as Gwen Cooper so elegantly puts it, “No one should have the right to control death.”

And isn’t that why murder is so bad, anyways?  Someone has taken it under their control to determine another person’s life, and subsequently, death.  They have taken another person’s right to life out of that person’s hands–out of the hands of life and fate–and made it their own right to take that life away.

But isn’t that just what we do with the death penalty, too?  There is debate about whether a person is entitled to their basic human rights–including their own right to life–when they commit a vile act like murder.  But as a modern, civilized society, shouldn’t we know by now that an eye for an eye is a barbaric justice system? The New Testament knows it. Heck, you could even argue that the old testament knows it. But I’m really not here to argue a religious reasoning for or against the death penalty.  I’m here to state some facts and statistics about why the death penalty is not only barbaric, it’s inefficient, unjust, and ultimately more expensive than life in prison, and thus try to convince a few more readers why getting rid of the death penalty would be one more step away from the dystopian world that Torchwood: Miracle Day portrays.

1) Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right: While I can’t begin to imagine the pain and horror that must be felt by the loved ones and families of murder victims, and I’m sure that if I knew that feeling, I would myself feel the blood-curdling hate and horror against that person who committed such a terrible crime, I am also glad that I live where a justice system doesn’t rely upon my vengeful spite.  However, the death penalty is essentially that–a blind retribution of the crime against a perpetrator.  As Amnesty International puts it, “It imitates and compounds the crime it condemns.”  And frankly, the thought of a murderer also being a ‘victim’ sickens me.

2) Frightening Flaws: The death penalty in the United States has a frightening amount of evidence against its flawed system.  According to Amnesty International, 70% of cases are overturned because of serious legal error, and just since 1973 alone, 135 people have been exonerated on the evidence of their innocence.  Even so, many people are put to death on limited and often sketchy evidence of their guilt, and with new forensic science developments, some have even had convincing cases made for their innocence–too late.  Amnesty International states that, “the most reliable predictors of who gets sent to death row are a defendant’s economic status, the victim’s race, and the jurisdiction where the crime occurred.”  So, like what seems to affect much of the justice system in this country, there seems to be some underlying  racial and economic factors that determine whether a person’s life is worth saving. Even as a white, middle-class American, I am uncomfortable with those implications about our society.

3) America is Behind the Times:  As Americans, we pride ourselves in being on top of the game; a leading military force, economic force, and governmental system.  But it seems that as we grow more stubborn–yearning for this false idea of the “Golden Years,” some mystical past time where everything was much better (here’s a hint: it doesn’t exist)–and attempt to revert back to older ways of thinking and governing, we fall farther and farther behind in the modern world, both in new developments economically and governmentally, and in our title as a leading nation. Presently, two-thirds of countries around the world have eliminated the death penalty.  Even in the U.S., some states have begun to recognize the staggering costs and inefficiencies of the death penalty, as well as the fact that most criminologists agree that capital punishment does not deter murder.

4) Capital Costs: According to Amnesty International, New Jersey saves about $11 million annually, since abolition of the death penalty in 2007.  An estimated $126 million/yr would be saved by California, and $51 million/yr by Florida.  According the the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty, the estimated median cost of a case ending in a death penalty is $1,200,000, while the estimated median cost of a case not ending in death penalty is $740,000.  I don’t know about you, but it seems to me like this money could go to a much more effective use in crime control and our judicial systems, especially in the economic state of America currently.

In Torchwood: Miracle Day, one of the leading characters happens to be a man who was put to death on the day of the miracle.  Naturally, he survived and becomes a national celebrity and spokes person for this new, never-ending life.  However, as a pedophile and child-murderer, he is despised by all and often comes across violent interactions with those who meet him.  And though he so publicly makes clear his pleasure at being alive, the viewer discovers over time that the man wants nothing more than to die.  Not only does he face disgust, humiliation, and torture from everyone he meets, he is internally tortured by his own mind and his inability to understand that he cannot make a new life for himself after the crimes he has committed.  In this case, in the end, death comes as a pleasant gift to him.  Wouldn’t it be more of a punishment, after committing such a horrible crime, for the man to live out the rest of his life behind bars, having to wrestle everyday with the idea of the type of man he has become? Wouldn’t it be more humane and moral, as well, to give the perpetrator the rest of his life to peacefully come to terms with himself and his crime, if he is able?  While I don’t wish to dive into the moral and religious arguments for or against capital punishment, isn’t  wholly, unspecified or categorized forgiveness what we are aiming for in the end? Not only for ourselves, but for others as well?  There is no doubt we must keep society safe on the whole; that does not mean that we need to enact upon others what they enact upon us, for both humane and financial reasons.

*If you would like to learn more about Amnesty International and their case against the Death Penalty, visit www.amnestyusa.org/abolish

*If you would like to learn more about the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty, visit www.ksabolition.org

*If you’d like to learn more about Torchwood, just Google or Netflix it.