Nicola Briggs Is My Hero

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I missed this back in late November/December when it originally happened. Take a look.

I think it’s awesome that she followed through and got him arrested.

Giulia Rozzi adds her two-cents about the incident and flashers in general on Huffington

The cartoonist Amy Martin picked Nicola as her “Favorite Person of 2010.”

Off the Grid

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I just spent four full days without Internet access. The whole time I had this niggling feeling that I was missing out on something, that the world was passing me by and that everyone was wondering where I was.

Turns out I’m not as important to the Internet universe as I thought I was. It only took me about 15 minutes to catch up on my email. I still had the same amount of visitors to my blogs and a couple of comments. And no one even noticed that I was gone on Facebook.  (I’m not the type to broadcast my status five times a day.)

It’s hard to remember what my life was like pre-computer and Internet. I got more done around the house, but I rarely knew what was going on in the world. I regularly missed bill payments and overdrew my checking account. I had to go to the library whenever I wanted to research something (which meant that I hardly ever researched anything). My books were always overdue at the library. I rarely had any contact with old friends or made any new ones. Shopping was always stressful. Making international phone calls was prohibitively expensive.

Now I can do all these things by logging onto the Internet (including Facebook and Skype). So when I sit down at my computer I’m under the illusion that I’m being productive, merely because it’s so easy to do so much more than I ever could have done before. But in reality, it takes me hours to get these things done, because the Internet is so seductive.

I found when I was off-line last week that I didn’t know what to do with myself without the Internet to structure my activities. I didn’t find it liberating. I felt lost and listless. I compensated by reading, but even I can do only so much reading in a day. One of the things that surprised me was that I found it so difficult to fill up my time with other activities. It’s as if I live through the Internet.

It might be interesting to go off the grid for a much longer period so that I can see what it’s like to be in charge again. I have to admit that I worry about myself sometimes, when it seems like the only thing I can think of to do is to sit at my computer. (I’m not always surfing the Net; I also use my computer for writing.) I’ve lost interest in almost everything else. I used to garden and sew and take pride in how I kept the house. Now I have to tear myself away from the computer to go to the gym or to spend time with my kids or friends.

They say that you can tell when you’re addicted to something not only by how hard it is to stop doing it, but also by how much it affects the quality of your life. The thing is, it takes a lot of willpower to fight an addiction. You have to really want to lick it.

And the truth is, I don’t want to. I’m back on the grid and I feel like I can function again. What I can’t figure out is: is that a good thing or a bad thing?

It’s Not Fun Being a Girl

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I don’t eat Cap’n Crunch cereal and I don’t have little ones living with me anymore who might clamor for it, so I didn’t see these “trading cards” for kids on the back of the box until I read this post. At first glance they look innocuous; just silly cartoon characters made to appeal to little kids. But when you read the fine print, you discover that there’s a bit of gender indoctrination going on.

It’s not clear if Smedley is a boy or a girl, but it seems safe to assume that he’s male because of the information we’re given:

Name: Smedley
Age: 12 years
Height: 18′
Weight: 2 1/2 tons
Hobbies: Jumping rope and riding bikes
Greatest adventures: Jumping 15 cars on roller skates; escaping elephant hunters

However, there’s no doubt that Magnolia Bulkhead is female. Here are her “stats”:

Name: Magnolia Bulkhead
Age: How old do you think I am?
Height: 5’10
Weight: A woman never tells her weight
Hobbies: Daydreaming of Cap’n Crunch and his delicious cereal
Greatest Adventures: Almost marrying Cap’n and having him all to herself

I’m not sure if little girls would identify with Magnolia, because she isn’t svelte or pretty. But they are still being sent subtle messages about womanhood: a woman spends her time mooning about a man, she is too vain to tell her age or her weight for fear that either might count against her, her only hobby is to daydream about the man she’s got her eyes on, and her greatest adventure in life would be to get married. Not only that, but a woman’s desire for marriage is portrayed as grasping and selfish (“having him all to herself”). This only reinforces the idea marriage is a trap that women set and men try to avoid.

But the other thing these cards teach boys and girls is that it’s a heck of a lot more fun to be a boy. Boys get to jump rope and ride bikes and skate and have adventures. All girls get to do is sit around and wait for boys to notice them.  Oh, well, they can run, too—when they’re chasing boys!

I remember in grade school conferring with all my friends about which boys were the cutest and thinking up ways to get their attention. Even when I was in kindergarten I liked to dress up for a boy I had a crush on. (I even brought my purse to school one day, thinking that would impress him—make me seem more like a woman?— but he was home sick that day. I was so disappointed!). In the sixth grade my best friend and I would ride our bikes around the neighborhood all day, hoping to “accidentally” run into some boys. We never quite knew what we would do with them once we found them, but it seemed awfully important to try.

Meanwhile the boys were off playing sports or exploring the neighborhood, too busy having fun to pay attention to silly old girls.

What does it do to little girls when we tell them they’re supposed focus on boys instead of themselves?

Video: Learning to Be Sexy

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I don’t know if this is cute or disturbing. What’s your reaction?

I found this video on Sociological Images with this commentary:

We often think of childhood socialization as a top-down process.  That is, we imagine that children are empty vessels and adults, mostly parents maybe, fill them up with whatever they please.  It may be true that the parents of this little girl actively, even aggressively, encouraged her to learn this dance.  But it’s also possible that this is driven by that little girl.  In which case, it may illustrate how kids can take an active part in their own socialization.  Clearly these parents don’t mind that their daughter is watching Beyonce, but she may be taking the initiative to emulate a public figure she’s seeing in the media (which surely includes messages about how to look, dress, etc.).  Even if these parents don’t like everything about that message (or other models she might follow), they can’t actually protect her from the ever-present messages about femininity that are all around her, which are going to affect how she thinks about herself, what she should be, etc.

Do you agree?

Straight Talk About Abortion

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People who are against abortion try to enlist people to their cause by spreading misinformation about abortion.

Ms. Magazine Blog published two articles in 2010 listing the most common myths about abortion. The myths are below. If you believe that any of these statements are true, please go here and here for the facts that refute them.

Myth 1: Even if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion would still be legal.

Myth 2: American women are able to have legal abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy in all 50 states.

Myth 3: Women who have abortions are selfish and self-centered.

Myth 4: Abortions cause pain for the fetus.

Myth 5: Abortions are readily available across the country.

Myth 6: Abortion is a very dangerous procedure.

Myth 7: Abortion providers are in it to make a lot of money.

Myth 8: If a woman doesn’t want to have a child, she should use contraception or abstain.

Myth 9: Women have multiple abortions rather than using birth control.

Myth 10: Many women who have had abortions are traumatized and suffer from “post-abortion stress syndrome.”

Myth 11: Making abortion illegal will stop abortion.

Myth 12: Abortion causes breast cancer.

Myth 13: Pregnancy as a result of either rape or incest is extremely rare.

Myth 14: Emergency contraception causes abortions.

Myth 15: Having an abortion can cause infertility.

Myth 16. Pro-choice activists promote abortion.

Myth 17. Adoption is an alternative to abortion.

Myth 18. More contraception leads to more unintended pregnancies and more abortion.

Myth 19: It is impossible to be personally opposed to abortion and be pro-choice.

Myth 20: All religions believe abortion is a sin.

My personal take on the issue is that there are some valid reasons for having an abortion. Because of that, I don’t believe that women should have the right to decide whether or not to have an abortion taken away from them. Whether men like it or not, having a baby is a woman’s issue and should be her decision. If she doesn’t feel that she can handle having that particular baby, whether it’s because it’s the result of incest or rape, it suffers from a condition that will kill or severely handicap it or it will cause undue hardship for the woman, then she should not be forced to go through with the pregnancy.

We need to realize that if abortion is made illegal (again) in this country, women will have no choice but to bear children they don’t want or don’t feel equipped to handle. That’s a pretty heavy issue that the anti-abortion contingent isn’t willing to address. Why do they think that they have the right to tell a woman that she has to go through the trauma of giving birth to a baby that is their own half-brother or sister, or who will be the child of her rapist, or who is not going to survive long after it’s born?

Many people who are against abortion think that it’s always better to give birth even if the baby will be unwanted, uncared-for or abandoned. They always imagine a rosy future for the child. But too often that’s not the reality. We can’t force unfit or unprepared mothers to give their babies up for adoption, nor is that always a sure thing. (Who is going to adopt a child with severe handicaps, for instance?)

Terminating a pregnancy is not something that a woman takes lightly. The average woman will avoid abortion at all costs. Women who do have abortions are not monsters. Nor are the people who help them through the procedure. No one celebrates when an abortion is performed.

It’s obviously much better if every baby is wanted and raised in a positive environment. But all we have to do is look at the statistic on child abuse to know that that doesn’t always happen.

For a more personal look at abortion (my own), read “A Personal Story.”