Monthly Archives: April 2013

Question Marks & Thoughts On The Unknown

(mirrored from here)

Good afternoon!

Today, I’ve been working on tying together how a situation I’ve been observing (for many months now, actually…but more acutely over the past few days) can be connected to my own work. The question is one of honesty, and of the unknown. In different ways each…but the basic premise of each is roughly about the same.

In the situation I’ve been observing (and have been honored to be a sounding board for one of the parties involved), I have noted casually the old saying about doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. The situation is one that has an established routine that has created something of a rut in communication, and that has fostered a sort of broken record pattern of lather-rinse-repeat sort. Déjà vu…all over again. Of course, I’m a passive observer in the aforementioned situation, as is my partner. We discuss the present state of affairs (me, admittedly, with a bit more frustration), and mostly agree that unless some sort of shift occurs nothing will change. Non-action is also a choice.

However, today something surfaced that took me mildly by surprise, and I simply tilted my head with a kind of quizzical look ~

~ because I’m just not quite sure how to respond. Without going into detail, the situation is between a friend and her partner. There has been a history of “disagreements” that result in both parties getting frustrated — and part of the problem is that my friend and her partner are two very different people with very different approaches to discussion. My friend is a very kind person…very sensitive to others’ feelings…and tends to soften her words to minimize impact. After months of observing this, I finally asked why? I understand not wanting to hurt other people’s feelings and I understand self-protective conflict avoidance. Of course I do. But when avoiding said conflict and thinking of others’ feelings results in not being completely honest, then my next question is why? Who does that help? At the same time, I was unsure about asking that question, because I didn’t want my friend to feel that I was minimizing her sensitivity or her gentle concern for others (because I find those to be very positive traits); I asked because I can see (with frustration) how deprivation of self in the face of those positive traits is potentially damaging to self, as well as to the relationship, when complete honesty is couched in favor of euphemism and false diplomacy (in the name of conflict avoidance and others’ feelings).

My friend’s answer was that she is afraid. Afraid her partner might leave. Afraid of the unknown. Afraid to say “fuck you” because of uncertainty that her partner might walk out because she said “fuck you”…even if that was the true feeling of that moment.

I blinked.

See, for the same number of months I’ve been watching my friend work to be less of a doormat, I’ve been working on being kinder to myself and to others. The idea of saying “fuck you” or “fuck off” in the context of a moment of real-life disagreement that has gone beyond what is acceptable or beyond my personal boundaries is something that I have never really thought twice about. I’ve never had any problem with telling anyone to go fuck themselves if they crossed certain lines with me…and I’ve never really given a flying monkey shit if they liked that or not. Honestly, I still don’t. But I am working on being kinder and gentler…and working on self-improvement in such a way that I don’t react like that unless it’s actually called for (and sometimes, that is the only remaining response).

I have a difficult time watching my friend, who is a very kind and gentle person, denying that truth -and in this context, that response is more than appropriate- out of fear that her partner might leave because of inability to handle that level of complete and forthright honesty. The concept is just entirely foreign to me. I understand fear and insecurity…goodness knows I do…but I feel like if someone is so petty and small that they can’t handle the truth in that moment, then I don’t need them in my life. By the same token, I also have to be strong enough to not be hypocritical…I have to be able to handle when the people in my life speak forthrightly and honestly with me. It’s a two-way street. And much credit to René on this count, because I’mnot easy to live with…and my honesty is often a little too blunt and harsh (like I said, I’m working on it)…but that wonderful partner of mine has got some serious brass and knows how to dish it right back to me. Therein is the balance…the allowance for full honesty and trust results in both of us being exactly who we are without equivocation, which in turn allows us both to be gentler with each other, because we both know we can handle each other’s less-than-gentle parts.

So how, you might be wondering, is this topic connected with my work? My work, as I’ve shared here before, is in sex education. In our present political climate, sex education in public schools is a source of extremely heated debate. Thirty out of fifty states accept Title V funding for sex education in their public schools, which means in order to qualify for those funds, those schools must present abstinence-based or abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) sex education. I’ve written extensively about this topic (and will be making the announcement whenever my bloody dissertation gets published), so I’m not going to rehash all of it here. However, the bottom line is that AOUM and abstinence-based education is incomplete, lacking in complete honesty…and the results are disastrous. In states that accept Title V funding for sex ed, there has been a rise in unplanned pregnancies and STI transmission across the teen populations…which is the exact opposite result of the desired goals of reduction. That is what happens when matters of importance are not presented completely, authentically, honestly. And why? Because parents are afraid that if their kids get the complete truth they might… what? Have sex? Well, they’re having sex anyway, which shows in the increasing numbers of unplanned pregnancies and STI transmission rates…but because those kids are not getting the facts in their entirety (you know, sins of omission or something along that vein), they’re having sex without using protection.

And the entire notion of AOUM is fear-based and fear-driven. Just as is the case withmost situations where people try to couch the truth for fear of some unknownsomething. Couching messages in softer language or not being completely honest…especially to the people we care about the most deeply — our partners and our children — often has negative outcomes. Trust is also a factor. When we trust the people we care about the very most to be able to handle complete honesty, when we give them credit for being able to be able to “strap on the brass,” so to speak, then the truth becomes nothing to fear.

Most of our question marks get eventual answers with closing punctuation. Often, we navigate through life as unknown waters that are potentially treacherous. At the same time, we can’t hide from life, or our truth…life doesn’t stop just because we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. None of us is promised tomorrow…but if we trust that we’ll probably be here to see it, then it’s easier to face it completely honestly and not dwell on the “what ifs.” Plan for tomorrow, despite the unknown…and live life as if tomorrow may never come. Live in authenticity…and without shame or regret.

With that, I hope you have a wonderful week!


Freaky Fried Day — On the Chopping Block: Genital Mutilation

Greetings and salutations on this lovely Fried Day afternoon! I hope that wherever you are, the weather is better than here. Around the Flower Pot, we’re dealing with thunderstorms and heavy rains forecast pretty much off and on all day today. Ah well…I got most of my errands accomplished yesterday, despite the extremely heavy humidity, so most of my to-do list items today are indoors anyway. (That said, I did manage to pull a few of the hairier, thornier weeds from the side of the front yard before the deluge began.)

Anyway…topic of the hour is genital mutilation. As with so many topics that I don’ttypically discuss here (even with respect to sex education), this topic comes to us by way of a very interesting facebook conversation. The original post had to do with a television show in the UK that has brought FGM into the one of the plotlines in the show. If you are new to the topic of FGM, it stands for Female Genital Mutilation, and the reason the topic is so very (and understandably) controversial has to do with cultural normatives that are steeped in patriarchy and control of women’s bodies and sexual pleasure. Do I understand that? Yes. Do I object to patriarchal notions related to controlling women’s bodies (even in the name of “cultural identification”)? Yes. I certainly do.

I understand the controversy, and I know my feelings about the cultural and religiousassociations with FGM. However, let’s look at the WHO’s definition for a moment before moving forward with today’s topic:

“Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

All procedures. Meaning, FGM includes more than the bullet point of: “violation of the human rights of girls and women.” Can FGM be a violation of human rights of girls and women? Yes, absolutely…and that is a topic worth getting fully steamed up about. Now…pause and step back for a moment.

The definition says all procedures…and the original conversational thread in which this topic came up had to do with the poster’s concern about Western values and influence in other cultures. Now, I won’t speak for all Western cultural values…I am simply going to home in on American “values” in this instance. I find some of the hysterical outrage over FGM in “those other ‘backwards’ parts of the world” (*cough*name-the-African-country-and-that*cough*) just a tad hypocritical in the face of one of the latest trends in cosmetic surgery here: vaginoplasty. No, I’m not talking about M-F sex change surgical modification. I’m talking about prettification of woman bits because of “body image” bullshit and youth idealization. I agree with authentic outrage over patriarchal practices…but you do not get to scream and stomp and yell about girls and women “over there somewhere” in the name of human rights while ignoring the very same patriarchal bullshit HERE that causes women to alter their bodies for some image of youth and male-dominant idea of (infantilized) desirability. Furthermore, so long as clitoral hood piercing is a common body art trend in the United States (and elsewhere), you don’t get to claim that all FGM practices result in loss of sexual pleasure in women. I suspect that many of the women who have had their clits pierced might just argue with you over their ownsexual pleasure. Lest we forget: clit piercing and labia piercing are both forms of genital modification.

I hear you, I hear you…choice. Yes. This brings the other half of the conversation to the chopping block: Male infant circumcision.

Here in the United States, male infant circumcision is extremely common, and strangely…not only do many women here not even know what an uncircumcised penis looks like (or find an uncut penis “gross” to look at, but more on the “gross” thing later), but many do not even know that circumcision is not historically traditional in the United States at all. In fact, male infant circumcision became “trendy” during approximately the same time the Social Hygiene Movement became popular…in the early 1900s, following our involvement in WWI, and is directly connected with our 20th century American military history. Unfortunately, not many people actually know that history, so to them, it’s simply “always been that way.” Seriously, if you truly believe that American boys have always been circumcised, then I would encourage you to click through the above link.

These days, there is a huge brouhaha surrounding the AAP’s endorsement of “all” male infants being circumcised, and rightly so in the face of questionable “reasons” for circumcision being “the best” available choice for penile health. The eight reasons listed in the above linkety link are questionable, at best, in the face of otherdeveloped countries’ practices and comparative statistics.

Stepping away from what is or isn’t longer-standing or “more natural” — let’s have a look from a simply neutral, human perspective (and yeah, right about here, we’re getting back to that “gross” thing). The human body, even aside from genital health, has some rather grotesque functions. Lacrimal drainage (eye boogers…and don’t get me started on pink eye), regular ol’ nose boogers & snot, ear wax, phlegm, belly button lint, all that shit that gets under our fingernails, dandruff and skin flakiness elsewhere, and whatever the other gunk that oozes out of our pores from pimples and blackheads and insect bites and what-have-you. Any and all of those things can be pretty disgusting. So what, then…? With a newborn baby, regardless of gender, we’re going to say “eww gross” to all of that and start cutting out/off or plugging up body parts?

No, you say? So what is the difference with the genitals? Okay, yes…urine and feces are both smelly, unsanitary, and potentially infectious. And that is why weclean babies’ asses and crotches when they piss and shit…especially girls with diarrhea…because whether a female is 3 months or 30 years old…shit in the vaginal area can lead to some seriously funky infections. So…we teach little girls the importance of hygiene (and not the way the Social Hygiene Movement of the early 20th century did, I might add) and cleaning thoroughly, regularly.

It is hygiene that is most often used as an excuse for male infant circumcision…because, you know, down the road when they’re either athletic and sweaty, masturbating like fiends, or sexually active with a partner…OH NO! THE SMEGMA!

Pulllllleeeeeeeeaaaasssse….spare me that nonsense for a moment. If we know that genital hygiene is important for girls with all their little folds and whatnot, why on earth would we assume that boys shouldn’t learn the very same importance of genital hygiene with foreskin?! And when we’re talking about STI reduction, we are talking specifically about medically accurate sex education and the importance of correct, consistent use of condoms.

In terms of what is visually appealing and…well, what feels good…that much is often dependent on where you are in the world and when. Lest you think that circumcision is the only form of male genital mutilation, allow me to dispel you of that false notion, too. In other parts of the world (and there is an American trend toward this as well), there is also penile subincision…(with a NSFW warning on that one!!) ~ so yeah…both males and females have different cultural “normatives” in terms of what is gross and what is not.

Ultimately, my personal feeling is that, short of immediate health concern or medical risk, no child -male or female- should undergo genital mutilation at all. That ismy feeling on the topic. If there is a medical risk involved that presents an immediate need for intervention, then the most minimally invasive procedure that will resolve the risk or concern should be implemented…for the best of the patient. What any person decides to do with their own body upon age of understanding and ability to give informed consent…that is on them.

With that being said, even as a (private) intactivist…I do not believe that demonizing parents who have had their children circumcised or otherwise altered is appropriate either. My eldest child was circumcised, and while I feel a type of personal guilt over having allowed that to be done, the truth is that I knew no better at the time. Many parents are told that the “minor surgery” is in their child’s best interests, using scare tactics (at best) to convince them. When I gave birth to my younger son, the hospital staff attempted that with me to no avail, because 17 years after the birth of my eldest child, I had learned a little more and made a different decision for my younger son than for my older one. So no…I don’t think that telling parents who made that choice for their sons that they “damaged” their sons is a good thing either. In fact, I think it’s cruel to do that, because chances are, they thought they were doing what was right for their child. Even if it meant permanent removal of something like foreskin.

Then again…maybe not so permanent…?

Finally, getting back to the topic that started it all, I am opposed to cultural FGM that is propagated by religiously-rooted patriarchy…no doubt about that. However, I have misgivings about applying Western values to cultures based on some sort of archaic notion about what we believe is “best for them” — particularly when, in those countries, there are often far worse problems on an endemic level that are of greater priority…and that is for those countries to decide — not us (or the “Western world”). None of us can boil the ocean.

With that, I bid you all a VERY Happy Fried Day…and will close with a bit of rainy weather haiku:

Wind-carried pollen dust
followed by torrential rain
makes happy flowers.


April is *also* STD Awareness Month

Mirrored from my personal blog’s Hump Day Special.

First things first today…I need to openly admit that I don’t have the very best memory. Life gets busy, and other issues surface, and sometimes I forget things that are important and that sometimes fly completely under the radar. Such as the point that not only is April Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but also STD Awareness Month. Given my personal and professional focus, you might think I would remember that more readily (suuuure); like I said just a few sentences up, my memory isn’t the best.

Second, to knock this question out of the way (since it’s one of the questions I am often asked) — the terms “sexually transmitted disease” (STD) and “sexually transmitted infection” (STI) are frequently used interchangeably. They are notexactly the same thing (as diseases and infections are not the same), but more people tend to be familiar with the term “STD” as opposed to the frequently more (clinically) accurate “STI” — in much the same way that just a generation ago, “VD” (venereal disease) was more commonly used. Many folks today haven’t even heard the term “VD,” but most are familiar with “STD” ~ hence the coining of “STD Awareness Month” even within the CDC.

With those two bits knocked out, I got my reminder yesterday about April & STI Awareness from one of my favorite places: Bedsider. LOVE Bedsider! Yesterday, an entry was posted – entitled “The Fine Art of Condom Negotiation” — and it is worth clicking through to and watching the videos in the entry. In today’s Hump Day special, I want to discuss condom negotiation, and its importance on a wider scale.

I know there are folks (I am one of them, actually) who get annoyed with “Awareness Months” — and yet, the importance of awareness of certain realities in our society cannot be overstated. Three major points noted in the CDC link above:

  • 20 million – new STDs that occur each year.
  • $16 billion — the cost of treating STDs contracted in just one year.
  • ½ of all new sexually transmitted infections each year are among youth.

The numbers are truly frightening, and there are distinct connections between those numbers and sex education in public schools…particularly those that accept Title V funding for sex education (aka Abstinence-based and AOUM sex “education”).

When I began my own research for my dissertation, my initial focus was on chlamydia, which is currently the fastest spreading STI on the planet. The numbers, both in terms of transmission, the cost of treatment (compared with the cost of prevention), and the ages of the hardest hit demographic are appalling. I won’t pull those numbers, but I will note that the cost of prevention is significantly lower than the cost of treatment, and the hardest hit demographic is females between the ages of 15 and 24 — with diagnoses of chlamydia being three times more frequent than males in the same demographic. Additionally, minorities are disproportionately affected by all of the above.

What does this have to do with the art of condom negotiation? Quite a lot, actually. Particularly with respect to females. In my research, I interviewed parents of female teens for their perspectives and perceptions about sexually transmitted infections across the teenage population, and one of the themes that surfaced (with respect to condoms) was a “good girl” versus “bad girl” notion that has been prevalent in American culture (and elsewhere, too) for many, many, many years. Further, there exists a really depressing lack of understanding of how exactly STIs are transmitted across the cohort I interviewed — which translates sadly (and is documented elsewhere outside of my research) into teenagers (both male and female) lacking knowledge and understanding.

Example: Blow jobs. Oral sex is not seen as “real” sex by a large percentage of the teenage population. Why? Because the primary focus of sex education is pregnancy prevention (automatically organizing sex education by gender, I might add)…any and all sexual activity that falls outside of the singular sexual act that can result in pregnancy is ignored and omitted entirely. Further, in abstinence-based settings, kids are taught that condoms have x-percentage failure rates (without the explanation of why those failure rates exist — which has to do with inconsistent and incorrect use)…it’s essential fear-mongering in the hopes of getting kids to simply abstain from sex. And mainly females.

It’s a nice idea…and, in fact, abstinence is encouraged as a leading preventive measure against pregnancy and STI transmission by organizations like Planned Parenthood. However, given the actual reality of kids having sex…and not just penis-in-vagina sexual intercourse…the potential for STI transmission increases exponentially when complete, comprehensive information is omitted in sex education. The evidence? Look again at those bullet points above. That is the stark truth, no matter how much parents might squick out over it. It’s not girls “being sluts”…it’s teenagers doing what teenagers have always done.

So now, we have female teens giving head and not using condoms (because if oral sex isn’t real sex, and condoms don’t work anyway, and she can’t get pregnant from giving head…et cetera) — then being shocked to discover that what they thought was tonsillitis was really chlamydia. And…the numbers continue to climb.

Negotiation of condom use can be touchy…it can be uncomfortable…but it is certainly necessary. Not just to prevent chlamydia (which, as I said, was my initial focus), but to prevent most STIs — regardless of whichever sex act is involved where fluids are exchanged. Further, “accidentally” getting carried away in the heat of the moment (“turning the situation somehow more innocent”) is a notion that needs to be done away with if we’re ever going to actually reduce the transmission numbers. As a parent of both a young adult son, a teenage daughter, and a toddler son…I know how uncomfortable thinking of kids as sexual beings really is. There is a lot of what I call “Squick Factor” involved. But the bottom line is, if we wouldn’t teach our kids preventive measures for their protection when teaching them how to drive a car (which is a machine with the potential to kill), why would we knowingly treat sex any differently? Much as it squicks me out, I would rather my daughter know how to put a condom on a guy (with her mouth, if needs be) than contract an STI or become pregnant. Would I rather she not have sex at all? Sure…the Mommy in me would prefer that. The human being (and health care professional) in me knows thathoping for abstinence is simply not enough.

Learn the realities of STIs…read up the CDC numbers…learn the importance of prevention…teach your kids the importance of prevention…it MATTERS. Safe sex is the sexiest sex there is!

That’s all for today. Wishing you the happiest of Hump Days!

Coffee Chat Monday…On Iconography

Good morning! I hope you had a wonderful Easter weekend. I promised myself I wouldn’t play any April Fools jokes today…and I am going to work to keep that promise. Tempting though it is, in emerging from the stress levels from the past two weeks (and from which I am still admittedly decompressing), I haven’t been able to get a whole helluva lot of actual work done. Which is…in a word…frustrating. So…no April Fools jokes today.
Rather than try to dive right back in where I left off exactly, given the nature of the past two weeks, plus some unexpected unpleasant “issues” that surfaced over the past few days, I decided that I would focus on a particular topic that can ease me back into my actual work more effectively. This topic connects current public debate over marriage equality, a piece of the realities we contend with here in the U.S. regarding patriarchy, rape culture, and …strangely… sexual assault specifics.
What brought sexual assault to the table, in connection with marriage equality, and what effectively shut down a certain part of my thoughts over the weekend…was an unpleasant exchange that began with one of my very favorite images ~

In a strange argument of dissent about the above image in connection with marriage equality (wherein I was informed that I needed to “turn in” my “GLBTQ Ally card” if I disagreed with the person making the assertion)…is that the above image is representative of sexual assault because of the familiar iconography of another image ~

…which, of course, most of us are familiar with that image. There is a story behind that image from 1945, of course. After more than 60 years of the picture being taken, I suppose one could argue that randomly kissing women without warning (by today’s distinctly separate definitions) could (and should) be categorized as sexual assault. The most likely people in the above image were later identified as George Mendonça and Greta Friedman (not Edith Shain, as initially claimed) ~ and there is a much larger story of all the celebrations transpiring in Times Square on the day the end of WWII was announced. There were many, many, many kisses dispensed, similar to the one we have come to know as representative of that day. Additionally, that particular pose was extremely popular, before the above photograph was even taken, in terms of media representation of “idealized” kissing poses.
So…was it sexual assault or not? And…more pertinently, does the Liberty/Justice image represent sexual assault? These questions are interesting to me, as an individual, as a staunch LGBTQ supporter, and as a sex educator. Separating myself from the unpleasantness of the discussion that brought the subject to my attention, and separating myself away from my immediate knee-jerk response of “NO” to the question — recognizing my own personal biases and shelving them in favor of actual consideration of the questions the discussion presented fairly.
First: Sexual Assault.
Let’s look at one definition of sexual assault, from RAINN: Sexual assault is unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling. (But, be aware: Some states use this term interchangeably with rape.)
Sexual assault is not something to be taken lightly. It is a very serious thing, indeed. However, turning everything into sexual assault specifically also diminishes the very real damage of blithe acts of sexual assault. From a Crates and Ribbons article, selected statements from Friedman were highlighted to underscore the position that the image was, indeed, sexual assault (“rather than romantic”, which I will address also):
“It wasn’t my choice to be kissed. The guy just came over and grabbed!”
“I did not see him approaching, and before I knew it, I was in this vice grip. [sic]“
“You don’t forget this guy grabbing you.”
“That man was very strong. I wasn’t kissing him. He was kissing me.”
Except…the article also conveniently leaves out something else she said:

“It wasn’t that much of a kiss. It was more of a jubilant act that he didn’t have to go back [to war],” she said.

And, conveniently ignored by people really raging over this topic are other words from the two actual people involved:
“I can’t think of anybody who considered that as an assault,” said Friedman, who exchanges Christmas cards with Mendonsa every year and has appeared with him at several reunion events. “It was a happy event.”

“There is just no way that there was anything bad about it,” she said. “It was all good news, the best news we’d had for a number of years.”
Both Mendonsa and Friedman acknowledged the kiss was a surprise but that it was not unwelcome or offensive. Mendonsa was just excited that he didn’t have to return to war, and thankful for the nurses who cared for his wounded shipmates.
After all of the years gone by since the famous photograph was taken, when asked to reenact the famous kiss, Friedman declined. Both Friedman and Mendonça were in their very late 80s by then, and I doubt (based on what I have read of them) that either of them would have been remotely interested in a reenactment of the famous image. Mendonça, in fact, filed a lawsuit for his image being used so very publicly and broadly without his permission (long since dismissed). So, it would seem, both of them were very uncomfortable about the photograph after the celebrations were over.
To suggest that Friedman was in denial about her own experience would be…oh, I guess I would call that gaslighting…to tell her that she doesn’t understand or clearly comprehend her own experience.
So, was it sexual assault? The short answer is yes, it most certainly was.  By modern standards. Yes. Was it, however, sexual assault in any practical sense? No. I do not believe so. Why? Because using RAINN’s definition of sexual assault (which I would argue is a fair and accurate one), as “unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling.” From the standpoint of consent, the image can be qualified as assault; from the standpoint of unwanted, or connected with rape (or even any intent of rape), the image can be simply categorized as celebratory.
I feel, though, that qualifying an image from more than 65 years ago as sexual assault is something of a false anachronism. Admitting that the reality of the image was a form of sexual assault equally decontextualizes what actually happened. Acknowledging that people placing romance as the underlying characteristic of the image is equally wrong, and ignores the actual events that transpired within that image that has become iconic. The long-standing assumption by most people about the image of romance was encapsulated in the false notion that the two people were a couple, when in fact they did not even know each other prior to the event. Of course, that reality puts a slightly different light on the image overall…but does not automatically imply that Mendonça was some sort of sex offender.
Lawrence Verria noted“I think we need to be careful how we characterize a kiss from over 60 years ago, far removed from the day and its circumstances,” he said. “Calling it a sexual assault caught on film is not accurate, but also viewing the kiss as romantic as it’s often characterized is not accurate. It’s a celebration of a war’s victorious end.”
And that is something of an important point. Using all of the above as a springboard, I believe a VERY important discussion to actually have is about patriarchy…aboutsubject/object portrayal of men and women, respectively, in our culture, in our media, and in our iconography. Yes, I really do believe that is a very important discussion to have…finally.
Second: Lady Liberty & Blind Justice
At the same time, I think that the discussion about those things…transposed upon the image of Liberty and Justice…and calling that “sexual assault” — while well-intended — muddies the waters and confuses the issues. I believe that even while the original iconic photograph serves as an excellent opening for very important discussion to take place, juxtaposing that idea onto an image of statues in that very same pose is, in a word, absurd.
I appreciate the honest passion of the fight against patriarchy…against systemic sexism…against passive acts of sexual assault. Really and truly, I do. I share the passion, and I am part of that fight. I also believe that it gets taken way too far in the midst of the passion of trying to tear down those walls of blind privilege. I also believe that this idea of turning every single thing into some real or imagined injustice serves to diminish when very real acts of violence, assault, and abuse transpire. I mentally connect the idea of turning Liberty/Justice into representative of sexual assault with people who police language…again, very well-meaning and intended — and I happen to support people who -IN THEIR OWN SPACES- insist upon certain types of language to not be used IN THEIR OWN SPACES. I take a bit of umbrage, however, when someone steps into my space and asserts to me how I should or should not speak, or what language I should or should not use…or that my refusal to adhere to their expectations –again, within my own space– amounts to me somehow tacitly supporting oppression and/or violence.
George Carlin summed it up nicely, actually, in one of his many stand-up routines: “I think congressman should be congressperson. I think mankind should be humankind. But they take it too far…they want to call that thing in the middle of the street a person-hole cover. He-man would be an “It-person”…and we’d all be laughing about this on Late Night with David Letterperson!”
Recognizing past errors does not mean that we divorce those errors from their respective reality at the time. Nor does it mean that those errors define the composite. Take Gandhi…or Lennon…or Marley. People often become very uncomfortable having their ideas about the very real love and peace promoted by them shattered by harsh truths about the fact that they were each very, very human…and therefore flawed. Their individual errors and abuses do not change that their overall life messages were still good. As with the image, the very individual error at the time of the photograph does not change the overarching idea of celebration, or indeed romance, really. It simply gives us (today) a very healthy perspective and opening for meaningful discussion about ways to move forward in a positive direction.
So in the final analysis, I’d call it a wash. I agree with the person who challenged me that, yes, the iconic post-WWII image can certainly be representative of sexual assault. I continue to disagree, however, that sexual assault is THE message of the image…and in no way diminishes the very positive message of Lady Liberty kissing Blind Justice. And no, I won’t be turning in my LGBTQ Ally card, thankyouverymuch.
And with that, I wish you a wonderful week!