Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Caution Strong Language

I posted a while back about privilege, and I updated it tonight, but as I have been following the twitterverse one thing has become apparent: there are a lot of people, mostly white, who don't understand the power, the anger, and the willingness to demean  that goes with the word "cunt".

This whole flap started over the Onion tweeting the word "cunt" about Quvenzhan√© Wallis. Since then people, have tried to explain away and defend the Onion even though the Onion apologized.  It's really unfathomable to me. 

I have investigated child sexual abuse for 20 years.  In those years, children have referred to the vagina by every word you can think of.  Not once in over 500 and approaching 1000 interviews, has a child referred to the vagina as "cunt".  

Coochie, pocketbook, sea shell, woowoo, hoohoo, private, front butt, cookie, 'gina, geegee, hootchie, pee spot, pee pee, vagina. Every word you can think of I've heard from children, yet never "cunt".  That's because despite what Jezebel contributor Katie J. M. Baker may write, "cunt" IS a bad word.  

It's a word so loaded that people who sexually abuse children don't use it.  Let that sink in....

When  you factor in the race issue with calling a 9 year old black girl "cunt", even in purported jest, the word "cunt" takes on the same power as the word "nigger" (hereafter referred to as n-word).  It's that vile. It's so vile that that it should never be used.  

People who throw around the word "cunt" don't deserve our time any more than people who casually use the  n-word.  

My wife and I have two daughters aged 12 and 6.  They can be at turns precocious, naughty, bitchy (12 year old LOL), and deserving of discipline.  I have news for anybody defending the word "cunt", if you call either of our girls that, you better call a mother fucking ambulance. 

So I'm terribly sorry if I call out people like Katie Baker and anybody else who thinks calling kids "cunt" is satire.  You're wrong. It's also clear that you have no idea what power certain words have. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

"Absent" Mindedness

On Friday, President Obama gave a speech in Chicago regarding a myriad of issues including gun violence, educational opportunity, bringing people out of poverty and moving the country forward.  It was a sweeping speech that touched on many of the same themes that he discussed in the State of the Union.

Unfortunately, a few members of the pundit class on the left, most notably Melissa Harris-Perry, for whom I have a great deal of respect, took exception  to a portion of the speech that spoke about absentee fathers.  Saying in a tweet:

"Sigh...the fatherhood thing is distressing for me President Obama. I know you don't mean to say single moms cause gun violence, but..."

Now this came around 10 minutes into a thirty minute speech and the President was indeed lamenting  that his father was absent, but in no way was he blaming single mothers for poverty and gun violence.  Here's the actual quote from the speech:

Now, that starts at home. There’s no more important ingredient for success, nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong, stable families -- which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood. (Applause.) Don’t get me wrong -- as the son of a single mom, who gave everything she had to raise me with the help of my grandparents, I turned out okay. (Applause and laughter.) But -- no, no, but I think it’s -- so we’ve got single moms out here, they’re heroic in what they’re doing and we are so proud of them. (Applause.) But at the same time, I wish I had had a father who was around and involved. Loving, supportive parents -- and, by the way, that’s all kinds of parents -- that includes foster parents, and that includes grandparents, and extended families; it includes gay or straight parents. (Applause.)*

That passage in no way demonizes single mothers nor does it say that single parenting is the cause of gun violence. It speaks a truth that many don't want to acknowledge.  Two supportive parents do make a difference in a child's life.  Single mothers are heroic. There is no mistaking that, but I just don't see that passage as blaming single mothers for gun violence.  In fact it acknowledges all different sorts of parenting as being important. 

On today's show, Ms. Harris-Perry and her panel had a lengthy discussion of her tweet and the response it got.  They also discussed the idea of government wanting people to be married.  If you read the President's words on the issue, again from the speech, you'll see he said government should work to make easier for people who want to get married, to do so. 

So we should encourage marriage by removing the financial disincentives for couples who love one another but may find it financially disadvantageous if they get married.

He also spoke specifically to absent fathers by saying "Because what makes you a man is not the ability to make a child, it’s the courage to raise one. "  Raising one doesn't mean marriage or cohabitation, it means supporting your child when and how you can.  Many fathers can't support their child financially to the extent they want to but they can always be present emotionally for their kids.  

The thing that I think is missing from the discussion as the panel tried to parse out words and accuse the President of "Daddy Politics", is that absentee parenting is not just a daddy issue, a race issue or a socio-economic issue.  

Many of you know that I investigate child and abuse and neglect.  I've been in social work for 25 years and almost 20 of them have been spent in the  trenches seeing first hand the devastation of absentee parents on children.  President Obama was speaking of fathers who were absent physically, emotionally and financially.  Children are just as devastated by parents who are physically present but otherwise absent due to alcohol, drugs, domestic abuse, and mental illness. 

I've got cases on my desk right now that encompass all of those issues.  My colleagues and I go into poor neighborhoods where crime is high due to poverty and absent parents. We also go to middle class and wealthy neighborhoods where children are harmed by the 'present' but absent parents that I mentioned above. 

While single mother's in and of themselves don't cause gun violence and there are thousands of cases single mothers raising wonderfully well adjusted children, there are also thousands of cases in which children of single parents do fall into poverty and crime.  There are thousands of cases where addiction, violence and mental illness distance a parent from  their children.  

There are no easy answers to ending gun violence and raising people out of poverty.  There is hard work to be done in a comprehensive way, which is what I heard from the President on Friday.  To accuse President Obama of blaming it all on single mother's and his own "daddy issues" does a grave disservice to his message.   If you're looking for people to jump on that bandwagon, count me absent. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Misogyny: According to Jim.

Today, Jim Belushi, 'actor' 'comedian' and budding relationship advice expert, penned a column for the for the Chicago Sun-Times about the roles of men and women, and "what women secretly want".  To say it was the a pile of misogynist dog shit an insult to dog shit.

Now, I never had the good fortune of having my superstar brother overdose and die thus propelling me to a career, but I have been in relationships with women for most of my adult life.  Frankly I think that qualifies me to respond to Belushi's advice.

His opening salvo:

Some men today have turned into women; they are constantly discussing their problems. And women reinforce it by telling men, over and over, that that’s what they want: someone who is cooperative, fair, considerate, wants to share and have discussions about things, saying, “Let’s work this out.”

So, discussing your problems makes you a "woman", as does being cooperative, fair and considerate. Wanting to work things out is womanly too apparently.  Way to gender stereotype dude, please proceed: 

But here’s the truth. Say you’re in a bar. Some guy starts talking to your girl, and she says, “I’m with somebody.” The guy calls her the “b” word. So you go, “Hey man, that’s not appropriate, that’s really hurtful, you shouldn’t talk to people like that, that’s not how community works,” I guarantee on the drive home your wife will say, “Why didn’t you stand up for me?” And your answer is, “I thought you liked it when people discussed their feelings. Discuss.”

I've actually had such exchanges in bars three times over some dude hitting on my girlfriend or spouse.  I pretty much handled by saying "that's not appropriate, knock it off".  On the ride home my girlfriend or spouse said something to the effect of  "what a fucking jerk, I'm glad you spoke up".  Then we went home and had lots of sex, but I digress.

Belushi goes on to describe an exchange he had at the House of Blues when a guy was getting handsie with his then girlfriend:

He put his hand on her shoulder again, and I come over to him. I said, laughing, “Hey, you touch her one more time and I’m going to beat you.” He laughed, thought I was joking. I said, “No, not a joke my friend. Keep your damn hands off my girl.” 

He continues, describing the exchange with his girlfriend on the way home:

That’s not how you handle differences. He was just being friendly. We were just talking. I can handle myself.” And I said, “If anyone ever touches you like that, I will beat them.” She said, “You are an animal.” I said, “Yes, I am. You entered the animal kingdom when you entered my life.”

Yes, I am a manly animal!  Here me roar.  What a fucking joke. Threatening to beat somebody up doesn't make you tough.  It makes you an entitled prick.  Treating your girlfriend like property isn't a long term strategy for success in a relationship.  

He then offers this as a penultimate paragraph of penis-ness. 

I believe men in relationships should constantly make sure that their wives feel pretty and loved. Our wives don’t want best friends. They say they do, but no, they want men. They want a husband. They want a father for their children. They want a lover. Given the opportunity, every woman will try to make their man into their best friend, like their cousin, their buddy. And that kind of thinking slowly takes the edge out of the relationship.

In what world can being your spouse's best friend be mutually exclusive from being a good husband and father? 

My wife and I are about to celebrate 10 years as a couple on May 12. Dated 3 years, married for going on 7.  We've been through many trials and tribulations.  We've both grown individually and as a couple. We are best friends, and not surprisingly that enhances our relationship. I try to make my wife feel pretty and loved (on that I agree with Belushi), but it's not from being a pretend tough guy.

What Jimbo fails to see in his defense of the douche-ly arts, this is 2013, women are tough and accomplished and can hold their own with men, and always have been. Look at the women I live with.  Look at the women I'm friends with both on Twitter and in real life. All of them have a grit and spine that I admire the hell out of. 

This is not to say that I won't kick a motherfucker's ass if he crosses my wife or girls, but I don't walk around like the lord of the manor to remind poor little wifey that she has a protector. 

Belushi's brand of faux tough guy bullshit is slowly becoming a thing of the past, much like his career. So tonight curl up with your spouse, touch him or her by being kind, communicative and respectful.  Be a man who's not afraid to be these things and you won't lose the edge to your relationship.  

You can thank me later. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

It's Been a Privilege

All across the vast spaces of the internet, and specifically that ribald hippy commune known as Twitter, Salon "journalists" Joan Walsh and David Sirota caused quite a stir.  You see, Ms. Walsh completely misquoted Goldie Taylor, an MSNBC contributor, author, and former Marine about a tweet that she made about drones, and Walsh and Sirota went on to try to whitesplain* privilege to a whole bunch of black folks.

For the uninitiated, whitesplain means what it sounds like.  White people in the professional left who try to  explain things like why there is no "white privilege" and the silly Negroes just don't understand how down for the cause their white asses are.  People trying to act like they know the struggles of other cultures because they read it somewhere in a book or 'have [insert minority] friends'.

I'm a white guy (shocking!).  It took me years to understand that while I can commiserate with the struggles of my Female, Persons of Color, Gay or Lesbian friends, I can never really escape the fact that I'm white and straight therefore I have been afforded a certain privilege.

It's like this. I grew up poor. I was a fat kid (still am). I was a smart kid and talked too much. I was mercilessly teased about being fat, a red head, a bit of a crybaby, a momma's boy. You name it and I had to make myself overcome it.  Despite all of that, because I'm white, I still had a leg up in this country compared to a black kid that went through the same experiences.

And it took me years to get that through my thick head.

Today I communicate with a vast array of People of Color, LGBT folks and white folks through Twitter, and in real life.  I listen (or read) what they have to say, I ask their perspective and get their advice before saying something that could be offensive.

Being culturally sensitive is not something that is hard to do.  It takes work, introspection and a willingness to admit that yeah, I've had it better because I'm a white dude. I work to get beyond my own short comings when it comes to privilege.

I do this, not because I condescend to have a few minority friends.  I do it because despite everything I've experienced, I'll never fully understand their struggles.  I do it because their struggle continues.  When professional lefties like Sirota and Walsh try to scoff off privilege, I feel it is incumbent that a person who had the same privilege calls out their condescension.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Penn State: Tom Corbett Child Rape Enabler: Updated

*Bloggers Note* This is an updated version of this post. I was given several facts and corrections by a number of people on twitter. Also please note, this is my opinion. You can disagree, but don't accuse me of slander. If you don't like my opinion, don't read my stuff. If you're curious, read on:

On February 1st, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced that a Special Prosecutor will be appointed to investigate Governor Tom Corbett.  Questions remain as to what part he played in keeping the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky child rape scandal off the front pages of every paper in the country when he was the AG running for Governor.

By way of back story, it should be reported that Corbett was AG when the investigations into Sandusky began in 2009.  At the time he was ramping up a run for Governor.  He received huge donations from Second Mile Board Members to his campaign.  The AG's office oversees all non-profits in Pennsylvania, so accepting money from Second Mile Board Members may be an ethical violation. After winning the Governorship, he became a Trustee at Penn State.

When you connect the political dots, its very clear that Corbett slow walked the investigation and kept things on the back burner to protect his political future. Had he proceeded with the full weight of his office, he would have pissed off so many of the Penn State faithful, he would never had won the Governorship.

This is more than just speculation on my part.  A few years ago, I was part of an investigation very similar to the Penn State scandal.  It involved a high school, a popular coach and child sexual assault. I can't discuss specifics due to confidentiality, but in broad strokes I can explain how these investigations should be conducted.

When we received the case, we met with the State's Attorney and Law Enforcement.  We knew of one victim, and suspected many more.  The State's Attorney immediately formed a task force. Several detectives and command from two different PD's, computer forensic analysis from the FBI and two DCFS investigators were on the task force.

In the span of one week, we interviewed 50 possible victims and their parents. We spoke to school administrators, fellow teachers and even past girlfriends of the suspect.  The same theme kept coming up, the suspect had an eye for his high school charges, often dating them after the graduated. Several of the suspects colleagues teased him about his predilection for recently graduated young ladies and many of those friends made off color remarks about students to the suspect.  The entire investigation wrapped up in 10 days and the suspect went to prison.

In the Sandusky/Penn State Scandal, Corbett knew there were multiple victims, possibly in the hundreds.  His office assigned 2 investigators. TWO.  Pennsylvania also has a nationally recognized Child Predator Unit that was never given the case. Conveniently after he was elected governor more people were assigned to the case and the grand jury was convened which resulted in the prosecution and conviction of a very bad man.

What is frustrating is that there is no doubt that children were raped by Sandusky while Corbett was keeping things under wraps.  Someone who was genuinely concerned about others more than his own oily political aspirations would have proceeded full speed ahead.  In fact, had Corbett shown the backbone he pretends to have, he may have won without the Penn State  vote.

Tom Corbett is not that person. He's a man who sacrificed the innocence of young boys, to further his political career.  He'll have to live with that forever, but anyone with the moral compass of Tom Corbett probably doesn't care.