Slavery: Not Just in Egypt Anymore

President Barack Obama views the Emancipation ...

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Remember the old bible stories about Joseph and his coat of many colors? Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt. Then he rose to become the right hand man of the Pharaoh himself. Several generations later, his ancestors and the descendants of his brothers were slaves. Moses led them out of the land of Egypt, parting the red sea with his staff.

Then, remember how several years later a bunch of immoral white men in Europe and the United States kidnapped, mutilated, tortured and killed many Africans on big seafaring vessels? Remember how the ones who survived were later sold off to plantation owners in the South who then treated them abysmally? Maybe you don’t. Do yourself a favor and read Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Roots. Remember how Abraham Lincoln set those slaves free with a little document we like to call the Emancipation Proclamation?

Slavery is alive and well in America and throughout the world. Only now slavery is not defined by your religion or the color of your skin. It’s dependent upon your gender and your social status. Women, girls, and the poor are slaves, not just in the rest of the world but here in this country. Undocumented workers are smuggled into this country at the mercy of unscrupulous traders.  Then they are either sold into slavery outright or dropped across the border with a debt owed to their smugglers that they will never repay in their lifetimes: the new indentured servitude.

It’s happening to our young girls, as young as 13, courted sweetly by men whose future plans are to sell them in prostitution. The same sweet guy who treated these young women like princesses later rapes, beats, and drugs them. And rap music sanctifies and glorifies such behavior for whole new generations of young men, with its tales of pimps working hard to manage their bitches and hos. Yeah, it’s hard out there for a pimp. So hard, in fact, that we gave the men their own Academy Award winning anthem.

Our own military, in its efforts to reduce military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, have contracted the work of its non-essential personnel to civilians. These civilians are recruited by firms who contract with companies that contract directly with the Pentagon. Who knows just how many channels the money is laundered through until it gets to the hands of the slave traders? But if you’re an American, your tax dollars are paying to buy slaves.

Poor men and women are promised big money in exotic locations only to find out that they will be forced to Iraq and Afghanistan against their will, kept in sub-human conditions, abused and sometimes sexually battered. They will dodge bombs, shells, missiles and bullets on a daily basis. They will be hungry. They will not be allowed to leave. Almost all of them will not receive the pay they are promised. Some will not be paid at all.

Yes, slavery is alive and well and living in America. The new slave is poor and foreign or female and young. And America is buying.

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2011/05/sex-trafficking-201105?printable=true

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/06/06/110606fa_fact_stillman

June 29, 2011 at 11:44 pm 3 comments

Some Things Never Change

A young girl kisses a baby on the cheek.

Image via Wikipedia

A recent Gallup poll surveyed Americans about their preference in the sex of their children. Just as in 1941, Americans prefer boys.  Perhaps the only change since 1941 is that it’s the men who are causing our preferences. Women basically have no statistically significant preference either way. They are split pretty evenly with about a third preferring a girl, a third preferring a boy, and another third having no preference whatsoever.

Men want boys. Just why is that? Is it because they hate girls? I like to think not, but you have to wonder with nearly 50% of American men having a clear preference for boys. Maybe they just wish the best life for their children and prefer to have boys so that their children will have more opportunities and have a better chance for a happier life. That argument makes sense. Men still make more money, hold more positions of power, and do far less work around the house. It’s pretty cool to be a man, or a husband, at least.

Maybe they just think boys are easier to raise. You don’t have to worry as much about them being molested or raped or getting pregnant. No Doubt’s “Just A Girl” perfectly illustrates the difference between growing up a daughter versus growing up a son in America. Boys cause trouble; they don’t get into it. Or at least, that’s the prevailing myth.

I was on a manosphere website once where one of the participants commented that women were using abortion in order to practice sex selection as a form of gender genocide. I kid you not. However, this article sounds like, if anything, the opposite is happening. Couples are using technology to ensure the selection of boys. If this is a significant trend, it will have disastrous consequences in years to come.

There is another possibility besides plain old misogyny or wanting a better life for your child…there is the possibility that American men prefer boys because they will carry on the family name. Maybe their reason for wanting to procreate is to perpetuate the family name, carry on the family line.

This brings me to another example of sexism in our culture. Women get married and take on their husband’s names. They willingly do so. But why is it that no one ever asks why the family name has to be the husband’s name? I wonder how many men would still prefer boys if their sons didn’t carry their names but their daughters did.

Follow me here. What if two people get married and instead of the wife taking the husband’s name and the kids taking the husband’s name we did something different? What if a man named Smith marries a woman named Johnson. They become the Smith-Johnson family. Any female children get the last name Smith. Any male children get the last name Johnson. Maybe they go by Smith-Johnson until they strike out on their own or until they get married when the boys drop the Smith, and the girls drop the Johnson to include a spouse’s name.

It’s much more equitable. I don’t expect to see it in my lifetime, anymore than I would expect to see the Equal Rights Amendment passed. The fact is that women have shot themselves in the foot. Right now we’re a little over half the population of America. If we wanted to mobilize and get to the polls and vote we could have passed that law a long time ago, or any other law you care to name. We could have formed our very own political party. But we traded all that for the dangling carrot of a princess wedding and a diamond ring.

http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/23/gallup-americans-prefer-boys-to-girls-just-as-they-did-in-1941/

June 28, 2011 at 11:32 pm 8 comments

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The Supreme Court of the United States. Washin...

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Two stories have made the news lately that involve women’s rights. The one step forward is Saudi Arabian women driving despite that country’s ban on women drivers. Despite the fact that there is not one civil, written law prohibiting women from driving, Saudi women who drive are jailed because of the ruling of conservative Muslim clerics. Some 40 women with international driver’s licenses took to the streets. Some were accompanied by their husbands and families. Some men even drove around in women’s headdress as “decoys.” The women took video and posted it on YouTube.

It’s somewhat disheartening that in a country that is so clearly guilty of misogyny on every conceivable level, the right to drive is where they are focusing their energies. However, every civil rights movement has to start somewhere. Rosa Parks began her people’s fight over the same issue: transportation.

The two steps back is the Supreme Court’s ruling on a class action suit against Walmart for sexual discrimination in its hiring practices. I’m not a big fan of class action lawsuits or of litigation in general. Our society is ruining itself and doing nothing but lining the pockets of lawyers in most of these cases. By the time the lawyers get their share the plaintiffs usually get a pittance. About the only good thing about them is that the perpetrators usually have to pay heavy, heavy fines. So, they think twice about doing that again.

In the Walmart case the plaintiffs point out specific instances of sexual discrimination and cite statistics. Only 33% of Walmart managers are women, while 70% of its employees are women. The court ruled that because Walmart has a policy against sexual discrimination and because hiring decisions are made on the local level, that, therefore, Walmart as a corporation isn’t guilty of sexism.

Wow! That’s interesting. So, apparently, Walmart has no responsibility for looking at these skewed numbers and wondering just why, exactly, that far more men than women are “qualified” to be managers. No one in their human resources department ever once questioned these statistics? Are we really saying as a country that we believe that men are innately more “qualified” to management 67% of the time? That’s not sexist. Of course not.

Not surprisingly, all 3 female justices were in the minority on the ruling. They get it. These blatant prejudices don’t suddenly cease to happen because we have a policy to address them. Sexism is pervasive across our society, and I’m sure that many men and many women, as well, are only subconsciously guilty. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held accountable just the same. The only way that change is going to happen is if people in powerful positions factor in for their own cultural biases.

Just because a company or a country has a law against discrimination doesn’t mean that discrimination doesn’t still happen. Just because a corporation leaves its hiring practices to individual managers doesn’t mean that they aren’t responsible for making sure those hiring decisions adhere to the official company line. In this case, Walmart failed in its responsibility to ensure that its hiring practices are fair.

June 24, 2011 at 1:14 am 2 comments

My First Kiss

Downtown Dallas in the background with the Tri...

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You knew I had to get around to this tale sooner or later. Later is better than never. We were living in Nowhereville when I had my first kiss. However, my first kiss was not in Nowhereville. It would have been impossible for me to find a boy who was willing to kiss me.

I was cute enough, but I was something like a cross between an outcast and a pariah. Maybe that’s redundant. If you ever want to experience my early adolescence, rent Welcome to the Dollhouse from Netflix. That’s as close as you’re going to get to experiencing my junior high years. Thank God – now! Or knock on wood or something.

The summer between 7th and 8th grades my dad went job hunting in Texas. My parents always wanted to live in Texas. My mom wanted to attend the nursing school at Texas Women’s University in Denton, and they always liked Texas for some inexplicable reason. For the record, I always voted for Southern California, but no one cared what I wanted. Now I live in Texas, and my parents still live in Oklahoma. We don’t even have family there. Go figure.

So, we were driving all over hell. Who knew that Texas was so big? We literally drove all over hell, because it was the middle of the summer, and the car had no air conditioning. We spent time in Dallas and time in Houston, and it was hot as hell in either place. I honestly do not remember whether it was in Dallas or in Houston. What I do remember is that it happened in the motel swimming pool of a La Quinta Inn.

Why do I remember that it was a La Quinta? Well, for one thing, there was a Denny’s next door where we ate breakfast the next morning. And for a second thing, my father did not believe in (and we couldn’t afford) indulging in luxury when it came to accommodations. If we stayed somewhere other than a Motel 6 or a Super 8, then you can bet that I remembered it.

This may have been because on this trip I remember we stayed at a Motel 6 where there were hookers in the hallway, and our toy poodle barking was the only thing that stopped God knows what from breaking into our room in the middle of the night from a connecting door. It’s just possible that might have been the cause of our unexpected upgrade…to LaQuinta.

After driving around all day long in a hot car and then sitting in a hot car while my dad had his job interviews, my brother and I were in a rush to get to the swimming pool. I may never have changed clothes in such a hurry in my entire life. I put on my one-piece black and gold ruffled swimsuit that my best friend’s mother had made me. [I did have one friend. I admit it.] My best friend was the high school football coach’s daughter, and black and gold were the Nowhereville school colors. Also, I can explain the ruffles. It was the ‘80s. It’s not my fault.

We ran to the pool. I quickly befriended this young Latina girl. She was really spectacularly pretty, maybe a year or two older. I never knew a stranger.  She invited us in on this game of keep away. It was a pretty spirited game, and even though I’m not generally a competitive person, keep away is one of those things like Scrabble, trivia games, and card games that I am very driven to win. I’m kind of a bitch about it, actually. I’ve had several people comment on my mean game of Spades, for instance. I’m serious! I will hurt you. A paper cut…or something.

Towards the end of the first game some boy came in and started playing on the opposite team. When it came time to pick sides for a second game the new boy became a team captain. He picked me for his team. I was his first pick. I was actually a little resentful about this, ‘cause I was probably smarting over having been beaten the game before. I asked him why he picked me, and he said, “’Cause you’re cute.”

Okay. I didn’t expect that. From about the time I turned 12 until I was 14 this guy may have been the only boy I knew who didn’t treat me like a leper.

Now this is what I remember about my Prince Charming. Since this happened in 1984, and I never knew his last name I think it’s safe to call him by his actual given name. His name was Randy. He was 14. He played football back home. He was from Oregon. And he had blond hair and green eyes and was really spectacularly handsome. Like he would have been just as handsome as the most popular boy in Nowhereville. The most popular boy in Nowhereville looked at least 3 years older than all his peers, and this guy was built like that.

We played keep away for awhile until Randy’s father came down to fetch him. I remember he had to be called more than once. And when he was about to get out of the pool he called me to him. He said, “C’mere.”

And I said, “Why should I?”

Charming, huh? This might be an example of the “intimidating” that men seemed to constantly use to describe me.

He said, “Because.”

So, I went. I’m actually easy like that. I just like to test men. Do you want me? Do you really want me? I’m like the Verizon phone commercial of romance.

He kissed me on the cheek. And I thought that would be it. And then I looked him in the eye, and he swooped in for the kiss. Just a peck. No tongue. Then he got out of the pool and walked off.

My new Latina friend said, “Wow! You work fast.”

I didn’t know if my brother witnessed it or not. I wasn’t about to ask him.

My brother and I had to leave soon afterward. Our mother called us. Something about dinner or something. You know those really freaky movies where they distort the cameras or sound to illustrate for people that the characters are dizzy or deaf or high or part of an alternative universe? Things like that? Jacob’s Ladder or What Dreams May Come or Requiem for a Dream. I was walking around in a Picasso painting.

I just could not believe it. A boy had kissed me. A cute boy. I stared at the ceiling for half the night with my fingers on my lips.

That is a happy memory. I think I just got misty eyed.

June 17, 2011 at 12:55 am 1 comment

Towelhead

Cover of "Towelhead"

Cover of Towelhead

Towelhead is the unfortunate title of a 2007 movie written and directed by Alan Ball (Cybill, American Beauty, Six Feet Under). The movie is based on a novel of the same title and concerns a 13 year old girl who is experiencing puberty and her own sexual awakening at roughly the same time. The story has a theme of racism, but it’s not the predominant theme.

Jasira is living with her mother and experiencing ridicule by classmates because she is developing. As such, she has hair at her bikini line. Because her mother has forbidden her from shaving, the kids tease her mercilessly. So, mom’s live in boyfriend volunteers to shave her himself. And this is where the fun begins because Jasira’s mother kicks her out to live with her father.

Is she trying to protect her daughter? You be the judge. She tells her daughter that this is her fault for how she acts around men. And also, of course, because she doesn’t watch how she dresses in her own home.

Jasira’s father isn’t any better. He backhands her on her first morning there for coming to the breakfast table in a pajama top that displays her midriff. He forbids her to wear tampons. He also doesn’t allow shaving or makeup. He finds himself a Greek girlfriend through his work at NASA. He lets the girlfriend put makeup on Jasira but tells her to wash it off before he even backs out of the driveway. This is the first of many nights and weekends that she will spend alone because her father is with his girlfriend.

Jasira begins babysitting for a neighbor boy. They find his father’s stash of pornographic magazines, which he hasn’t taken the trouble to hide very well. The father comes home early one day and catches the two of them going through his porn.

The neighbor promises not to tattle to her father, but then he wants her to sit down next to him, asks her if she likes to look at the magazines, and tells her that she has to “pay a toll” to get past him. She makes it out without paying the toll, but this is inappropriate behavior for any grown man toward a 13 year old girl, let alone a married man with his own family. If you feel sick already, then stop watching here ‘cause it just gets worse.

The neighbor takes her out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant while her father and his family are gone for the weekend. He’s a reservist, and the movie is set in Houston during the Persian Gulf War. He tells her he’s been called up and that he really needs to be with her before he leaves. She has sex with him and is then surprised to see him pulling into his driveway the very next day.

Eventually, Jasira, who also begins a sexual relationship with an African American boy her own age, is befriended by a pregnant neighbor lady. The neighbor lady buys Jasira an age appropriate book about sex and puberty and gives Jasira a key to her home. When Jasira’s father finds one of the creepy pedophile’s porno magazines in her room, he beats her in the car on the drive home, and Jasira runs to the home of the neighbor woman.

When we see Jasira’s father drive her to the hospital to be with the neighbor woman as she delivers her child, we think things just might turn out alright for Jasira. Along the way, she’s learned to stand up for herself, and she turns in her neighbor for statutory rape.

Towelhead is a sad movie. It was probably a sad novel as well. It’s disturbing to watch, and if you have a little crush on Aaron Eckhart you should probably skip it since this movie will definitely kill it for you.

The movie misses the mark with its message, for while it does give Jasira the ability to find her voice to say no, it doesn’t cause her to understand that she’s too young to appropriately deal with the consequences of her sexual actions. She makes her boyfriend wear a condom, but I doubt if a girl who’s so sheltered, with limited friendships, could deal with the inevitable breakup that will happen one day. Jasira isn’t mature enough yet to be having sex, and the pathetic thing is that it’s her own immaturity that also causes her to be unable to recognize this fact about herself.

June 14, 2011 at 11:50 pm 2 comments

Castle Waiting

In a more appropriate context, Rulah Jungle Go...

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Princess Celestia is a big fan of comic books and video games, especially role-playing video games. Literature is something that, like most people of her generation, as well as, hell, most of mine, doesn’t inspire her. She thinks of Shakespeare as archaic, and I dare say she resented having to read him in school. I do not like comic books or video games, so at times I have to pinch myself to stay in the conversation.

I have about as much interest in video games as I do in the fact that the New Kids on the Block is joining Back Street Boys for a concert tour. That is to say that it does not interest me. I only know about the concert because they ran ad space on a website that I visited. I feel like my mind was raped.

Comic books and “graphic novels” I see as the further dumbing down of America, anaesthetizing eye candy for the kiddos, something to enforce the good ol’ American values of sexism that we hold so dear. A whole book of men who put on tights and capes and become action heroes while women who look like the mirror image on a trucker’s mud flap display cleavage and gratitude, accordingly! Sounds like just my thing.

The comic books I remember from when I was young were lame. My brother had a bunch of them about Richie Rich. I hate fuckin’ Richie Rich.

In the interest of friendship, Princess Celestia had made a request that I explore alternative forms of entertainment, and, I guess, stop behaving like a little old lady. I draw the line at video games. Well, that’s not really true. I’ve played the Mr. Brewsters’ Wii. I’m just not any good at video games. My hand-eye coordination sucks, and I only win with games that require you to know voluminous amounts of useless information…and Scrabble. I’m not playing video games, especially not role playing games.

So, I said I’d read a comic book and be open minded about it. The book I was given was called Castle Waiting. For a comic book, it’s rather clever. It’s packaged just like a “real” book, hardcover with a ribbon for a bookmark. It’s bound really nicely. The art is appealing, and the story is sort of a send-up of fairy tales. There’s some clever word play and inside jokes. There’s even a nice, long subplot about an “order” of nuns entirely composed of bearded ladies. It has a not so subtle feminist angle.

I still do not like comic books, really. I think much gets lost in the art form, as compared to that of traditional literature. However, comic books have been around since my father was a kid. Maybe before that. There’s no reason why it has to be a case of either or. The two can co-exist. It’s both and. Maybe there’s another comic book out there just waiting to prove me wrong. Maybe there’s a video game…nah!

June 11, 2011 at 10:25 pm 4 comments

John Hughes: Some Kind of Genius

Cover of "Some Kind of Wonderful (Special...

Cover via Amazon

This weekend I spent a lot of time reading, but on Sunday I rode the bus downtown and got off on Congress Avenue to take in a double feature at The Paramount where the Summer Movie Series is happening. I caught Sabrina the first weekend, and I’ve bought a package of discount tickets, so I’ll be going back frequently. I hadn’t been to the movies at The Paramount in a long time, so I forgot that it’s more fun to watch from the balcony. This time I remembered, and I watched from the balcony.

What’s fun about a double feature is that people you don’t know will talk with you in between the movies. The guy who picks out the movies introduces them and gives you a bit of trivia. Pretty cool. You can get that at Austin Film Society screenings and at the Alamo Drafthouse. It makes going to the movies feel like a more collective, social experience.

The double feature was two John Hughes comedies. I should say that I love John Hughes. He’s the single biggest cultural influence of my adolescence. And what’s not to love? His comedies are sweet, although seeing them now I recognize how often I see things in them that I wouldn’t want to show a child. The day two years ago when John Hughes died was a sad one, and I think I remember it and the day that Jim Henson died the way that a baby boomer might remember the assassination of Jack and Bobby Kennedy or Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

The first movie was Sixteen Candles. I remember liking it a lot when I was a kid. It’s dated and doesn’t age very well. It’s entirely wish-fulfillment fantasy (like all romantic comedies – let’s face it), with not a hint of realism thrown in for good measure. The freshman geek with a face full of metal bags the Prom Queen? The Prom King drops the girlfriend that he can “violate in ten different ways” for a sweet, sophomore redhead who’s admitted that she has a crush on him. The redhead’s dad gives her a thumbs up as she ditches her sister’s wedding reception to run off with some strange boy. Ye-ah. That’s gonna happen.

Jake Ryan is the guy who doesn’t exist in American high schools. I’m not saying that the nice guy doesn’t exist. There are lots of them. I’m just saying that he doesn’t look like he belongs on the cover of Tiger Beat, drive a glossy red sports car, live in a suburban mansion, play football and date the head cheerleader. Later, this guy might become a decent guy, but it’ll be sometime in college before it takes hold. It was true then, and it’s true now.

So, Sixteen Candles was every teenager’s dream come true. But did you know that if Hughes had had his way that Molly Ringwald would have ended up with Anthony Michael Hall? I read on the internet that he wanted the Ringwald character in Pretty in Pink to end up with Duckie. The studios intervened in each case. However, they didn’t win in the end with Some Kind of Wonderful. This was like Hughes’ middle finger to the system. He thought, “I’ll show you. The geeks will fall in love, and I will make you like it.” And sure enough, he does.

Some Kind of Wonderful is another Hughes film with a song title. It’s one of his lesser known films. I’ve seen it before, but the first time I saw it was on television some time in the 1990s. Hughes wrote it and was highly involved in the filming, but someone else directed. Howard Deutch was given the script as a peace offering after he made Pretty in Pink with the alternative ending that audiences preferred, where Molly Ringwald gets her Blaine.

I’m a little surprised they didn’t film a third version where she ends up with James Spader, the Iago of John Hughes villains. Seriously, everything’s better with James Spader in it. I would put him in my morning coffee if I could.

If the internet is a reliable source of information (in other words, be somewhat skeptical), when Some Kind of Wonderful was filming, the leads Eric Stoltz and Lea Thompson were dating in real life. A scene where Eric Stoltz and Mary Stuart Masterson are practicing kissing and then blush so charmingly? It’s said to be real since Thompson was on set. After filming wrapped, Howard Deutch married Lea Thompson. Eric Stoltz went on to make Mask, and Mary Stuart Masterson went on to the Chick Flick Hall of Fame in Bed of Roses, Benny & Joon and Fried Green Tomatoes.

Some Kind of Wonderful is a better movie than Sixteen Candles. Lea Thompson plays Amanda Jones, the popular girl from the wrong side of the tracks who landed the wealthy and popular boyfriend, Hardy, (Craig Sheffer) who just so happens to be the world’s biggest douchebag. Chynna Phillips has a small part as Mia, Hardy’s mistress, if you will. Stoltz plays Keith, the sensitive artist who moonlights as a car mechanic. Masterson plays Watts, his tomboy best friend from the third grade, a tomboy who wears boxer shorts and t-shirts as lingerie and plays the drums. She and Keith are inseparable. He pines for Amanda Jones, and she doesn’t seem to realize she’s got a thing for Keith until Amanda is actually within his grasp.

When Amanda catches Hardy whispering sweet nothings with Mia one time too many, she dumps him very publicly, and Keith quickly steps up to the plate. She accepts his offer to go on a date in order to solidify her decision to dump Hardy. She doesn’t really want to go out with Keith. She just wants to hurt Hardy. Hardy is too much of a narcissist to be “hurt,” but he decides that Keith must be punished for having the audacity to “steal” a girl out from under him, even though Keith is so obviously socially inferior.

It’s pretty basic, predictable fun from there. I won’t spoil it for you, but Watts steals the show. The ending is plausible and sweet. In the end everybody gets what they deserve, including Amanda Jones. The best lines in the movie come at the end.

Keith: Why didn’t you tell me [you were in love with me]?

Watts: You didn’t ask.

And

Keith (to Watts): My future looks good on you.

June 10, 2011 at 1:43 am Leave a comment

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