Category Archives: Social Justice

Social justice sets us all free

Police Brutality and Fear

Howard University students protesting police brutality in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri
A conversation is taking place at Dungeon Prompts regarding whether, and how, race colors our perceptions of police brutality.

My perception of police brutality is colored by my personal experiences, which are colored by my racial status.

The Context

A couple of weeks ago, Michael Brown — an unarmed black young man — was shot to death by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Witnesses say that Mike’s hands were in the air when he was shot.

My Personal Experiences

As a white woman, I was raised to present myself effectively in a non-threatening way, and people perceived me as respectable and trustworthy. They didn’t read my mind. I was fantasizing about using my advantage to become a professional criminal when I grew up. (My desire to continue to be trusted, and to feel free from the haunting paranoia that I stifled after each incident, deterred me from following such a plan when I was still a teenager.)

As I was deciding to be a criminal, someone very close and dear to me married a man who became a police officer. As he took on the responsibilities of being a rookie, he had to walk the beat in the most dangerous areas of New York City during the most dangerous times. Their relationship became explosive. One day, while he felt enraged during an argument, he took out his gun and pointed it at her. Eventually, she discovered that this was not acceptable behavior in our culture, and she filed for divorce.

Years later, I was in a similar situation in which I no longer felt safe with my husband. Eventually, I, too, discovered that this was not acceptable behavior in our culture, and escaped to safety, with the help of supportive friends.

Around the same time, someone very dear to me found police waiting for him at his home. They strategically persuaded him that he met the description of someone who had committed a violent crime. The long and aggressive interrogation ended with, “We know that you did this. We’re going to get you.”

Conclusion

In these three cases, each aggressive man — who was a highly valued member of his community — felt fear, and misdirected it toward someone whom he identified as a threat, like in Ferguson, Missouri. How can such behavior ever be considered acceptable?

I want to feel safe. Even though my race and socioeconomic status assure me that I am not a likely target, events of police brutality hinder my trust, and feed any paranoia that has a chance to dwell in me.

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Amazon Wake

Amazon Wake

A New York Times article has been blasting across many websites this morning. Thank God! I have been researching the impact that Amazon is having on our culture, and the picture that I’m finding is not appealing. The Amazon family of companies is impacting the availability of essentials:

Food

– pantry items: “Amazon’s Prime Pantry Service Lets You Buy and Ship 45 Pounds of Groceries For a $6 Fee”
– Subscribe & Save: “6 Ways to Beat Amazon’s Prices”

Clothing

– sales partners: “Amazon Favours Brands Like Burberry and Levis with ‘Pay To Play’ Strategy”

Shelter

‐ household supplies, major appliances, construction tools

Employment

– warehouses: “Worse Than WalMart”
– crowdsourcing: “The Unregulated Work of Mechanical Turk”
– merchants: “What Amazon Doesn’t Tell Third-Party Sellers”
–  professional services: “Amazon Eyes Local Services Market”
– affiliates who provide links to amazon.com on their webpages

Business

‑ web services, tools, and supplies: “Amazon’s Wholesale Slaughter” for janitors, industries, medical professionals, building contractors, scientists, and others
‑ small business: “Retail Predatory Pricing Bully Tactics”

Leisure

‑ reading: “Amazon controls about a third of the book business”
‑ toys, games, etc.

Social Justice

‑ Smile: “Why Amazon is Smiling and Charities May Be Losing”

Christopher Zara wrote that Amazon’s competitors are seeing

“ a world where storefronts are obsolete and economies are stimulated not by local merchants with a personal stake in where they do business but by a select few online players. It can be a depressing prospect if you care about things like civic engagement, livability and social capital, all of which tend to decline with the disappearance of local businesses.”

My friends and family are finding ways to start boycotting Amazon. Rob Hopkins posted at the Transition Network, in reference to Amazon, “I give so much of my time every day to trying to create a different, more just, more resilient world, yet my shopping decisions undermine that.” The resulting discussion raises issues about alternatives, Amazon’s motives, international laws that govern sales, and whether Google is posing a similar threat.

According to the New York Times article that is spreading like wildfire around the world this morning, John Grisham, Stephen King, Lemony Snicket, Nora Roberts, and 900+ other writers signed a letter that will be posted as a full-page ad in this Sunday’s New York Times. It is fueling debate about Amazon’s relationship with book publishers. The writers organized as Authors United. You can read the letter at their website.

Even Simon Head couldn’t help but support Amazon when salon.com reviewed his book “Mindless: Why Smarter Machines Are Making Dumber Humans”. He says that you might find that doing business with Amazon is “morally indefensible” after reading his reports. Yet, links to buy his book (and other anti-amazon books) land readers at amazon.com!

Some of my links above give ideas for alternatives to doing business with Amazon. Please share ideas in the comment section below, so we can each find more alternatives to supporting Amazon’s business practices.


Image Credit:
Original Image by Claudio Toledo
Creative Commons License This work is used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License.

Modified by Grace Buchanan
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Reaching Out: Social Justice Award

Bloggers Who Reach Out

Reaching out to others means at least calling out from a hole. I prefer when it means looking out to see what others are up to. I am even happier when it means interacting with others. The best is when we connect to grow.

Many bloggers reach out by interacting with readers on a regular basis. They produce posts from careful wording and editing and research. They give credit to their sources. Most of all, they shine light on issues that matter. I admire them, and want to express my appreciation by way of the Reaching Out: Social Justice Award.

Jenni of Unload And Unwind created the Social Justice Award to “acknowledge those whose work seeks to inform, aid and connect with others. It is a large world we live in and often there is such strife but the internet has made it smaller. Social media has given us the tools to make us closer and to find and disseminate new information and ideas, reach out to those who need it and speak out when there is injustice.”

I am one of her first nominees! I feel very honored to be recognized by a blogger who reaches out to many people while sharing her own challenges, in an inspiring way.

The conditions are:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you, and create a link back to their blog.
  2. Insert a Link back to the original award page to create a pingback so that Jenni can chart the progress of the award.
  3. Nominate no more than three people for this award, and write a short paragraph [or longer] saying why you chose each one, and what each one does.
  4. Display the badge somewhere on your blog, either in the sidebar or an awards page.

Honorable Mention

I am limited to three nominations. I would give the award to the following bloggers, but you have met them in other posts on my blog. Therefore, I am simply reminding you of them before I announce the award winners.

Jeff was the first person whom I thought of for this award. His blog Deconstructing Myths has been reaching out on WordPress since August 2012. He shines his light strongly and consistently on troubling issues, shares many links for further investigation, and stirs his readers to discuss the issues in his comments sections. His readers leave intriguing comments. His guest bloggers are some of the most outspoken people in favor of justice. On top of all of that, you can rely on his judgment when he guides you to some of the best of WordPress via his Jeffster Awards.

Jeff introduced me to Dandelion Salad, which has been a WordPress fixture since June 2007. It is a blog that acts much like a forum. DS has been one of the most useful places to find reports on events submitted by more than a dozen regular contributors (and many more less frequent ones), and articles and videos by the greatest Social Justice activists. This blog is quiet recently, only posting a few times each week instead of several articles every day, and its energy might resume if enough of us offer enough substantial support or persuasion.

Ohnwentsya posts numerous times every day on Spirit In Action. She began her blog in September 2011. Her posts are enlightening, empowering, and insightful. She collects articles from The Oracle Report, Truthout, Yes! magazine, and some of the other greatest sources. Her blog has the potential to provide nourishment for the roots of social justice movements, and a shift in planetary energy.

Award Winners

Many of the bloggers whom I read are equally qualified for this honor. I decided to come up with fair criteria to narrow the list of candidates, and select my three winners:

  • not previously featured on my blog
  • focuses on a social justice issue in a creative and effective way
  • promotes social justice by reaching out and connecting to share ideas that make us closer

I am awarding the Reaching Out: Social Justice Award to the following bloggers:

Carol of Voices From the Margins encourages conversations about how to raise awareness of diversity and its value. She describes using fascinating exercises in the cultural awareness workshops that she leads.

Danielle of Broken Light Collective presents a guest blogger each day who knows mental illness (personally, professionally, or socially), and who also photographs. Each image is inspiring, especially after reading the artist’s explanation of the significance of the photograph that they share. This blog is giving hope and support to people who are connected with mental illness. Photography is working as therapy for the photographers and viewers.

StoriesBellyHeader Diahann of Stories From the Belly appeals to sexual empowerment. She urges men and women to overcome shame by discussing — in healing ways — feminine and sexual experiences. She brings sex issues out of the closet, and repurposes the sex act as something for the participant(s) to completely enjoy.


I welcome comments about other social justice blogs that are important to share. (note: if you include “too many” links in your comment, the WordPress spam filter will hold it, and I will need to manually approve the comment. Please feel confident that I approve over 99% of the comments submitted to my blog — except unrelated advertising spam.)

He Dresses, She Slacks: Transgender Sex Roles

I notice when people complain about weak sex roles. “Women should be women, and men should be men. “If we didn’t have rigid sex roles, might we all be “people” instead of “male” and “female”?

a "feminine" Barbie Doll contrasts with a "masculine" Lieutenant Worf action figure

Last month, the highest court in Australia decided to recognize some people as being of a non-specific sex. If we didn’t have rigid sex roles, would we all be “people” instead of “male” and “female”?

If we didn’t have rigid sex roles, what might be a reason for being transgender?

Let’s take a look at some of our ideas about sex roles, and think about what we want and expect from men and women, and from ourselves.

Transgender and Sex Role Considerations:

Social Sex Roles
Sex Roles in the Workplace
Clothing
Value of Each Gender
Body Language
Mannerisms
Social Expectations
Emotion
Relationships
Transgender Psychology Issues
Sexual Preference
Biology
Physical Characteristics
Conclusion

Social Sex Roles                            

Awkward moments occur when a woman holds a door open for a man.

Some women like to shovel snow, load the back of a pickup truck, and carry groceries into the house. Many women dig in the garden, and enjoy watching action movies and sports.

Many men like ballet dancing, quilting, and taking care of young children.

What do you think about men who like to design clothing and living spaces? How do you feel around men who enjoy artistic endeavors like hair styling, lyrical poetry, and weaving? What about men who prefer to watch “chick flicks”?

Sex Roles in the Workplace                            

How do you feel when you watch the Mark Morris Ballet production of The Hard Nut? Women play some of the “men’s” roles, and men play some of the “women’s” roles. The Mark Morris Ballet Company cast dancers, not men or women.

 

How different are men’s and women’s roles? How reasonable are these differences?

Women sew Men are tailors
Women in restaurants are waitresses Men are maitre d’s
Women tend gardens Men farm and landscape
Women care for the elderly and young children Men guard
Women in business are receptionists, secretaries, and administrative assistants Men are managers and administrators
Women drive cars Men drive trucks and pilot airplanes
Women in schools are school teachers Men are professors and school administrators
Women make meals Men are chefs
Women handle money as cashiers Men are financial advisors
Women sell luxuries at home parties Men sell cars and home entertainment equipment
Women make crafts Men are mechanics, builders, masons, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, welders, and tradesmen
Women in the medical field are dental hygienists and nurses Men are surgeons
Women use appliances Men use power tools
Women are homemakers Men build homes

Arguments in favor of hiring women to top leadership positions emphasize women’s collaboration, listening skills, focus on development, and valuing differing opinions. The traditional male business model values individual competition, aggression, and advancement. Do these differences explain the employment differences?

How do you feel about people who show up to work on a road construction crew in tattoos, coveralls, and work boots? Does it matter which sex they were born? Or the gender that they express? How do you feel about a person who shows up to work in an office wearing false eyelashes, nail polish, and high heels? What if she was born with male genitals?

Sex Roles in Clothing                          

Who is more conspicuous: a transgender male or a transgender female?

Who wears more colorful, expressive clothing: masculine or feminine people? Women’s clothes are lovely colors, shapely and flowy. Why are most males of other species more colorful than females, yet we’re not?

When you enter a store and see colors and lace, and sparkle and delicate doodads on one side of the store, and drab colors and chunky accessories on the other side, do you feel free to choose which side of the store to shop, and which clothes to wear? Do your neighbors and family members?

Have you noticed that store lighting often mutes the colors of men’s clothes, and highlights the colors of women’s clothes?

Are you attracted to the men’s clothes that are made of beefy fabrics with rugged seams? Men’s accessories like gloves, watches and scarves that work better and last longer than women’s? Are the sleeves and inseams the right size for your arms and legs? Are the shoes and socks a good fit for your feet?

Do the most masculine of men always prefer to shop for themselves in the Men’s Department? When do women hesitate to wear men’s clothes?

At what age do these differences show up?

Value of Each Gender                      

Why would a transgender man want to cultivate his masculinity in such a restrictive environment?

Where misogyny exists, why would transgender women exist?

Why might someone exhibit extreme characteristics of their gender?

Body Language

Women sit with crossed legs. Men stand with their bodies looking larger, with their hands on their hips, and legs apart.

Women use curvy hand movements. Men’s are angular.

Mannerisms

How rough and aggressive can women be, compared with men, before being denigrated?

How often are men admired for being delicate?

Social Expectations

You might be familiar with the children’s rhyme that I grew up with:

“What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice and everything nice
That’s what little girls are made of.
What are little boys made of?
Rats and snails and puppy dogs’ tails
That’s what little boys are made of.”

Do other children’s rhymes like this one come to mind?

Medical records that specify physical characteristics like sex organs make sense, but why do identity documents (birth certificates, church records, drivers licenses, passports, marriage licenses) divide people into two sexes? How does that complicate matters for people who are transgender?

Emotion

Men cat call and brawl. Girls giggle and cry. Are these expectations taken to the extreme?

Sex Roles in Relationships

Women connect intimately with others, and discuss feelings and perceptions. Men provide information about status and actions.

Women ask questions. Men give statements.

When a transgender woman is working hard to grasp at her femininity, how well does she warm to women who cultivate their own natural femininity? And vice versa?

Why is it hard for men to be attracted to trans women?

Transgender Psychology Issues

What kinds of challenges do people face when going through puberty? How is this different for people who don’t fit the cultural stereotypes?

What kinds of challenges do people face when they are born looking masculine, and prefer to be feminine in certain ways, and vice versa?

Up to 1/3 of the people studied around the world who identified themselves as transgender had attempted suicide. I couldn’t find how this compares to the general population, but this sounds like a severely high rate.

Can you imagine, or have you experienced, a transgender person being a victim of discrimination, harassment, or violence?

Sex Roles in Sexual Preference

With men so restricted to sex roles, what attracts liberated women to them? What attracts gay men to them?

Biology

Most people are born with either male or female genitals. Some people find that genitals don’t accurately indicate identity, aka, gender. This situation is common in history and many cultures.

Sex roles are partly neurological. Women’s brains tend to be better at verbal memory, social cognition, and combining intuitive and analytical thought. Men’s brains tend to be better at motor and spatial skills.

Sex roles are also hormonal. Increased levels of estrogen makes women more motherly and sexually active, while testosterone makes men more aggressive.

Men’s bodies and brains are larger. They have more muscle. Women give birth to, and feed, babies.

Yet, these biological differences seem to be overstated. The similarities between men and women are much stronger than the differences. In other words, there is more variation between individuals of the same sex than there is between the sexes.

Physical Characteristics

Have you spent any time trying to figure out whether a person is a male or female? What difference does it make?

We use our voices to express ourselves. Vocal chords differ, in accordance with sexual characteristics.
Men sing bass to tenor.
Women sing soprano to alto.
Are men as expressive with their voices as women?

Do you expect women’s bodies to be shapely, smooth, and curved?
Do you expect men’s bodies to be muscular, athletic, and angular?

A young woman shaves her body. A young man looks forward to being hairy.

Which physical characteristics do you want for yourself? Which do you want for your sex partner?

Why would a heterosexual trans woman like her masculine body? Why would a heterosexual trans man like his feminine body? What’s the difference between having a certain sex’s body, and being a certain gender?

Conclusion

Social, psychological, and biological considerations affect our identity. Characteristics of transgender are identity, or an internal sense of maleness and femaleness. Gender is a continuum, not a binary state: masculinity and femininity are points on an infinite scale, not two categories that divide everyone into one extreme or the other. However, with the rigidness of sex roles, imagine how difficult being transgender might be.

I am not an academic expert in Social Justice issues. I hear and have many questions, and I value discussion. Each article that I write is an attempt to broaden your perspective on issues, as I broaden mine.

Photo Credits:
“Madonna” by Daniel Kruczynski, via Wikimedia Commons
“Lieutenant Worf Action Figure” by Olga Nohra
modified by Grace Buchanan
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.