Things to Consider…

October 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

by PHOEBE

  • On September 21, the Senate failed to pass a bill that included the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’ They were four votes short, despite the Democratic majority.
  • On September 22, gay college student Tyler Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge to his death after his roommate Dhuram Ravi twice posted videos online of him making out with another man.
  • On September 9, Billy Lucas, a 15-year-old high school freshman hung himself in his family’s barn after intense bullying for his perceived sexual orientation from his classmates. In interviews, his principal, the person that’s supposed to have the best interest of all students at heart, said that Billy sometimes created “that atmosphere [of teasing] around him… Kind of like a little tornado because he went around doing things that made dust fly, I guess.” After Billy’s suicide, hateful and accusatory remarks were posted on his memorial page.
  • The cases of Tyler Clementi and Billy Lucas are not anomalies.
  • Andrew Shirvell, Michigan’s Assistant Attorney General, has decided to take a voluntary leave of absence after getting nationwide attention for creating a website devoted to the shaming and bashing of University of Michigan’s openly gay student assembly president, Chris Armstrong. Despite the fact that Shirvell has clearly expressed his bias against a significant group of people–not to mention an oppressed minority that is in need of defense–when a large part of his JOB DESCRIPTION is to uphold the rights that everyone is granted by the constitution, Attorney General Mike Cox has refused to discipline or dismiss him.
  • According to a ten-year study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, 9 out of 10 LGBT students are harassed in school. 72.4% of students hear homophobic remarks such as “faggot” or “dyke” frequently at school. In the last month 29.1% of LGBT students missed a class at least once and 30% missed at least one day of school due to safety concerns.

Have I depressed you enough? The list goes on and on and on.

What, if anything, can we take from all this? America has a serious problem. A problem of heteronormative expectations about sexuality and gender expression and a problem of viciously attacking those who don’t fit into these norms. While this problem is damaging to everyone, it predominantly affects young people. From the White House to the playground the message is clear: You’re icky, you’re different, you’re wrong, you’re not like us. We wish you’d go away.

So what do we do? Do something! Do anything! Post on Dan Savage’s It Gets Better youtube channel. Attend an upcoming event. Start a Gay-Straight Alliance at your school. Support GLSEN, The Trevor Project, Matthew’s Place, Angels and Doves and Stomp Out Bullying! Participate in Ally Week.

Be active, be kind, and be hopeful. Hope is what we need more than anything. To use the eternally relevant and powerful words of Harvey Milk: You’ve gotta give ‘em hope.

The War on Women

March 5, 2009 § 3 Comments

Like Shira, I’m finally – finally – done with my junior thesis from last semester. In celebration, I’d like to post mine here. It’s about the epidemic of sexual violence within the U.S. military (that is, soldiers raping and assaulting other soldiers) and what the government isn’t doing about it.

As a Microsoft Word document, it’s just over eight pages. If you’re interested, click below the fold – and I welcome feedback in comments!

« Read the rest of this entry »

Girl Soldiers and the Struggle Against Violence

February 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

In honor of V-Day, which is a day dedicated to raising awareness of violence against women, I have been thinking a lot about the issues that young women our age face all over the world. One issue that has stood out to me is the stories of the girl soldiers in the Ugandan civil war. Uganda has been entrenched in this extremely destructive civil war for the past 21 years. Women and girls have been greatly affected by the violence. Thousands of children, including 60,000 girls have been abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the militia group that is fighting against the Ugandan government.

The war has been tearing through Northern Uganda for the past 21 years, despite several attempts to cease the fighting. The LRA has operated by abducting children, mainly from the Acholi people. When girls are abducted from their homes, they are usually forced to be the “wives” of older soldiers. The girls are raped, beaten and many of them are murdered by the soldiers. What most people don’t know is that the girl soldiers were sometimes forced to fight in combat, and were often forced to pillage the villages that were being destroyed by the LRA.

The reason why I wanted to address the stories of the thousands of girls and young women that have been abducted is because of this story that I read recently that is very inspiring. The story is about a young woman named Lucy, who is a former child soldier. Lucy’s story is awe-inspiring, and it reminded me that we can’t forget about the violence that women face every day all over the world.

Did You Know? Sexism and the Atomic Bomb.

February 10, 2009 § 4 Comments

Sexism, as many of you know, doesn’t just hurt women. It destroys and hinders all kinds of great discoveries – personal, political, and everything in between.

Take this example from a great New Yorker article that ran December ’08:

After Little Boy and Fat Man (our country’s first atomic bombs) were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, our government worked really hard to keep the inner workings and dimensions of those weapons a secret.

Researchers who believed that such information should be made public, such as 61-year-old John Coster-Mullen, worked tirelessly for years trying to discover and publish all of the measurements and mechanics of these early nuclear weapons. 

John Coster-Mullen was not a scientist. In fact, he didn’t have a college degree at all. He worked as a commercial photographer for a part of his life and later on he took up work as a truck driver. But through the careful analysis of public records, national archives, old pictures, and museum recreations of the bomb, he managed to create one of the most comprehensive and accurate reports in existence about nuclear technology. 

One of Coster-Mullen’s biggest breakthroughs came when he considered what the scientific community referred to as the “sex” of the bombs. New Yorker journalist David Samuels writes: 

In the standard historical accounts, the way that the bomb’s gun mechanism worked was by shooting a cylindrical “male” uranium projectile into a concave, stationary uranium target. This act of atomic coitus created a mass sufficient to produce a critical reaction. But no matter how many times Coster-Mullen did the math, the numbers never quite worked out…The source of error, Coster-Mullen realized, was an assumption that every (male) researcher who studied the subject had made about the relation between projectile and target. These scholars had apparently been unable to conceive of an arrangement other than a “missionary position” bomb…But Coster-Mullen realized that a female-superior arrangement – in which a hollow projectile slammed down on top of a stationary cylinder of highly enriched uranium – yielded the correct size and mass. 

In short, an “uneducated” truck driver solved a HUGE scientific mystery because he could see past all of the sexist and heteronormative bullshit that is, unfortunately, so entrenched in scientific thinking. 

So props to you, John Coster-Mullen, for using your street smarts and feminist ideals to beat out all those lab coats who were trying to figure out the exact same mystery.

Another cool thing about Coster-Mullen: Born John Mullen, he changed his name to Coster-Mullen after marrying his wife, Mary Coster. Rock on. 


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