The Only Agenda Behind Girl Scout is Female Empowerment

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It's that beautiful time of year where our local Girl Scouts will be knocking at your door or tabling outside of your grocery store and trying to sell you their magnificent girl scout cookies!

Of course, some far-right group has to make something as apolitical as Girl Scout Cookies a political controversy. Now, this isn't the first time Girl Scouts have seen controversy from the right. Pastor Kevin Swanson a while back accused Girl Scouts of demonizing the biblical view of womanhood and that they support abortions, lesbians, and all that is demonic. This time the Cookie boycott is due to the belief that the Girl Scouts support Planned Parenthood and Wendy Davis. 

The first rumor of Girl Scouts endorsing Planned Parenthood has been a rumor for some time now and every cookie season is continuously perpetuated. Even to the point that the Girl Scouts of America needs to post on their website that they are in no way affiliated with them. The Wendy Davis rumor comes from this tweet:

If you look at the Huffington Post article, yes, you will see Wendy Davis being seen as an "incredible lady" but that's the Huffington Post's opinion. Girl Scouts has always been a program that has more than anything focused on the empowerment of women and most importantly looking at women as leaders. So, yeah, if we ignore Wendy Davis's pro-choice views, she is an empowered woman in a world where that is not as common as we'd like it to be.

I guess I haven't been completely honest. From 4th grade until I graduated high school, I was a girl scout. My experiences from scouting are some of my most cherished memories. Yes, I take it kind of personally when people accuse Girl Scouts for trying to make girls "leftists, communists, lesbians, radical feminists" because that's frankly not true. 

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Girl Scouting from it's inception (shout out to Juliette Gordon Low!) has the one goal of empowering girls through it's programs that show confidence, leadership, teamwork, and independence. All my time as girl scouts I never remember ever talking about politics or abortion or birth control. What I do remember is traveling and learning about different cultures, learning financial skills through its cookie program, learning about being confident and figuring out who I am as a person, and yes, we did learn that anything a man can do a woman can do just as well! I mean, there is something to be said that 60% of women in Congress were scouts. 

The problem with the boycott on girl scouts cookies is that it just shows how crazy the radical Christian right can be sometimes about things that aren't even there! Are Girl Scouts all about making incredible women? Yes! Did they ever say Wendy Davis was one of them? No! (even though I believe she is).

I mean, the girl scouts have even worked with the political right. For example, every first lady since Lou Hoover becomes honorary President of the Girl Scouts. Even the Troop Capitol Hill which is the Honorary Congressional Girl Scout Troop is co-chaired by two Democrats and two Republican woman. Overall, the Girl Scouts are non-partisan, no matter what people want to believe. 

All and all, Girl Scouting is awesome. Girl Scout cookies help them continue their awesome by helping troops fund trips and activities. And their cookies are delicious. Why not have your Girl Scout cookies with a side of female empowerment? 

Another Reasons Why #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen

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Back in August, I wrote about the twitter hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen. Just a refresher, #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen is a way of reminding white feminists that they can’t keep ignoring women of color. In my post, I talked a lot about how white feminists silence women of color in discussions and how they ignore how race and ethnicity affect women of color. Once again, I have yet another problem with white feminists - the fact that they ignore the oppression of men of color.

Here’s a quick history lesson: In 1867, the women’s suffrage movement split. This was due to some suffragists, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, wanting the 15th amendment to include women, not just black men. While others such as Frederick Douglass and Lucy Stone argued that suffrage for black men was more important and that although they believed in women’s suffrage, that it could wait and would come after black men’s suffrage. Overall this led to a divide in the suffrage movement. In this part of history, we see black women joining black men in their fight rather than stand with white women to fight for women’s suffrage.

Now, many people might think it’s irrational for black women to not stand with white women asking for their right to vote and it might seem as if these women are victims of the patriarchy for advocating black men’s rights over women. Yet, there are a few things to consider: (1) these women who were former slaves had to be subservient to white women, those white women were not standing in solidarity with them then and they probably took note of that, and the most important reason and still relevant today, (2) these women saw their identity with their race first and then with their gender. This is important to note because one concept that is important when looking at people of color is how they rank their identities; this means that depending on a situation a Latina woman might identify with being Hispanic more or being a woman more, as I explained in my first post about the hashtag.

This history lesson is an important indicator in how #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen has essentially been going on since the women’s suffrage movement began. #SolidarityForWhiteWomen highlights that one of the biggest issues with the feminist movement, one that has been going on since it's conception. Here’s my new message to white feminists, yes, realizing your privilege is important when talking to women of color and it’s important to include them in conversations, but also men of color are extremely important when we’re talking about oppression and power.

I've come to the conclusion that using terms such as “white privilege” and “male privilege” aren't all that great in terms of talking about everyday people, especially when we’re talking about men of color. Sure, in some aspects they do benefit from male privilege but their race/ethnicity can affect them just as badly if not worse in some situations.

Here are some ways that white women, even in some cases women of color, actually have it easier than men of color. In our current society, if we want to talk about forms of oppression and hierarchy, we need to include men of color in the conversation. Especially when:

  • The War on Drugs is essentially a war against men of color. As the Huffington Post cites, African-Americans are 62 percent of drug offenders sent to state prisons, yet they represent only 12 percent of the U. S. population. Black men are sent to state prisons on drug charges at 13 times the rate of White men. Sentencing differences for crack cocaine and powder cocaine is a way of disproportionately targeting black men as well. As the Drug Policy Alliance explains, “Since the 1980s, federal penalties for crack were 100 times harsher than those for powder cocaine, with African Americans disproportionately sentenced to much lengthier terms."
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  • Stop & Frisk was able to systematically profile men of color for no other reason than society's stereotypes of them. As the Huffington Post reports, 87 percent of those stopped by the NYPD in 2011 were black or Latino. Yet, 9 out of 10 of those stopped in 2011 were neither arrested nor given summonses. Also important to note, only 1.9 percent of frisks in 2011 turned up weapons and according to the NYCLU, "a weapon was found in only 1.8 percent of blacks and Latinos frisked, as compared to a weapon being found in 3.8 percent of whites frisked." Overall, it's a useless practice, but it's also a racist one.
     
  • Laws such as “Stand Your Ground” are being abused and used as a way of killing men of color because they seem “suspicious”. We can look at the case of Jordan Davis, who was shot by Michael Dunn, simply because his music was too loud. As witnesses have stated, Jordon might have raised his voice, might not have lowered his music after being asked by Dunn, but he never showed signs of having a weapon. Even in a letter to his grandma, Dunn explains, “The jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs. This may sound a bit radical but if more people would arm themselves and kill these (expletive) idiots, when they're threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.” Yet, he explains that he totally isn’t racist, just have no use for “certain cultures”. These laws, although might seem good in the abstract, are being used to justify killing men of color because people see them as "suspicious". 
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  • Even in the media, we use specific language in a way that perpetuates the stereotypical images society has in explaining the way white men and black men act. A great bit by Jon Stewart explains this use of language. Here’s the comparison: Justin Bieber and Rob Ford, who have actually committed major felonies, are being labeled the “Bad Boys of Canada”, while Richard Sherman, a college-educated (best) cornerback in the NFL who simply yelled after a game, was labeled a “thug”. The word “thug” was used 625 times when describing what Sherman did. Let me break it down, Bieber and Ford, two white men, are labeled “Bad Boys” for committing major felonies, while Sherman, a black men, was labeled a “thug” for getting a bit overly emotional after a football game.

These examples are just a few of the reasons why white feminists need to include men of color in discussions about oppression and power structures. We can talk all day about how patriarchy hurts women, and of course it does, but at the same time we can’t ignore that this patriarchy is also white and that means men of color, while some do benefit from male privilege, also are oppressed in our society. If intersectionality is what feminists want, then they need to include not just women of color, not just queer folk, but also men of color and you know, even white men.

As an individualist feminist, I advocate for liberty for all people. I believe that institutional sexism and racism do exist. As much as some want to disregard the complaints of men as “male privilege”, feminists need to look at people as individuals and realize that although privilege does exist it’s not as simple as we want to believe. Privilege comes in various forms and sometimes some forms of our identity are the oppressor and others are the oppressed but it depends on the individual and the situation. As much as the talk of #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen has somewhat died down, white feminists do need to continuously realize how intersectionality works. Intersectionality is not just including women of color, but also men of color - essentially hearing the stories of all people that are affected by oppression.  

 

Progressives, It’s Time For Politics Without Romance

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On Monday, Steve Horwitz posted the following on his Facebook page:

“I do hope all my progressive friends who voted for Obama are happy now that he’s banging the drums of war along with folks like Boehner and McCain. I thought those two and the rest of the neo-con crew were a bunch of evil war-mongers? If so, so is the guy you voted for. Come on, you can do it: call him out by name. It’s fine to say we shouldn’t be in Syria, but I’m waiting for you to call the Warrior in Chief out by name as yet another baby-killing neo-con.”

If possible, I would “like” this post a million times. He perfectly captured my sentiments regarding progressives’ hypocritical treatment of Obama. They seem to conveniently turn a blind eye to any and every promise that he’s broken.

I’ve noted three trends from progressives when it comes to their president:

  1. Simply choosing to not talk about Obama’s betrayals
  2. Sociopathically altering their views on certain issues
  3. Criticizing the happenstance but dare not mention the possibility that the benevolent man they voted for could do these naughty things

Here’s the thing: President Obama doesn’t deserve his Nobel Peace Prize—at all. He’s a lying, big government-loving, trigger-happy war criminal. When Bush did the same things, we witnessed tremendous outrage from the political left. If it were still Bush in office (might as well be his fourth term, right?), I guarantee we would see even more of those “Kill Bush” signs. But it seems that whenever progressives are shown these facts, they go into denial—it’s just not possible that our guy would do that!

Remember when Obama criticized Bush for warrantless wiretapping and how as President he’d leave all that behind? Yeah, he extended that program. Even Al Gore called Bush’s warrantless wiretapping a reason for impeachment. Yet, I haven’t heard him say the same of the current president. And I could go on with examples like The Patriot Act, NDAAGitmo, and drones.

Progressives, wake up! President Obama, yes, your beloved Dear Leader already waged war in Libya and Yemen. Now he has it in for Syria. He didn’t close Gitmo. He’s a bigger drug warrior than his predecessors. He’s killing innocent civilians—and even American citizens—with his drone strikes. He didn’t end the war in Iraq. He is no different than the former president that you hated.

But guess what? It’s okay to call him out on it! Criticizing the person you voted for is perfectly acceptable. Joining a cult of personality isn’t. Reconcile yourselves to the fact that Candidate Obama was infinitely better than President Obama, although embracing Skwire’s First Law would be the better epiphany. Although you may find him dashing and charming and intelligent, it doesn’t mean you can just ignore his crimes against the rule of law. So in the interest of adhering to your principles rather than politicians, try approaching politics without romancefor a change.

This Week's Catfish Really Highlighted The Stigma With Mental Illness

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Prior to the VMAs on Sunday, MTV premiered a new episode of their show, Catfish. This new episode was par for the course until the very end, which had a bit of an interesting twist. The show's hosts Nev and Max are trying to help a guy named Artis, who thinks he found the love of his life online named Jess. But there's one problem - he has a significant other as well as kids.

As expected, Nev and Max do their undercover work and find that Jess is probably not who she claims to be. Finally this "Jess" decides to meet up with Nev, Max, and Artis, and this is where the episode diverges from the others. "Jess" was actually a guy named Justin, who came off very emotional, angry, and seemed able to turn violent without notice. Justin explained that he wanted to teach Artis a lesson - that he can't cheat on his significant other. Even after this meeting, when Nev and Max went to go meet with Justin again, he seemed hostile but explained that he found his own father's dead body, was homeless for a time, and that his current girlfriend had to deal with cheaters in her past. Yet when Nev and Max asked if he wanted help, he just simply said they could do nothing for him and they left rolling their eyes.

The shocking aspect of this episode wasn't Justin's behavior, but the fact that he was labeled as crazy, insane, and psycho. Why is this an issue? Because it erodes the severity of the actual problem - Justin might have some form of mental illness, or at the very least should talk to someone about his issues. In this episode he was angry, almost-violent, dismissive, and told a story of a dark past. But instead of Nev and Max urging him to get help or actually getting him help, they just dismiss him as some lunatic.

If there’s one stigma that doesn’t seem to be fading with time, it’s the stigma of mental illness. Currently in the United States, about one in four adults suffer from a mental disorder in a given year. In Britain, a study found that mental health is one of the biggest taboos. Although it seems a like a good chunk of the population suffers from some sort of mental disorder, our society still shames this illness. This includes stereotyping those with mental illness, believing in myths of mental illness, bullying, name calling, dismissing their behavior, and not providing support when they seek help.

Stigmatizing the mentally ill is damaging to both those who have been diagnosed and even those who haven’t but show some sort of symptom. The shame isn’t merely perpetuated by those around someone with this illness, but also from the person themselves that might see this simply as a personal weakness and something they need to work at by themselves. Those who are diagnosed are often bullied, simply not understood by others, and might find it difficult to seek further treatment. Moreover, people experiencing symptoms that haven’t been diagnosed might never actually seek help out of fear of being stigmatized like those who are officially diagnosed.

When 90% of people won’t get adequate treatment and 80% would rather live with pain than seek help, there must be a reason why. Mental illness isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s not someone being dramatic and wanting attention, it’s not being crazy. Rather, it’s physiological, deals with neurobiology, and can be caused by genetics. People with some form of mental illness need to be treated as patients, meaning they need treatment, support, and a more comprehensive understanding amongst themselves, those close to them, and strangers alike.

Stigmas are damaging. They perpetuate shaming, stereotypes, and create an environment  in which people are hesitant to seek help or truly be themselves. In a world where we strive towards acceptance of everything and everybody, we’re not making much progress on this front. Of course, it’s easier to dismiss Justin from Catfish as being crazy and an asshole, but there’s obviously something at play well beyond that. We need to wipe this stigma away if we want people with mental illness to get help and better themselves, especially so they are surrounded by the love and support they need. But that means scratching the surface to find what lies beneath. The stigma of mental health is a tragic cycle and it needs to stop. Now.