Saturday, May 3, 2008

Outing Your Students?

As can be read about further in this ABC News article, an odd event in the news this weekend was a Memphis high school principal’s outing of two homosexual students.

Daphne Beasley (pictured to the right), the principal at Hollis F. Price Middle College High School, reportedly demanded that all of her staff bring her a list of all student couples (heterosexual or homosexual) so as to “cut down” on public displays of affection. However, upon receiving the name of a gay couple on her campus, she decided to take some further action herself.

One student quoted, named Nicholas, was a junior who was not out-of-the-closet to his family, though Beasley essentially did this herself when informing the student’s mother that her son did not have a girlfriend, but rather, a boyfriend.

According to the statement released by the Memphis School District, the “call list” was “used by Beasley to ‘notify the parents of those children she knew to be involved romantically’ after the school received ‘numerous complaints’ of ‘explicit sexual behavior in public view’.” The “list” was also posted publicly in the principal’s office.

The ACLU has gotten wind of the issue, and is threatening legal action, as this has violated the privacy of the students. It sure sounds like a cheap way of purporting some crazy principal’s homophobia to me.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Controlling Images

A few of my fellow bloggers (Of Ignorance and Politosaurus Rex) have decided to write about this particular topic, so I thought I would join in on the fun.

The current cover of Vogue magazine has sparked a bit of controversy, as the image shows the African-American LeBron James, as well as the light-skinned Gisele Bundchen (though it is important to note that Bundchen is of Brazilian descent, and not just “typical white,” as many might assume) in fairly different roles.

The current controversy lies in many seeing James’ depiction in the image as savage-like, comparing blacks to animalistic beings. One source, for example, says that the image on the Vogue cover “reinforce[s] the criminalization of black men” (Damian Thomas, courtesy of USA Today). The image has been compared to that of King Kong and Fay Wray, as Bundchen is the damsel, and James is the dominating and violent monster.

I am always conflicted when I see critiques of images that are accused of being "racist." Part of me wants to sort of dismiss this as "over-analyzing" and just reading way too far into things. I mean, can't we just be happy that we are sort of promoting "diversity"? It often times seems that every image of any minority can always somehow be spun around as a negative one, and when there are so-called “positive” images, they would basically only occur on downright un-viewed TV shows or horribly-circulated magazines.

However, to the contrary, I do also wonder if it really is an issue that we place many minorities into these narrow-minded "roles," such as the African-American male being "animalistic.” Is it that we reading too far into the analysis of the image, or are we just conditioned, through the media, not to recognize this as a problematic depiction?

It is extremely problematic to see that minorities in our country are limited to stereotypical controlling images. While I am not saying that this particular image necessarily purports a narrowed view of black men, it may be in our subconscious not to recognize it as such. Furthermore, it may be even further into our subconscious not to realize its effects. Many may not care whether or not the image is considered to be negative or positive towards black males, as they can say to themselves: “regardless, this image does not have an effect on my perception of these people, be it negative or positive.” But, the danger lies in us not realizing that these often-repeated images can in fact dominate the depictions of these minorities in the white-idealized media that drives America.

I obviously cannot argue for what my subconscious does or does not process when absorbing these images, as it is my subconscious, but nonetheless, it is something to think about.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

We Don't Need "Fixing"

Though not front-page news, by any means, one interesting headline that has gotten some attention this week has been the news of a new book, titled “My Beautiful Mommy,” by author Dr. Michael Salzhauer. The novel is a children’s book, aimed at youngsters around ages four to seven, which explains the story of a mother getting cosmetic surgery (specifically, a nose job, tummy tuck, and breast augmentation) and having to explain the process to her small child.

At first, this definitely seems alarming.
It does not seem like it was so long ago that cosmetic surgery was not the national phenomenon that it seems to be right now. However, with growing numbers of patients going under the knife, there are more and more people effected. Salzhauer explains (as detailed in a Newsweek article) his reasoning behind the book, which serves as a means for parents (specifically mothers) to be able to easier explain the process of their cosmetic surgeries to their children.

While it might seem that most individuals concerned with child development would oppose the advent of such a novel, that is not entirely the case.
Child psychiatrist Elizabeth Berger, as explained in the Newsweek article, likes the idea of a children’s book. She believes that the process of cosmetic surgery can be very lengthy, and that it definitely needs some sort of explanation to young children. As parents may be absent, out of commission, and/or appearing like they may have been involved in some sort of violent acts, the availability of a book that can explain the idea of cosmetic surgery may not be such a bad thing.

However, Berger does acknowledge the negatives.
She also worries that children will seemingly want to follow “mommy’s” example, and desire to get their own cosmetic surgeries done. I find this to be the most potentially harmful piece of this further normalization of cosmetic surgery. As it can be seen in several of my previous blog posts, beauty standards are inherently impossible to avoid in our lives (be it through media, culture, etc.), as we are being conditioned while we grow up to adhere to a strict set of aesthetic rules. I think that the idea of trying to normalize this behavior to children runs an extreme of risk of even further conditioning them to think along the lines of, “I must alter myself in order to be beautiful.” If “mommy” gets her cosmetic procedures done in such a seemingly normal way, then why wouldn’t her children feel the need to do the same thing?

While cosmetic surgery may not be going away, I do not know if it is wise to so easily provide children with even more reason to believe that their bodies and appearance need “fixing.”
While I am not at all claiming that people shouldn’t be allowed to have whatever cosmetic surgery they so desire, we also should not work to condition people in our society any further to feel the need to always need “fixing” to be beautiful. We must work to prevent more and more of these messages from building up and in turn being conditioned into individuals, as it only creates people who feel aesthetically inferior for the rest of their lives…and that is a harm that cannot be cured.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

No Co-Ed Housing?

As everyone gears up to finalize their plans for next year’s housing at USC, a topic comes to my mind that our University does not have much of a place for: coeducational living.

Co-ed housing is a no-go in any USC-owned buildings. Roommates are not allowed to be of different sexes. Furthermore, an apartment with, for example, two bedrooms with two roommates a piece, still needs to be all-male or all-female.

There are some obvious arguments about presumed sexual behavior between residents in the same room. I do not think that this is something that should be assumed of opposite-sex residents, though. If people want to have sex, they are going to do it regardless. Furthermore, if two individuals want to make the choice to live together, they are going to have to be responsible enough to deal with that decision…and it is not as if they cannot make that exact decision in some off-campus (non-USC) housing, for that matter.

The issue of housing also presents a problem for many homosexual individuals. There are definitely some homosexual men, for example, who may not want to be forced to live with a heterosexual male, for fear of their roommate not feeling comfortable. However, if they cannot live with a female, then there really are not any other options available.

To me, it just seems dumb that we do not have the option. I think it is high time that the University ditches its age-old practices are gives the students the freedom to choose how they want to live. We are old enough to make our own decisions.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Thomas is Pregnant

Thomas Beatie, who used to be known as Tracy Beatie, was born a female. However, Thomas decided to undergo a sex-change operation (though not a complete one) and legally identify himself as a male. After his teenage years, Thomas felt the need to openly express what he had felt for a long time: that he was really a man that was, to him, trapped in a woman’s body. A lot of people question the legitimacy of many transgender individuals’ claims that they can genetically and mentally have disparaging identities. Regardless of whether or not the claims are thought to be “true,” though, there is a large population of people who experience this and take action to be able to live as a member of the opposite sex.

What is interesting about Thomas’ transgender story is that, currently, he is pregnant. Due to his original reproductive organs, of which he did not alter, he is able to carry a child, though he still identifies himself as a male in our society. This has recently gained media attention, as the image of Thomas with a masculine body and bearded face, as well as a pregnant body, is an interesting sight to see.

Every person is always entitled to his or her own opinion, and I’m sure that a lot of people believe that Thomas’ baby will be raised with a flawed upbringing, due to this child’s unnatural parental figures. It is unfortunate that Thomas’ child is automatically assumed by many to have some sort of diseased existence. Granted, his daughter’s life will surely not be just like most other children’s, but personally, I feel that any environment where a child will be raised with loving parents is better than far too many awful upbringings, albeit with “traditional” family structures.

Nonetheless, the gender line seems like it is to even further blur a little more. It is so difficult, when living in a society that has been conditioned to only view “male” and “female,” for any deviant category to exist with a normal life. If everyone works to open their mind a bit to a concept that may differ from what they have been conditioned to view as “normal,” we could learn a lot more about some things we choose not to understand…and besides, “normal” is a word built on fantasy.

Here is the first clip (of five) from Thomas’ appearance on Oprah this past week.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

On Prostitution

My friend over at The Rail-Splitter recently published a post regarding our media culture. In it, he explores the recent Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal and the media’s varied coverage of the woman involved, Ashley Dupre, which led me to consider this topic a little more.

To me, prostitution is an interesting debacle. Obviously, there are health concerns when it comes to prostitution, as well as many people whose lives could turn to drug abuse and violence when delving into such a matter. I think this definitely shows that some sort of control upon prostitution is necessary. However, I do not agree that the actual idea of prostitution is a bad one. Who is to say that one can or cannot be paid for some sort of sexual interaction?

Just as people are paid to sing for you or serve you food, it seems that someone could similarly be paid to perform a sexual service. I do not think that people can be denied the right to be given money for something that could in many ways be compared to so many other jobs and tasks that we, as normal members of society, utilize. I’m not trying to say that paying for a prostitute is the same thing as hiring a plumber to come over and fix a leak, but many parallels can be drawn.

I think we have been so conditioned to assume that prostitution is this awful concept that we do not tend to consider many other alternate views on the topic. Yes, there might be an image in our heads of some unfortunate street hooker whose life is a mess of drugs, but that is not the type of legalized prostitution I am speaking of (and, the part that said “regulated” system would not allow), nor would this problem really be heightened through the use of a controlled system.

So, I guess I’m all for prostitution…not in the sense that I support it, as I do not necessarily personally approve of it, but I do not think that matters. Really, I think the matter is: who is to say you can’t be a prostitute? …and I do not think anyone is to say. Prostitution could, for example, be contained to safer brothels that are under some sort of government regulations, and not be necessarily something that is encouraged…but something that is allowed, nonetheless. Many other countries, especially in Europe, use this system (as well as in Nevada, to some extent), and I think it is at least something to think about.