Little Red Riding Hood

red-riding2

This is not a simple fairy tale. This is a story designed to control young girls. The moral – stay on the path, or else you will get hurt. This is victim blaming at the core. It teaches that it is Little Red Riding Hood’s fault that she and her grandmother got eaten by the wolf.

The wolf is every single male she ever encounters in her life. The “being eaten” is everything from getting a lesser job to getting raped or killed. This story teaches girls – and only girls – that if we don’t stay in our defined roles then we deserve everything bad that happens to us.

Notice she isn’t even named. Her “name” is what she wears – exterior only. She isn’t even real, just a placeholder. She isn’t a person, but a thing. People look at her outside only.

Notice that it is a strong male who saves her – the hunter comes by and hears the grandmother snoring and decides to investigate. Why is snoring loudly seen as a sign that something is wrong? Do women not snore? Are we expected to maintain control over ourselves at all times – even while unconscious?

Notice that the townspeople don’t send the hunters into the forest to clear it of dangerous animals. They don’t make it safe for her or others.

red-riding

————————

Art made on a Strathmore art journal – mixed media paper, using various pens and painted using Distress Ink. Words are photocopied from a book about Little Red Riding Hood and then dyed/stamped/inked.

Advertisements

The real problem with Trump

I rarely discuss politics, but this topic has reached a head and it is time to say something.

Trump is not saying anything new. But by his position of authority he is validating it.

He is saying that it is OK, and even praiseworthy, to be violent against women and others. He pretends that it is seen as manly. That is the problem.

He and his followers represent the very worst of our society. They are people who put down women, the handicapped, immigrants, veterans with PTSD – in short, anyone that they see as weaker than themselves. This is bully mentality.

I had hoped that by 2016 we would be past this kind of thinking, but it turns out that the mean people just went quiet for a while – just long enough for their champion to crawl out from the woodwork.

All the rights of the disenfranchised are at risk if he wins.  All the civil rights progress that has been made in the past century are on the table.  Marriage for all – questionable. The Americans with Disabilities Act – questionable. Do we really need to go backwards in being kind and accommodating and inclusive?

He even talks about taking away the right of women to vote.  People say he’s joking – surely he can’t be serious. But I’m sure they said that in Iran before the government changed ideologies.  Women used to be able to dress however they wanted.  They could be doctors, teachers, lawyers.   Now, they are almost invisible.  It can happen here too.

I wonder what fear motivates Trump and his followers?  Are they afraid that by including more people at the table, there won’t be enough for them?  Are they afraid that granting rights to more people will take away their own rights?

Inclusion doesn’t work like that.  When we grant civil rights to people, we open up more opportunity, rather than take away.  Allowing gay people to marry doesn’t threaten the rights of straight people to marry.  This isn’t a game of musical chairs.  We can all win.  There isn’t a limited amount of freedom available.  Nothing is getting taken away.

But perhaps that is their fear, because make no doubt about it – fear is the motivator here.  They’ve been in power for so long, they are afraid that they will lose it by granting freedom to others.

Think of it this way – Buddha once said “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” Civil rights are the same.  Granting civil rights to others doesn’t take away from anyone.  It expands, not contracts.  Nobody is losing anything.

 

Perhaps the poet Edwin Markham has the answer –

He drew a circle that shut me out –

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle and took him In!”

 

Uncomfortable tale

(Trigger warning – sexual abuse)

After his 34-year-old wife Laura Levis suffered a devastating asthma attack and later died, the Boston writer Peter DeMarco wrote the following letter to the ICU staff of CHA Cambridge Hospital who cared for her and helped him cope.

His letter, published online in the New York Times on October 6th, went viral.  It goes on for quite a long time in detail about the incredibly kind and compassionate care that the nurses gave him and his wife.

Here is the part that I have a huge problem with. This occurred in the hour just before she was to go into organ donor surgery – where her organs were to be what is euphemistically termed as “harvested”.

These are his words.

“I nestled my body against hers. She looked so beautiful, and I told her so, stroking her hair and face. Pulling her gown down slightly, I kissed her breasts, and laid my head on her chest, feeling it rise and fall with each breath, her heartbeat in my ear. It was our last tender moment as a husband and a wife, and it was more natural and pure and comforting than anything I’ve ever felt. And then I fell asleep.”

This is from the same person who observed earlier in his letter, in talking about the nurses –  “When you listened to her heart and lungs through your stethoscopes, and her gown began to slip, you pulled it up to respectfully cover her.”

His wife was comatose and dying.  Yet he found it acceptable to engage in a sexual act on her  – obviously without her consent.  It wasn’t “with” her – she was present in body only.  She did not participate.

He thought it was respectful for the staff to cover her up – yet he felt it was OK for him to uncover her.

And then he felt it was OK to write about it in a public way.

I am sickened by this man.

I’m sorry that his wife died, but I’m more sorry for her spirit that he felt it was OK to violate her dignity by his action – and then again by publicizing it.

Let’s make this clear –

Just because he is married doesn’t mean he has full access to her body, at all times.  It is still her body, and her decision as to what happens to her.  It is never OK to perform a sexual act on anyone if they are unconscious – even if they are married to you.

 

 

We have failed our boys.

We have failed our boys. Every day I see more and more boys who say they don’t want to read. Knowing how to read but choosing not to is the same as being illiterate. The result is the same whether they know how to read but don’t or they never knew how. Every day I see boys who – if they read at all, read far below their age level, only able to read books that have many pictures in them. They are either unwilling or unable to read a book that has only words in it. They choose graphic novels and comic books if they choose books at all. There’s a whole series of books geared towards boys now that are written very simply and have many illustrations in them. It is as if they need training wheels in order to read. It is a disturbing trend.

Then if they read, the subject matter is concerning. Their parents steer them toward “boy” books. “Girl” books are about relationships – sharing, making friends, learning how to compromise. “Boy” books are about relationships as well – dominating others, being a soldier, being in charge. They learn this script too well. They learn that they must control every relationship they are in. They learn nothing about sharing or cooperating. Anything other than domination is seen as a failure. It is easy to see that it is impossible for everyone to be a winner with such a scenario. This sets them up for a lifetime of disappointment.

We have failed our boys. By telling them that “boys don’t cry” we are telling them that they are not allowed to express their emotions. Those feelings have to go somewhere. When you don’t allow someone to cry the feeling turns around upon itself and transforms, metastasizes, goes dark.

We have failed our boys. When we say “boys will be boys” to excuse bad behavior we’re saying that they don’t have to try better. We’re saying that there’s no reason for them to act in a respectful manner. Any behavior that you would want to see in your boy when he grows up into a man should be encouraged when he’s young. When we let boys get off the hook from punching others or pulling on girl’s pigtails (or worse forms of abuse), we are saying that they are not accountable for their actions.

Is all of this why so many acts of violence have happened recently? Is this why so many boys and young men have decided to express themselves, to be heard, to be noticed, by taking a gun into a public place and shooting random strangers? Have we done this to ourselves?

More importantly how can we make it stop?

She said no.

I just read a news story about an 11-year-old boy who killed an eight-year-old neighbor girl because she said no.

She didn’t say no about sex. It wasn’t over something so charged with emotion as sex.

It was over a puppy.

He wanted to see her new puppy and she refused. So he went inside his house and picked up a gun and shot her.

It is so easy to say that this is a matter of a parent not locking up their guns. He was easily able to open up the closet door, pull out a shotgun and shoot this girl in the chest, killing her instantly. That is certainly an issue. But more than gun-control, we need to have people control. How have we gotten to the point where young boys feel that the way to deal with rejection is to kill? How have we gotten to the point where being told “no” means someone has to die?

It is to the point where we really shouldn’t be afraid of Muslim men with guns. What we need to be afraid of are young white boys with guns. They are responsible for far more murders in America these days than anyone else.

This has nothing to do with “America being a Godless nation” as some commentators say. You don’t need religion to know you should not kill someone.

Perhaps violent videogames are to blame. Perhaps neglectful parenting is to blame. Perhaps this kid (and all the other ones, too many to name) were left alone for too long, ignored, left to fend for themselves, unguided, unwanted. Perhaps it is all of this, and more. Whatever the reason(s), we as a nation need to figure it out soon, because too many deaths have already occurred.

I feel the root of this particular murder is the word “no” – and how he handled it.

If he didn’t kill her over this, it is entirely possible that he would grow up to assault or rape a different woman who told him “no”. Is this what our society has come to, where women cannot say “no” for fear of being harmed? Is this what our society has come to, where men can’t hear the word “no” without causing harm?

There was no way to predict that this would have happened. He asked to see her puppy. She said no. So he killed her. Something doesn’t add up. This equation does not lead logically from one step to another. And that is the problem. We say we want to stop gun violence, but deep down if we are being honest we really just want to not be the victim of gun violence. It has become random, uncertain, chaotic. Anyone can be a victim.

Long gone are the days where attacks follow a logical pattern. Someone was abused for years and kills his abuser. Someone was in a “bad” part of town and got mugged. Someone got into a fight and got shot.

These days, just going to school can be dangerous. Just going to the movies can get you murdered. There is no logic to it. All the victims are innocent. Often they aren’t even known by their murderer.

Why are there too many guns and not enough parents teaching their children right from wrong? Sometimes it isn’t even as easy or simple as that. Sometimes the parents need a few lessons themselves. Often the parents are less than stable. Giving birth does not suddenly improve intelligence or aptitude. It isn’t a surprise when their kids go off the deep end.

Stronger gun laws will only result in a greater imbalance. More “bad” people will have guns. They don’t obey laws anyway, so gun laws will benefit them and harm everyone else. It is too late to regulate guns – there are too many out there. What we need is to regulate people.

We need to teach our children from an early age how to handle loss, rejection, and pain. We need to teach them how to deal with their feelings, good and bad. We need to teach them how to be with other people in healthy ways, ways that are life-affirming. We need to teach people how to have dialogue versus having debate. We need to teach people about many other cultures and ways of thinking, so they learn there are many ways of seeing and understanding.

Why do women have to cover?

Why don’t Muslims cover up men’s eyes rather than cover up women’s bodies? Why don’t they make some sort of headband/facemask combination that forces their eyes downward and makes it possible for them to only see a few feet in front of them while they walk? It would make life difficult for them but it would certainly stop them from accidentally becoming aroused by women and being unable to control themselves and feeling like they have to attack them.

They must think that women are very powerful and that men have no power at all. Merely by existing, merely by showing an elbow or a calf, a woman can cause a man to lose his self-control. If he has so little self-control then doesn’t this mean he has no self-control? Why do women have to cover themselves up for modesty when it is the fault of someone else if they cross a line?

If I am an omnivore, should I stop eating meat in front of vegetarians for fear that it will make them start eating animals? This is the same issue. It is saying that my actions control another person’s actions.

The Muslim faith is not alone in this. There are sections of the Orthodox Jewish faith that have women not only cover their heads because their hair is seen as sensuous, but the women have to shave their heads as well. The idea is that by shaving their heads (at least monthly) there is no chance that a hair will accidentally show – and thus accidentally weaken a man’s resolve.

I have a strong belief that the original intent of Islam and of Orthodoxy was not to control women, and to reduce men into knee-jerk autopilot sex machines. I believe that both faiths originally respected both genders. I have a suspicion that over the many years since the faiths’ inceptions some radical detours have been made by well-meaning, but control-happy people (namely, men).

How about we stop coddling men by making policies that say that women are responsible for men’s behaviors? How about we stop saying “boys will be boys”? How about we expect men to have self-control, and not feel the need to disturb (and I’m putting it lightly) women?

Why he hits. Why she stays.

If you wonder “why she stays” or “why he hits” it is all the same. It is all about power. They both feel powerless.

She doesn’t leave because she thinks she can’t support herself without him. He makes all the money. He knows how to repair the cars and the house. But also he feels powerless. If he doesn’t have her then how is he going to get fed? How is his laundry going to get done? They stay together out of a sense of desperation and powerlessness.

If you want to address the cause of men hitting women and women taking the abuse, you have to address the root of power. You have to teach boys how to cook and clean and take care of the household in addition to teaching him how to use tools and repair cars. If you want to teach women to be strong you have to teach them how to use tools and how to repair cars in addition to teaching them how to cook and clean and take care of the household. Only when there’s a sense of equality will there not be a sense of powerlessness.

Men also abuse others because they have not been taught any other way to deal with their emotions. “Boys don’t cry”, remember? Boys are taught to roughhouse and to fight. They are taught to be aggressive. Anything less than this is seen as weak. If a guy shows any gentle tendencies he is seen as gay. He is excluded from the pack. Thus when guys feel powerless, they will lash out with the only tool they are allowed to use and that is violence.

Part of power is also about giving people a sense of worth and value. They have to feel like they can take care of themselves. This includes being able to get and keep a job. People need to feel like they are needed.

Address these issues and you have solved the reasons why he hits, and why she stays. Teach people how to be independent.