Abortion is Not Immoral: Even if You Consider the Rights of the Fetus

Abortion is a controversial topic that many people have been debating about recently, since it has become safer for women to have abortions with medical advancements. But while divisive debate has created two platforms, pro-life and pro-choice, people have not focused enough on the variety of opinions that make up each platform, and the possibility that these opinions can clash with one another.

One popular stance taken by pro-choice activists is seen in the words of Susan Sherwin. Sherwin, a feminist pro-choice activist, believes that abortion should be seen as a valid choice that women could decide to make, regardless of the reasons why they decide to do so. However, the more conservative proponents of the pro-choice stance do not agree that abortion is acceptable in all cases.

 

Judith Jarvis Thomson, a moral philosopher, disagrees:

“There are some cases in which the unborn person has the right to the use of its mother’s body, and therefore some cases in which abortion is unjust killing”.
She argues that while abortion should be available, it is only acceptable in the case that the pregnancy was a result of rape or that the pregnancy is physically dangerous to the mother. Thomson, considering that the fetus also has a right to life just as much as the mother has her own rights, bases her position off of an analogy she makes, comparing pregnancy toa person being kidnapped and waking up to find herself in a hospital, with a famous violinist plugged into her kidneys. The violinist is dying, and can only live if he remains connected to the kidnapped person’s kidneys.

abortion-terminates

Pro-life/Anti-abortion activists often focus on the rights of the fetus. Thomson agrees that the rights of the fetus must be recognized. Image Source: churchrepent.com

It is “morally indecent” to detach oneself from the violinist, according to Thomson, when the connection to the violinist does not threaten the kidnapped person’s life or health. To demonstrate this, Thomson suggests the hypothetical situation in which the violinist would be able to live after only an hour of being connected to the kidnapped person. Furthermore, the kidnapped person would leave the hospital healthy, with no adverse physical affects of the ordeal. In this case, Thomson says that the kidnapped person should stay and help the violinist, and that if she leaves, she is “greedy, stingy, [and] callous” for doing so. On the other hand, when a woman is physically threatened by being connected to the violinist, and may die, she is not being immoral when detaching herself to save her own life.

lower-back-pain-during-pregnancy

Source: thepregnancyzone.com

Thomson’s arguments seem to be reasonable, as many people would agree that if the hospitalization was very short and left no effect on the woman after the ordeal, it would be nice of her to help the violinist. However, it is clear that Thomson’s arguments are faulty: though her analogy provides a useful way to objectively view the issue of abortion, she interprets the analogy incorrectly. Thomson assumes that if a woman is pregnant and is not being physically threatened by the pregnancy, that keeping the baby will be very easy and will not affect the woman much at all: she compares this kind of pregnancy to staying with a violinist for only an hour. But pregnancy is not that simple, and is not as easy on women as Thomson suggests. Women often experience many physical effects, including nausea, soreness, fatigue, and digestive and urinary issues. Furthermore, they can experience burdens to their lives throughout their pregnancy that are not physical: women can lose opportunities to have higher education, can experience difficulties continuing or securing jobs, and may also encounter emotional and familial issues as a result of being
pregnant.
To apply these situations to the violinist analogy, consider that the kidnapped person finds herself connected to the violinist at a time that is extremely important for her education. This is a completely plausible situation, as studies have shown that young mothers not only are less likely to receive college degrees but also are less likely to even complete high school. In present society, education can be critical in determining a person’s financial stability in the future. In reality, a large percentage of women who have abortion stated that interference with education was part of their reasons behind their decision, and more than forty percent spoke of financial issues that accompanied this. If she will miss her opportunity to have or finish her education during the time that she is in the hospital, and may even be risking the stability of her future by staying in the hospital, is it really indecent for the woman to leave the violinist? What if this woman also has to support her existing family, or has to pay off debts? Do the fetus’s rights mean that the woman should have to acquiesce to any and all negative affects that she may be faced with as a result of the hospitalization?

In this situation, it cannot be assumed that the woman’s decision to depart from the hospital is unjust: just as a women is not unjust when she acts to protect herself physically, she cannot be considered immoral for protecting certain aspects of her life or future. Clearly, pregnancies can present women with significant burdens in their lives, even if these burdens or effects are not necessarily physical, as seen in the education example above. These non-physical effects could change a woman’s life just as strongly as the physical effects that Thomson describes, and the wide variety of these non-physical effects complicate pregnancies, making them far from the easy one-hour pregnancy of Thomson’s analysis.

Thomson’s analogy proves not that abortion should be limited to certain situations, but actually supports that as there are many reasons why women might choose abortions, these reasons are completely valid. Thomson’s argument that abortions are only morally acceptable in certain circumstances is therefore faulty, as women have many other valid reasons that could lead them to have abortions. Thus, it is clear that Sherwin’s argument is the stronger of these two, and that women should be allowed to have abortions in general, especially as they are the only ones who truly know and understand the extent of impact the non-physical effects of pregnancy could have on them.

Advertisements

Why Embryonic Stem Cell Research Should Be Legalized Around the World

StemCell-600x374

 

Imagine a certain research procedure that has the capacity to cure all kinds of cell-related diseases ranging from “cancer to paralysis”.  These cellular diseases are so destructive that people collectively donate “millions of dollars” annually towards research, in the hopes of finding a particular research method that will lead to a cure for each respective disease. But, we no longer have to imagine that this research exists.  It already does–Embryonic stem cell research is exactly the scientific procedure that would give scientists the chance to open that very wardrobe into Narnia and create a brand new world in which these diseases are extinct.open-door-2

But, firstly, how is it even possible that one type of cell research can cure so many diseases?

Embryonic cells possess a property called pluripotency that allows for them to turn into any cell in the body.  Most of these cellular-level diseases are caused by the death of cells that cannot naturally restore themselves.  In other words, once certain cells, like nerve cells are gone, they are gone forever.  The possible discoveries that can be made with the help of embryonic stem cell research are endless.  Recently, “a tiny beating heart” was grown by scientists from embryonic stem cells!

2A8FAE5D00000578-0-image-a-1_1436983876717

Image of the tiny beating heart created from stem cells

It is clear that embryonic stem cells are the key to curing all these debilitating diseases because of their pluripotent properties.    However, even with all these curing properties considered, many people are opposed to this research.  In fact, most countries in the world are against this research and even the ones that are not, do not provide sufficient funding towards it. In fact, the embryonic stem cell research debate has become a major one in the field of bioethics.

Why on Earth would people be opposed to something so beneficial?

The opposition generally tends to consist of people from religious backgrounds that believe that “life begins from the moment of conception.”  Thus, the two opposite sides of the debate are between the scientific community and the religious community.  Embryonic stem cell research is regarded as problematic for the religious community because either four or five day embryos are used in the research.  Dr. Wilke, a representative of the religious side of the debate, believes that “killing this living human embryo at day four or five…is in fact, killing a living human.”  Thus, those with similar views as Wilke believe that by allowing the research to occur, society would essentially be allowing scientists to kill “tiny humans” who are not strong enough to defend themselves.  Because Wilke considers the embryonic stem cells equivalent to a full grown human, it is consistent with his belief that the research “deliberately [kills] one living human to possibly benefit another.” Furthermore, in the religious community, this research is thought of as something that is used to save some people (the ones with terminal illness) at the cost of the death of others (the tiny embryonic cells).

 

Weekly Health Matters graphic: Embryonic stem cell process. Orange County Register 2010 07000000; HTH; krtcampus campus; krthealth health; krtnational national; MED; krt; mctgraphic; 13006000; 13019000; biotechnology; krtresearch research; krtscience science; krtscitech; krttechnology technology; SCI; science research; TEC; 07008000; HEA; krtmedicine medicine; preventative medicine; wf hm healthmatters health matters; blastocyst; blood; brain; cell; cord; damage; embryonic; process; repair; spinal; spine; stem; risk diversity woman women; transformation; oc contributed; 2010; krt2010

Weekly Health Matters graphic: Embryonic stem cell process. Orange County Register 2010
07000000; HTH; krtcampus campus; krthealth health; krtnational national; MED; krt; mctgraphic; 13006000; 13019000; biotechnology; krtresearch research; krtscience science; krtscitech; krttechnology technology; SCI; science research; TEC; 07008000; HEA; krtmedicine medicine; preventative medicine; wf hm healthmatters health matters; blastocyst; blood; brain; cell; cord; damage; embryonic; process; repair; spinal; spine; stem; risk diversity woman women; transformation; oc contributed; 2010; krt2010

As you may have noticed, this debate sounds incredibly similar to the right to life abortion debate.   Except, with the one key difference in that an abortion can be made until the “ninth week of gestation in the US”.  But, by week nine, the fetus already develops most of its organs!  Through multiple polls taken, it is clear that the majority of Americans are pro-choice.  This is inconsistent with the governments’ stance on the limited funding towards stem cell research.

It does not make very much sense to censor embryonic stem cell research that involves only five day embryos, but allow the abortion of ninety day developing fetuses.

Another inconsistency that does not add up is the use of embryonic stem cells infertility treatments.  During these treatments, women often take in hormones that stimulate their ovaries to release more eggs.  This is done for the sole purpose of increasing their chance of pregnancy.  Because of the increased amount of eggs released, more eggs are fertilized than needed.  More often than not, the excess ova is then simply thrown away. This is a wasteful practice, especially when considering that the excess eggs could be used for research instead.  Despite, their wastefulness towards embryonic stem cells, infertility treatments are still legal.  It does not make logical sense that the government is for infertility treatments, but is against embryonic stem cell research (that has the ability to increase the standard of life in humans).

The embryonic stem cell research obviously has a greater return rate to society than the infertility treatments!

In consideration with the flaw in logic, it seems as though the opposition has a “fear of the unknown,” more than anything else.  Remember, thousands of embryonic stem cells are being thrown away daily in infertility treatment centers, while nine-week pregnancies are also being aborted in hospitals.   However, for some peculiar reason that has been contradicted a plethora of times, most countries do not allow for the use of five day embryos in research that would aid in eliminating some of the most saddening diseases in society.  It is also important to note that five day embryos do not have any bodily-structures resembling those of a person, they only contain the structural DNA needed to turn into a person.  With everything considered, because the “life starts the moment of conception” view has not been a concern for abortions and fertility treatments, it should not be a concern for something as potentially useful to society as embryonic stem cell research.

HOW MISOGYNISTIC LYRICS CAN OVERCOME MISOGYNY IN HIP-HOP: THE STORY OF FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE

Everyone seems to have an opinion on Rap. From the diehards to the “backpackers” to the “Stans” to those who can’t stand the sound of it. There has been a fiery debate over the misogyny elected in a lot of popular rap songs. To critics of the genre, most advocates say “You little stupid ass bitch I ain’t fuckin’ with you!” And perhaps, all jokes aside, there lies the problem. The present misogyny inherent in the art form is a thorn in the side of most critics. Political figures, on both sides of the political spectrum have spoken out against the effects of rap music. News pundit, Bill O’Reilly, has proven to be particularly vocal on his disdain for the genre of music. He also claimed that rap music is responsible for the decline in organized religion.

 

“The rap industry, for example, often glorifies depraved behavior, and that sinks into the minds of some young people — the group that is most likely to reject religion.”  – Bill O’Reilly

 

On top of their dislike of the culture, another easy strike against it exists. Even the alleged “conscious rap”, which aims to enlighten listeners on social issues, tends to err on the offensive side at times. For instance, take J. Cole’s No Role Modelz. Based on its premise, we have a song about uplifting women in an era where there are no prevalent female role models. But what do we have in virtually every other line? Bitch here. Ho there. So how is it that we can have a potentially uplifting female ode with derogatory terms being spewed? The answer is two-fold. Yes, misogyny is present in Hip-Hop. There is no denying that. Just like misogyny is present in any other American subculture because it’s a product of the society we live in. However, what must be understood is that rap, just like many other forms of art, uses figurative language to enhance the messages it unveils to its listeners. This is not to say that all of Rap can be excused as figurative. Clearly there are times where rappers are being extremely literal in the things they rap about. Bobby Shmurda, anyone?  Too soon? Okay, but conscious rap is an important distinction from the rest of rap music. It is extremely reliant upon figurative language, especially in the times where misogynistic language is being used.

 

So let’s revisit No Role Modelz. This time we will use our keen eye for detecting figurative language out of seemingly offensive lyrics. “I don’t want no bitch from reality shows, out-of-touch-with-reality-hoes.” I know what you’re thinking. Certainly, this can’t be the line in which I choose to justify conscious rap. Well it is; so bitch, don’t kill my vibe. Yes he says “bitch” and yes he says “ho”. But here’s what you didn’t hear. When he raps he “don’t want

Reality Show Women from Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta

no bitch from reality shows”, one must understand the gravity of the female representation on reality television. These are women who, for the most part, don’t have real jobs. They tend to be women of color who are married to successful men—namely athletes and you guessed it—rappers. Shows like Love & Hip-Hop or Basketball Wives  present women as trophies for men who otherwise have it all. It makes it seem like these women need not intelligence or ambition but simply beauty and to marry well to live a fruitful life. They often bicker intensely between one another which further perpetuate stereotypes of women—and deepen the typeca

Cast of Basketball Wives

sting of black women and women of color in this country. But that’s a lesson for another day. All J. Cole is simply trying to say is that he doesn’t want women to replicate the false illustration of women on reality television. You should just be yourself.

Still don’t believe me? Fine. Let’s look at another example. Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda received just as much backlash as it did praise. Why? Because her bare behind was on the single’s cover and the whole song was about how great her ass is. (But the children!!)Understandably, this angered many people. Many critics, including self-proclaimed (white) feminists claim that she sexually objectified herself to sell records and be provocative. This would further prolong the war against misogyny. However, what Minaj is doing does not further misogyny. In fact, in a field dominated by men, she attempts to perfect the craft while destroying the standards of what  women should look like. The divulgement of her lyrics using figurative language paints an accurate narrative of her efforts. As funny as it may sound, when Minaj raps “I got a big fat ass” she means it. Unapologetic and stone cold. She chooses to be bold with her figure in a society where the Eurocentric standard of beauty is extremely prevalent—thin, white, blonde-hair, blue eyes. Minaj noted in a tweet the irony taking place. The same reviewers that praised the Sports Illustrated edition, featuring white Eurocentric models, for baring their ideal figures bashed Minaj’s cover artwork. However, she plans to remain as a rarity in the entertainment industry in the midst of women who do not necessarily look like her.

 

Suggestive lyrics in both songs, though seemingly offensive and retrogressive, are doing their part to overcome misogyny and promote powerful thinking women across all races and cultures in this country. Because Hip-Hop has become such a global enterprise, this shift in thinking also crosses international lines. Both No Role Modelz and Anaconda are societal gems in efforts to overcome misogyny. This can only be understood using figurative language—conscious rap’s medium of expression.

 

How Inclusive Curricula Can Prevent the Shameful Homophobic Acts from the Mummers Parade

parade.png

Pictures from the Mummers Parade 2016.

 

In a survey conducted by GLSEN in 2013, it was reported that only 19% of schools in the United States give students a positive representation of LGBT events. This means that thousands of LGBT young adults today are not only fighting acne and dress codes like their heterosexual peers, but also suppressive authorities who portray their choice of identifying with a non-heterosexual sexuality as a cause of misguiding.

Nevertheless, even if these officials claim that this is a mere repercussion of “misguiding,” is it fair to deprive children of education regarding this movement, when a school’s main concern should be teaching children about the world, not how they think it should be?

The education children receive today will dictate how society will work in the future. Thus, it is imperative to decide what education system will be more beneficial for children’s appropriate academic and emotional growth. If children are not properly taught about respecting all human beings equally, events such as the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia may repeat.

In this 116-year-old tradition, comedians chose to exemplify minority communities by acting out Caitlyn Jenner’s transition to womanhood and parading around the streets Philadelphia. In addition to showcasing the most admirable members of the LGBT community, some members went around and playfully displayed their hatred towards homosexual men by yelling “F— the gays” throughout the parade.

Participant of the 116th Mummers Parade.

Participant of the 116th Mummers Parade.

These events further escalated when a homosexual man was verbally and physically assaulted by people who had taken part of the parade:

“They were calling me faggot, calling me gay… and I’m right next to Broad Street, I see children playing right at the edge of the street,”

The homophobic acts displayed in this parade have not only put Philadelphia to shame, but also the rest of the country; this is the example we are sending to the rest of the world.

It is ironic and distressing to see people publicly mocking the subjects they were supposed to integrate to their community. These acts are born from a lack of respect and understanding of all human beings. Ignorance may explain their hateful acts, but it does not justify them. As a result, in order to prevent these acts from occurring, it is imperative to teach children to be mindful and understanding of others. By educating children about different types of sexualities, they will have a better understanding of how differently humans work, yet how we are all inherently human.

Therefore, in order to teach children about the diverse spectrum that humans compose, they must be exposed to all of the different kinds of people that populate the world. A way to provide children with this insight is through an inclusive curriculum. An inclusive curriculum is a set of programs and classes that provides children with a positive representation of LGBT history and the individuals who are part of the community. Amongst the classes the inclusive curriculum proposes, there are LGBT comprehensive sex education classes that will provide children with essential information regarding different types of families and how to stay safe when having sexual intercourse.

Just how every school must teach children how their plate should look like during lunch in order to stay healthy, it is essential to also educate them on how to protect themselves in all aspects of their personal lives. As a result, an inclusive curriculum would provide LGBT children with the information they deserve in order to stay safe, while also allowing for other children to understand that everyone is human and should be respected as such.

Although an inclusive curriculum seems to propose the best way to keep all children safe and educated, there are major figures that oppose this method. Amongst these figures is Walt Heyer, an author and public speaker who advocates for those who regret going through gender reassignment procedures. In one of his publications, he claims that he made the regrettable choice of going through gender-reassignment surgeries because he was manipulated by his grandmother into thinking that they would be the answer to his gender confusion.

Cover of sexchangeregret.com, a website ran by Walt Heyer.

Cover of sexchangeregret.com, a website run by Walt Heyer.

As a consequence, he now urges school authorities to keep children away from the harmful influences such as the ones an inclusive curriculum can create:

“Young trans-kids need to know they were not born that way, and that most will no longer have a desire to change genders once they grow into adulthood… if parents and schools stop encouraging them to internalize and publicize their LGBT identities.”

In other words, he claims that inclusive curricula will force children to identify with a specific sexuality when they are still not old enough to make such important decision. Therefore, in order to prevent the anguish gender-reassignment procedures can bring to children in the future, he contends that it is best to not expose children to these detrimental influences.

Even though Heyer’s main concern is children and their safety, his publication does not fully articulate how depriving children of this vital information will be to their benefit. An inclusive curriculum will not force children into gender dysphoria like he believes his grandmother did, since the purpose of this program is to give children a positive, unbiased representation of the LGBT community and to provide them with the necessary information to protect themselves. Moreover, even if some children have shown to change their minds regarding gender-reassignment, most still identify as homosexual or bisexual, meaning the information in the curriculum is still vital to them.

By educating children about these topics, LGBT youth will be given a secure place where to grow and learn, while heterosexual youth will be an insight into the human spectrum that will prevent senseless homophobia from arising. Therefore, if schools begin to adopt this inclusive curriculum, not only will we spare thousands of lives that could be lost as a result of ignorance or senseless hate, but also save those that may live their whole lives carrying the weight of it.

How Pornography Can Combat Social Stigmas and Stereotypes

14908240-3ef4-0131-1276-7e870142d9c0

 

We’ve all probably heard the “pornography is detrimental to society” speech. From parents, mass-media, or school counselors it seems everyone is warning children and teens to stay away from pornography because of how it portrays women in society. Words like “degrading” and “objectifying” are almost always a part of such discussions. First of all, it should be clear I am not arguing that pornography is good for women, in fact this is a valid issue that must be addressed. But the fact of the matter is that not all pornography is demeaning to women. Pornography is a major social taboo; it is not uncommon for people to feel “porn-guilt” or shameful feelings from watching pornography. After all, the idea that even watching sex or nudity in video or in picture form is a sign of being sexist and disrespectful is hammered into our heads from a young age. But what if I told you the answer to gender inequality may be in watching more pornography?

 

Some anti-pornography groups, such as the CPC, describe all pornography as harmful to society.

 

Pornography is “propaganda against women” and “damaging to them as individuals as well as to women as a group.” – The Campaign Against Pornography

 

 

They argue for the removal of all suggestive images of females, whether in stores or online, as it is damaging to females in society. It is not difficult to understand why this group is rather unpopular among men, 68 percent of whom watch pornography and who are 543% more likely to watch it than females. They do raise valid points, but by feeding this industry are all 68% of men who watch porn shameful contributors to the misogynistic society we currently live in?

 

The answer is no, and the reason “porn-shamers” such as the CPC are wrong is because they are categorizing all pornography as one massive, anti-women, misogynist genre. They are only addressing the specific pornography where women are taking on the submissive role, and not clearly giving consent to their male partner. This, however, is not the case. The reason “porn-shamers” out there are incorrect is because they assume all pornography to be the same. So yes, some of those 68 percent of men who watch porn are contributing to the anti-women, sexist society we live in where.

 

The CPC gives an example of a pornographic scene in which there are two lesbians in a bed with a man to make their case. This is clearly a sexist scene; the women are performing for the man’s pleasure and he is taking the dominant role by having the appearance that he selected these specific women to do this and he is giving orders to them. Agreed, this is probably what most porn looks like and it is obviously not helpful to women and our society. In fact, pornography such as this contributes to a heightened amount of deviant sexual practices such as rape when it is exposed to children 14 years of age or younger.

 

It is quite apparent how scenes such as these can impact society with current studies and social learning theories explaining the psychology behind the negative impact they can have. Not all pornography is as degrading and horribly objectifying as this, however. There is a spectrum of pornography. And believe it or not, there exists pornography where videos of naked women can actually be beneficial to society and contribute to a more feminist world.

 

Such genres are labeled “feminist porn.” Feminist porn varies greatly from the genres of which the CPC speaks. From a camera angle altered in order to focus on female consent instead of male pleasure, to dialogue differences which clearly show that the women are agreeing to the sexual actions and even taking charge by being more dominant, feminist porn is a safe and socially progressive genre.

 

“The goal of feminist pornography is to empower its performers through ethical work practices (fair pay, consent) and its viewers through depictions of sexuality that differ from the norm”- Tristan Taormino

keep-calm-and-watch-porn-244

Pornography, when produced in a safe and feminist manner can actually benefit women in society. The social learning theory and mirroring does not just have to apply to sexist pornography where the woman is clearly depicted as being submissive or humiliated. When watching feminist pornography people will mirror the actions they see and incorporate them into society. For instance, viewers can understand that sex is not okay unless given clear consent from the woman, something that feminist pornography seeks to do and in doing so combat the sexual stereotypes which currently exist. Furthermore, female friendly pornography defies the stereotype that women are used for the pleasure of men. This genre is instead about the egalitarianism that exists in sex and how both the woman and the man are able to enjoy the experience while neither one needs to play a dominant role or the domination goes back and forth.

 

The answer to creating a more sexually equal society is not to ban all pornography. With this high percentage of people watching it, pornography is not going way. We can however, make sure people watch socially progressive genres. In fact, perhaps if everyone began watching, society would be more equal than ever.

Rachel Dolezal’s “Trans-Racial Identity?” Does Not Combat Racism… It Promotes It

In a world where media is at the center and cultural appropriation seems to continuously present itself, racial controversy seems inescapable. Appropriation was eloquently described by 16 year old Amanda Stenberg, most commonly known as the actress who played the character of Rue in the Hunger Games:

“Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated but is deemed as high-fashion, cool or funny when the privileged take it for themselves.”

Source: Amanda Stenberg “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows”

From Kylie Jenner’s creation of big lips to Marc Jacobs inspiring the Bantu knots, it looks like, in the words of Paul Mooney, “everybody wanna be nigga, but nobody wanna be a nigga.”

Well, that is, nobody except Rachel Dolezal.

Rachel Dolezal has infamously grown in popularity in American media as the white woman who changed her hair, darkened her skin color, and claimed to have a black father just so she could pass off as a black woman. On June 11, 2015, it was brought to public attention that Dolezal, who at the time was the President for the Spokane chapter of NAACP, had been passing as a black woman since 2010.

dolezal before and after eastern washington unive.

Rachel Dolezal before (left) and after (right) her racial transition.

Dolezal’s true racial identity was discovered when her biological parents, both of which are very obviously white, unashamedly outed her white identity in an interview with CNN. Needless to say, this public revelation incited major backlash for Dolezal. People took to all forms of social media, attacking and mocking Dolezal’s transition from white to black using hashtags like #AskRachel that soon became top trending searches on Twitter.

Source: Twitter

Even when this evidence was brought to Dolezal’s attention while on record, she kept on persisting that her true racial identity was that of a black woman’s by stating:

“I just feel like I didn’t mislead anybody; I didn’t deceive anybody. If people feel misled or deceived, then sorry that they feel that way, but I believe that’s more due to their definition and construct of race in their own minds than it is to my integrity or honesty, because I wouldn’t say I’m African American, but I would say I’m black, and there’s a difference in those terms.”

Source: Vanity Fair Magazine “Rachel Dolezal’s True Lies”

Dolezal further backs up these claims by stating:

“This is not some freak “Birth of a Nation” mockery blackface performance; this is on a very real connected level. I have actually had to go there with the experience.”

Source: Today News “Rachel Dolezal breaks her silence on TODAY: ‘I Identify as Black’”

Clearly, Dolezal is grounded, convinced, and certain in her racial status as a black woman. It is this perceived racial identity that she used to her advantage, helping herself gain the presidency at the Spokane chapter of the NAACP. Through her leadership at NAACP, she did aim to help better the lives of blacks in Spokane, Washington. Drawing even further back in her life, we see that she did in fact dedicate her time to studying and analyzing Africana studies in her collegiate career. These facts influenced others to come for her defense. Keri Hilson, was one of some to defend Dolezal’s intentions:

twitter-drags-keri-hilson-for-supporting-rach-L-Hnli9x

And this does bring up a good point. Although Dolezal deceived people into thinking she was black, she did so while also working day and night to help solve problems faced by the black community. However, she deceived people nonetheless and as Jonathan Capeheart of the Washington Post stated, “blackface remains highly racist, no matter how down with the cause a white person is.”

In essence, no matter how much work Rachel Dolezal did to help the black community, it is tainted by the fact that she did so using a black mask.

How so?

Well, for one, her ability to appear a different race in the first place, occurs because of the white privilege she was born with. In the racial order, put forward by society, each race is given a sort of level or status. Needless to say, by this order, whites are held higher than blacks. Therefore, in accordance to this system, Dolezal’s transitions down, thus using her white privilege to transcend boundaries put in place to affirm her white privilege. As one would guess, the transition down the ladder of status is far more feasible than the upward climb, so by Dolezal transitioning from white to black, she takes advantage of the status given to her by an oppressive system. Hence, even though she states that she is living the black experience, and therefore combating racism, by taking advantage of her status, founded in racism, to move along racial boundary lines she ends up contradicting herself.

Furthermore, her racial identification as a black women proves to be highly problematic in the sense that it reveals the perceived necessity of being black. Dolezal chose to not complete her African-American studies and human rights work as a white woman because it was easier to do so as a black woman. This thought process alone perpetuates the idea that one has to be a part of a race in order to actually sympathize with or help that race. Therefore, this identity does not cross racial boundaries in any way, it perpetuates them. By feeling the need to change one’s outward racial appearance in order to “match” one’s inner self, one states that one’s mindset and actions cannot transcend one’s outward racial appearance. Therefore if you believe that black people deserve the rights and opportunities that everybody else has then you must be black because white people just don’t think like that.

Even though Rachel Dolezal may have had good intentions, the manner she went about them presented heavily problematic contradictions that promoted racism. How can one attempt to transcend racial boundaries while adhering to them? Is there no other way to sympathize with the “black experience” without being black? #AskRachel

rs_634x1024-150612093005-634.Rachel-Dolezal.jl.061215.jpg

Rachel Dolezal’s current appearance                                                                                                                                                                           Source: E! Online

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Why Child Beauty Pageants are Terrible for Young Girls and Their Self-Esteem

With the advent of the first Little Miss America child beauty pageant in the 1960’s and the very recent proliferation of shows like Toddlers and Tiaras, Honey Boo Boo, and King of the Crown that center on the life of child beauty pageant contestants, lots of controversy has ensued from the public. From raging middle-aged mom viewers concerned with the well-being of pageant contestant children to passionate,psychotic pageant moms and previous contestants who support participation, there has been lively discourse regarding whether or not beauty pageants are beneficial or detrimental to young girls in relation to self-confidence and mental health.

There have been some extremely negative responses from the public in blogs and in the media. Blogger Alicia Fannin, for example, is extremely opposed to young girls participating in competitions because they define girls solely in terms of their appearance and lower their self-esteem as a result. “By their very nature, beauty pageants for kids are built around judging young girls by their looks. And let´s not forget that some of the kids in these pageants are very young indeed – maybe only toddlers. What is this teaching them? That external looks and being pretty are what counts, not what´s inside”, says Alicia. (for more see http://parenting.allwomenstalk.com/reasons-not-to-enter-your-child-in-beauty-pageants-for-kids)

200_s

I’m here to say that Alicia is totally right in her justification. Girls as young as TODDLERS start competing in pageants and are taught that appearance is EVERYTHING. Through my experience watching Toddlers and Tiaras, it seems that a typical competition day in the life of a beauty pageant girl involves getting spray tanned, having a makeup artist apply excessive layers of makeup on their face (to the point you can’t even recognize the child), adding on extensions or false hair and styling it, choosing the most elaborate, overpriced dress for a 5-year old possible, and putting on a fake smile (see picture of “flippers” below or false teeth). All of this culminates into the child anticlimactically strutting onto stage to be judged by a crowd of strangers. Evidently, the beauty pageants themselves intrinsically instill in young girls the idea that appearance, something that’s virtually uncontrollable, is a defining factor in their lives. This can obviously lead to self-esteem issues by constantly being compared to other young girls. (see https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/food-thought/201108/child-beauty-pageants-what-are-we-teaching-our-girls)

960  Picture of “flippers”- what a beautiful, natural smile for a 4 year-old!!

Previous child competitor Kerry Randall argues that “all girls could benefit from entering a beauty pageant” and that ,although they place a huge importance on looks, they’re more beneficial than detrimental. To Randall, pageants helped boost her confidence at a young age by giving her the opportunity to showcase her personality. To supporters of the pageants like Randall, I have to say that I think there’s something beneficial in building self confidence at an early age, but I don’t think entering young girls in beauty pageants is the best way to do that. By telling girls they have to wear excessive amounts of make-up, flippers , elaborate thousand dollar dresses, and fake tans, they’re instilling in young girls the idea that they have to alter their appearance to a very specific standard of “beautiful”. Do they not see the detriment inherent in pageants’ emphasis on looks? Let’s look at the scoring guidelines, shall we? Typically, 20 points are awarded based on how photogenic they are, 30 points are awarded based on beauty, 30 points on personality, and 20 points on originality and overall impression. Therefore, a little over 50% of scoring is based on appearance alone. So although people like Randall can argue that “personality and stage presence” are a factor in scoring, if we look at the general guidelines, it’s clear that an enormously large percentage of the points are awarded to girls based solely on their appearance in comparison to personality or creativity.

81bc2ea198a0d1659afad6e51f81cfca-1

How is self confidence supposed to be boosted when you’re taught at such an early age that appearance is so integral to your success and identity, especially when some children spend up to 7 hours a day on pageant preparation? Although I can see how some girls do walk away from competitions feeling proud and self-confident, there are always girls who walk away feeling inferior and are likely to become self-conscious and develop body image issues that could ultimately lead to anorexia or bulimia. Look at the case of 3 year-old Ava in season 6 episode 3 of Toddlers and Tiaras. How do you think she felt about herself when she was sure she was going to win Grand Supreme and didn’t even get called up on stage once during crowning? Probably not that “self-confident”! Clearly, material possessions and physical beauty is not enough to make young girls feel secure or confident. Not only are children being taught that their self-worth is dependent on their appearance but also that these young girls are being inexplicitly guided to feel that their worthiness is tied to what others think of them.

So ultimately, my only response is that, yea, beauty pageants could potentially boost the self-confidence of some girls, but the majority of girls who walk out without the Grand Supreme title could experience the negative psychological effects of pageants and that is, by far, a more pressing matter. So, although people like Kerry Randall can say that pageants are “beneficial”, I think there’s something to say for the people who didn’t have such positive experiences, and I think something needs to be done to completely alter the inherent emphasis on appearance in scoring to show young girls that their self-worth isn’t tied to their looks. Hmm.. maybe if they really want to boost girls self-confidence they would lower the points awarded based on appearance and maybe place emphasis on something more important like, say, personality or talent (groundbreaking, I know)! So for parents who want to place their kids in an activity I have to say- Warning: DON’T ENTER YOUR CHILDREN IN BEAUTY PAGEANTS!!

Toddlers-and-Tiaras-Mia

Removing the Swimsuit Event in the Miss India Beauty Pageant Would be a Huge Miss-take

Since the introduction of the Miss India beauty pageant in the 20th century, it has been put on blast for its portrayal of the female image. While people in India have issues with many aspects of this competition, the Miss India event that is attacked the most is the swimsuit event.

The event is as simple as it sounds; the women put on their heels and a bikini, then proceed to walk around the stage for the judges. Many conservatives across the globe agree that this event, regardless in which pageant, induces the sexualization of women; they argue that women should not be judged for the appearance of their bodies.

WRI 169 DD

For the Indian traditionalists, the argument remains the same: The Miss India beauty pageant sexualizes women. In their eyes, the poor pageant queens are forced to wear a bikini and expose themselves to an audience of gawkers. Last time I checked, no one was forcing two pieces of cloth onto a women’s body. These pageant contestants know what they are getting themselves into; they freely (shocking to imagine women having the freedom to do anything, I know) put on their swimsuit and confidently wear it in front of the crowd.

Those opposed to the beauty pageant in India abhor the competition because they believe that the women competing against one another have neither modesty nor morals, two very important attributes for a traditional Indian woman to have; these people do not understand how a woman can freely bare her skin without feeling shame.

To those people I say (in the nicest of ways): build a bridge and get over it.

Why should’t women be able to show off their bodies?  Why shouldn’t women be applauded for their confidence instead of being shamed for it?As Queen Bey once said, “if you got it, flaunt it.”

DD WRI 169 Fabulous GIF .gif

By assuming that a woman should automatically feel shame for exposing her body for all to see, and that she should fear the sexualized images her bare skin may bring to the audience’s mind, the pageant opponents become the ones who sexualize the women. Assumptions such as these must be quelled, for they take away from the rights of every woman to express herself on stage.

If these Miss India pageant women are criticized for feeling confident and beautiful in a bikini, then what message is this sending to young women across India? Although the swimsuit event is judged by fitness of the women’s bodies in the pageant, removing it from the pageant altogether would be influencing females everywhere to feel ashamed of their bodies. Yes, the women who participate in the Miss India pageant have incredibly fit bodies; but, that does not mean that fit bodies are the only beautiful bodies. In fact, every body is beautiful. The sooner young girls learn this, the healthier they will become physically and mentally. This is the first step to providing a modern image of women to traditionalists in India.

As Huma Ahmed-Ghosh, a professor of Women’s Studies, clearly explains in her article, denying women the freedom to show off their bodies in the pageant would also be detrimental to developing the “modern” Indian woman by giving the patriarchy all the power. She explains that eliminating the swimsuit competition “enables the patriarchy to locate and define women within an acceptable culture that legitimates and perpetuates power differentials between the genders.” Ahmed-Ghosh is completely right; this form of gender inequality, since men are not criticized for skin exposure, is detrimental to the development of Indian society.

As a result of this gender inequality, women have always been afraid of the consequences resulting from “indecent exposure” (AKA showing the tiniest sliver of skin). However, the real fear has been embedded in the patriarchy; it despises the idea of women having the freedom to express themselves in fear that these women may achieve the same rights as men. Until this ridiculous fear is subsided, India cannot become a modern nation. Of course even the most developed of countries, including the United States of America, show inequalities in the treatment of men and women. Still, in these countries, women are not as oppressed as they are in third world countries such as India.

There is an incredible amount of change that must happen in India, including modernization in many more areas than just gender inequality. Relinquishing the stigma of the Miss India pageant swimsuit event is a small, yet integral, step towards a more modernized society.

For an astonishing amount of years, women all over the world were told to cover up their bodies, to show modesty in dress. However, as civilization progresses, the taboo of showing too much skin transgresses unwritten societal laws. In order to achieve a modern India, citizens must abandon their idea of a traditional Indian women as the embodiment of modesty and purity. They must accept the fact that the modern woman is able to make her own decisions regarding her body, and that if she chooses to showcase it to myriad people, then so be it. The swimsuit portion of the Miss India pageant simply cannot be eliminated from the competition, for if it is, this will be a big step towards the regression of Indian society.

“Easy, Lazy, Overdone… Covergirl”: Maximizing Advertising Effectiveness by Creating Unique Ads through Photoshop’s UNTAPPED POTENTIAL

The biggest shock to the advertising world came in 2014, when lingerie company –Aerie – announced that it was going to restrict its use of the holy grail of advertising success – Photoshop – to eliminate body modification, for all of their future campaigns. Advertisers who follow Professor Carolyn Kitch’s philosophy of “dealing in ideal rather than reality”, were sure that the removal of “ideals” from the central human figure would mean advertising failure and company suicide. What was even more shocking, is the fact that this restriction proved to be more successful by increasing the company’s sales by 9%. Two years later and the advertising world is still in awe about a successful strategy that is conceptually pretty elementary. Why did Aerie’s ad make such a big impact?… It looked different!

Ask your family to think back to the last time they flipped through a magazine, digital or otherwise. Odds are that they were waiting on a ridiculously long line, when all of a sudden… they felt the urge to flip through a magazine in the hopes that the person in front of them would be long gone, by the time they got past the latest news about Kim Kardashian’s boob job. There’s only one “slight” problem. Ask if they remember the ad for L’Oréal’s new makeup product, the one right next to the ad for Victoria Secret’s new spring line… of course they DON’T. Why would they? It looks just like every other ad and they’ve learnt to naturally tune it out. Congratulations, your own family is living proof that advertising campaigns from thousands of companies are wasting millions of dollars in producing advertisements that have absolutely no impact whatsoever.

Professional advertisers know as well as I do that the science of marketing is about strategical placement of ads – in places like cash registers – to grab a potential client’s attention at every opportunity. But how can you rope in a future company patron, in the few seconds that it takes them to get from one page to another, if you don’t give them anything to get excited about? Some would argue that this is precisely why Photoshopping human images is so crucial. It’s the models that represent the brand, the background is just supplementary. Well those people are just wrong!

The genius behind Aerie’s advertising campaign is its refocus on the use of Photoshop as a background and product enhancer rather than a body modification tool, which makes the product more appealing to consumers. After all advertisers are selling products, not human physiques (even though that would be an interesting market to analyze). The ability to redirect the use of Photoshop technology, in this way, shifts consumer focus to the product and creates an overall scenario in which the product becomes more appealing. In this advertising model, it is the human figure that provides the supplementary element (not the other way around).

But what about the “the fantasy of ads”? Anyone who has watched John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing: The Language of Advertising”, knows that “the gap between what the spectator-buyer feels [the product] to be and what he would like it to be is filled with glamorous day dreams”.This concept establishes the foundation and motive of all advertising.

To Berger, Kitch and other proponents of “advertising through fantasy”, I respond that the focus of using Photoshop to enhance backgrounds rather than human images does a better job of providing customers with “ideals” and “day dreams” than the alternative. Don’t believe me? See for yourself! Below, we see a comparison between the swimsuit advertising campaigns of Aerie and Victoria’s Secret. Ultimately, Aerie is more successful in their advertising because of their attention to creating the “ideal” of a fun, warm and enjoyable summer day. The manipulation of the background, in terms of color and reflection, create a perfect color match with the water in the pool and the swimsuit and causes the viewer to focus on the water. This allows the audience to make a clear connection between the cool, refreshing and enjoyable water with the swimwear that they are wearing.  Conversely, Victoria’s Secret’s choice to blur the background forces the audience to focus on the model. This focus on the model distracts from the swimsuit itself and more focus is placed on the seemingly uncomfortable position of the model’s hip.

Aerie’s Swimsuit Campaign

Victoria Secret’s Swimsuit Campaign

As the advertising world evolves, so too does our use of technology to achieve the ultimate goal of maximizing advertising effectiveness. As we move forward, it is important to consider the lessons that have allowed us to come thus far – such as focusing on creating ideals through advertisements. However, the means by which this core goal can be achieved is ever-changing. In the case of Photoshop, Aerie’s advertising success makes a strong case for redirecting these ideals to enhance overall backgrounds and products rather than human bodies. This is revised advertising model – which places the human figure secondary to the product, is revolutionary and a potentially beneficial option that can be incorporated into existing companies and dominate advertising in emerging companies. The possibilities with this discovery are endless. What other “fantasies” can we create when focusing on background enhancement! Maybe it really is better to be different.

image1

The possibilities are endless!

The unmaking of a social murderer: The reason behind the rise and fall of the Sara Lee doll and the African American Barbie Trio; not a marketing failure, but a mental health reality and social danger.

trio

In the past century, research has been made around the lack of racial representation in Children’s dolls and how that affects their self-esteem. Results from experiments such as “The Doll Test” have shown that it is very important for black children to have access to attractive black dolls so their self-esteem can be boosted and there is a positive reflection of their own race seen in the objects they play with.

1565_l.jpg

“Our children gain a sense of self importance through toys. So we make them look like them.” – Yla Eason, founder of Olmec’s

In the 1950s, the toy industry then initiated a movement towards the production of a line of dolls that were seen as “ethnically correct”. This movement was seen as a progression towards a solution to the lack of racial representation in children’s dolls. Thus giving birth to the Sara Lee Doll; the most noble and biggest failed attempt at creating something black children could play with and develop a sense of pride in their race from.

SaraDespite the honor and pride that Sara Lee offered to the African American race, despite the symbol of equality that it was, despite its honorable intentions; the Sara Lee doll still failed, but why? Why have the African American
people rejected this doll when, for the first time, its intentions as a doll was not to mock them or to form part of the Caucasian imagination, but to honor them?

The Sara Lee Doll failed not because it was not good enough, but rather because, in the words of Gordon Patterson (Supporter of the “ethnically correct” doll):

“The Sara Lee Doll not only was assigned the role of healing racial wounds between White and Black citizens but also was expected to do the work of challenging the derogatory features of traditional Negro dolls and brokering racial acceptance from White citizens.”

The Sara Lee Doll had failed to change the racial prejudice that is already so deeply ingrained in society. The problem with the doll was not that it was disrespectful, it was that people were unwilling and couldn’t change what society had created: white beauty standards that could never be meet by a black doll simply because it is black.

Etta.jpgThe Sara Lee doll had indeed failed, yet it seems like it would be possible for more than fifty years later to have designed and manufactured a toy that for once was not the image of a black person in a white person’s mind: A caricature with horrifying big pouty lips, with obscenely sized body areas such as thighs and rear-end, and eyes that will steal your soul like voodoo dolls.  Or a doll that for once was not Barbie simply painted black. Yet these dolls are still being made. What is going on? People don’t want to change. People don’t want to let go of symbolic racial norms.

Now, fifty years later, scholars such as Sabrina Lynette Thomas continue to argue that the creation of another Sara Lee doll, another “ethnically correct” doll is required to solve the bad self-esteem black children have and the lack of a positive sense of racial identity they have.

“She was a messenger of race pride for little colored children. She was an “ambassador of peace” to little White children whose lives she would influence by promoting an acceptance and respect for Negro people that would be present throughout their adult lives. The Sara Lee Doll was a symbolic lobby-ist against the racial status quo. – Thomas”

But the problem is that she holds on to the single belief that black children are more alike to each other than white children are. That there exists a doll that can possible represent a whole race and that this solution is not something that was already tried fifty years ago, and for some reason she expects it to work fifty years later

2332_l

She fails to recognize that these dolls have not changed anything. Instead, they continue to force to develop a black beauty standard through this “ethnically” correct dolls that attempt to represent a whole race ideally, a one and only way to look like in order to be seen beautiful in a beauty standard that is still below white people. If any doubt still remains or for those who still don’t find this problematic, then ask yourselves why the line of African American Barbies: Asha, Nichelle and Shani and the other black Barbies out there look exactly like a white doll but with a black skin tone. In the end, can one truly say these Barbies represent African American women? Those are not their bodies, their life, or their culture. This is what an Eurocentric white beauty standard looks like.

Barbies

Acknowledging this is important because it points out these beauty standards/stereotypes that attempt to sanitize and categorize America and bury the effects that years of racial prosecution has had on black children’s psyche, especially through children’s toys. It could also potentially present a step towards brokering racial acceptance and challenging the roles individuals take in society through their race.

Furthermore, acknowledging this is important because these dolls are carriers of ideality, of white beauty standards. Scholars such as Thomas are wrong to say that a single, “ethnically correct” doll can fix years of racial injustice and racial identity destruction because it has been more than fifty years since the first “ethnically correct” doll and it has not changed. These Barbies are symbolic of internalized oppression; of standards that continue to compare two clearly incomparable, different races.

Finally, and most importantly, acknowledging this IS important because these Barbies are murderers. These dolls are murderers. Murderers of identity, of self-esteem, of pride. It has been more than a century since these white beauty standards have spread through these dolls (both white, demeaning black dolls, and “ethnically correct” dolls) like a societal disease across the world and it is truly ignorant of people in society to not notice this or to simply deny recognizing the years of racial injustice that America carries with stick and blindfolded ignorance. Years that have only taught children to hide from this silent assailant, to hate their race and to feel insufficient.