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The Lady Business Monologue

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There is nothing quite like old movies, advertising or television shows when it comes to social anthropology. Nobody would confuse plot points, costuming or set design with real life. But dialogue is very representative of the way in which people spoke at the time of filming. We can look at films from the 1940s and 1950s and sense racial views of the times. We can watch television of the 1960s and 1970s and see the overt anti-gay sensibilities. Today most film and television depicts bigotry only to make a point. There is one area of bigotry that never seems to have really changed however, and that’s misogyny.

Whether it’s in the casting or the storytelling, women are still objectified and marginalized. Male actors of every age, size, attractiveness and skin condition are regularly cast in prominent roles. Women of one size, one look, one age group and one hairstyle populate film & television roles. If you are an actress who is not a willowy, bouncy haired, 20-35 year old with a symmetrical face you’re lucky to get character roles. Yes, there are exceptions. But for the most part paunchy women over 70 are not getting the guy. The roles themselves often marginalize women. Accomplished doctors, detectives or spies still need to be fashionable and coiffed. When women are depicted as more than a collection of strategically placed highlights they are made to be a masculine cartoon. Even in the most “realistic” television dramas we never see women discussing or experiencing anything about being a woman. Has there ever been a cop show that explains how a female cop on a stakeout deals with her period? Sex, or servicing men is discussed and depicted continuously. Characters are always getting pregnant (and of course having the baby or losing the pregnancy naturally) so someone must be menstruating!

It’s not all that surprising that in the 21st century we still don’t discuss menstruation except as an insult. That’s right, in 2013 it is still perfectly acceptable to refer to someone as “having their period” when the accuser dislikes the behavior of the accused. It is still acceptable to refer to men as “ladies” or “girls” as an insult. In all manner of workplace you can hear these accusations. Imagine just for a moment that instead of hurling a female term as an insult, it was an ethnic or racial term. We wouldn’t and shouldn’t tolerate it. But insulting someone by calling them a woman; that’s cool. And why not; women tolerate it and even perpetuate it. Women will use the word “girl” to deride (ex., you are such a girl.) Women screenwriters, directors and casting agents perpetuate the one-dimensionality of female characters in film and television. And almost all women everywhere persist in using the incorrect terminology for their own genitalia.

Even those now famous monologues about that part of the body, use the wrong terminology. The vagina is one very specific part of the genitalia. The vagina is the internal, or birth canal, part of the female genitalia. Vulva is everything else (and from a sexual response perspective; what matters most.) Using inaccurate terminology is always troubling. Often, if not always, there is an underlying message in such choices. It is quite possible that the term “vagina” first became popular in the medical field (that same medical field that labeled women as hysterics and viewed sexually responsive women as flawed and/or dangerous.) The (male) medical field singled out the part of the female genitalia that most affected them. The vulva has no role in male satisfaction or in birthing. This is a reasonable explanation/theory. But why have women perpetuated this inaccuracy? We teach our children the word vagina, while we teach them all of the proper terms for male genitalia. We don’t refer to testicles as penises. We don’t refer to foreskin as penises. We use the correct terminology for all parts of male genitalia.

Does all this sound cranky, distasteful and maybe even a bit irrational? Are you thinking; “well someone’s got her period!” As a matter of fact, I don’t. But if I did, I wouldn’t whisper it or discreetly palm a tampon on my way to the bathroom. I don’t routinely discuss anyone’s genitalia in public, and wish I didn’t feel compelled to now. But it is one (important) piece of a troubling puzzle. We should teach our children body pride not body shame. We should correct them when they accuse someone of “throwing like a girl” or “crying like a girl.” We should stop ourselves and correct others when insulting someone with female allusions. It’s not a matter of political correctness; it is a matter of correctness. There is something wrong with considering “acting like a man” to be a compliment and “acting like a woman” to be an insult.

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Posted by on September 7, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

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Everyday People*

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The New York City Police Department has a melting pot guide for its officers. This guide offers tips for understanding the ingredients that make up our multicultural stew. At first blush it would seem a little quaint in the 21st century to need such a guide (in New York City). Unless the police recruits are coming from a small town (in the 1950s!) it’s a pretty sure bet that they’ve met or seen people of other backgrounds. But more than a cursory familiarity is needed on the front lines.

What is striking about this 21st century guide is the assumptions it makes. The reports of its content would suggest that it is written for the white, Christian, heterosexual police officer. Unfortunately there’s nothing unique about this approach. “Diversity” manuals are almost always written from that perspective (and without irony!) Social worker guidelines, medical manuals, public and private sector human resource documents are almost always written from the perspective of the white Christian heterosexual. Anyone doubting this need only flip through the tomes in pursuit of the chapter: Understanding White Christian Heterosexuals. Good luck with that.

Beside the obvious bias that this perspective has, there is a larger efficacy issue at hand. Police officers, social workers, et al. who are not white, Christian and heterosexual experience a gap in their training. A social worker, let’s say from an observant Jewish urban background, working in a rural white Christian area is not well served by this type of training. It is assumed that she will know the customs and culture of white rural Christians. The assumption that NYPD officers are white, Christian and heterosexual is (mercifully) outdated. A first-generation Chinese-American police officer may be well versed in the customs of Chinese-Americans but not know the customs and culture of white Christians. It is true that people who are outside of the power-base of a society know some of the ways of that power group. It is an integral key to survival to know of the holidays and some customs of Christians, whites and heterosexuals if you are not of that background. But the more subtle cultural cues (the type which are always addressed in these manuals and training) need to be spelled out clearly for all people of all backgrounds. Creating diversity manuals, which only have the potential of being 100% effective for white Christian heterosexuals transcends irony.

By not viewing whites, Christians and heterosexual people as a “group” we are asserting that these people are the norm and everyone else is a minority or special interest. This perspective is not helpful and is on the verge of being utterly false. If nothing else it is woefully old-fashioned. When it comes to the topic of cultural awareness we must be ahead of the curve not behind it.

*I am no better and neither are you
We are the same whatever we do – Sly Stone (1968)

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

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A Health Care Reformation Proclamation

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Medical Insurance (or as it’s less accurately known; health insurance) is on its way to reformation. It’s not clear if the results of the reform will render the; coverage, procedures and rights of the users any more decipherable than they are right now. But what is clear is that the more something is examined the more flaws are brought to light.

We can all probably agree that good medical care should be available to all. Whether insurance is the means to that end is highly questionable. But we seem to be stuck with that particular paradigm. Anyone who has ever sought treatment, payment or reimbursement would probably be happy to swear on a big towering stack of bibles that insurance companies seem to be in the business of making money not providing good healthcare. But as we established; we are stuck with this paradigm. In the interest of making lemonade out of the soul crushing demoralizing oligarchy of the paradigm, let’s consider how government involvement might improve things. (There will be no rolling of the eyes.)

The most obvious improvement will be filling gaps in the current usage of medical care. Insured people are presumably less likely to use emergency rooms as their general practitioner. This is good for both continuity of care and preventive efforts. It is also an enormous cost savings. Insured people are more likely to visit doctors before a condition become acute. They are also more likely to take the full dosage of their prescribed (co-pay) medicines, when not compelled to ration. In theory medical insurance for all will lead to medical care for all. Whether it’s ‘good’ medical care is another issue altogether (that was less of an eye roll and more of a ‘whatever’.)

Where things potentially get exciting and sane is the possibility of payment parity. Currently medical insurance is sold in two sizes; individual and family. The individual plan is discreet and self-explanatory. The family-size is an unlimited free for all. There is nothing equitable about this framework. A two-person family is paying the same rate as a ten person family. A parent with one child is in essence subsidizing larger families. Two options of coverage (individual and family) only benefits large families (and no doubt insurance companies.) There is no other insurance plan (of which I’m aware) that operates this way. You don’t buy homeowner insurance for either one home or an unlimited amount of homes. You don’t purchase auto or life insurance in this manner either. You purchase insurance plans for each entity that needs coverage.

I would like to think that as the thinkologists are drawing up this new way of doing medical care business, they will take note of this inequity. (Can’t really see my eye rolling behind these rose colored glasses, can you?) Perhaps when all people (not covered by employers) have to purchase insurance they will balk at the two sizes fits all framework. People probably don’t spend a lot of time scrutinizing each pay-stub and considering their pre-tax contributions. But it’s hard to ignore being overcharged when you are writing the check.

Sometime during the last four decades or so we’ve convinced ourselves that medical insurance is mandatory and good. It is not a coincidence that healthcare costs have skyrocketed as we succumbed to this thinking. There are too many bad medical practices and less than good doctors hiding behind insurance. There is far too much money and time spent trying to keep costs down versus caring for people. Good care that focuses on what’s best for the patient is what we need.¬†We’re on our way to medical insurance for all. Now how about some actual health care reform?

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

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