Living Life Purposefully

Where Purpose Meets Passion

Monthly Archives: June 2011

Artificial Masculinity

Artificial (adj) – Made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, typically as a copy of something natural; contrived or false; conventional as opposed to natural; insincere or affected

In essence, a facade.

The Issue

With the recent release of Rihanna’s “Man Down” video (here), people have decided to raise their voices concerning a very important issue to the Black community. For those who haven’t seen the video causing all of the controversy, Rihanna essentially shoots an assailant after he stalks her when she leaves a party and rapes her in an alley.

Given that scenario, it was no surprise that people had something to say.

I was surprised by what people decided to take issue with  — the murder of a Black man. Not the rape. Not the stalking. Not the depression of the victim. But the murder of a Black man (who in my eyes was no longer a man when he decided to assert his masculinity and take what wasn’t willingly given to him).

Why Does This Happen?

But the question is why does this type of behavior towards Black women take place, especially at the hand of Black men?

During a discussion on Twitter concerning Black men, Black women, and various forms of harassment, @purplepeace79 posed the question, “Do we think over generations of being unable to do anything to protect Black women, that Black men simply gave up?” It was a very interesting thought and I found myself saying yes. I then responded with, “I’d also say that it stems from not being able to be a man in larger society, so they mimic negative behavior towards us.”

And this is what I mean by artificial masculinity.

For far too long, the Black community has had to cope with the negative implications of our men being feminized (made something more characteristic of women) by larger society. What could possibly come from a legacy of slavery where Black men were used to breed and family units were almost nonexistent (roughly 1619 until 1863)? What could possibly come from the disenfranchisement we faced (as a community) after the Reconstruction era (roughly 1870 until 1964)? How could we cope as a community when men were pushed from the home with the Vietnam War and subsequent Welfare Laws? How could we possibly rebuild ourselves after the Crack Epidemic (1984 to 1990) and then the War on Drugs? And let us not forget the war on poverty. After all of this, we really feel that as a community, we are unscathed and that men are…Men?

No. They are not. Not fully anyhow.

What we are witnessing with the majority of men is simply what happens when role models are only present through the television and gang culture has seem to become the law of the land. Stereotypes are projected through media and impressionable young people come of age idolizing those who experienced a quick rise to riches and a fast fall to nothing (think American Gangster, Scarface, and the main character from GTA). For most, fathers are not around and our community has moved from the stance that “It Takes A Village To Raise A Child” (which has been capitalized upon by white women, most notably HIllary Clinton) to one of, “If that’s your kid, then you deal with it.”

We’ve moved to silence.

Because of this, we’ve put our entire community in danger because we are allowing young men to run around with free rein doing what they think a man should do. men say what they want to women without regard to how disrespectful it is. men don’t heed the word no and when a woman speaks up, she becomes a bitch. Or a ho. men congregate in hopeless flocks with nowhere to go except the streets. Men are doing what they think defines masculinity and it’s simply contributing to the demise of a community. Our entire community has become like an antique plate which is perched on a perilous ledge waiting to fall over and shatter.

What Can Be Done

Just as the problem affects the whole community, it will take all of us to fix it.

Men raise your Sons. You all constantly walk around bashing single mothers and harping on their inability to raise young boys up properly. So you take up the task and do so. For those of you who don’t have any Sons (or children for that matter), MENTOR. Move back to a time of community and work with the young men in your neighborhood. Take something as simple as coaching a team, and instituting principles of manhood into practices. Tutor someone and mention that young men should respect young women within the classroom. When you teach a young man to tie a tie, mention that he’s to hold open doors for young women as well AND to not react if she doesn’t say thank you. As a woman, she could just be silenced by the shock of the situation (because it doesn’t happen often). But most of all, highlight that they can not respect women if they don’t respect themselves or their Mothers.

Make sure respect for self translates into respect for women and the larger community.

Women, we aren’t off the hook either. While men are busy raising their sons, teach your daughters that it is okay to speak up (unless her intuition is telling her to shush it). After reviewing some of the responses to purplepeace79’s tweet, I’ve come to the conclusion that while some men are fully aware that the disrespectful behavior is just that, they remain silent because we remain silent. Tell your Daughters that it is okay to have a voice. Give them a whistle and tell them to blow the hell out of it when males say some crazy mess to them. Teach your Sons that their masculinity is not predicated upon how disrespectful they are towards women. When walking out with them, encourage them to compliment women (as youngsters and to address them respectfully). Promote positive behavior towards young women by you yourself being positive towards yourself (which is an entirely different blog all on it’s on). ALWAYS. Children mimic what they see. But most of all, highlight that they can not respect women if they don’t respect themselves or their Mothers.

Make sure respect for self translates into respect for women and the larger community.

It’s time that we work on reclaiming what is ours, and men, this means that you have to raise your Sons. For some of you guys out there, this may mean that you’ll finally have to raise yourselves.

Rape Is Never Funny

Just as the title states, rape is never funny. Yet people constantly choose to explain to those of us who are disgusted by is usage is in jokes exactly why it IS, and should be, considered comical. The fact remains that it is NOT funny. It will never be funny and any person who chooses to laugh at it without raising an eyebrow or shedding light on the injustice is a willing perpetrator in continuing the assault on persons who have experienced this tragedy.

By Definition…

By definition, rape is a verb, an action, which is defined as the forcing of another person to have sexual intercourse without their consent or against their will, especially by threat or use of violence among them. It also means to spoil or destroy a place. Think about that last part for a moment.

To spoil or destroy a place.

To spoil…to diminish or destroy the value or quality of. To prevent someone from enjoying an occasion or event. To rob of goods or possession by force or violence. To ruin. To mar. To corrupt. To damage. To vitiate. To plunder upon. To prey upon. To pillage.

That’s what a Person’s humanity has been reduced to when they are raped. It has become unrecognizable to them and to others around them. They are less than and the assault on a person’s humanity comes in many different masks. It can look like acquaintance rape (someone knows the victim), date rape (someone accompanied the victim on an outing), gang rape (a group of people commit sexual assault against one person), marital rape (a spouse refuses to heed the “No.”), and statutory rape (a minor is assaulted by a legal adult).

Rape is often something a Person relives when they are placed around triggers and anything can be a trigger. From the way something looks to a sound in the background. To a smell while out in public or the feeling of a unknowing stranger bumping into them. Anything can be a trigger. And as People, we are stimulated through our senses…

So imagine living an assault repeatedly because you happen to be human?

Rape Doesn’t Happen That Often…

To the naysayers, here’s a quick snapshot of Rape. The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network or RAINN, is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. They compile the picture of rape and their website reports:

  • 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed; 2.8% attempted)
  • 17.7 million American women have been the victims of attempted or completed rape
  • 9 out of every 10 rape victims were female in 2003
  • While 80% of victims are white, minorities are more likely to be attacked
  • About 3% of American men – or 1 in 33 – have been victims (2.78 million men in the US have been victims or sexual assault or rape)
  • 15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12
  • 7% of girls in grades 5-8 and 12% of girls in grades 9-12 said they have been sexually abused
  • 3% of boys grades 5-8 and 5% of boys in grades 9-12 said they have been sexually abused
  • 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker

Rape happens.

Injustices against people’s humanity happens. The effects of rape are lifelong and takes much therapy to get through. Victims of rape/sexual assault are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression, 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, 13 times more like to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, and 4 times more like to contemplate suicide.

But We Can’t Really Do Anything… Can We?

We can.

“If you are neutral in a situation of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” -Desmond Tutu

The most important thing that we can do is to remember that we live in a society that rewards conquests of the unknown and make up our minds that we won’t continue to sit by silently. SPEAK UP!

Speak up about ill intentions and unwanted affections being displayed by your friends. Tell them to think about it. Remind them that jail time can come along with it and IF you know of someone who has been assaulted, encourage them to make a report.

Speak up when people make “jokes” about the issue because nothing is funny about sexual assault. Refuse to laugh at jokes that include the word rape. After all, nothing is funny about 80% of women and 3% of men reporting that their Person was assaulted.

Call out people who use the term is a cavalier fashion (there is nothing funny about people saying, “Such and such a company raped me when they had me pay too much.”) In this instance, remember that it was a choice for the person to frequent the establishment and victims had no choice in what happened to them.

Speak up about implied assault in advertising. When you do, things like THIS happen.

Become an Ally.

Become someone who a person can trust completely without wondering about ill intentions. Become someone who stands up for faceless victims because just as there are people who report this, there are many people who don’t. Become a person that doesn’t rationalize rape, sexual assault, street harassment, molestation, and any other unwanted sexual behavior. Become a person who doesn’t question the victim first or question the outlet in which they choose to tell their story.

Become someone who remembers that a victim is, and will always be, a Person. Become someone who cares.

It’s time that we move past this idea that rape can be funny because it never is.

America Is Getting Dumber…I Blame De-Segregation

The Glaring Issue

On yesterday, a relatively controversy piece made its way to CBS News (watch the video here). In a piece titled, “Study: Celebrity trumps news for women,” reporter Taryn Winter-Bill took to the streets to engage young college-aged woman and found them to be more knowledgeable about celebrity gossip than current events. After, CBS News legal analyst Lisa Bloom spoke to Erica Hill about the study.

Before I go any further, I’ll mention that this “study” was done after daring claims were made in Lisa Blooms’ new book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World. She found:

  • Women could not name the three branches of government, wars we are currently involved in, and one major international news headline
  • More wanted to be famous over winning the Nobel Peace Prize
  • More wanted to be hit by a bus than to be fat
  • Many believed we’ve made significant advances in women’s rights YET few knew that we are one a few “Western” nations that has never had a female head of state

What’s sad is that NONE of this surprises me. While an undergraduate and graduate TA in very different university settings, I found students in BOTH places to be relatively unaware of what was going on around them. Largely, their interest was only ground in events they could directly relate from. Sure, they knew all about a crisis overseas BUT it was only to advance a personal agenda.

And that’s fine. That’s what the United States of America has come to stand for. If it’s international and doesn’t relate directly to me, then I’m just going to watch the latest reality show until I find something (read: the news highlights something) that does.

Who Suffers The Most?

But the question is now: WHO SUFFERS FROM THIS? Well folks…it isn’t the poor Black people in urban centers that everyone wants to save.

It’s young, White women.

That’s right folks. It’s those young white women that have the most to lose from this. Let’s look at a few facts shall we.

  • In 2007, White college enrollment constituted 64% of total college enrollment. Source
  • Approximately 60% of Whites graduated with a bachelor’s degree or it’s equivalent within 6 years (the only group to outperform Whites in this area was Asians/Pacific Islanders). Source
  • In both public and private not-for-profit 4-year institutions, the 6-year graduation rates for females were higher than the rates for males. Source
    • In public institutions, approximately 58% of females graduated within 6 years versus 52% of males.
    • The percentage of females graduating within 6 years at private not-for-profit institutions was 67% versus 61% of males.
  • While examining race and sex, the NCES found that in 2007-08, 62% of Associate’s, 56% of Bachelor’s, 62% of Master’s, & 55% of Doctoral degrees were awarded to white women. Source

But Why Blame De-Segregation?

Well, folks, it’s simple. That’s when our education system as a whole went to hell.

Of course, the legislation brought about in Brown v. Board of Education (and other similar cases) were to ensure that people of color finally had the chance to receive an equal opportunity at a well-rounded education. No longer would racial and ethnic minorities be relegated to attending struggling and dilapidated schools on the outskirts of town where books were outdated and the building was falling apart. No! They would have the chance to attend the schools that had come to represent the beacon of beaming light upon a hill.

Except…over time, White people left. And with them, money.

Now with my background in education, I was also surprised to learn the other part of desegregation — the moving of teachers of color into white schools and vice versa. But with the money and the apathetic attitudes, white parents moved their white children to white suburbs where they could ensure that white teachers would teach in white schools. They built up schoolhouses whose “Keep Out If You Aren’t Like Us” rule has trickled down to even today. These schools, while better than urban schools aren’t all that great. It’s true, they look awesome when compared to urban schools where less than 50% of any given freshman class makes it to graduation and successfully matriculates into college. HOWEVER, these schools look like the runt of a puppy litter when compared to our global competition. Those AP courses your child takes as a Senior, I’m pretty sure a Chinese kid whose about 12 could pass…or at least carry their weight.

What ultimately has happened is that America has NOT stayed a force in education. We continue to fall in the educational ranks of developed nations and our students as a whole continue to struggle on standardized tests. Gone are the days of challenging curriculum and parents siding with the teacher. No, we’ve hurriedly ushered in an era where children are doted on and our challenging curriculum isn’t all that challenging. Our standards are low and our children are apathetic, spoiled brats…

All because someone in your family a while back didn’t want their child to be a kindergarten desk buddy with a Black kid and our government did nothing about it.

So to all of my White Ladies, Women, Chicks, Feminist Friends (whatever), you’re getting dumber….and it’s your grandparents (or great-grandparents) fault.