This video is a little old, but sadly still perfectly relevant.

After Tiger Woods got busted for serial infidelity, my 90-something-year-old grandpa concluded that would probably be the end of his career. My mom and I countered that would probably not be the case, as he had only wronged women. Just look at Kobe, we told him. The Pro-Am just concluded and sure enough, nary a mention of Tiger’s ‘personal problems’ as he continues to struggle back to peak form in golf.

That is not to suggest that cheating is even in the same ballpark as battery. Rather, I mean to point out the willingness to forgive high profile men for their bad behavior toward women. Just look at Charlie Sheen, who continues to be one of the highest paid actors in television and has a new show coming out in June.

Shortly after Sheen’s estranged wife is granted a restraining order against him, Sheen was welcomed at the Emmys. At the time, Heather Tooley suggested:

Hollywood and fans have a way of cutting celebrities a lot of slack for bad behavior if they play nice long enough.

No. The court of public opinion has a way of cutting celebrities a lot of slack for bad behavior against women. Period.

I didn’t watch, but I hear Chris Brown performed not once, but twice last night. He also won Best R&B album. A lot of people made light of his triumphant return, while still others glorified the abuse (TW for physical abuse at those links).

As Jay Smooth said, and you think you’re being persecuted?

What is Chris Brown complaining about? I’ve never seen someone complain so much, about getting off so easy, for doing something so bad. …You brutally, physically assaulted a woman, a woman you supposedly loved, that you beat to a pulp and then left there alone in that car so you could go get a head start on your PR strategy.

A year or two ago I got fed up with the sexism of The Huffington Post (intentionally not linked). Try this and you’ll see what I mean: On any given day, go to their homepage and just scan your eyes down the page for stories about women. More often than not, they’re not actual news pieces, but gossip or polls dealing with some sensational tidbit meant to increase the website’s click count.

Today (for ‘research’ purposes I went there, though it makes me want to wash my hands) we have stories about Gaddafi aids, Bernie Madoff, and Lawrence O’Donnell, all accompanied by a picture of the man in question in a suit. For stories that feature women, we have ‘Jessica Simpson Tweets Photo of Herself from NYC Bathroom,’ ‘Kelly Clarkson Reveals Why People Think She’s a Lesbian,’ and ‘Jenna Lyons’ New (Female!) Love Interest Revealed.’ You get the idea. Today Name It Change It, a project of the Women’s Media Center that calls out sexism in the media, especially toward women in politics, called out HuffPo’s sexism toward Hillary Clinton.

Yesterday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Peruvian Prime Minister Salomon Lerner. Instead of focusing on diplomatic issues between Peru and the United States, the Huffington Post created a poll to gauge how readers are “feeling (about) the Hillary scrunchie.”

I know I shouldn’t be surprised any more. But this one irked me a little more than usual because just minutes before the scrunchie post caught my eye, I was reading about Clinton’s views on the limits of power and its implications for advancing the U.S.’s interests abroad. That’s some heavy stuff! And hair accessories don’t come into the piece at all. It takes time and brain power to analyze Clinton’s beliefs, especially in the broader historical context of the U.S.’s reliance of military might. It’s much easier to focus on an aspect of her appearance and urge readers to vote on it. But that serves to minimize what comes out of her mouth as secondary to what she looks like. This is a message women and girls receive loud and clear everywhere they turn, but I wouldn’t expect to be sent by a popular ‘news’ outlet founded by a woman (Arianna Huffington – voted 12th Most Influential Woman in the Media by Forbes).

The media, as we all do, make choices about what’s important and who’s worth listening to. Huffington Post’s choice to focus on Hillary Clinton’s scrunchie, or Kelly Clarkson’s sexuality, rather than their newsworthy contributions to society, reinforces the notion that women are not to be taken seriously. That women are there for a good laugh, or a sexy picture, not relevant to the business of ‘real’ news, which is exclusively the realm of men. This carries over into our daily lives. Are we subconsciously giving people permission not to listen to what women say when they open their mouths?

Another choice the media makes involves the photo that accompanies their stories. More often than not, especially during the 2008 campaign, the photo that accompanied articles about Clinton where less than flattering, to put it mildly. The pattern continues through her tenure as Secretary of State, as Melissa McEwan of Shakesville highlights here. Clinton was at a press conference talking about the Somalian famine. She was urging the Shebab militants to stop preventing aid from reaching children during Ramadan. And what Getting Images photo was chosen to accompany her statement? The photo is after the jump with McEwan’s spot-on analysis below.

(more…)

I wanted to share an example with you of what I was referring to in my previous post, where people brag about fitting into smaller sized jeans. This example showed up on my friend’s Facebook page two days after Love Your Body Day (with names and faces blocked for confidentiality):

This friend of mine has an eating disorder. We’ve known each other since we were very young and I’ve watched her struggle with it for more than a decade. So to see her ‘friends’ uniformly praising her for losing weight is quite upsetting, though not surprising. Isn’t there one of them who knows, deep down, that her thinness is not a sign that she is more healthy? Isn’t there one of them concerned for her health? Not one who chimes in to tell her she is a beautiful person no matter her size?

In contrast I’d like to share this article that encourages you to think twice before praising someone for weight loss.

So when we actively and publicly praise someone for his or her weight loss (especially young women/girls), are we praising someone for a healthy and balanced approach to living or someone who is facing a critical, mental health crisis? Are we mistakenly encouraging someone to continue a process that has allowed them to lose weight, a process that will, if gone unchecked, lead to their death?

So will you be the dissenting voice on the Facebook thread that chimes in with something other than praise for pounds shed? You may be surprised at the reaction you get (not always positive). But perhaps you’ll awaken someone else who is in the habit of affirming problematic, even dangerous, behavior. It’s fast and easy to click “like” or to chime in with the crowd. But consider what you’re affirming and whether it’s what you value most about your friend.

Today is NOW’s Love Your Body Day. Check out some great posts in their blog carnival here.

In honor of LYBD, I’m reflecting on how lucky I am to truly love my body. I was never one to stare at myself naked in the mirror and pick apart my flaws. But I’ve stood next to friends countless times who have done that. They grab on to a fold of skin or point to a blemish and then they say something about its ugliness. These same friends brag about squeezing into their size X jeans again or waking up before dawn to torture themselves in a boot camp.

To be honest, I don’t know why I’ve never been overly concerned about my body. I think it must come, in part, from the unconditional acceptance I received from my parents. After a dance concert in sixth grade, I overheard my friend’s mom ask her why her stomach wasn’t flat like X’s. At the time I remember feeling mortified for her, but also knowing that I would never hear such criticism from my own mom. As an adult, my mom told me that she was always very conscious of what she said to me with regard to my appearance, knowing that any one comment could stick with me for years.

My comfort in my body must also come from being taught to be a critical consumer of media. For as long as I can remember I have known that the images I see in magazines or advertisements weren’t what women actually looked like. I can’t remember looking at my Barbies or teen magazines and wishing I looked like someone else. My mom explained to me at a young age that trends changed frequently so that people would go out and spend money. I never felt much desire to keep up with the latest fashion and instead looked for clothes that I felt comfortable in.

I attribute my appreciation for my body in great part to playing sports. I have always participated in team sports. As an only child, being part of a team taught me the ups and downs of relying on others and required me to spend a lot of time with other girls my age. Playing sports taught me the frustration of losing, and they helped me learn to cope with unfairness and team politics. They also taught me confidence in my abilities and awe in what my body could do. When I was 12 or 13, I came within one pitch of pitching a no-hitter. I was a leader on the field and my body performed when I needed it to. Research shows that sports can be a mixed bag for girls when it comes to body image. The Girl Scout Research Institute finds “The more physically active girls are, the greater their self-esteem and the more satisfied they are with their weight, regardless of how much they weigh. Eighty-three percent of very active girls say that physical activity makes them feel good about themselves.” On the other hand, many girls refuse to participate in sports because “they do not feel skilled or competent (40%) or because they do not think their bodies look good (23%)”. I am fortunate that neither of those last two reasons prevented me from playing sports.

And finally, my body acceptance obviously comes from a place of great privilege. I am able-bodied and of more-or-less average size. I grew up seeing people that looked like me (fair skinned, blonde hair) in the media, so I was not made to feel that the way I looked was undesirable. My parents could afford league fees for recreational softball teams, and when I was older, travel teams that played year-round. I have decent health care that allows me to care for my body when it is sick and practice preventative care when it’s not.

I am deeply thankful that I can look at my body non-judgmentally. I am thankful that my body gets me where I want to go. It tells me when it needs something. I strive to listen to my body.  I feel strong. I am grateful.

In honor of LYBD, I want to share ‘Phenomenal Woman‘ by Maya Angelou.

There continues to be a lot of press about the recent murders of two young girls here in San Diego. As the community mourns, the denial and sadness have turned to anger. The anger is understandable and justified, though at times misguided. People want to write new laws to ‘protect our daughters’ without first examining the failures of the laws already on the books. Laws that likely would have prevented these latest murders if enforced properly.

After Gardner was charged with killing Chelsea and linked by police to Ambers disappearance, prison officials disclosed that he had violated parole conditions seven times but was never returned to prison.

According to parole records, Gardner allowed his GPS battery to lapse four times. He also missed a meeting with his agent, was ticketed for possessing marijuana and was cited for breaking residency conditions.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported last week that Gardner opened a MySpace account despite a parole condition banning him from using computers; agents failed to discover the violation.

Excuses are made and fingers are pointed. The board that’s supposed to investigate the parole violation has few staff and no budget. Many of the people on the board are representatives from the department of corrections, which is essentially tasked with policing itself. One has to wonder if the governor really wants productive outcomes to come from this investigation.

Nationwide, government and law enforcement often go through the motions when it comes to crimes against women. Their actions speak much louder than their words. It is clear that sexual assault cases are not a priority. Picture storage rooms full of untested rape kits. Listen as victims of assault are deemed not credible. Observe as our community implores girls to take self defense classes, placing the responsibility solely on the potential victims rather than the perpetrators.

We need to call out the empty nods and broken promises. We need to get everyone involved in working toward a solution, not just stakeholders who have their own political interests in mind.

A new commission was formed in Cleveland, in response to the bodies of 11 women being found in the home of a registered sex offender, that looks a lot different from the one here in San Diego. The three accomplished women leading the commission are meeting deadlines, documenting problems and making recommendations. All of their 26 recommendations were accepted by the mayor. Now we wait to see if this is yet another example of paying lip service or if a community will finally demonstrate that they believe that indeed women and girls deserve better.

Yesterday, in Tiger Woods’ apology for (getting caught in) his marital infidelity, he made the following statement:

I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them, he confessed. I was wrong. I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules.

He felt he was entitled. To what? To having any woman that he wanted be sexually available to him. Why? Because he is a wealthy, famous male athlete and that gives him the proverbial all-access pass to what he wants whenever he wants it. It is widely known that high school athletes on recruitment trips to prospective colleges are often offered women as part of the ‘perks’ of attending that college. Current Legal Developments in the Cal State system note:

…part of the strategy for recruiting high school athletes to play football at the university was to promise them alcohol and sex during their campus visit. Female ‘ambassadors’ were asked to escort the recruits around campus and to make sure that they ‘had a good time.’ One ambassador apparently arranged for several football players and recruits, who had been drinking, to visit Simpson’s apartment. Ms. Simpson and Ms. Gilmore were allegedly sexually assaulted and were too intoxicated to consent.

According to this same article, the media has reported on this widespread policy of ‘showing recruits a good time’ since (at least) 1983, yet the practice appears to continue unchecked today. Woods hit the nail on the head with regard to his sense of entitlement toward women, but he is wrong about male athletes and the rules. We clearly judge male athletes’ behavior by a different set of standards.

“There is a mentality among athletes that ‘we can get away with this, that no one is going to challenge us because we are student athletes,’” said Richard Lapchick, professor at the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. (ABC News)

The general population has a conviction rate of 80%. The conviction rate of an athlete is 38%. (Benedict/Crosset Study)

The discourse surrounding male athletes’ transgressions sends them a clear message that we’re willing to turn the other cheek, as long as their behavior does not get in the way of their athletic performance or, as in Tiger’s case, their sponsors’ ability to package and sell their image for millions. But is this true only for athletes?

But former college athlete and coach Peter Roby, director of Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society, disagreed that this is a problem for athletes specifically. The former basketball player for Dartmouth College said damning the athletes misses the larger point. This is how society instructs men in general to behave, he said, and athletes have merely achieved the pinnacle of that goal. (ABC News)

The society that teaches male athletes to view women as prizes they’ve earned is incapable of viewing women, female athletes included, as anything but sexual objects for consumption. Just ask Lindsey Vonn.

Scary times:

Psalms 109:8, An Ugly Prayer for President Obama

Any time the citizens of a state, particularly a democracy, invoke their faith to pray for the demise of those they oppose politically, we should be concerned. When the call for such prayers becomes one of the most popular Google searches in the country, we should shake, especially those of us who believe in God, prayer and the Bible. Psalm 109, verse 8, went viral this morning in just that way.

Among the world’s top Google searches today are phrases that contain the words “Psalms 109 8″, and “Psalm 109 8 prayer for Obama”. For those of you who may not know that particular verse, it reads “May his days be few, may another take over his position.” And before anyone excuses this toxic use of scripture as nothing more than the wish that President Obama not be re-elected to a second term of office, the next verse in the psalm reads, “May his children be orphans and his wife a widow”.

In fact, the entire chapter is about the prayed for death of an evil person. Not to mention that anyone who knows enough Bible to have thought about this verse in particular, surely knows the entire chapter and appreciates its message. Pretty scary stuff.

All this is especially upsetting in light of the last weeks’ events at Fort Hood. Exactly how long is it going to take us to figure out the danger of linking faith claims and violent fantasies? How is it that the very same people who would have wanted to curtail access, and rightly so, to the hate-filled, violence-inducing, sermons to which Major Hasan listened, do not cry out against these prayers and those praying them?

The issue is not the scripture quoted or the name by which God is called by those doing the praying. The issue is invoking the God in whom any of us believe, to act as executioner of those with whom we disagree.

From Yigal Amir, who murdered Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, to Major Hassan who murdered 13 and wounded 30 more, to whomever might step in on behalf of a “Christian nation” to make the words of the Psalm 109 a reality, each was inspired by prayers and scriptural readings not unlike those of the millions who made verse 8 a top Google search this morning. There is no place for such prayers in any of our faiths and until we all stand up and say so, at least a little blood will be on all of our hands.

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield

San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman was arrested early this morning for allegedly choking and restraining Tila “Tequila” Nguyen. The coverage on sports sites unsurprisingly focuses on how this will hurt Merriman’s team, and frustration that this could happen so close to the start of the season. According to SR at the Bleacher Report:

The real questions is…What in the world was Merriman thinking? After all this time in working to come back into the NFL, why would he do something so stupid to not only hurt himself, but his team as well?

To the author’s credit, he does assert that NFL players can’t be choking women and getting away with it. But his immediately concern for the player and the team, with very little consideration for the health of the alleged victim (a sentiment echoed by several articles) is staggering.

Check out this poll:

MerrimanPoll

Misogyny in the sports world is thriving. If you have any doubts, read the comments section of any article covering this story. As a woman who loves sports, it’s growing harder to support any professional team because they condone violence against women.

Late last year, Brian Giles, outfielder for the San Diego Padres, faced assault charges by his former girlfriend. At first, the Padres came out with a strong statement insisting that they would not condone any form of violence against women and, much like the Chargers are doing, vowing to watch the case carefully as it unfolded. Despite video evidence showing Brian Giles throwing his girlfriend on the ground in a public place, the story was swept under the rug. At first, I tried not to support the Padres, a team I’ve rooted for my entire life. Eventually, I started watching games again, secretly rooting against Brian Giles each time he played. But why am I forced to choose between loving professional sports and condoning violence against women?

Sadly, Michael Vick has faced a much stronger backlash for his role in dog fighting than any recent athlete accused of violence against women. Is it because no one was able to turn the tables in the Vick case and blame the dogs? Shawne Merriman’s alleged attack on his girlfriend happened this morning. How long will it take for the media to blame his victim and then forget anything ever happened? Michael Vick has inspired boycotts and angry petitions from sports fans and non-fans alike.� Where’s the “NFL Fans Against Violence Against Women” group?

It turns my stomach to think that I have had to work  nearly four months this year to equal my husband’s wages from last year. We have the same education and qualifications, but our work is not valued the same.

Why April 28? The typical woman worker had to toil all of 2008 and through April 28, 2009 to earn the equivalent of her male counterpart’s earnings in 2008 alone. (Center for American Progress)

Check out several great posts from the National Women’s Law Center’s Blog for Fair Pay Day 2009 here.  For a great Equal Pay primer, check out “Why Arent’ We There Yet?

As RobinNWLC points out, women often have no way of knowing if we are being paid fairly. That’s why we need the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The Act would deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in the EPA and barring retaliation against workers who disclose their wages. The bill also allows women to receive the same remedies for sex-based pay discrimination that are currently available to those subject to discrimination based on race and national origin. (NWLC)

Click here to urge your senators to support the Paycheck Fairness Act!

Salon reports that secret recordings have been released in which one Army psychologist admits that he is under a lot of pressure not to diagnose returning service members with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You can listen to the recording and read the details here.

But what Sgt. X wants to tell a reporter about is one doctor’s appointment at Fort Carson that his wife did not witness. When she couldn’t accompany him to an appointment with psychologist Douglas McNinch last June, Sgt. X tucked a recording device into his pocket and set it on voice-activation so it would capture what the doctor said. Sgt. X had no idea that the little machine in his pocket was about to capture recorded evidence of something wounded soldiers and their advocates have long suspected — that the military does not want Iraq veterans to be diagnosed with PTSD, a condition that obligates the military to provide expensive, intensive long-term care, including the possibility of lifetime disability payments. And, as Salon will explore in a second article Thursday, after the Army became aware of the tape, the Senate Armed Services Committee declined to investigate its implications, despite prodding from a senator who is not on the committee. The Army then conducted its own internal investigation — and cleared itself of any wrongdoing. (emphasis mine)

Just days ago, Ann Jones asked “How can we stop the epidemic of killing women and children by returning soldiers?” She notes that the young men we send to war are not the same ones returning home. She doesn’t blame them (several excerpts below, but read the entire post here).

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Men sent to Iraq or Afghanistan for two, three, or four tours of duty return to wives who find them “changed” and children they barely know. Tens of thousands return to inadequate, underfunded veterans’ services with appalling physical injuries, crippling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suck-it-up sergeants who hold to the belief that no good soldier seeks help. That, by the way, is a mighty convenient belief for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, which have been notoriously slow to offer much of that help.

All too often, the war wounds turn into violence against the servicemen’s family members.

Even in the best of times, the incidence of violence against women is much higher in the military than among civilians. After war, it’s naturally worse — as with those combat team members at Fort Carson. In 2005, one of them, Pfc. Stephen Sherwood, returned from Iraq and fatally shot his wife, then himself. In September 2008, Pvt. John Needham, who received a medical discharge after a failed suicide attempt, beat his girlfriend to death. In October 2008, Spc. Robert H. Marko raped and murdered Judilianna Lawrence, a developmentally disabled teenager he met online.

When a New York Times reporter asked a master sergeant in the Special Forces to comment on these events, he responded: “S.F.’s [Special Forces members] don’t like to talk about emotional stuff. We are Type A people who just blow things like that off…”

As it turns out, the military is not only creating the problem but covering it up.

What the task force discovered was that soldiers rarely faced any consequences for beating or raping their wives. (Girlfriends didn’t even count.) In fact, soldiers were regularly sheltered on military bases from civilian orders of protection and criminal arrest warrants. The military, in short, did a much better job of protecting servicemen from punishment than protecting their wives from harm.

It is perhaps the same flawed medical evaluation process described above that prevents the cycle of violence from being addressed.

The military does evaluate the mental health of soldiers. Three times it evaluated the mental health of Robert H. Marko (the Fort Carson infantryman who raped and murdered a girl), and each time declared him fit for combat, even though his record noted his belief that, on his twenty-first birthday, he would be transformed into the “Black Raptor,” half-man, half-dinosaur.

As the current administration talks of military escalation in Afghanistan in this time of recession, the conversation must address the military personnel coming home. Will they have jobs? Will they be given psychological support and the necessary medical attention to transition home? Or will they be left alone, brain injuries and all, to make sense of their new lives?

No society that sends its men abroad to do violence can expect them to come home and be at peace. To let world peace begin at home, you have to stop making war. (Europe has largely done it.) Short of that, you have to take better care of your soldiers and the people they once knew how to love. (Ann Jones)

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