Free advice: Rape isn't funny. Ever.

It's been a while since I offered an installment of free and valuable unsolicited advice, and I apologize for the delay!  I hope you'll find this tip useful:

Stop laughing at rape jokes. 
from the tumblr Rape Jokes Are Not Funny
I was recently scandalized by a comedian on Comedy Central whose tired premise is shock-appeal dressed as apathy.  The majority of his jokes had to do with either rape or domestic abuse.  He actually enumerated his rape jokes and let us know more were on the way. The crowd was loving it.  I was not.  I felt like, in the random flip of a channel, I learned that all the work women and men have done for the past 50 years to get people to take rape seriously had been laughed under the table. 

I did some googling.  Turns out there's a whole subculture of young, largely-not-that-funny-in-my-opinion comedians vying to out-rape-joke each other in the ratings/pseudo-radical mainstream comedy wars.  Which is about the lamest controversy imaginable, and absolutely disgusting to me at a time when men should be clamouring over themselves to help women protect their rights. But it got me thinking, and I don't know what else to do about this problem. Speech is free and laughs sell, so this guy's not going anywhere.  Not much we can do about that but maybe petition, or boycott the sponsors, but that just draws attention to the problem and increases its impact; I refuse even to give the comedian in question free publicity by saying his name.  

But there is something we can all do.  We can stand up and call it out: rape jokes are not funny.  Silence is not always consent in the bedroom, but it most certainly is in the world of public opinion.  We cannot continue to be silent about this issue in an age when young people are trying to negotiate relationships with each other in a culture that normalizes rape videos, rape jokes, and violence of every kind.  Expecting them to sort through that on their own is negligent and unrealistic.  We must play active, vocal roles in making sure the kids in our lives grow up prepared to deal with this crap and filter it smartly into the garbage.  

So here's my big advice:

Teach your sons and daughters that rape is never, ever, ever, funny. Ever.

Teach them to respect themselves, and each other, by respecting them yourself. 

Teach them to live with dignity, and to value their rights and their bodies.

Teach them to use their brainpower to make a positive difference.

Teach them how words matter, why it what they say and how they say it is never harmless.

Teach them to trust their voices, and use them.

Teach them that silence is NOT consent when it comes to sex, but silence IS consent when it comes to speaking out for what's right.

Teach them that it's better to speak out and stand alone than to stay silent and share the blame.

Teach them to love themselves, and to shine that love out into the word without fear. Teach them to take pride in who they are.  Teach them that the only person's whose judgment really matters to them is their own. 
Teach them to be confident enough in themselves and their talents that they won't one day find themselves on a stage somewhere grasping for approval by attempting to normalize something they know is awful, pretending their actions have no impact on the world.

Teach your sons and daughters that rape is never, ever, ever, funny.

Value meals? Join the #MomsNotLovinIt revolution

#MomsNotLovinIt takes on McDonald's predatory marketing to kids of color  and in public schools

Issues related to both education and exploitation of children are usually at the heart of my ethical and political preoccupations, and I have written often on both my concerns about exploitative marketing toward children (most specifically in the gendered markets that dominate the "girl aisle" and the invasive marketing of McDonald's into our classrooms) and the need for parents, students and educators to form a united coalition to protect the integrity and quality of education.  So I was excited to learn of some upcoming events designed to address these issues and bring more concerned people together in support of moving forward to protect our children and stand up for fair practices in advertising as well as promote healthy living.

Our friends at Corporate Accountability International have planned social media events connected to their Value [the] Meal campaign in an attempt to draw attention to - and combat - the manipulative and predatory marketing practices that the McDonald's corporation routinely engages in to advertise explicitly to children.  To this end, they've announced a series of "Tweetchats"  on Mondays in July to address various issues with McDonald's deceptive and unscrupulous practices.   To participate, follow @StopCorpAbuse on Twitter and join in the conversation on the hashtag  #MomsNotLovinIt on the scheduled dates!

Here's the schedule of topics for the Tweetchats:
  • July 8: McDonald's targeted marketing to youth in communities of color, hosted by LaDonna Redmond, of the Campaign for Food Justice Now, a food justice activist who took on nutrition in Chicago public schools before moving to the Minneapolis area, where she continues her efforts. 
  • July 15: McDonald's predatory marketing in schools (something with which I've had personal experience).  That Tweetchat will be hosted by Leah Segedie of Mamavation, who also has recent experience with McDonald's marketing to her young child at school.  
  • July 22: Other tactics McDonald's uses to skirt parental authority and market directly to kids, hosted by Anna Lappé
    and Food MythBusters!

Throughout these events, they've got a great lineup of folks participating, including Michele Simon of Eat Drink Politics and MomsRising, so please join in and help spread the word.  The first step toward meaningful action is to educate ourselves and come together on the issues that matter to all of us!
I know that our inclination is to think "McDonald's can market however they want. It's up to parents to choose what their kids do or don't eat," but whenever this discussion comes up, it never ceases to amaze me how resistant people are to addressing the perverse tactics of marketers. I think we are brainwashed by the capitalist machine to think of ourselves as "free to choose" and therefore impervious to unscrupulous campaigns, when all of the evidence proves otherwise. Why is it ok with us that McDonald's (and many other companies) have targeted campaigns that attempt to manipulate children and trick them into thinking unhealthy food is healthy? Or that they use age-inappropriate movies (and toys associated with them) to push their products? Or that they market to kids at all - when the parents are the ones buying the food? Why is it ok to disproportionately target kids of color? We ignore the severity of this issue at our peril, and whatever personal choices we make about what to eat (or not), we cannot deny the impact of these incredibly pervasive, successful and proven marketing strategies. I invite all of you to open your minds to this issue and join in the conversation.  The least we can do is know what we're up against. 

Tired of @McDonalds peddling junk food to kids? Join @StopCorpAbuse for the first #MomsNotLovinIt chat on July 8 @ 8:30pm EST

Read more about how McDonald's explicitly targets children of color in this must-read article by Naa Oyo A. Kwate, Ph.D., "McDonald's Exploitative Roots Go Deep." 
You can also take action by signing Corporate Accountability International's petition: Tell McDonald's: Stop Marketing Junk Food to Our Kids. Health care professionals can click here to sign on to a similar open letter of petition.

Special thanks to Corporate Accountability International's Lillyanne Daigle for reaching out to MoD with details on these important events, and to our good friends at Campaign for a Commerical-Free Childhood for connecting us by cross-posting my piece on the McDonald's math-vertisement I found in my daughter's kindergarten workbook.

Will your doctor defend your rights when your government won't?

5 July 2013

Today in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker signed SB-206, the fast-tracked Vaginal Ultrasound Bill, which never saw a minute of public hearing, into law. He did this, like he does most things, behind closed doors and out of the public eye - trying to slip this most invasive of laws into being on the Friday of a holiday weekend, when he hopes most of us will be out having too good a time to pay attention to what's being done in our name, and at our expense, at the Capitol.  We're reminded of his secret declaration, on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, of "Protect Life Day."  Apparently a man's decision to sign a bill into law is deeply personal and none of our affair.

This law requires healthcare professionals to perform a medically useless procedure for the sole purpose of degrading and humiliating patients into feeling guilty about obtaining an abortion, regardless of the circumstances. The law, which was immediately met with lawsuits, violates the most basic of our privacies.

All over the country, similar big-government measures to control reproductive healthcare decisions and our relationships with our doctors are on the table with our exposed bodies.

This is not ok with women.

It's not ok with doctors.

And it's a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees both the right to healthcare and the right to live free from "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

It may be time to call on healthcare professionals as well as their patients to take a stand.  If those we entrust with our government continue to betray the public trust, at what point can we no longer rely on those who we entrust with our bodies to defend our right to professional, humane, impartial, medical care?  When will the demand that medical professionals abandon their oaths to perform uncivil and unnecessary procedures necessitate a new demand for civil disobedience?  We are headed down a strange and slippery slope, and it will be difficult to find foothold in the hypocritical moralizing at the heart of these measures.

Doctors and other medical professionals have been speaking out against the damage done to Wisconsin patients and families under Walker's austerity policies for over two years now.  Ordinary people have taken to the streets and petitioned the Capitol time and again, only to be mocked, ignored, and subdued.  What is the tipping point?  

Wisconsin citizens may have learned that raising our voices in the streets has no impact in Fitzwalkerstan, but that doesn't mean they've gone away, or that they aren't paying attention.  Together with the teachers, doctors, and scores of public and private sector employees suffering under this administration, they are watching. They are working. They will defend our rights.  And we will stand together.

Note: Special thanks to MoD fan Jennifer Berns Ryan, for inspiring this image by pointing us to the World Medical Association's oath of conduct.