Saturday, November 22, 2008

The N-Word

Ahh, the n-word, the reviled word that white people are not allowed to ever say, but black people can utter at anytime. There's a teacher in Florida being punished, probably rightly so, for using the word in a classroom ( or the video: He, of course, is white. The news article never goes into the specifics of the situation, just the way he used it by writing in on the board in the acronym c.h.a.n.g.e. (Come Help A N***** Get Elected).

Most peoples reaction is probably that the teach never should have done what he did. I would agree. He chose a very poor method for teaching. But what was his intent? Is he a racist that was just passing along his racist attitudes to a mixed class? Or was he trying to teach the kids how pervasive language can be used to perpetuate racist ideologies? I could not find anything that says what the teacher specifically said in class or what his intent was.

I am of the opinion, and I'm not alone, that the word should be removed from use. It won't be easy for some, as this article points out: But that does not mean we should not try. The only way to do this is to punish anyone who uses the term, white, black, or other. If a black teacher were to use the term, the punishment should be the same as if a white teacher used it. If a black student uses the term, the punishment should be the same as if a white student used it.

I do realize that historically the courts have not treated white and black criminals the same. I like to think that is changing. However, to say that because the courts do not treat people the same is an excuse to not treat people the same is other situations, is allowing a bad thing to be perpetuated. Perhaps the courts will become fairer after the language is made more fair.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sexual Trauma in Military

I recently read an article about sexual trauma and its results ( which talks about sexual trauma in the military. It states that women, and men, who experience sexual trauma while serving in the military have higher rates of depression and PTSD afterward. This should not be surprising. What should be shocking, but unfortunately is not, is the fact that 14.5% (22% according to a different study) of women reported sexual trauma while serving.

It takes a strong woman to join the military. Then they are trained in combat. Yet, this horrible crime still occurs. I am not suggesting this is the victim's fault. It is always the attackers fault. It is sad that it is still occurring. One would think our military would have learned the lessons from a few years ago when they got in trouble for not doing enough to prosecute offenders of sexual assault. The article does not go into whether the crimes were even reporting. It was conducted by the VA for the purpose of getting a handle on and treating vets.

A question that comes to my mind is whether combat training is useful in stopping a sexual assault. Is the training they learn in the military effective at stopping an attack? If not, why not? It could be that a lot of these attacks occurred while a group of people were out at the bar and inebriated. This does not excuse the crime, but may provide a reason why someone was not effective in defense of themselves. If that is not the case, what type of combat training is necessary for a woman to defend herself?

I teach self defense. I enjoy teaching woman how to stop an attacker. I like to think that what I teach will work...but reading an article like the one listed above makes one wonder. What would truly be effective? A knife? A gun? A taser? It is challenging to teach women, who tend to be smaller and weaker than men, how to fend off an attack by someone who could be twice the size and four times as strong. The most important part is awareness and prevention. However, once an attack starts, viciousness and ruthlessness become critical.

Self defense is not for the squeemish. If there is any hesitation in gouging someone's eyes out, it could be fatal. A lot of people have a problem with this. I was teaching one woman how to break someone's grip on her wrist. It was only one session and I was holding very lightly, maybe 25%-50% at most. She never came back. I found out when she told a mutual friend that she believed no one who grab her that hard! And that was just a wrist grab. She will experience a rude awakening if a guy does a full force strike to her face or crushes her throat with a vice like grip.

I tend to doubt that a woman who joins the military would be that squeemish, but that is an assumption. Again, I am not saying an attack is a woman's fault. I am saying that a woman may be able to stop an attack if she is prepared. It is kind of like a country and military spending. Countries maintain a military to defend themselves, not necessarily to attack others. Self defense training is kind of like maintaining a military. It should be kept up to an effective level. Then, hopefully, you never have to use it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic Violence is a large chunk of the crime committed against women. Yes, there are case of women battering men in domestic situations, however, the numbers are significantly skewed the other way. I've heard a few different reasons why domestic abuse occurs, including that it's cultural, women cause men to become violent, men do not know how to calming handle situations resort to violence as their only option, etc. Some combination of these may contribute to different incidents of violence.

I tend to disagree with the notion that a woman causes the violence committed against her. The only time I know that a person has agreed to having violence committed against them is boxing and other contact sports and sado-masochism. Most domestic situations do not fit into one of those two situations. I also think someone would find it difficult to find scientific evidence to support that theory.

I do, however, think it is likely that men are generally not equipped to evaluate their own emotions to the point where they can resist violence. This is not an excuse. It is similar to saying that someone in America cannot get a job because they cannot read. Virtually everyone in America has an opportunity to learn at least the basics of reading and writing. To be ignorant of necessary information when the are many available options and incentives for learning that information is inexcusable.

Culture certainly plays a role. Groups of people who have hidden domestic violence, considering it a family affair, need to evolve. I respect many aspects of most cultures, however, as a species, we have learned that we should treat everyone with the same respect. That lesson has not filtered through to everyone, just as other lessons have not, but that just means that we should continue teaching it. Our jobs will not be done until there is no longer a need to teach this lesson.

As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I heard about this event which, if you live in the Chicago area, you may be interested in. Dominican University will be presenting a panel discussion on “Men’s Role in Ending Violence Against Women” on Thursday, October 9 at 7:00 p.m. in the Springer Suite of the Crown Library, 7900 W. Division Street, River Forest. For more information, click here: For more information, contact Dr. Michelle VanNatta, assistant professor of sociology at Dominican University, at (708) 524-6035 or

If you know of other related events, feel free to post them in the comments section.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Female Genital Mutilation

The title sounds horrific, doesn’t it? If you’ve never heard of it, you might be wondering what it is. It is something that is done about 6,000 times a day ( and involves one of four “procedures”. You can read about them here: Basically, it is cutting a womans genital area to either remove the clitoris so a woman cannot experience pleasure during sex or sewing the vaginal opening closed so a woman cannot have sex until she is married, at which point she’ll have to endure another “procedure” to open the vagina back up. There is no medical reason to do any of them.

When I first heard about this, my thought was, “What the hell is wrong with some people??? Why on Earth would anyone want to do that???” Well, it is not a girls choice. Usually, these “procedures” are performed between the ages of birth to 15 years old. As far as why, again, there are a few reasons including religious, social, and cultural influencing factors (see WHO article referenced above).
All three can be summed up in one word: sexism. These are people who obviously consider women to be beneath men and at their whim. So, when someone in the U.S. tries to argue that women have it much better today than they did years ago, there is still a long way to do. When someone tries to argue that treating men and women differently isn’t bad and in fact a good thing, female genital mutilation is an example of how far that logic has been taken by some. When Hitler first got into power, everyone loved his ideas. A strong country, an ideal race of people with a good culture. Who wouldn’t want that? But as soon as you start to say one is better than another, that idea gets carried too far and a genocide begins.
In this case, the painful, physical mutilation of millions of infants and young girls.

If you are interested in doing something about it, check out the following, and other, websites and consider either donating or helping in other ways.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Emphasize boys and discount girls

The title of this post is a Chinese phrase “Zhongnan qingnu” that I had recently read about in the book “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles” (Jennifer 8. Lee, 2008). According to the author, it is a common idiom for the cultural phenomenon in China that is sadly only slightly unique. Traditionally, China has favored boys even in the law. For example, up until very recently, women were not allowed to inherit land. This has only changed because of the huge imbalance between boys and girls. Because of the law that families can only have one child, according to one article (, there are about 120 boys for every 100 girls, with one school having an imbalance of 150 to 100.

In addition to being extremely sexist, this will lead to many other problems. More unmarried men will likely lead to more crime. The article mentioned above talks about how more and more infant and young girls are being kidnapped and forced into marriage. This will no doubt lead to more violence against the women that are forced into these situations.

The big question is, how do you change a cultural? China is trying by providing some incentives for people to have girls. Changing laws will probably have some effect. In addition to the one mentioned above, another law makes it illegal for a woman to find out the sex of their child while still in the womb. Of course, this has simply led to many back alley ultrasounds, which I suppose is better than back alley abortions. Abortions are free in China.

One of the challenges in changing the culture now is that there are already many more men than women. I suppose the men, if they are rational, will see that it is only right that things be equalized in terms of treatment and birth rates. However, I have never known large groups of people to be rational. Therefore, what I expect is for the next 20 or more years to be very chaotic in terms of cultural changes. This may be similar in scope, and violence, to the cultural revolutions that Mao Zedong started in the 1960’s.

We shall see.