Tag Archives: Mental Environment

Taxi to the Dark Side

An in-depth look at the torture practices of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, focusing on an innocent taxi driver in Afghanistan who was tortured and killed in 2002 – Get Informed.

Taxi to the Dark Side received an Oscar for Best Documentary/Features in  2008.

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To Ill, Is Not Human

anxiety

(Courtesy of www.Howard-Gallery.com)

A year ago I was prescribed what I perceived as the holy grail of birth control pills: Yasmin. Looked upon as a luxury contraceptive that saved its followers from bloat and weight gain, I thought I had the good life. The first few months went by like a breeze and I could finally refrain from taking literally thousands of milligrams of ibuprofen at a time when my cramps kicked in. It didn’t make everything go away, it just made all of my symptoms more moderate. I thought I had found THE pill. What I had actually found was my gateway to hell.

January proved to be the toughest month for me as apprehension kept my thought on staying home. My digestive system was haywire and my thoughts hovered over the slightest gurgle from my intestines. But the climax hit me on January 18th. I was home alone at the apartment and back from watching a movie about the destruction of NYC (Cloverfield) that featured the exact subway stop off of the 4-5-6 that I took to meet my friend that nite. I started pacing around the apartment. I called my boyfriend, and he didn’t pick up his phone. That freaked me out even more. So I decided to pop in a movie . . . but I couldn’t even concentrate. Before I knew it, I couldn’t breathe and told myself “Shit, I’m having a panic attack.” although it felt more like I was going crazy, straight up schizophrenic.

cloverfield

(Courtesy of www.freemac.net)

I found it ironic as I dashed into a hot shower to practice yoga breathing exercises that I was going through this. I usually made fun of people who panicked and wondered how they could freak out in the first place. By the time my boyfriend finally came home hours later, I was still wide-eyed rocking back and forth on the couch with radiohead on repeat. But that wasn’t the end of my escapades. Following this episode, I started to experience:

Nausea, vomiting, shaking, lightheadedness, dizziness, breathing difficulties, constant nervousness, heart palpitations, chest pains. . .

There were times where my heart was beating so fast and so vigorous that it just plain hurt. I administered myself into the E.R. one day with a standing heart rate of 142. They asked if I was on any medication, I told them I was on Yasmin. They never heard of Yasmin. They sent me back home that night referring me to their outpatient psychiatric clinic.

I told myself I would not deal with this, that this is unacceptable, so I did some research, stayed hydrated, took my Omega-3’s and a daily 5-htp supplement. Things were getting better slowly but surely, until I started to wake up in the middle of the night with my heart pounding, my lungs gasping for air and my thoughts racing.

“Ahh, what time is it—What kind of car is that?–tomorrow I have to–no, wait, did I wash my t-shirt–there was a dog in that movie . . .”

This had all crept up on me throughout the year so quietly that I didn’t recognize that I wasn’t myself. I didn’t laugh as much, I didn’t smile as much, I didn’t enjoy life as much as I used to. I was always described as laid back. I never freaked out. I never worried. My favorite past time was going to Diana’s Pool, the local swimming hole and lying on the sun-soaked rocks. When I had gone through a pretty ugly car crash, I didn’t even cry. I spoke to the police officer calm as ever. I loved chatting with police. When I hit a deer one night, I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony. Nothing bothered me, not even the thought of graduation.

(Diana’s Pool, Chaplin CT)

The morning after the second late-nite cuckoo affair, I decided to find out what was up. I finally decided to google “Yasmin, side effects” and I came across some answers that no test or doctor could have told me. There were literally hundreds upon hundreds of posts of women experiencing the same symptoms as I had, many of these women had it much worse than I had it. Some had daily panic attacks, some had shooting pains, others described their breathing problems:

“I thought I was having an asthma attack. So did the ER – at first. After I did not respond to the breathing treatments, and I became completely out of breath and exhausted after walking across the hall to the restroom, the ER doc checked my D-Dimer level to see if I was at risk for blood clots. He said if it came back over 500, he would have to do further testing for clots. It came back 4500!! . . .”

“Here were my symptoms during this period: Panic Attacks, nausea, shaking, de-realization and so much more. There was a point where I was scared to live and scared to die. I didn’t even want to leave my house. . . ”’

“I started a new box and pack 3 weeks ago and 72 hours later had what I thought was a “panic attack”. I had never suffered panic or anxiety before and I am 32. Then, the chest pain and anxious feeling wouldn’t go away (not normal with panic I hear). I went to the Dr and my bloodwork was all “great”. I went to a cardiologist and they tested my heart. It was indeed beating “extra” so I had to be one a monitor. Still, the entire time I was miserable and wondering what the heck had happened to me. How could I go from being a normal, well adjusted women to a crazy lady in one day. . . “‘

That night, I stopped taking the pill, and that night I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night.

Armed with this new information, I headed to a doctor for an annual check up ready to tell my story. I gave her the history of what I was dealing with. She just looked at me without even considering the notion of taking me seriously. “Well, birth control can have some of those side effects . . .” was her only reply. She then prescribed me 1) an asthma inhaler, 2) a nasal spray for allergies (and I was breathing fine) 3) Prescription-strength Ibuprofen 4) Nexium to counteract the adverse effects from the prescription strength ibuprofen. She also ordered another EKG, more bloodwork and a pulmonary test. I didn’t fill out any of the prescriptions and never scheduled the tests. I knew they would all come back clear.

So when the Dr. from the outpatient psych clinic (Oh, sorry, Mental Hygiene Clinic) finally called me in late March for an appointment, I was thrilled to see him and tell him my findings. I printed out 14 pages of women’s side effects and highlighted the symptoms that matched up with mine. At that point, I had been off of Yasmin for 2 1/2 weeks and feeling 80 percent better. I was back on my razor scooter and smiling and laughing at the little things I saw. My boyfriend told me “you got that spark back in your eye.” I felt like a queen again, as every woman should.

“It was the Yasmin!” I told him (the Dr.) “I’ve been off of it for almost three weeks and every week is just better and better.”

“Did your symptoms start right when you began taking Yasmin?”

“No, and I can’t quite pinpoint them because it all crept up on me . . . but I feel great. I just want to get drunk again with all my friends.”

“So, the symptoms didn’t begin when you began taking Yasmin?”

“No, they didn’t, but you see, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not related. My sister’s an RN who explained to me how drugs interact with your body and they can take a while to have an adverse effect.”

He just took a few notes and told me he would like to see me again. I stared at the print-out I gave to him and wondered if he would read it or if he would disregard this. Meanwhile, he listed off the different medications that were a possibility and told me to make another appointment. He was useless. And now I was curious as to how Yasmin caused these side effects, so I surfed through one of the websites I found an explanation from a fellow ex-Yasmin user who happened to be an RN.

“With low testosterone comes all the symptoms you and all the people on this website have been complaining about, and I think the longer your on it the more symptoms develop, because your body is not getting this incredibly important hormone, the hormone responsible pretty much for anti-aging, muscle repair, sleep, sex drive, overall sense of well being. so I think symptoms start to appear one by one as the testosterone is decreased by the yasmin, and the thing I have noticed is that when testosterone starts to go down, anxiety goes way way up!!! I felt this myself, and friends who have been diagnosed with low testosterone have felt it as well, and everyone has said they felt like they were going crazy! Depression sets in. And then when yasmin is stopped its up to your body to replace all the hormones it was getting synthetically with hormones it now has to make. Again I feel this is harder with yasmin because it so severely depresses the androgens (testosterone)” ~ Bitter RN

I don’t know what would have happened if I had not come across that site. I would probably be misdiagnosed and numbed up on whatever medications the Dr’s try to pour into my body. But from now on, I’m staying medication free. It’s been exactly three weeks to this day that I’ve been Yasmin free and it’s like the dark cloud over my head just dissipated. I now know the many weaknesses of our health care system and its tendency to over-prescribe and medicate. Sometimes, you just have to be your own doctor, my RN sister told me. As for my next psych appointment . . . yeah, I’m going to go ahead and cancel that. After all, what does HE know??

Written by Elena Gaudino

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The World According to Monsanto

On March 11, this documentary was aired on French television (ARTE – French-German cultural tv channel) by French journalist and film maker Marie-Monique Robin. The in-depth film depicts how Monsanto, a gigantic biotech/agriculture corporation based in St. Louis, is destroying plant biodiversity around the world with genetically engineered seeds and, basically, endangering our future as a human race … I know that statement may seem a bit dramatic and paranoid, but the amount of control this corporation has gained over global food production should be illegal – oh, I forgot, why would the government make laws against itself? Monsanto is the government:

Former Monsanto employees currently hold positions in US government agencies such as the Food and Drug Adminstration and Environmental Protection Agency and even the Supreme Court. These include Clarence Thomas, Michael Taylor, Ann Veneman and Linda Fisher. Fisher has been back and forth between positions at Monsanto and the EPA.

Also note that Donald Rumsfeld earned $12 million from increased stock value when G.D. Searle & Company was sold to Monsanto in 1985.

If you feel as disgusted as I did after watching this movie do not hesitate to take action:

http://www.organicconsumers.org/monlink.cfm

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Truckers Protest, The Resistance Begins

Until the beginning of this month, Americans seemed to have nothing to say about their ongoing economic ruin except, “Hit me! Please, hit me again!” You can take my house, but let me mow the lawn for you one more time before you repossess. Take my job and I’ll just slink off somewhere out of sight. Oh, and take my health insurance too; I can always fall back on Advil.

Then, on April 1, in a wave of defiance, truck drivers began taking the strongest form of action they can take – inaction. Faced with $4/gallon diesel fuel, they slowed down, shut down and started honking. On the New Jersey Turnpike, a convoy of trucks stretching “as far as the eye can see,” according to a turnpike spokesman, drove at a glacial 20 mph. Outside of Chicago, they slowed and drove three abreast, blocking traffic and taking arrests. They jammed into Harrisburg PA; they slowed down the Port of Tampa where 50 rigs sat idle in protest. Near Buffalo, one driver told the press he was taking the week off “to pray for the economy.”

The truckers who organized the protests – by CB radio and internet – have a specific goal: reducing the price of diesel fuel. They are owner-operators, meaning they are also businesspeople, and they can’t break even with current fuel costs. They want the government to release its fuel reserves. They want an investigation into oil company profits and government subsidies of the oil companies. Of the drivers I talked to, all were acutely aware that the government had found, in the course of a weekend, $30 billion to bail out Bear Stearns, while their own businesses are in a tailspin.

But the truckers’ protests have ramifications far beyond the owner-operators’ plight –first, because trucking is hardly a marginal business. You may imagine, here in the blogosphere, that everything important travels at the speed of pixels bouncing off of satellites, but 70 percent of the nation’s goods – from Cheerios to Chapstick –travel by truck. We were able to survive a writers’ strike, but a trucking strike would affect a lot more than your viewing options. As Donald Hayden, a Maine trucker put it to me: “If all the truckers decide to shut this country down, there’s going to be nothing they can do about it.”

Image courtesy of The Beaver County Times

More importantly, the activist truckers understand their protest to be part of a larger effort to “take back America,” as one put it to me. “We continue to maintain this is not just about us,” “JB”– which is his CB handle and stands for the “Jake Brake” on large rigs– told me from a rest stop in Virginia on his way to Florida. “It’s about everybody – the homeowners, the construction workers, the elderly people who can’t afford their heating bills… This is not the action of the truck drivers, but of the people.” Hayden mentions his parents, ages and 81 and 76, who’ve fought the Maine winter on a fixed income. Missouri-based driver Dan Little sees stores shutting down in his little town of Carrollton. “We’re Americans,” he tells me, “We built this country, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to lie down and take this.”

At least one of the truckers’ tactics may be translatable to the foreclosure crisis. On March 29, Hayden surrendered three rigs to be repossessed by Daimler-Chrysler – only he did it publicly, with flair, right in front of the statehouse in Augusta. “Repossession is something people don’t usually see,” he says, and he wanted the state legislature to take notice. As he took the keys, the representative of Daimler-Chrysler said, according to Hayden, “I don’t see why you couldn’t make the payments.” To which Hayden responded, “See, I have to pay for fuel and food, and I’ve eaten too many meals in my life to give that up.”

Suppose homeowners were to start making their foreclosures into public events– inviting the neighbors and the press, at least getting someone to camcord the children sitting disconsolately on the steps and the furniture spread out on the lawn. Maybe, for a nice dramatic touch, have the neighbors shower the bankers, when they arrive, with dollar bills and loose change, since those bankers never can seem to get enough.

But the larger message of the truckers’ protest is about pride or, more humbly put, self-respect, which these men channel from their roots. Dan Little tells me, “My granddad said, and he was the smartest man I ever knew, ‘If you don’t stand up for yourself ain’t nobody gonna stand up for you.’” Go to theamericandriver.com, run by JB and his brother in Texas, where you’re greeted by a giant American flag, and you’ll find – among the driving tips, weather info, and drivers’ favorite photos –the entire Constitution and Declaration of Independence. “The last time we faced something as impacting on us,” JB tells me, “There was a revolution.”

The actions of the first week in April were just the beginning. There’s talk of a protest in Indiana on the 18th, another in New York City, and a giant convergence of trucks on DC on the 28th. Who knows what it will all add up to? Already, according to JB, some of the big trucking companies are threatening to fire any of their employees who join the owner-operators’ protests.

But at least we have one shining example of defiance of the face of economic assault. There comes a point, sooner or later, when you stop scrambling around on all fours and, like JB and his fellow drivers all over the country, you finally stand up.

If you would like to help support the truckers in any way, go to http://www.theamericandriver.com/files/TruckersAndCitizensUnited.html

– written by Barbara Ehrenreich

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A Better Interpretation of the Housing Crisis

A performance by “Some Woman” during an open mic reading in February 2008 hosted by Art House Productions in Jersey City, New Jersey.

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“Family Values” My Ass!

I always ask myself why conservatives have enough supporters to get elected.  Those who benefit from having a conservative Republican in power are really an elite few — but the way they gain a large number of their supporters is via their platform for “family values.” Their call for family values is but a mask that they use so they can not only win the support of the wealthy and those in power, but also those who hold in high esteem a conservative moral standard. After some minor digging, anyone can see that their policies are not aimed towards helping our families or instilling a moral fiber into our nation, but achieving their own agendas to line their own pockets.  

~Abstinence-Only Education

Although Bush spent $10 million on abstinence-only education in Texas, the data proves that spending more doesn’t necessarily mean getting more. 

“During President Bush’s tenure as governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000, with abstinence-only programs in place, the state ranked last in the nation in the decline of teen birth rates among 15-17 year-old females,” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Among this statement are findings from a congressional staff analysis concluding these federally-funded programs are presenting “false, misleading, or distorted information,” such as:

– “HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread as via sweat and tears.”

– “Condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse.”

– “Touching a person’s genitals can result in pregnancy.” 

Denying our future generations the scientific truth should be a crime, and feeding them distorted “information” is not installing family values, but hurting our families in the long run.

~Drilling for oil in Alaska

It sounds quite impressive when someone states “If we start drilling in Alaska, we can potentially produce 1 million barrels of oil a day.”  It’s also easy to exaggerate with numbers. One million sure seems like a substantial amount of oil—but not compared to the 20 million the United States consumes each day.  Potentially destroying pristine wildlife areas will not reduce reliance on imported oil as this foolish venture will only  produce 5 percent of our “needs.” 

As for gas prices, this is not enough to make a dent-and also keep in mind that the rising prices in California, for example, were due to corporate markups and profiteering.

~”Clear Skies”

Just as we’ve seen how easy it is to toy with numbers, it’s just as easy to have a pleasing nomenclature.  Clear Skies sounds like a step towards a cleaner environment, but according to the Sierra Club, this act weakens many parts of the Clean Air act put in place by the Clinton Administration.  With Clear Skies, there is a loophole that exempts power plants from being required to install clean-up technology to reduce air pollution. 

p1010063.jpg

[Photo by Diego Cupolo]

If this doesn’t sound a bit backwards, take a look at the increase in toxins that are allowed to be released.  For example, we can expect a 68% increase in NOx (Nitrogen Oxide) –a major contributor to smog that is linked to asthma and lung disease.  Along with NOx, we can expect an increase in Sulphur Dioxide and Mercury—and to top it all of, Clear Skies “delays the enforcement of public health standards for smog and soot until the end of 2015.”  Boy that sure sounds like an administration that cares about the well being of families.

~War in Iraq

The United States has already spent half a trillion dollars in Iraq.  What does that mean for the typical family since the start of the war? $16,000 dollars per family since the war began—and that’s not counting the 700,000 Iraqi civilians killed, 4,000 US soldiers dead and 60,000 US soldiers wounded. 

I have to ask, where is all this money going to?  Of course, I’m expecting technologically advanced weaponry and transportation whether air or land to rack up the cost, but there are a few prominent places where our tax money is going and that’s into the pockets of the Bush administration’s friends. 

So how does one make money off of war?  Baghdad Burning author “Riverbend,” (who remains anonymous for her own safety) listed in her accounts the frustrating reconstruction process.  Once a building or bridge is destroyed, it must be rebuilt.  But instead of contracting Iraqi engineers (and Baghdad is very well known for its engineering schools) or employing Iraqi workers, the bid goes out to Bush and Cheney’s old time cronies, for example, KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton.  What does this mean? Instead of the job getting completed for half a million dollars, the job is contracted for hundreds of millions dollars. This not only fills the pockets of war profiteers, but it also leaves many intelligent and able-bodied Iraqi citizens without jobs and, therefore, without money to feed their families, which then in turn makes that large sum of money offered by insurgents ever so tantalizing.

If our government really cared about family values, they would send our mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, husbands and wives back to their families where they belong — and not overseas risking their lives for others’ profit.  If our government really cared about family values, it would realize that women who have walked the streets of Baghdad in jeans and a t-shirt and who have enjoyed full employment before this war now feel pressured to hide behind a veil and stay at home — for there is so much turmoil and despair in the streets that their safety is now at risk. 

~Abortion

One of the more touchy subjects that divide the population is the stance on abortion.  For anyone who has seen the tragic pictures of the aborted fetuses, this isn’t an issue of money or pollution but a human life.  Yet the subject isn’t so black and white when it comes to the issues that surround it.  One must always look at its history and the role that socio-economic status plays in order to make a sound judgment. 

Abortion was always available to women through predominantly discreet ways.  Women whose families had the monetary backing, would readily reply to sly advertisements for top health services listed in the local paper.  Less affluent women were forced to more extreme and dangerous methods in order to achieve the same results.  If you didn’t have $1,000 cash one hundred years ago, you were on your own to find the means—and risked greater injury and death.


[ An 1845 ad for “French Periodical Pills” warns against use by women who might be “en ciente” (French for pregnant)]

If abortion is once again outlawed, the definite crack running between the haves and the have nots will split further. Those women who have the means will still have the opportunity to receive a higher standard of services whether right here in the states or through services abroad.  Those without the monetary backing can only look forward to a higher possibility of damaged reproductive organs and a higher death rate.

Abortion always existed, and believe it or not, abortion will always exist, whether legal or illegal.  (By the way, keep in mind that there will ultimately be a social upheaval IF abortion is ever outlawed.) When it is legalized, it can be regulated to uphold a certain level of quality standards; if it is not, than it is the poor that are ultimately punished.

If you are against abortion—then great—don’t have one.  If one really wishes to make an impact on the number of abortions performed, then I highly suggest supporting social programs that help these mothers with both financial support and a federal-based program for free child care.  (It would also help if this society changed the way it views single mothers.)  Ironically, it just so happens that most conservatives are also against the same social welfare programs that help support these struggling mothers.

~”No child left behind”

Now this is completely backwards—it calls for giving money to schools that are performing well while withholding money from schools that are performing poorly.  How does this make sense?  Shouldn’t the struggling school receive more funds so that it could get back on its feet? 

In working for an adolescent literacy program, I’ve gotten to know the frustration teachers, principals and most importantly children experience over standardized testing that will determine whether or not their school will have a chance.  To add a second kick to the face, Bush’s latest proposal calls for a budget cut—approximately $300 million dollars—from after school funds and a drastic restructure of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs that would convert it to an unstable voucher program.  After school programs work—they keep kids safe, incite them to learn all while assisting working families.  I suppose our children’s education and their future in tomorrow’s workforce means nothing compared to the need for an unnecessary war.

So, remind me again how the conservatives are promoting “family values”?

– written by Elena Gaudino

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Zeitgeist: Tactical Myths That Control the World

A compilation of the most prominent myths that have misled our culture for centuries. An in-depth look at the world, exposing the abuse of power from the time of the Egyptians to the war in Iraq.

For more information visit www.zeitgeistmovie.com

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Filed under Civil Liberties, Economics, Education, Environment, Health, Mental Environment, Politics, Social Justice, Surveillance

Two Years and Waiting

This video, from mid-December, features Jamie Leigh Jones on MSNBC recounting her nightmare.  While working for KBR in Baghdad, a former subsidiary of Halliburton. Jamie was drugged and gang-raped vaginally and anally by a group of co-workers.

It’s been two years since the event happened and still no suspects have been arrested.  As for Jamie, she was told right after the incident that if she reported the rape, she could kiss her job goodbye. Military doctors confirmed that Jamie had been raped but the rape kit “magically” disappeared once it was handed over to KBR security officers.

Ask yourself how many other scenarios like this are occurring that the public is not made aware of – Why this situation has not come to a conclusion–How many other US employees deployed over seas are mistreating, not only American women, but women all over the world.

We’re given this squeaky clean image of the US “Installing Democracy,” some even going so far as to saying the other countries are “lucky” for our intervention. This event is not even the apex–it is the slightly protruding head of a very large submerged iceberg.  We are not fed the truth, we are fed propaganda.  And when brave young women come forth as victims and speak up, their own moral fiber is questioned.

– written by Elena Gaudino

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Get Your Eyes Off My Thighs

So I live in this neighborhood that’s . . . well, not exactly like the safety bubble I had experienced in college. I recall the good old days where I could scooter over to class wearing a jumble of tye-dye sleeveless shirts and camo shorts or if it was really hot, a yellow cotton halter and a loose-fitting mid-cut skirt. I never left the house worrying what others thought of me. I was never bothered. The only signals I got were the occasional wave and/or verbal greeting from a friend or classmate. What I wore didn’t matter to anyone. Those that knew me knew my personality and those who didn’t know me, well … got out of my way before I ran them over with my razor scooter.

Then I moved. I moved to a some-what financially distressed, socially oppressed neighborhood in Brooklyn where the schools were struggling and the graduation rate was teetering. That’s when I noticed. I noticed that my body was being followed by dozens of eyes. The first thing I did was look down to see if a button was missing … or maybe a third eyeball had grown out of my cheek. But I saw no signs that would lead to alienation. I must admit, I was puzzled. Why would anyone do that? What’s there to see anyway? I’m just another human being walking down the street. Isn’t that what we all are?

So when I took on a job that had a fairly materialistic dress code that required “trendy attire,” I panicked. I panicked for the first time since I was four years old – about what I should wear. I knew that if I had received stares and taunts now, imagine what I would get when I was wearing flashy blouses and black dress pants with heels trotting down the street. For the first time, I walked outside of my apartment not with the thought of what I was going to do or who I was going to see, but how I could make myself as invisible as possible. I made sure that, no matter how high the temperatures reached during the soggy summer days, I always had a zip-up sweater over me. It was like a comfort blanket to me and I felt that without it, things would be a lot worse.

As I said goodbye to the tingling rays of sunlight and warm temperatures, and welcomed in the winter season, I felt a sigh of relief. Yes, now I would be wearing bulky jackets and surely now I won’t receive any attention! This is what I told myself, but when I started taking a tally and calculated the ratio between people on the street and number of glances/cat calls, I noticed that the numbers during the winter time reflected the numbers during the summer time.

Then a small miraculous gift came into my world: an iPod shuffle. I played my anthems and speed-walked down the street changing my atmosphere into a fake playground of bass lines and pure funk. For those of you who believe that I am just ignoring the problem, have no fear. One of the first tasks I did when I moved to my neighborhood was to print out fliers and hand them to every pervert on the street who dare mentioned a word. Don’t get me wrong, at first I was shy and just walked away, but I found myself unable to contain my anger as time went by. I found relief in replying with a few nasty words myself, shaking my fist or a combination of pointing my finger and swearing in different languages. I feel it’s important to let the perpetrators know that what they’re doing is not acceptable. After all, it may be possible that some of them believe women like to be treated as sub-human.

One day, my shuffle ran out of batteries while I was still on the subway. Being somewhat lazy at times, I left the ear pieces in and, being the somewhat forgetful person I am, I forgot that the ear pieces were still in my ear as I walked down the street. That day, no one said a word, and the obvious glaring was non-existent. I didn’t think anything of it until I reached my door and reflected. The next day, I resolved to partake in this experiment and walked with my ear pieces in sans music. It was the same deal; no one even attempted to harass me.

My experience with street harassment isn’t special or an exception by any means. Coincidentally, a recent article in the Gotham Gazette called to light the issue of street/subway harassment and the growing popularity of the website, “Holla Back” a resource that invites New Yorkers to share their experiences and anecdotes in an online forum. But before this website was even created in 2005, filmmaker Maggie Hadleigh-West created a documentary in 1998 that focused on men who harass women entitled “War Zone” that still receives publicity to this day.

According to the Gotham Gazette, group of women from Brownsville Brooklyn, inspired by this documentary, congregated to form Girls for Gender Equity. They’ve set out to create “harassment-free zones” in their neighborhoods and, according to Executive Director Joanne Smith, train the girls to “Own up to their own comfort zone and identify what they think is harassment.” The girls are encouraged to hang posters to raise awareness and to take part in the battle by letting their perpetrators know that they are uncomfortable with that type of behavior.

As ineffective as some may claim this approach is, I do believe that this can be used as a crucial tactic. I recall a story I was told about a friend who was getting harassed on a fairly filled subway car. This friend pointed at the man and proclaimed loudly “Dirty man!” Everyone on the train looked over to the man, who immediately ceased his taunts. Not only did this effectively shut him up for the time being, but perhaps taught him a lesson to never harass again. Of course there are more physical ways to approach this dilemma, such as the instance where four women stabbed and beat a harasser in Greenwich village with a steak knife, but I would like to stay away from advocating violence unless necessary.

On a positive note, I was happy to find that I wasn’t the only one handing out fliers, and relieved to see that I was certainly not alone when I say that I know that sexual harassment is unacceptable. And for the sarcastic commentators: no, my fliers weren’t banal. They did not simply say “Don’t look at me.” They called upon the fact that I am a human being: a daughter a sister and a girlfriend. (People forget those things, you know.) They also defined what a rape culture is and how that harasser is contributing to it and how it affects our future . . . perhaps even that harasser’s future daughter. Those fliers helped define me as a human and hopefully made them see the situation from my point of view so that I’m not just tits and ass floating down the street, I’m alive and have feelings. They need to know that their words aren’t just words, their words are poison to the community, to the victim and even to the harassers themselves.

As for blaming attire . . . it really urks me when a woman is harassed or even raped and people ask what she was wearing at the time. First of all, not only is it irrelevant, but it doesn’t make any sense – what was “trampy” back in the fifties, wasn’t “trampy” in the 70’s. What’s tasteful fluctuates with time. What people need to get off of their minds is this myth that what women wear determines if a man will “lose it” or not. What people need to realize is that everything from cat calls to rape to domestic violence is all about power. And no wonder these issues are prevalent in low-income neighborhoods. They are oppressed socially and economically and in most cases, will stay hovering among the lower rungs of the ladder by the corrupt powers that be. According to sociologist Laura Beth Nielson who was quoted in the Gotham Gazette, sexual harassment “[Is] a mechanism designed to reinforce [traditional] status hierarchies.” I couldn’t agree more.

A part of me tries to find a thread of compassion, but it’s hard to look through your enemy to see the battered soul that feels that there is nothing left to lose. The anger I feel is the most prevalent emotion I experience and I have to admit that it’s a good idea that I stay away from firearms. But there also exists a small ray of hope that tries to show me that it doesn’t have to be like this. After all, I lived in a community where I felt completely at ease – these places exist! Why not make it happen everywhere else? Why not dream and work on that day where you can walk outside your home wearing whatever you want and for once, not think about how modest or appropriate you are in other’s eyes for your safety against men’s “weakness”, (cough cough, BULLSHIT) but instead focus on what goodness your day can bring.

– written by Elena Gaudino

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Dolce’s Bitter Take on Sexuality

“Rarely will two boys alone engage in a cut fight. But put the same two boys in a group and they often feel compelled to insult each other or another boy in the group. A cut fight requires an audience. At center stage are the higher-status boys; around the periphery are the lower-status boys, and admiring audience who, by their presence, attention, and laughter, validate the higher status of the boys at the center. This dynamic starts as early as first grade and is well established by high school . . .

“They sometimes gathered in a home when parents were away to watch pornographic films and masturbate together. Next they developed a group entertainment called voyeuring, in which one guy at a party would try to convince a girl to go upstairs to a bedroom to have sex. But first his buddies would go up and hide in a closet, under the bed, or behind the door, where they could watch. Sex with a girl, for these guys, was less an intimate encounter with a valued human being than it was the use of a woman’s body as a sexual performance for male buddies, a way to create their own porn movie. . .

“In gang rape, men use female bodies to bond with each other. Anthropologist Peggy Sanday and others who have studied gang rape are careful to argue that, from the point of view of the woman, the rape is not a sexual experience but a violent, degrading, and painful assault. For the perpetrators, however, gang rape certainly is a sexual experience-but it is not about sex with a woman; rather, the males in the group use the violated woman’s body as an object through which to have vicarious sex with each other. Underlying gang rape is male anxiety about status in a hierarchy of power, expressed through denigration of women and erotic bonding among men, and rooted in the misogynist joking culture of athletic teams.
Most heterosexual boys and young men go through a period of insecurity and even discomfort in learning to establish sexual relations with girls and women. Men who were former athletes told me that in high school, and even in college, talking to girls and women made them feel anxious and inadequate. These young men dealt with their feelings of lameness with young women primarily by listening to and watching their male peers deliver a rap to women. This peer pedagogy of heterosexual relations taught them to put on a performance for girls that seemed to work. The success of this learned heterosexual come-on allowed a young man to mask, even overcome, his sense of insecurity and lameness in his own eyes and, just as important, in the eyes of his male teammates. It also deepened his erotic bond with other members of his male peer group by collectively constructing women as objects of conquest.”

~Excerpts from Michael Messner’s essay entitled “The Triad of Violence in Men’s Sports”

“It does not represent rape or violence, but if one had to give an interpretation of the picture, it could recall an erotic dream, a sexual game.“~Response to the criticism by designer Stefano Gabbana

The most common argument against the gang-rape criticism is the fact that the woman is not putting up a fight, but instead remains still with an air of helplessness. I say, this is all the more reason that this promotes gang rape as it depicts a scenario where a woman is objectified and degraded and has no issue with this fact whatsoever. This gives the public and the male population a false sense of complacency when it comes to women and “putting out.” Advertisers constantly depict women as being hyper-sexual beings, ready to pounce and always willing to show you more of her body. This advertisement depicts a woman who, by lying motionless without a care or thought, relays the same message: I’m here, take me, degrade me.

Although Mr. Gabbana tries to take a stab at defending his advertisement, keep in mind that he is a businessman and in the world of selling products, one must stand out from the rest. Usually, advertisers delve into the oh-so tantalizing world of sexuality, illustrating a story of sexuality that plays into fantasy that many of us have been sold to since a very young age. Our minds are being tampered with, our wallet is at stake – all for the sake of a company’s profit. But at whose expense?

written by Elena Gaudino

 

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