A Time of Change is Needed and Necessary

April 14th, 2016 § 2 comments § permalink

I am about to bring up a word that will make you cringe.

Rape.

I know that bringing up rape and sexual assault can make you feel uncomfortable. But as President Obama coined this April as the first ever Sexual Assault Awareness month, it is the perfect time to start this conversation. This subject really hit me hard last summer, when my friend told me she was sexually assaulted. I was in complete shock, stomach turning, queasy, mouth open shocked. I couldn’t believe that someone I knew and cared about had been raped. Her recounting of the night made me want to cry along with her and lash out at any guy I deemed a creep.  I know that I can never understand the amount of pain that she has gone through. But I swore to myself then, that I would be an advocate for both men and women, and to speak out whenever I could. So here we are, and here are some of my thoughts.

Our society today is in so much denial about how and what sexual assault is. It has to stop. Knowing more about it can allow our rape culture to be slowly changed and hopefully diminished as time passes. It is up to this generation to open up and talk about the tough subjects like this one.

                             The Big Question   

First, let’s answer the most basic but complex of questions: what is sexual assault?  Sexual Assault can be defined as any kind of sexual activity: oral or penetration (regardless of gender) that is unwanted by at least one of the persons involved. Gendered lives author Julia T. Wood points out that rape is not as clear cut as we would like to think. In earlier years’ rape only constituted as vaginal penetration and there was no such thing as marital rape (women had no right to not have sex with her husband). We have obviously come a long way but a lot of work still needs to be done. This small word of consent is the basis of this monumental problem. A video by the Thames Valley Police explained consent is the most British way possible but extremely effectively. Take a look:

 

Such a simple video but with a big impact. No means no. You can not force anyone to do something that they don’t want to no matter if they said yes before, or it makes you disappointed or frustrated.

It explains consent in an easy to understand and informative way.

                           Lets add another ingredient to the mix

Something else to think about is how we fundamentally think about rape. For most, our base instict is to reject idea and to rally around and to help those in need. However, this is not the case in America today. We have perpetuated and fostered a society that promotes rape culture. What is rape culture you might ask?? Time online coined it as “a culture in which sexual violence is the norm and victims are blamed for their own assaults.” Women not men are the ones being asked questions about their actions leading up and during the assault, and what they could have done to prevent it. I bring this up only because it was a  extremely large component to my friends court case. At the police station it went a little bit like this:

Police: Were you drinking that night?

Police: What were you wearing?

Police: Were you with a group of your friends or alone?

Oh, and they also made a comment about how the guy in question was a known college athlete on campus and it would be hard to track down his alibi on the night of the assault.These kinds of questions were asked over and over again. To the point were my friend just cried and wanted to give up. She was tired of being second-guessed and doubted by the community that was supposed to help her. Everyday Feminist made a post called: “25 Everyday Examples of Rape Culture.” This post is so helpful in learning to understand this problem and also how relevant rape culture is.

At the end of the day, this behavior has to stop. This circle of abuse, excuses, and judgments is getting old. We need to take a stand for all the men and women; brothers, mothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles. I am taking a stand for my 15 year old sister.

Who will you take a stand for?

A Box Called Gender.

February 25th, 2016 § Comments Off on A Box Called Gender. § permalink

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A little boy wants to dress up as a princess for a day and then a firefighter the next. A little girl tells her mom that she’s not sure if she feels like a girl. What would you do, what would you say? As we move forward in 2016, the concept of gender fluidity is more prevalent than ever. Gender and its definition is finally changing and evolving. People that are willing to talk about their own personal gender and sexuality are giving us an example of what that actually means.  We can see clearly that gender is not the firm definition of an heterosexual male or female. Gender is loose and flexible, it is never going to follow a straight line. It is just as changing and ongoing as we are.

As I think about how I want my future children to grow up and develop, I know I want them to grow up in a world as open and unprejudiced as possible. What if I did end up having a child that is gender fluid? If that did happen, I want to be able to give him or her the resources available for them to grow up healthy and happy.  Just recently, singer Adele brought her son, Angelo, to Disneyland.  Outcry arose when pictures were released of her 3 year old dressed like Ana from Disney’s Frozen. This example of Adele’s son brings up the question “is that socially acceptable?” Do we want to allow young children to make those kinds of decisions about their gender. Do we sit down, talk, and teach them about gender as a spectrum as well? Fairfax County School Board in Northern Virginia is proposing to do just that. Administrators are “recommending the addition of gender identity to its curriculum agenda, starting for seventh-graders.” Initiatives like this are allowing confused little boys and girls to understand at an early age, that what is the “norm” is not always what is best for them individually. This way of thinking is step forward for children and adults alike. 

A writer at the New York Times, Ru043d5830ffd85b72988c7771f961c8b9th Padawer, wrote about a couple and their son Alex. Alex identifies as gender-variant and wanted to wear a dress to school. Instead of saying no, his parents decided to email all the teachers and parents at the pre-school he was attending; writing to let them know he would be wearing a dress to school and why. They explained  he was gender fluid and some days he likes to be a boy and can be rough and slam trucks together; but other days he is gentle, graceful, and  loves to get gussied up in dresses and heels.

“I just hate being misunderstood,” he told his baby sitter. When his parents asked if he wanted them to refer to him as “she,” he said, “No, I’m still a he.”

Julia Wood, author of Gendered lives talks about how some believe that heterosexuality is socially and culturally “normal” and if you are not, you are considered abnormal; this can translate to gender as well. This means that anything outside the realm of traditional male and female roles-you are strange or unnatural.  Very little research has been done on gender-variant children. This makes it hard to judge how many children feel this way. Some are finally challenging the psychiatric association, which still considers gender confusion in children a mental illness. 

As we see more and more people come out as gender fluid, variant, or queer,I hope to see more conversation and discussion about this becoming more accepted. By starting a dialogue, we can teach others to be more open. Gender Fluidity is a real thing, it’s not a fad or a trend, and we can not treat it as such. I want children to grow up without fear. I want them to be able to ask questions. I want them to be authentic to who they are.

 

Barbie vs GI Jo; A look at gender-labeled toys

February 11th, 2016 § Comments Off on Barbie vs GI Jo; A look at gender-labeled toys § permalink

 

picWhen you were little, did you base your choice of toy based on colors? Did you hate everything that was made for “boys” or “girls” or did you yearn to play with both? Well I am happy to say that Target is making a gender neutral toy section!

So why does this matter. It is thought that children learn how to behave based on observation and interactions with those of the same gender. By only giving our children specific toys, we are instilling gender norms and telling them who they must be and what role they must fill (Wood, 2015). This is known as Social Learning Theory.

I hope that more companies will look to target and change their toy isles as well. Lets allow children to decide who they are and what they want to play with.

Embracing Who I Am

January 28th, 2016 § 4 comments § permalink

Well hello there!

Let me first introduce myself! My name is Jessica Salazar and I am currently a junior at Longwood University. I am studying Communication Studies with a concentration in public relations and interpersonal communication. I live full-time in Farmville but my hometown is in the Northern Virginia area. I am employed at a local Mexican restaurant as a waitress and at the Southside Virginia Family YMCA as the Leadership Financial Manager. Between these two positions, I am a full-time employee while pursuing my aforementioned degree.

Being a Communication major has helped me exponentially in my capacity at both positions. I have learned to develop my speaking, writing, and interpersonal skill sets at work. At the YMCA I am able to use lessons that I learn in my studies daily. The Southside Virginia Family YMCA serves approximately 1,500 members. These members are diverse in nature, ranging from large families to elderly adults to young children in our after school program. As a Leadership Manager, I am employing communication skills by adapting to our diverse service population. Each day, I interact with about 700 individuals and serve their unique needs. Without communication skills such as: rapport building, open discussions, and simple dialogue cues like eye contact and positive body language, I would be hindering the work that the YMCA aims to accomplish everyday. This work is embodied within our mission statement: “To put Christian principles through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body.” I feel as my career shifts post-graduation, it is also imperative that I be able to continue to embody and represent my employer in both mission-directed communication skills and within my personal relationships I currently foster.

After discussing gendered norms in class, I can see how this affects my life on a daily basis.Being a women with a strong personality can be challenge. I constantly have battles within myself about how I present myself to others; I feel like I need to come across more feminine, and to have a less demanding presence. Since I grew up with a single mother, I have had a strong female role model for a long time. Because of this, I have a need to be in a leadership role and to assert myself in professional settings. However, I always seem doubt myself and feel like I need others to take the lead, so I don’t come across as bossy or too assertive. This class will allow me to learn more about the perceptions of gender in society today. I want to learn how I affect this cycle of gendered norms, and how I can talk to others to start the conversation for change.

Until next time,

Jessica