Empowering The Rape Joke-Is It Possible?

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For those of you who missed the comedy show in the Cooler last Thursday before Thanksgiving, you missed more drama than comedy. Comedian K-VON was already partway into his act when I walked in. His jokes started out uncomfortably racist and misogynistic. He defended his jokes about Middle Easterners by saying that his father is Iranian. However, I didn’t see how these jokes were making any social commentary beyond promoting stereotypes of Middle Easterners as a whole. In reality, the Middle East, as all stereotypical groups, is incredibly diverse, and lumping all people from this wide region together is unproductive to raising the position of people from the Middle East and their culture in Western society. Unfortunately, the night only declined from there.

K-VON shared the statistic that 1 in 5 women are beaten in their lifetime, but 5 in 5 men are beaten in their lifetime! When a woman booed as he attempted to rally support from the audience to show solidarity for their beaten brothers, he admonished her for it. When she asked him if he had been raped, he countered, disgruntled, “No, have you?” and she nodded in response. He then attacked her for bringing the subject to rape, calling her rude for raising an issue he considered so unrelated. The interaction culminated in her exiting in tears and K-VON moving on to his next joke (without apologizing)—I didn’t stay to listen. His insinuation that assault on females is not important was disrespectful, and how he dealt with the woman’s reaction was even more disrespectful. The comedian’s condemning of the women who spoke out confirms that survivors should be silent about the trauma they have suffered.

Oxy Programming Board had warned K-VON beforehand to stay away from disrespectful topics, however he clearly didn’t follow this. PB issued a thoughtful apology on their Facebook page. K-VON’s set brings up discussion about the “appropriateness” of “inappropriate” jokes.

To what extent are racist, sexist, and rape jokes acceptable? Are there circumstances where these jokes can have a positive impact and be well received? One comedian, Adrienne Truscott has chosen to boldly address rape in a controversial routine she discusses here. Another female comedian, who used to end her act with a rape joke, has denounced rape jokes as a form of comedy after an experience in which she accidentally targeted an audience member who had been raped. A third (male) comedian defended rape jokes, saying that comedians use dark subjects such as rape in their work to reduce the power of their horror.

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When such potentially offensive jokes are made it is necessary that they are presented in a light that is meant to draw attention to the problems with the subject at hand and make people more comfortable discussing a taboo issue. K-VON did neither of these in his comedy routine and instead perpetrated rape culture by silencing survivors and diminishing the significance of sexual assault. He alienated his audience rather than bringing people together as comedy is meant to do.

 

By Melody Dahlgren

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Are We Still Fighting the War on Drugs?

By: Sarah Lopez

Disappeared

Faces of Mexico’s “disappeared,” victims of the war on drugs.

In October, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed SB 649, which would have given judges and prosecutors the option of making drug possession charges misdemeanors instead of felonies. Instead of prison, those convicted would be sent to treatment centers, placed on probation, or ordered to community service. The vetoed bill, which was designed to help alleviate California’s overcrowded prison system, was a major blow to drug policy reform.

This veto is a micro example of the macro “war on drugs” policy agenda—an agenda that has been propagated by the US in an effort to curb the societal ills associated with drugs.

So what exactly has the war on drugs gotten us?

1. It cost us a lot of money.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the US spends over $51 billion annually on the “war on drugs.” Do the math. Despite the hefty price tag, the US still leads the world in illegal drug consumption according the World Drug Report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

2. People are dead, at home and abroad.

Hundreds of thousands of people die every year due to preventable drug related disease and violence. Over 26,000 people have been classified as “disappeared” in Mexico, a direct result of Mexico’s drug wars. More on Mexico’s disappeared here. Read more about America’s “war on drugs” victims.

3. Mass incarceration.

Nancy Reagan’s infamous “Just Say No” campaign set the stage for the zero tolerance policies of the late 80s. Incarceration rates skyrocketed and today the US has the largest prison population in the world. Learn more about the connections between drug policy and the prison industrial complex here.

4. Environmental degradation.

Part of the “war on drugs” strategy includes drug crop eradication. Crop eradication “threatens biodiversity, fuels deforestation, and drives growers to pursue environmentally hazardous methods of drug production. “ Read the whole report from Count the Costs.

5. Racism.

Drug prohibition has less to do with the risk of drugs than who is associated with drugs. Prohibitive policies in the US began in the late 1800s with anti-opium laws directed at Chinese immigrants. Anti-cocaine laws targeted black men in the South in the 1900s. Today, people of color are disproportionately affected by drug enforcement and sentencing policies. Find a brief history at the Drug Policy Alliance.

We lost the “war on drugs.” It’s been twisted into a war on people and created more societal ills than it alleviated. The criminalization of drug users has taken a public health problem and distorted it into a criminal justice problem. There are alternatives to the punitive, prohibitive approach America’s been engaged in. Pragmatic, people centered, public health approaches to drug addiction and the associated ills are needed to combat the destruction that’s been tearing up our communities, at home and abroad. Learn more and join the effort to create compassionate, science based drug policy.

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“Mirror Mirror On the Wall”

By: Saaron Ramirez

Working at an Old Navy store allowed me to see the negative effects media has on young girls. As I collected clothes from fitting rooms, I saw an eight year old girl stand in front of a mirror. She was disturbed by her reflection, a reflection that only she could see.

Awareness of body image and self-esteem have become a customary issue in today’s culture. As adolescents are growing up, they are being influenced by the media, a media which promotes body image as being “slim” and “beautiful. Approximately 91 percent of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape. Moreover, in a survey, more than 30 percent of women agreed they would consider cosmetic surgery in the future. So why are females pressured to obtain a specific body image?

The Barbie Trend

Mattel Barbie dolls are a pop-cultural trend that has influenced generations of young girls throughout the world because they are one of the first toys a young girl is given. Although Barbie serves primarily as a toy for young girls, she has become an artifact of female representation. Barbie, is a good toy for the imagination of young girls but she can be mistaken as a false image of trying to reach the “perfect” look. Young girls begin to think that they have to look like her. Barbie has become the definition of beauty. However, we are not manufactured and we have genes that dictate our features. We are genetically predisposed to our physical traits and will only be able to remove them with cosmetic surgery.

Most of the danger does not come from Barbies that young girls play with but also the millions of advertisements that bombard us every second of our lives. Advertisements are everywhere. Propaganda creates fears that can be overcome by buying the product.  Therefore people go out and buy the product in hope of reaching perfection. Females fall into the trap of what is the new trend and what is not. We are exposed to about five thousand messages a day.

We have become blinded by vanity and a fascination to be one of those “beautiful” people. These advertisements are altering the reality of body image and misleading girls in making them believe that beauty is based on physical appearance. How far will females go to achieve perfection? Thus reaching perfection means decreasing the size of your body to fit into the ideal body image. Is size zero a need or a fascination? No, size zero is not even attainable. Females just need to have the mentality to not be negatively influenced by the media. Then the media will be viewed for what it truly is which is to provide entertainment or convey information. In doing this, there will be a process of differentiating fiction to reality.

 

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An Island Divided: 3 Reasons for Rising Tension between Haiti and Dominican Republic

By: Antoniqua Roberson-Dancy

On November 26, 2013, a Haitian resident of the Dominican Republic was tied to a tree and beaten by Dominican government officials, while locals stood around to watch. Prior to his death, 350 Haitians or people of Haitian descent were deported or left on their on after the death of an elderly couple (Dominican Republic: Fearful Haitians Deported or Voluntarily Flee). Rumors surfaced that the death was caused by a Haitian immigrant, resulting in a spike in violence and deportation to the Haitian community in D.R. This tension, however, did not arise overnight, but rather stems from a history of unsettled conflicts between the two nations. The following is a list of the reasons Haiti and the Dominican Republic have grown so distant despite sharing the same island:

1. Unresolved Colonial Tensions

In the 18th Century, the French colony of Saint-Domingue rapidly grew in slave population, allowing the economy spike from work provided by slave labor. The lands abundance in fertility was a haven for slave owners and became a huge profit. With a strong economy, Saint-Domingue was able to supply a powerful army to protect the colony. As the French power grew on the island, the Spanish became pushed back against the French colony. The constant battles over the land and resources, later resulted in the Haitian-Dominican War, giving the Dominicans their independence of the French (Hispaniola: Caribbean Chiefdoms in the Age of Columbus).

2. Antihaitianismo in Dominican Culture

During the years post colonization, slaves in both regions were treated in harsh conditions. Racism played a major role in the severity of slaves indecent treatment, and “the color of one’s skin indicated to a large degree one’s social standing and economic position” (A Case of Mistaken Identity: Antihaitianismo in Dominican Culture). Santo Domingo colonists refused to be referred to as Haitian because of the negative connotations surrounding the ethnic group. Santo Domingo colonists were said to be of white, Spanish descent, while Saint-Domingue colonists were of African with traces of French descent. Santo Domingo colonists were considered the power elites because their fairer skin gave them a closer alliance to white identity (A Case of Mistaken Identity: Antihaitianismo in Dominican Culture).

3. Economic Factors

Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the Americas. According to UNICEF statistics, approximately 62% of Haiti’s population is living below the international poverty line (At a glance: Haiti). It is by no surprise that Haitians, for years, have moved into the Dominican Republic to find work and provide a living for their families. Similar to Americas resistance and hostility towards immigrants, the Dominican government has opposed high rates of Haitian immigration into the country. The underlying tension between the two nations, which has not fully been resolved, makes it difficult for the two ethnicities to live peacefully within the Dominican Republic.

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The Danger of Stereotypes: Three Ways to Avoid Microaggressions

“What are you?”

It wasn’t the first time this question was directed at me, and I know it won’t be the last. I was with nine other American students studying abroad with a program reserved only for American students. So I was perplexed when I was the only one who received this question while the other students’ identities weren’t questioned. Even as we were reflecting on our American society a white peer claimed that Americans didn’t know much about our history. Interestingly, another’s response was to single me out and ask, “Well what about you? Aren’t you Mexican? Why don’t you know everything about Mexico’s history and culture?” as if I was the one making that comment and targeting it to him.

As a person of a bicultural background, both Mexican and American, I am proud of my cultures and happily share them. However, as soon as I tried to explain my background-  that yes I am born in the U.S. to Mexican parents, but just because I’m born to parents of a different racial background didn’t mean I was born completely knowledgeable on Mexican culture- they completely dismissed me.

Why do we insist on perpetuating and reaffirming stereotypes? Stereotypes are implications of the economic, social and political structures of society. The notion of race was solidified by white America in the 19th century to justify acts of injustice towards what became minority groups (Race: The Power of an Illusion). As articulated by Chimananda Adichie, a Nigerian writer, “stories are defined by who tells them, how they are told, when they are told, how many are told stories are told. Power is the ability of not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person” (The Danger of a Single Story).

It’s our responsibility to educate others and ourselves about the changing American identity. From 2000 to 2010, more than half of the growth of the total population increase was due to the Hispanic population (US Census 2010). The fact is that culture and identity are constantly in flux, and that means we have to get used to the idea that being American doesn’t just mean being white.

As a person of color, these are a couple of tips I strongly encourage everyone should consider when interacting with people of color (Unmasking ‘Racial Micro Aggressions):

  1. Be mindful of how you phrase your questions/comments.
  2. Be aware of your preconceived notions regarding someone’s background. Check yourself by asking why you hold those beliefs.
  3. Educate yourself on what one’s acts may mean:
    1. Microassaults are “conscious and intentional actions or slurs, such as using racial epithets, displaying swastikas.”
    2. Microinsults are “verbal and nonverbal communications that subtly convey rudeness and insensitivity and demean a person’s racial heritage or identity.”
    3. Microinvalidations are “communications that subtly exclude, negate or nullify the thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of a person of color.”

By: Karen Romero

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Credit to: The Studio @ 620 http://www.studio620.org/620/e_stia.php

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Falling Prey to Consumerism

By: Grace Hancock

I did what I didn’t want to do. I went black Friday shopping at midnight after thanksgiving. I made sure I was in comfortable clothes, and I definitely wasn’t hungry. I even brought a cross-body purse so I didn’t have to worry about my things. I agreed to go to Urban Outfitters, under the guise that my friend just had to buy pants, and we would be in and out quickly. Upon arrival, we discovered that lots of other people had planned on going to Urban Outfitters as evidenced by the massive line. We considered turning back, but we figured we’d risk it. Luckily for us, they let everyone in when it officially turned midnight, so we only had to wait in line for about 5 or 10 minutes. Once inside the store, I could not believe how much people were pushing and shoving. I tried to apologize as much as possible while walking past people. Unfortunately my hangers kept getting stuck on other customers’ jackets and bags. I got lucky and was able to cut most of the people in line for the fitting room by joining my friend who was already near the front. Once my friends and I tried our things on, and I decided I would buy two dresses that I really did not need, simply because they were only $10 a piece, we went to look for the back of the checkout line. It was in doing this that we realized how long the line was and that it wrapped around the entire store multiple times. We got to the back of the line, which was extremely close to the front of the line because of all the winding. We watched as the people in front of us stealthily cut right into the front of the line, and we decided to do the same. By simply moving over two feet, we saved probably an hour of waiting in line. Even though we were playing into consumerism, it felt like we mocked it a bit by escaping the line. The other customers were so self-absorbed that they did not even notice us cutting in front of them. Experiencing the madness first hand, made me think about Black Friday and its origins. After doing some research, I found out that Black Friday started after the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924. “The term ‘Black Friday’ was coined in the 1960s to mark the kickoff to the Christmas shopping season. ‘Black’ refers to stores moving from the ‘red’ to the ‘black,’ back when accounting records were kept by hand, and red ink indicated a loss, and black a profit.” (BlackFriday.com). Many people have sustained injuries during the shopping frenzy, and others have died from trampling, and even shootings. Even through the insanity, last year, “Total spending over the four-day weekend reached a record $59.1 billion, a 13% increase from $52.4 billion last year, according to the NRF.” (Fox 2012). This is the epitome of consumerism.

Sources:

Fox, Emily Jane. “Black Friday: Spending and Number of Shoppers Hit Record Highs.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 25 Nov. 2012. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://money.cnn.com/2012/11/25/pf/black-friday-sales/&gt;.

“10 Violent Black Friday Injuries, Deaths.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://www.usnews.com/photos/10-violent-black-friday-shopping-injuries-deaths&gt;.

“The History of Black Friday.” The History of Black Friday. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://blackfriday.com/pages/black-friday-history&gt;.

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Why Is This Still Happening: The Prevalence of Blackface in Society Today

By: Grace Hancock

It’s been almost a month since Halloween, but I still find myself thinking back to that weekend, and all the debate around appropriate Halloween costumes. I was proud to see the posters around campus featuring people from different backgrounds holding up photos of Halloween costumes for sale that were perpetuating cultural stereotypes, stating “My Culture Is Not Your Costume” Beyond campus, I started to notice a lot of people posting links on Facebook to articles about inappropriate costumes, especially ones featuring people in blackface. I used to not understand what was so bad about blackface, but upon becoming educated about the issue, I realized the negative connotation.  Blackface represents a culture that only valued African Americans for their entertainment value. It was popularized during minstrel shows in the 1800s, when white people would paint their face black and outline their lips in white. The actors would play the parts of African Americans in a way that poked fun at racial stereotypes, dancing ridiculously and speaking in an uneducated manor. Many actors around the nation played the same rolls, including Zip Coon, Mr. Tambo, and Jim Crow. Now, almost 100 years after the end of this form of entertainment, people are still wearing blackface. I witnessed this phenomenon during the Halloween season.

I saw pictures of multiple people dressed as Trayvon Martin, in blackface and a bloody hoodie. I saw two blonde girls in black face, proclaiming that they were n words for Halloween. Even Celebrities did it. Julianne Hough dressed as Crazy Eyes from Orange is the New Black. Outside of Halloween, I found images from an African themed 21st Birthday party

 

Why are white people still dressing up in blackface??

 

This phenomenon proves how uneducated the general public is about historical issues. People do not understand the negative connotation of blackface. They must think it is funny and acceptable, but it is not! Blackface visibly asserts the dominance of white people in America, and perpetuates a culture of white power that started even before the founding of our nation. We need to move forward and not backward in time. Racism is still very much alive, as represented by the fact that a new Associated Press poll uncovered “51% of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48% in a similar 2008 survey.” Not only is racism still prevalent, it rose from 2008 to 2012, which is a terrible sign for our nation. People need to become aware of what their actions mean so we can stop pouring salt on the wounds created in America’s past. Ignorance is not bliss; it leads people to be offensive without knowing that they’re doing so. When it comes to Halloween and dressing up, the solution is easy: DO NOT WEAR BLACKFACE…EVER. That does not solve all the problems of racism in the world, but it is start.

Sources:

Brazile, Donna. “In 2012, Racism’s Tenacious Hold on U.S.” CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 28 Nov. 2013. <http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/01/opinion/brazile-race-sununu/&gt;.

“BuzzFeed.” BuzzFeed. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2013. <http://www.buzzfeed.com/hnigatu/the-incredibly-offensive-photos-from-an-african-themed-21st&gt;.

“BuzzFeed.” BuzzFeed. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2013. <http://www.buzzfeed.com/lyapalater/julianne-hough-wore-blackface-for-her-halloween-costume&gt;.

Dennis, David. “I Shouldn’t Have to Say This in 2013: Blackface Halloween Outfits Aren’t OK.” The Guardian. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2013. <http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/30/blackface-halloween-costumes-obviously-offensive&gt;.

“The Minstrel Show.” The Minstrel Show. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2013. <http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/jackson/minstrel/minstrel.html&gt;.

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