PSEUDO DISCLAIMER: The following post is about the author’s retail experiences with “old white people” who have mistaken her for being a store employee. For the record, the author isn’t stating that all “old white people” assume – erroneously or otherwise - that ‘shoppers of color’ are retail store clerks. Furthermore, the author’s blog post is not meant to disparage those hard-working individuals who are employed by retail and/or restaurant establishments. We at ‘You’re Entitled To Be Wrong’ do not discriminate against people based on age, race, sex, gender, class, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or geographic location. We only have it out for those individuals who make stereotypical assumptions because they’re culturally lazy and myopic.
I’m not much of a shopper. The best thing to happen to me when it comes to shopping is the Internet. Being able to shop online is simply fantastic. However, I still do in-store retail shopping, whether it’s for health supplies, make-up products, clothing or household items. Like most customers when you do in-store shopping on occasion you may need help finding something – so you go in search of a store employee for assistance.
For most people, when searching for a store employee you look for something that designates that person as a store employee such as 1) a store uniform (i.e. shirt with store logo, distinctive clothing, etc.); 2) person is wearing a store nametag/nameplate or 3) someone who looks like they work there (i.e. you see them tagging items, lifting boxes, wearing an apron, etc.). Once you spot one of these indicators you approach that person then proceed to ask your question – makes perfectly good sense.
Yet, it appears that “old white people” (age range 50 to elderly) don’t go through these steps. They have their own steps which amounts to 1) they can’t find something and 2) they ask someone – usually a person of color - if they “work here” – no matter whether that person looks like a store employee or not. These particular “old white people” steps normally occur in general, specialty or department store retail establishments such as CVS, Payless, The Body Shop, Target or Macy’s.
I could be magnanimous and say maybe some of these “old white people” are just being impatient because they haven’t been able to locate their desired item quickly enough. Time is of the essence to them since most of them have been around the block many times or at least “since the birth of Christ” (to borrow a phrase from my mom). Therefore they will ask the first person they see for assistance, which is a reasonable assumption.
But what about all the other examples which aren’t so simple? Where a person of color sometimes have to question the assumptions of these “old white people” such as when the following occurs:
- A black woman in business attire (black pants, red jacket, white shirt and pearls) at Macy’s is shopping for pantyhose. She is surrounded by white women dressed in casual to business wear. Older white woman, age 60+ weaves through the crowd of women to ask the black woman where the shoe department is located.
- An Asian woman and her black female friend are trying on shoes at Payless Shoe Store. An elderly white male (55+) enters the store. He then walks up to the two women and asks them if they work there and proceeds to tell them he is looking for sandals.
- A black male is standing near the front lobby area of a restaurant, waiting for his girlfriend who is in the restroom. A senior white female (60+) asks him for a copy of the menu because she wants to look it over while she is waiting to be seated.
- A black woman in a pants suit in Rite-Aid is looking at make-up. Near the woman are three black female store employees who are stocking the store shelves. The employees are wearing burgundy smocks with the word ‘Rite-Aid’ on the back. Older white woman (65+) walks down the aisle. She sees the women, but walks up to the pants-suit clad woman and asks where she can find aerosol sprays.
The above examples are incidents that have happened to a couple of my friends and myself just this year. Unfortunately, it is a microcosm of incidents that I have dealt with for the past twenty-five plus years. My usual response to these “old white people” is a firm “No” or “No – I don’t work here.” Other times my response is semi-sardonic in which I’ll say “Wait – did I forget to put my nametag on today?” while looking exaggeratedly confused. It really depends on how I’m approached by these individuals.
Some would argue that since these “old white people” ask the question “Do you work here?” it therefore negates their accidental assumptions or cultural ineptness. That particular argument is besides the point. What is also besides the point is the fact that people of color are primarily employed at retail establishments.
What is and should be the point is that there are “old white people” making stereotypical assumptions in retail settings without allowing their eyes to do a bit of homework for them before they step into a possible ‘I am about to offend someone’ zone.
Is it really that hard for them to look for ‘indicators’ to see if a person is actually a store employee before posing their ‘I need help’ question?
Are ‘shoppers of color’ asking too much for this basic courtesy?
I could be ageist and make jokes or snarky comments about the deteriorating eyesight of “old white people,” but somehow I think they see what they want to see just fine.
Now where did I put my Target staff shirt again?
Yahoo! Incorporated has been all over the news these past of weeks due to its decision to ban telecommuting. Its CEO, Marissa Mayer stated in an HR memo to its employees, which was leaked to All Things D, a tech industry blog, that starting in June staff will be required to work in a Yahoo office – a move that appears to be a part of the company’s rebooting efforts.
Of course this news has not gone over well with its 11,000+ employees or those in favor of work-at-home. Proponents of Yahoo’s decision have decried the removal of this type of work flexibility; claiming that it’s demoralizing or harmful to families, especially working mothers. While opponents have supported and applauded Mayer’s tough-but-gutsy decision, saying that it’s about time that Yahoo! employees, in fact all employees, stop abusing this benefit and realize that work is done best in an office; interacting with colleagues. In the midst of this brouhaha has been comments about how Mayer doesn’t understand the financial and familial benefits of working-at-home since she a) has an estimated net worth of $300 million; b) might receive close to $60 million from Yahoo during her tenure and c) paid to have nursery built in her office so that she could bring her infant to work.
What has become lost in the midst of the work-at-home battle has been one major question that has not been asked of Yahoo. What does it say about Yahoo, a multinational internet corporation, that it apparently can’t manage its employees who work-at-home?
It should seem obvious, maybe not to Mayer, that if you have slacker employees (i.e. unproductive, unreliable, unable to adhere to project or work schedule, etc.) who are partial or full-time telecommuters they will more than likely continue to be slackers, just now they’ll be working in the office instead of at home.
What will Yahoo’s supervisors/managers do to combat these employees’ bad work habits? Do these managers have the training and experience to deal with these type of employees? Keep in mind, if the managers were unable to manage these unproductive employees as telecommuters, what makes Yahoo think that they will be able to manage these individuals in-person while simultaneously turning them into collaborative and responsible workers?
I’m sure Mayer’s actions are also Yahoo’s way of getting rid of ‘dead weight’ and/or reducing costs by forcing employees to quit due to location or commute hardships. However, I doubt every bad WAH employee is going to resign from his/her position as a result of the ban. Again, how does the ban help Yahoo deal with its apparent or perceived culture of crappy telecommuters? Also, will Yahoo have to secure additional office space to accommodate these now in-office employees? This could add to Yahoo’s bottom line, thereby defeating somewhat the goal of supposedly cutting costs by eliminating employees via the work-at-home ban.
Most importantly, what about those WAH employees who weren’t abusing this perk? Who were actually productive and reliable? What about future applicants who might (or were) interested in working for Yahoo prior to the ban?
Yahoo has been so busy banning WAH to get rid of bad employees (and create a work community atmosphere possibly similar to Google or Facebook) that it appears they weren’t really thinking about the good employees who would be hurt by the ban or potential applicants who might go elsewhere because of it or what the ban signifies about Yahoo.
As many managers can attest, just because an employee shows up for work doesn’t mean that he or she is actually working, let alone being productive. Yahoo’s WAH problem isn’t just a telecommuter problem, it is also a managerial and human resources issue as well.
Slashing the work-at-home option may have immediately shown Yahoo’s investors, financiers and employees that it’s serious about turning the company around, in that it plans to become a major internet player again.
However, when a company makes a decision that will have a long-range impact, the last thing it should want is that decision to bring about more questions than answers. As it stands, Yahoo’s work-at-home ban seems to have created more of the former than the latter.
Not exactly a great way to ensure everyone that you really mean business.
On Monday, February 4th in Midland City, Alabama a 5-year-old boy was finally returned to his family after being held captive for a week by Jimmy Lee Dykes, a disturbed 65-year-old man. What? You didn’t hear about this story? Well, here’s what happened according to Marcus Gilmer, a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times:
An armed man [stormed] on to a bus loaded with school children and, at gunpoint, [demanded] that the bus driver turn over two children. The bus driver [refused] and [tried] to stop the armed man. The armed man [shot] the driver, killing him, then [grabbed] one of the children as the others [fled]. The armed man [took] the 5-year-old child, who is autistic, to an underground bunker on his property where a week-long crisis [began]. As negotiators try to convince the man to release the boy, they are allowed to deliver toys and medicine to him via a pipe to the bunker. Finally, after managing to lower a hidden camera into the bunker, officials are alarmed by what they see and storm the bunker. The kidnapper is killed, either by agents or by his own hand, and the boy is miraculously rescued, unhurt. (February 5, 2013)
Normally, such a dramatic, television-ready story would be all over the network, cable, print and online news. Neighbors, friends, family and co-workers of Dykes would’ve been interviewed to ‘flesh out’ Dykes’ character. Psychologists, whether they had met Dykes or not, would have assessed his mental state and reasons for his actions. Other psychologists would’ve provided us with various medical descriptions of childhood autism and its possible impact on the boy’s situation. Hostage crisis experts would’ve passed along information about what the little boy is going through and how Dykes should be handled. Police officers with stoic visages would’ve appeared on screen with ongoing updates, mostly repeating themselves. All the while, family members and friends of the little boy would’ve been seen crying and begging for the little boy’s release as numerous photos of the boy smiling, laughing or playing flashed across our television screens. This media scenario would have went on for days until the boy was rescued and the killer was captured or killed.
Well, none of that happened. Maybe because the hostage crisis took place in a town which according to the latest U.S. Census has less than 2500 people. It is also 104 miles from Montgomery, the state’s capital and 192 miles from Birmingham, the state’s largest city.
So it’s probably fair to say that Midland City can be easily overlooked, even with a hostage crisis occurring in its backyard.
Not Just On Our Radar
The old real estate adage “location, location, location” seems to have applied to this story as far as mainstream media was concerned. I’m not saying that the media should’ve or needed to provide wall-to-wall coverage similar to the Sandy Hook Elementary (Newtown, CT) or Virginia Tech shootings. However, its coverage of this SEVEN-DAY hostage crisis was pretty anemic. It was almost groundhog-like, news would pop up for a a minute or two a few times a day then would disappear for one or two days.
Maybe more than a few media bosses were thinking ‘Does anyone really cares what happens in Alabama?’ Gilmer seems to agree somewhat with this assessment, but still questions it
Part of the fact that so much about the Midland crisis was ignored either as a second-tier story or completely was because of where it happened. Trust me. I’m from Alabama. I know how people perceive of my native state. Sometimes, I can’t blame them. But in this instance, it was somewhat frustrating given the aforementioned universal issues at play here. This was not just a typical redneck incident….[t]his is larger than any regional bias; this is a national issue and we have to be willing to look past stereotypes, to be willing to accept both the smaller, hyperlocal context as well as the larger, national one. This is not some case of a drunken redneck brawl gone awry; this was a very real crisis with a larger social impact. (February 5, 2013)
Yet, it wasn’t just the location that played a significant part in the muted coverage of this story – it’s mainly because of what happened in Newtown.
Newtown Media Aftermath
It has been over two months since the December 14th shootings in Newtown, Connecticut claimed the lives of 26 people, 20 of them children. The live and ongoing news coverage of that story was fast, furious and a journalistic-fail on many accounts. Television and online media made a host of errors such as the name of the shooter (naming Ryan Lanza, the older brother, instead of Adam Lanza); posting the Facebook page of a Ryan Lanza from New Jersey alleging he was the shooter; claiming the shooter had killed his dad; that the mom was a teacher at the school, etc.
Maybe the media’s limited coverage of the Alabama hostage crisis was also due to journalistic fear that it would go overboard like it did with Newtown- where unsubstantiated and non-fact checked information put the news media in a seriously bad light. So the media pulled back on this story and may do so on several others for awhile as it continues to lick its wounds and genuflect on its ‘Newtown News’ behavior.
The fact is, we are now in a post-Newtown world when it comes to gun violence stories. Cynically, all incidents of violence and their deemed noteworthiness will be compared to the Newtown shootings. Grandparents killed at home by a robber – well, that’s only two deaths; plus they were stabbed not shot. Crazy person enters a clinic and shoots 30 people – not that big of a deal because no one died. Five college students shot on campus – they’re not kids like Newtown and it’s not as bad as the Virginia Tech shooting. Group of teens shot while standing at a bus stop and one dies – that’s only one death, plus it happened in an “urban” area. These stories would more than likely fail the ‘Post-Newtown News Test’ which sadly appears to be more deaths + innocent-looking victims + near major news city/market = more news coverage.
Therefore one death and a week-long hostage crisis in Alabama versus the death of over 20 kids at a school house in a suburban town near a major news metropolitan area just doesn’t make the media sensationalism grade.
Then again, hasn’t this always been the case?
On the Hollywood food chain it seems that Asian actors are “lint” or maybe “less than lint” – to borrow a line from the 1998 movie Dave.
Like Asian actors, Black actors and actresses always lament, with good reason, the lack of roles that are offered to him. They complain about being pigeon-holed into the usual stereotypical roles such as street thugs, sexy divas, loudmouths, wife abusers and the religious matriarch. Sometimes they’re offered good roles because the casting people, fortunately, came down with a case of color-blindness
But compared to what is offered to Asian actors (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, etc.) Black actors have a plethora of acting roles. Asian actresses are mainly cast in subservient roles such as the quiet, dutiful wife or sexually-submissive girlfriend or prostitute. Sandra Oh’s strong and complex character “Dr. Yang” from the television series Grey’s Anatomy being one of the few exceptions to this rule.
Asian actors may, arguably, have more work opportunities than compared to their female counterparts, but the acting stereotypes are still there. Asian males are chosen to play roles that require them to be martial art experts, lords of wisdom, honor-bound samurais, extremely-strict fathers or stressed-out, academic over-achievers with nerd-like qualities. Mostly they’re cast as what I refer to as the “Five O’s”: obstinate fathers, omnipotent fighters, overly dutiful sons, obsequious man-servants or old wise men.
But for a brief moment in 1993 there was as Asian actor, Jason Scott Lee, who could have become a major star. Within a two-month period of that year he was in two films – a romantic drama as a WWII pilot the other as the iconic actor and martial arts expert Bruce Lee (no relation). The latter film did cast him as an Asian playing a famous Asian, but he was so much more than that as an actor. He should’ve been so much more.
Unfortunately, Hollywood just wasn’t ready. Hell, it still isn’t ready, though Asian actors keep trying. But sometimes I’m sure they feel like Sisyphus with that damn rock – constantly pushing at it, only for it to roll down and over them time and again.
In the Not So Distant Beginning
Most of us have seen one or more Asian stereotypes in movies and films during our lifetime. I can’t recall the first one that I saw, but there are some I haven’t forgotten. Mickey Rooney’s visually and stereotypically buffoonish and obviously myopic Chinese servant in Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Gedde Watanabe cringe-worthy role in Sixteen Candles as the Chinese exchange student whose English and social skills are child-like and idiotic.
Of course there was also David Carradine in the television series Kung Fu as “Kwai Chang Caine” an Amerasian shaolin monk skilled in Buddhism and martial arts spreading his mysticism throughout the American West. “Kwai” was originally written to be Chinese and was to star Bruce Lee who had cut his teeth in television as martial arts crime fighter “Kato” in the Green Hornet. Not surprisingly, Lee ended up going overseas in order to become a ‘star’ in Hollywood, albeit a posthumous one.
It has still been a very tough road for Asian actors since Bruce Lee. Over the past twenty to thirty years a select few East Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc.) actors born in or outside the U.S. have entered the entertainment mainstream via television and/or feature films with various levels of visibility and success. Actors such as Chow Yun Fat (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Jackie Chan (Rush Hour films), Jet Li (Romeo Must Die), Daniel Dae Kim (Lost, Hawaii Five-O), Russell Wong (Joy Luck Club), Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai) and John Cho (Harold & Kumar films)
However, most owe their career livelihood to the martial arts and/or action-film genre. Asian male actors who can’t, won’t or don’t do martial arts exclusively – who primarily just ‘act’ seem to be few and far in between.
Back in the late 1980s Jason Scott Lee (JSL), an American actor of Chinese-Hawaiian descent was probably aware of the Hollywood odds. He started with small roles in television series such as Matlock and Wolf. He lucked out with a few television movies and small-to-major films such as The Lookalike, Born in East L.A. and Back To The Future II.
According to Internet Movie Database, JSL had acting gigs in only nine television and movies between 1987 and 1993, with 1993 being his breakout year. However, things were about to change, at least they should have changed, according to every happy-ever-after story in Hollywood.
A Double Film Slam Dunk
In April 1993 a small film called Map of the Human Heart was released which was followed in May by Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. Both films happened to star JSL in lead roles.
Map of the Human Heart was a romantic drama that takes place in the 1930s in which JSL played Avik, a Canadian Innuit who joins the Royal Canadian Air Force as a bomber pilot. The film revolves around his childhood then adult love for a French-Indian girl played by Anne Parillaud and the impact of his WWII actions – especially the firebombing of Dresden, Germany - had on his emotional well-being after the war. In the film you get to see JSL in various stages of his life, as a cocky pilot, man in love, shell-shocked war veteran and a despondent alcoholic. One of the stand-out scenes in the film is of Jason Scott Lee and Parillaud naked, making love on top of a barrage balloon. Seeing an Asian male actor in such an obviously romantic film scene is a rare occurrence.
Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert said that JSL ” brings a joy and freshness to the early scenes, and makes a good contrast to the older Avik, who has lost his way.” Ebert concluded that ‘Map of the Human Heart’ was “one of the year’s (1993) best films” and gave it four stars. The film only made little over $2 million, but it was critically-acclaimed and JSL received excellent reviews.
A month later JSL was on the screen again in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. The film was based on the book Bruce Lee: The Man I Only Knew by his widow, Linda Lee Caldwell. The semi-biographical film chronicled Bruce Lee’s childhood and young adult years in Hong Kong (though he was born in the U.S.); his move to San Francisco, going to college, meeting his wife and having a family, creating the martial art Jeet Kuen Do and his television and film work up until his death after filming Enter the Dragon, a marital arts classic. Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story had an epic Hollywood biographical tone that played a bit loose with the facts (i.e. he hurt his back lifting weights, not in a battle defending his martial arts creation). However, it also delved into the racial hardships Lee faced as an Asian-American trying to become an American success story.
JSL struck the right tone for the movie which showed his physical prowess (he learned martial arts for the film), comedic timing, dramatic skills all while handling a love story. The film did well, pulling in $35 million at the box-office – a much better haul than Map of the Human Heart.
Roger Ebert said JSL was a “gifted young actor” who like Bruce Lee “use film to give them power over time and space.” Desson Howe of the Washington Post said it’s “[JSL's] acting that makes “Dragon” so watchable – that “[w]ith a personality like firecrackers, he charms and crackles his way through this movie.”
One can’t help but think that parts of Jason Scott Lee’s portrayal of Bruce Lee in Dragon reflected his own experiences dealing with racism. Yes, the movie wasn’t completely accurate in its telling of Lee’s story, but JSL made you believe you were watching Bruce Lee.
Pete Rainer of the Los Angeles Times summed up what most movie critics and film goers thought of JSL at that time”:
“What’s exciting about “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” is that, in Jason Scott Lee, the movie has created a new star out of an old star. The film is a tribute to Bruce Lee but it’s also a tribute to the transforming powers of performance. Lee does justice to Bruce Lee while, at the same time, creating a character out of his own fierce resources. He is, quite literally, smashing.”
After I saw both of these films I kept my eye on Jason Scott Lee, hoping against hope that he would blow-up, big-time on the silver screen. I remembered how Daniel Day-Lewis in 1985-1986 had an actor’s year similar to JSL. Daniel Day-Lewis played played a gay man in an interracial relationship in My Beautiful Laundrette and then followed that up with a role as a proper upper -class gentleman in Room With A View. Hollywood definitely took notice of Day-Lewis’ diverse acting skills. Maybe the same could happen to Jason Scott Lee.
In reality, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. Jason Scott Lee probably knew it too.
Sound and Fury – Then Nothing
After the banner year of 1993 things were pretty quiet work-wise for Jason Scott Lee. Between 1994 and 2013 he was cast in approximately 25 roles, mostly small parts in television shows (The Hunger, Hawaii Five-0), voice-over work (Lilo & Stitich), low budget-films (Tale of the Mummy) and straight-to-video films (Timecop:The Berlin Decision).
He had some screen time in four big-budget films during this period; two of which he was the lead actor – 1994′s Rapa Nui and The Jungle Book. He played an Eastern Island warrior finding love amidst a civil war and a jungle boy raised by wolves, respectively. Not much of a casting stretch for Hollywood. As for the cinematic quality of these films – the less said about them the better.
After Rapa Nui and Jungle Book he didn’t work for three years. Whether this was on purpose or not, it’s hard to determine. Maybe Jason Scott Lee had simply had enough. In between his sporadic television and film work JSL kept busy with local Hawaiian theater, personal documentaries and working on his martial arts skills
Unfortunately what happened to Jason Scott Lee happens to a lot of actors, Asians and non-Asians, so it’s nothing new. But it’s still a shame nonetheless, given his talent.
In December 2010 Jason Scott Lee was interviewed by Guy Aoki, writer for Rafu Shimpo, a Los Angeles Japanese News Daily. Aoki asked JSL if he had been too “selective” in the mid-1990s about the type of roles he wanted. JSL said:
“Back in the ’90s, my effort was to do films with meaningful content, which I believe is still the goal of many artists in Hollywood. For an Asian American actor, it’s that much more difficult. I had a tough time back then accepting the redundant action hero opportunities that were placed before me. It now makes me realize that ‘Dragon’ was somewhat before its time, and trying to find a challenge that would capitalize on that performance was completely non-existent. I’m hoping to find positive challenges in the current situation of movie making.”
I have watched Map of the Human Heart and Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story several times over the years. I still shake my head at Hollywood’s missed opportunity. It almost makes you want to keep your fingers crossed for every ‘person of color’ actor and actress trying to make it in Hollywood because the opportunities are few and the chances for success are even fewer.
Most don’t make it or if they do, they end up catching fire quickly or only for a moment. But then the embers don’t last and the smoke eventually goes away. Just ask Jason Scott Lee.
I normally don’t read the Education Section on many mainstream news sites because the articles are anemic and pro forma at best. Unfortunately, the ‘education news beat’ has taken a major hit as newspapers have cut staff and costs to save money.
Yet, I found myself perusing the education news section on the Huffington Post website. The article “Teen Pregnancy Study: Students Need Better School Support” (11/26/2012) caught my eye, because the topic of ‘teen pregnancy’ and ‘education’ doesn’t pop up much in the news cycle. Also because the article ludicrously states the obvious though a good portion of America’s public education system would beg to differ. Below is an excerpt from the article discussing a teen mom’s plight and how schools have dealt with the issue of teen moms:
When 15-year-old Kali Gonzalez became pregnant, the honors student considered transferring to an alternative school. She worried teachers would harass her for missing class because of doctor’s appointments and morning sickness. A guidance counselor urged Gonzalez not to, saying that could lower her standards. Instead, her counselor set up a meeting with teachers at her St. Augustine high school to confirm she could make up missed assignments, eat in class and use the restroom whenever she needed. Gonzalez, who is now 18, kept an A-average while pregnant. She capitalized on an online school program for parenting students so she could stay home and take care of her baby during her junior year. She returned to school her senior year and graduated with honors in May. But Gonzalez is a rare example of success among pregnant students. Schools across the country are divided over how to handle them, with some schools kicking them out or penalizing students for pregnancy-related absences. And many schools say they can’t afford costly support programs, including tutoring, child care and transportation for teens who may live just a few miles from school but still too far to walk while pregnant or with a small child.
Though we live in a more enlightened age, the stigma of teen pregnancy (one of the scarlet letters of the teen set) still exists. Parents/soon-to-be grandparents are pissed that their daughter is pregnant or that that their son ‘knocked someone up.’ Pregnant girls feel shocked and ashamed and soon-to-be teen fathers are stunned, depressed or angry.
Schools, parents, friends, doctors, non-profits, other family members, etc. can preach abstinence and safe-sex until they’re blue-in-the-face. It doesn’t change the fact that teens are still having babies.
Ostracizing teen moms to special schools for ‘girls in their condition’ is not the answer. Also, schools need to stop equating the ‘acknowledgement of teen pregnancy/assisting pregnant teens’ with the idea that the school is somehow promoting teen sex. Providing school support systems to help pregnant teens and teen moms stay in school will help them finish high school and maybe pursue post-high school education. Most importantly, having their peers see these pregnant girls and their babies’ fathers in their classrooms will cause some teens to think twice about having unprotected sex. Nothing like seeing living, breathing examples of how your life would change by having a baby.
I’m not saying that schools should serve as some type of defacto parent, though some already do whether parents like it or not. However, schools need to stop putting their heads in the sand when it comes to teen pregnancy and other student issues (i.e., racism, bullying, sexuality, sexism, etc.) that they’re not comfortable dealing with because these issues will not go away. In the end, schools are supposed to educate all students and help them graduate, even pregnant girls and teen moms.
A couple of days ago Sandra Fluke spoke in primetime at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. I made a point of not watching the Fluke in action. I admit it, I’m tired of seeing and hearing about her and from her.
I’ve taken to calling Fluke ‘Mary Magdalene‘ America’s latest reincarnation of special womanhood. She can do no wrong – she must be defended 24 hours of day, 7 days a week and 365 days of the year.
Yet, there is something strangely patronizing about the Fluke bandwagon. She’s treated like a young girl who requires knights (male and female) to protect her from the mean, bad men. Seriously, this woman is over 30 years and just graduated with a Georgetown University law degree! I’m sure that she is able to defend herself without her unofficial squires running to her assistance.
Fluke’s infamous, remote dust-up via talk radio with that idiot RushLimbaugh (he called her a ‘slut’) galvanized American women in regards to their healthcare and the upcoming presidential election, which was a boon for the Democratic Party. Probably one of the few times a woman being called a “slut” is/was a good thing.
However, the happenstance of her celebrity combined with her limited work as a “women’s activist” (as she’s been described) makes for a strange combination that I find bothersome.
It’s kind of like a reality television star with little to no acting experience who wants to be viewed as a serious actor or actress.
Also, let’s be honest about the real issue surrounding Fluke’s celebrity. If Fluke was Black, blonde, had acne or big tits or looked like a cheerleader (god-forbid) we wouldn’t know who the hell she is. Limbaugh could’ve called her a host of names (feminazi anyone?) and that would’ve been it. The public and the media are very fickle over the types of women whom they hand out the ‘deserve to be defended’ crown.
I’m sure Fluke’s flunkies (as I sometimes call them) would say that I’m being mean, jealous or hateful towards such a ‘strong, dedicated woman.’ But the fact is women are viewed and treated differently based on their looks and ethnicity.
We can’t be ugly or no one wants you. Can’t be too attractive or no one will take you seriously. Fluke falls right in the middle, which has made for a perfect media and political confluence. Mary Magdalene indeed.
I just wish the media, politicians and others would keep in mind that Fluke is just one woman and that she doesn’t represent ALL women – though my cynical, pessimistic side sarcastically tells me “Good luck with that!”
Sigh – I guess we’re stuck with Fluke. Thanks a lot Limbaugh.
Note: This blog is based on a 2011 Quora post I did in response to the subject of false rumors re childhood vaccines. I actually forgot about my Quora response until I was reminded of it recently due to a conversation I had with a co-worker (a soon-to-be first time mom) who was full of worry. Unfortunately there are many people like her who have allowed fears regarding their child(ren) drown out their parental happiness. So I decided to re-post my response (with some changes) here.
Many would chalk the susceptibility of the ‘childhood vaccines cause autism’ rumor to the lack of scientific and/or biological knowledge, when it’s primarily a result of parental fear.
When you become a parent you want the best for your child. The fear of anything bad happening to him/her is always in the back of your mind (i.e., being hit by a car, disease, major fall, severe injury, etc.) – like some kind of worse case scenario. I have a young son and I still experience s a sense of queasiness whenever I think about him being harmed in any way or when I’m watching him do something that could potentially cause injury.
However for some parents this fear, almost paranoia, is with them at a high level every day. Of course some would say not without good reason. This culture of parental fear surrounding having autistic children, children with birth defects, etc. most likely started in the late 1950s. Physicians at that time were prescribing expectant moms with Thalidomide, a sedative used to cure morning sickness. Unfortunately, this same medicine caused thousands of birth defects such as missing, malformed or underdeveloped limbs. There have been a host of other medical tragedies since then that have made it into mainstream news – who is also a culprit in helping to produce our fear culture. We’ve seen lots of news stories about horrible medical accidents that have happened to children, which can create the atmosphere of a medical epidemic instead of the tragedy being an isolated incident. All of these actions have confirmed many parents’ fears about drugs/vaccines being harmful to children, experts be damned.
It is these type of parents who turn medical rumors into fact and spread this faulty knowledge to others. I’m not denying that some medicines and/or preventative measures can be harmful to children. As a parent you have to be alert to what can harm or heal your child. But if a parent allows their medical fears to overwhelm them then they can end up doing harm to their child(ren) whom they’re trying to protect. Yet some do fear – fear a lot – hence the vaccines = child autism rumor that won’t go away.
Parents shouldn’t act worry-free or as if they have no fears about their child. Denying your parental fears is not going to make them go away. You have to acknowledge them without letting them take over. If you let your fears take over you will continue to find more to fear which will put you in a vicious cycle that will never end. Staying informed without imagining the worse can be hard for the most worrisome of parents, but in the end it will make you a better parent and your child a stronger person.
Janice Dickinson (Photos – Fame Flynet via Huffington Post, July 11, 2012)
Huffington Post saw fit today to publish photos of Janice Dickinson (age 57, self-proclaimed first supermodel and former judge on ‘America’s Next Top Model’) on the beach and hitting the surf in a bikini. Huffington knew that the photos were going to be an online hit in the readers’ comments section, which they most definitely were. As to be expected, most of the 1,000+ comments weren’t very nice. Yet, I have to say she asked for it.
Dickinson is just another example of the phenomenon of older, skinny, well-off (mostly white) women not dressing their age – a phenomenon that just will not go away. I have walked behind these supposedly nubile-looking women, but when they turn around and you see their face you do a double-take and not in a good way.
For these women, being skinny denotes youthfulness therefore they think they can wear whatever their heart desires. If Janice Dickinson was wearing a nice, one-piece we would be saying “Wow, she looks really good!” But that’s not what many of us are thinking. She thought that since she could fit into the bikini therefore she could/should wear it. A swimsuit mistake many women (and men) have made. Unfortunately, her swimsuit choice makes her look old, saggy and desperate for attention. I highly doubt these were the adjectives she was shooting for when she decided to put on the bikini. We all want to fight Father Time – some by any means necessary. Yet there is something to be said about aging gracefully. Maybe one day Janice will learn that lesson.
Sometimes I think I’m becoming an old music snob, kind of like my mother. A lot of artists are more about visuals than actually playing their music. Fans end up going to concerts where the artist or band is playing along with their recorded music and their music videos are a part of the concert decor.
It seems as if most of the singers and musicians are self-conscious or hyper-aware of how they look on stage and to their audience. You can practically see them wondering ‘Do I look cool? Do I look sexy? How does my voice sound in comparison to the album version?’ Music acts are so manufactured nowadays why people bother to cough-up hundreds of dollars to see them live (or lip-synching live) is beyond me.
Yet there are artists out there who understand that playing live is about their performance and the music.
Below is live concert footage of talented singers and musicians that I’ve come across over the years. These artists understand that fans did not come to hear them sing along to pre-recorded tracks or to look like they stepped off a photo-shopped magazine cover. These musicians came to play and thank God for that.
GARY CLARK, JR.
Gary Clark Jr. is an original blues man who somehow combines B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, Gil-Scott Heron and Howlin’ Wolf into his own style. He not only sings the blues like he’s lived them he also plays a mean-ass guitar. He’s only been around a few years, but his profile is on the rise. In 2010 he played at Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, a one-day event held in Chicago. A lot big name guitar artists were there such as Jeff Beck, B.B. King, Robert Cray and Johnny Winter. Yet, Clark stood out amongst the famous crowd. His cover version of Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights” is distinctive and incredible. After he’s done kicking ass on stage, he quietly says “thank you” to the crowd. He makes you want to say “No -thank you!”
Fleetwood Mac was the artist and supergroup of the 1970s. Most of their songs have been relegated to soft rock stations, but at one point in time they were the biggest act on earth. The five-person band had three major successful songwriters in Christie McVie, Lyndsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, which is practically unheard of today. Until Michael Jackson’s Thriller surpassed it, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors (1977) album was the biggest selling album of all time. It spawned several hits such as “Go Your Own Way,” “Don’t Stop,” “The Chain,” and “Gold Dust Woman.” However, before Rumors the Mac had another hit “Rihannon” a song written by Nicks about a Welsh witch. The album version is good, but this 1976 live version is excellent. Nicks vocals are very fierce and impassioned (starting at the 4:37 in the video) and the band plays off of her vibe, speeding along to the very end. Very few artists perform like this anymore.
MARY J. BLIGE
As an artist, Blige’s music output is uneven at times, in that I don’t think her songs really match up to her vocal talent. However, her live performances can sometimes make lyrically-weak songs seem epic, which was the case at the 2002 Grammy Awards. Mary J. Blige decided to perform “No More Drama” which is not a great song, but it was her latest R&B hit at the time. Initially she starts out kind of sedentary, probably thinking about the audience in front of her since Grammy audiences are notoriously quiet and polite during performances. Yet midway through her set Mary seems to forget about who’s she singing to and just goes for it (starting at 2:17 in the video) . When she sings” You demons get out my face. Go get out of my mind. I’m about to lose my mind. Lord help me!” it’s like she’s wailng and praying for strength. She makes you feel the words. At the end of her performance the Grammy audience stood up and clapped – one of the few times I’ve seen this happen. Mary deserved their honor and respect.
By the time George Micheal performed with Queen in 1992 at Wembley Stadium in London he was already a musical superstar. From his days with Wham to his solo work, he was pop and R&B friendly who happened to have an amazing voice. Yet many singers would have been scared sh*tless to be asked to play with Queen as a stand-in for Freddie Mercury, especially at a tribute concert to honor the passing of Mercury who had died of AIDS. Plus the concert was to be broadcast live to over 76 countries with an audience of almost a billion. A lot of pressure, but George was up to the task. His version of “Somebody to Love” was respectful of Freddie Mercury, but it was still all George. His voice sounded clear and joyful which the band obviously appreciated. George knocked this one out of the park. I’m sure Freddie was impressed.
In 1992 Cohn’s self-titled first album did very well. It sold over a million copies. He had a top 2o hit with “Walking in Memphis and two other top 100 hits off the album. He finished up the year with a Grammy for ‘Best New Artist,’ which can be a good or mostly bad thing. Unfortunately for Cohn, a Grammy didn’t help his later albums and he has never come close to his initial success. But he’s still out there writing, singing and performing for his diehard fans. One of his most popular live songs is “True Companion” which is about meeting, marrying and committing to the love of your life. The 2009 version he did in Utah is one of my favorites. It has a quiet, earnest beauty about it that is simply wonderful. It really allows you to listen to the lyrics so that you really feel him singing the song. An understated, heartfelt performance by a real artist.
The ‘Queen of Soul’ is known for “Respect” and “Natural Woman” but those songs don’t really symbolize what Aretha Franklin can do with her voice. Her voice is powerful, but it is also a host of other levels like pain, sorrow, love and anger. Her songs that have more of a gospel flair to them are her best stuff such as “Never Loved A Man.” The first few lines of the song start as “You’re’ no good. Heartbreaker. You’re a liar and a you’re a cheat. I don’t know why I let you do things to me.” You know exactly where she’s coming from and how she feels, especially the way she stretches out certain words. This 1967 two-plus minute live version gives you just a snippet of what she probably would’ve done with this song if she was given a more time, but songs weren’t too lengthy back then. Too bad for her audience and for us.
Like many of his fans, I became aware of Stanley’s talent via the “O Brother Where Art Thou?” soundtrack. Ralph Stanley, a bluegrass artist and banjo player won the 2002 Best Male Country Performance Grammy for his performance of “O Death.” Though the album version is great this 2008 a cappella version he did at a festival in Clintwood, Virginia is even more honest and chilling. All you see is 85 year-old Stanley on stage, grasping his hands while wearing a white cowboy hat asking the grim reaper to spare him for another year. Amazing.
I have always liked Pink‘s voice, but most of her songs just do nothing for me. In fact, I think most of the crap she sings is not worthy of her voice. Pink’s voice is raspy, full of strength, hurt, fun and heartache. It’s too bad most of her music, as popular as it is, just doesn’t measure up to what she could bring to the table. Though I’m sure her bank account is very pleased with her pop success. She really knows how to vocally turn lemons into lemonade. Yet, once in awhile, she shows us that she is the real deal, especially when her song choice is an even match for her vocal prowess. I’ve seen this happen only once with her, when she sang a cover version of Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” at the 2007 Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame. With her voice it seems like it would be an obvious fit for Pink, which it is. But she makes it all her own while still respecting Janis’ version of it. An awesome feat indeed, which the audience knew by giving her a well-deserved standing ovation.
I became a fan of N.E.R.D. (Nobody Ever Really Dies) the first time I heard “Sooner or Later” – a good song that has a Beatlesque/70s guitar vibe that I really like. This funk, rap, hip hop and rock bank is made-up of three members with writer/producer Pharrell Williams being the driving force of the group. I used to like the album version of “Spaz” until I came across this live version. It’s not a great version of the song in that they took it to a another level. What I really like about this version is the energy of the group and the audience. It has an excitement and rawness to it that makes the album version truly pale in comparison. Maybe N.E.R.D. was able to bring it because they were doing a Projekt Revolution concert which celebrates a variety of music genres. All I know is that it makes me wish that I had been at this concert. I would’ve jammed my ass off!
As I was reading the umpteenth article on the political “War on Women” I came across an article discussing the perils of maternity leave on The Nation‘s website.
In “Too Often, A New Baby Brings Big Debt” the author, Bryce Covert criticizes, rightfully, the United States’ woeful policy on parental leave and worker protection in the advent of a pregnancy, all of which can result in financial hardship for working moms. Interestingly, was the author’s mention of Sonya Underwood, a hospital worker, to make her case.
Here is Covert describing what happened to Sonya Underwood:
When it comes to taking time off for a new baby, the best-laid plans often go awry. Sonya Underwood had worked at a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, for eleven years before getting pregnant with her third son. As a single mother, she prepared to cover the income she would lose during her unpaid leave, hoarding paid time off and taking out disability insurance. And then real life intervened. Doctors told Underwood that she had an incompetent cervix and put her on bed rest three weeks ahead of schedule. Then her son arrived at twenty-six weeks. The twelve weeks of leave she is guaranteed by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) soon ran out, as did the insurance, even though her son remained in the NICU. “I didn’t have any money left,” Underwood said. So she went back to work and visited him at the hospital every day. But once her son came home, Underwood’s situation quickly became untenable. Daycare centers wouldn’t take a medically fragile baby. Her human resources department informed her that her only choice was more unpaid leave. “It didn’t help out my situation because I still had rent due, my car note due, utilities, everything else,” she said. After she exhausted that leave, she was let go from her job, lost her car and couldn’t qualify for unemployment insurance because of her role as her son’s caretaker. The only places left to turn were Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and a loan she already knew would be difficult to pay back. “I’m a victim of FMLA because it didn’t help my family,” she concluded.
Though I felt empathy for Underwood’s situation, one question stuck in my head throughout the article. Why did Underwood, a single mother of two, decide to have a third child? Though Covert mentioned Underwood had been working at the hospital for eleven years before deciding to have a third child and that she had “prepared” for the pregnancy – my initial thought did not go away. Some would argue that her decision to have a third child led to her economic hardship.
I’m not stating that Covert should have selected a more appealing individual (i.e. married, first time becoming pregnant, white-collar worker, etc.) to augment her argument. Maybe Covert didn’t want to use a perfect mom example, because then the reader wouldn’t feel the perfect mom’s pain or understand her hardship. There is a strong possibility that the reader would equate the perfect mom’s despair with just being whiny, then she would be told to “suck it up.”
Nevertheless, Covert’s argument about the unfairness of parental leave for working new mothers is inadvertently undermined and obscured by her use of Ms. Underwood as an example.
Yet, whatever readers may feel about Underwood and/or her situation shouldn’t dilute the fact U.S. policy concerning parental leave for working new mothers and parents is abysmal. Pregnant women only have the option of hoarding their vacation/sick leave in order to have paid maternity leave with the option of using FMLA (which is unpaid) to extend their maternity leave. This is ridiculous when, according to the Center For Economic Policy and Research’s “Parental Leave Policy in 21 Countries” 2008 report countries such as Austria, Canada, Cuba, France and the U.K. offering 18-52 weeks of paid maternity leave and sometimes paid paternity leave.
Not every potential mom is married, has a dream pregnancy where she didn’t get sick and has a child born completely healthy while working for a family-friendly employer, which fortunately was the case for me. Complications–medical, financial and otherwise–happen, yet America’s parental leave policy doesn’t take such matters into consideration for moms. In some instances, pregnant women have to deal with on-the-job pregnancy discrimination which can result in decreased work hours, job loss, failure to hire or promote and forced unpaid leave as reported in 2011 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Also, The fear of debt has caused many potential moms/parents to delay having children and limit the number of children they would like to have. Why more Americans haven’t opted out of the parent route is truly a testament of nature over logic.
The fact is, hoping that the latest “War On Women” round will push the federal government to resolve this issue (along with other concerns that primarily affect women) is the same as expecting to win the Mega Millions lottery.
In other words women, don’t hold your breath or you might end up like Sonya Underwood.