Politics: More Than Just A Game

Chess Board

By: Madelyn Starritt

Let’s talk about politics. No, not the name calling, whining, Democrats vs Republicans type of politics, but the nature of all political debates. The issues that we consider “politics” and how we fight over them not based on whether we think they are morally right or wrong but based on whether there is an “R” or a “D” next to the issue.

We treat these things like a game with winners and losers. But politics is more than a game, it is people’s lives. The “losers” in these situations will deal with more than their hurt pride, the laws and decisions made in politics change lives for better and for worse, this is something that should be taken seriously, not played with like a game.

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Male Circumcision in the United States and Consent

For the past two weeks I’ve talked about consent in the context of sex and how consent relates to individuals who are intersex. This week I want to broaden the discussion on a child’s right to decide what happens to their body through an exploration on circumcision.

During the Victorian Era, circumcision became a widespread practice as a treatment for masturbation. At this time, it was the belief of many doctors that masturbation led to many diseases, and that by removing one of the most sensitive parts of the penis, it could be prevented. Male circumcision was not just prevalent in the United States, but in all English-speaking countries at the time, such as Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. However, the practice decreased significantly in all of those countries except the United States in the following years. Now, between 60 to 90% of American boys are circumcised, depending on the region they live in, but only 16% of boys in Great Britain are circumcised, even though both countries were influenced by the ideas in the Victorian Era. So why is the United States still engaging in this practice? Continue reading “Male Circumcision in the United States and Consent”

Gillian Triggs: Standing up for human rights in the land down under

By Lauren Anthony

Gillian Triggs

Empowering women all over the world are spreading awareness of women’s issues and standing up for what they believe in. This week, our blog is focusing on empowering women who have left or continue to make great strides in women’s rights that are not taken into account.

Packing our bags, we will be travelling down to Australia, the land down under, to look at Gillian Triggs. Triggs won Australia’s Woman of the Year award in 2015 and was one of many other women who have taken incredible strides to help women in Australia.

Continue reading “Gillian Triggs: Standing up for human rights in the land down under”

Women’s Rights Are Human Rights

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by Jenna McDaniel

Everyone is entitled to equal rights under the law, and yes, that includes women. Human rights, as defined by the United Nations Human Rights website, are:

 “Rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.”

Continue reading “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights”

The Importance of Character Development: SciFi and the Bechdel Test

 

Amber Atalaya Evans Pinel

You may or may not be familiar with the Bechdel Test; it’s a strategy for looking at movies and TV shows in depth to determine whether or not they are featuring a realistic portrayal of women. Rather, the test asks three simple questions: Does it have at least two named female characters? Do these female characters talk to one another? And, if they do, do they talk about something other than a man?

This may sound ridiculous to you—of course movies feature women who talk to one another about something other than a man! Right? Actually, in most cases, wrong. As I continue to scrutinize my media, it becomes increasingly apparent that fully developed female characters are a rarity. It seems absurd, considering the number of women in our country alone who consume media. Obviously we do talk to one another, and we most certainly have more to talk about than men.

However, I was surprised to find that some of my own favorite movies fail the Bechdel Test. Underworld (2003), for example, the extremely popular Kate Beckinsale vampire vs. werewolf movie that started the vampire craze (in my opinion), totally fails. At first glance, it may appear that Selene is the most badass female character to ever grace the big screen with her presence. A few years ago I would have completely agreed. But let’s take the movie through the Bechdel Test.

Sure, there are quite a few female extras, but there are only three named female characters in the whole movie; Selene (the main character), Erika (her “female rival”), and Amelia (a royal elder of the vampires.) Amelia doesn’t even have lines, she only has two half-scenes where she is present. Erika is also completely lacking development; her only goal in the movie is to take Selene’s place as Kraven’s favorite hot vampire chick. Selene and Erika have a couple of scenes together, and in those scenes they only speak about Kraven and Michael (the other half of the love triangle.) For the rest of the movie, Selene is battling against men and speaking only with men. She appears to be the only female vampire in this world capable of fighting.

Not a whole lot of media passes the Bechdel Test, including everyone’s favorites. Doctor Who (2005 reboot) had a long standing reputation of fully developed companions. But recently I’ve been reading reviews from fans who are less than pleased about the direction the show is going in. Ever since Steven Moffat (co-creator of Sherlock) became the showrunner of Doctor Who, the development of female characters in that show has significantly dropped.

Moffat is receiving a lot of criticism for the direction he’s taken the show since Matt Smith became the Doctor. (Disclaimer: I haven’t seen more than a handful of episodes since Steven Moffat became the showrunner, so everything I am about to say is being reiterated from online blogs and columns I have read about the issue.)

A new companion was introduced–Amy Pond–who met the doctor when she was a child, and then meets him again as an adult. Basically, her entire life already revolved around the Doctor by the time she becomes his companion. However, this alone doesn’t make her a two dimensional character. The problem is that she was never really humanized. She faced numerous challenges and struggles throughout her time as the Doctor’s companion; things happened to her and her family that would be considered emotionally scarring by most psychologists. But by the time the next episode rolls around she seems to be totally un-phased emotionally. Her biggest struggle in the show is that she has to choose between the Doctor and her boyfriend/husband. Other than that decision, she has no goals in life, no prospects or dreams. She is totally governed as a character by the men around her. If you want a really in depth analysis of Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who, and Amy Pond as a character,  this one is the best you’ll ever find.

But Moffat isn’t just receiving criticism on Amy Pond; he’s well known for saying rather offensive things about women in general, including the female fans of Doctor Who and Sherlock. Not to mention the serious lack of developed LGBTQIA characters in his shows.

So, why is this a problem? A lot of people think that’s a dumb question, but Steven Moffat doesn’t. And neither do the all male writers and directors of Underworld. It’s a problem for several reasons: first of all, it’s not an accurate representation of real people. Women do have aspirations beyond choosing which man to follow around. Also, they do talk about other things besides men. Lot’s of other things. (Not to mention LGBTQIA people exist as real people in the real world.) But I think the biggest problem with popular TV shows like Doctor Who failing to show well developed female characters is that so many young people are getting social cues from media these days. Young people eat Doctor Who up. So if they see characters like Amy Pond, who only think about the men in their lives, what does that teach youth? It teaches them that women should only think about men, and that the biggest source of existential struggle they’ll ever have is always going to surround men.

Obviously, women will face a lot of challenges in their lives. Some of them may revolve around men. Many of those challenges will be overcoming gender-biased people trying to tell them they aren’t worth as much as their male counterparts. But what’s important is the media accurately reflect real people of all genders and sexual orientations, and that includes creating well developed characters that pass the Bechdel Test.

 

 

Sexuality, Gender, and Representation in Science Fiction

Amber Atalaya Evans Pinel

        For many people science fiction is a genre full of new ideas, futuristic thoughts, innovative design, and political insight. In many ways, science fiction reveals current political climates and cultural ideologies of our time. Some might even call the genre socially progressive due to it’s ability to introduce characters and ideas that don’t fit the “norm.” I can sing praises of all the great things about science fiction all day, but I think it’s time to explore what science fiction television shows are lacking – proper representation for people of the alphabet soup (LGBTQA & etc.), and specifically transgendered and non-binary people/characters.

I don’t want to say there aren’t any LGBTQA characters in science fiction television, because that’s not true at all. In the prequel to Battlestar Galactica (the 2003 reboot), a relatively short series called Caprica (2010), one of the main characters – Sam Adama – is portrayed in a loving and healthy relationship with his husband.

Sam Adama from the series Caprica

Sam Adama is a gang member who came to Caprica with his family some years before the show’s beginning. Sam is a hit man and is portrayed as a very strong, determined, and dangerous character. I think the writers did an excellent job on him and his family’s story, in that they did not make him a trope, nor did they particularly emphasize his relationship with his husband. The fact that he is in a same sex relationship isn’t even mentioned: he’s simply married. Furthermore, Caprica features a group/cooperative/polyamorous family in which one of the main characters, Sister Clarice Willow (the headmaster of a religious private school), has several husbands and wives, and they all communally raise their children and live under the same roof.

However, Battlestar Galactica doesn’t feature any relationships that aren’t heteronormative. And, both shows only have cisgendered characters. Unfortunately, this isn’t exclusive to Battlestar Galactica and Caprica. I have never seen a science fiction or fantasy television show that featured transgendered characters. Science fiction literature tends to be much more liberal with their characters; I’ve read a variety of books that contain lesbian, gay, and bisexual characters. However, even in the literature of one of the most progressive genres that features new ideas and “radical” political views, LGBTQA characters are still a rarity. And, books that feature transgendered characters are even more difficult to find. I wanted to include some titles and authors of books that do feature these characters, but after a lengthy internet search I’m still at a loss. Here’s a list of science fiction books that feature gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters.

It’s true that in recent years lesbian, gay, and bisexual characters have been making it into science fiction television. However, the numbers of those characters are still relatively small and there’s only one I know of who is the main character: Bo in the series Lost Girl. Lost Girl does an excellent job of portraying LGB characters without making them tropes. But even that excellent show lacks transgendered characters (as far as I know, I haven’t seen the whole series yet.)

Why, in the genre of the future, are transgendered characters invisible? Because writers, producers, directors, and screenwriters are not pushing for these characters to exist in their worlds. I cannot stress enough how important it is to put these characters into science fiction literature and television, and media in general. People who do not fit the gender binary do exist in our world; a large part of letting them know that they’re normal, and their experience is natural, is to make sure they see people like them in the media. We gather almost all of our cultural information through the media – especially through television. It is imperative that transgendered characters are written. And, in the futuristic and boundary-pushing genre of science fiction, I’m disgusted there isn’t already ample representation of transgendered characters.

 

 

Think Before You Speak

Nick Dimico

Companies all over the world have been caught in the scandal of speaking before thinking. This, of course, is not anything new, but one company has made major headlines over past weeks due to the anti-gay remarks made by its president.

Barilla, the world’s largest pasta company, had its President, Guido Barilla, speak on an Italian radio show on September 25th. When the radio host asked why the company does not feature gay families in its ads, Barilla gave the following statement, per a Huffington Post translation of the interview.:

We have a slightly different culture…For us, the ‘sacral family’ remains one of the company’s core values. Our family is a traditional family. If gays like our pasta and our advertisings,  they will eat our pasta; if they don’t like that, they will eat someone else’s pasta. You can’t always please everyone not to displease anyone. I would not do a commercial with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect toward homosexuals – who have the right to do whatever they want without disturbing others – but because I don’t agree with them, and I think we want to talk to traditional families.

Personally, I find it quite amusing when companies such as Barilla make comments like this, because you would think that with how big the company is in the industry, that they would have the decency to keep their anti-gay opinions to themselves. Instead they make remarks like this and try to cover them up with an apology the next day. Sorry Barilla, it’s not going to work.

In today’s society, making remarks like this will cost you. According to ABC News, Barilla brings in a half billion dollars a year in U.S. sales alone, which now could be affected.

Within minutes of the comments hitting the internet universe, people all over the world became angered through social media.

According to Daily Finance, Barilla trended on Twitter for perhaps the first time ever, and it appears a boycott is now well under way. The executive quickly issued a clarification of his comments, writing on the Barilla corporate website that he had “utmost respect” for gay people and their marriages and that he apologized if [his] words have generated controversy or misunderstanding, or if they hurt someone’s sensitivity.”

Sensitivity? Misunderstanding? I think we heard you loud and clear Mr. Barilla. You find that the LGBT community sits on a different level then you do. It’s OK; I think we got your point.

“It’s the kind of non-apology apology with the words “sorry you were offended” that’s unlikely to cure anyone’s damaged “sensitivity.”

Model Christine Teigan, wife of singer John Legend tweeted; “Yikes. Bye, bye, me using Barilla.”

After realizing the way in which Barilla’s remarks affected the public, Barilla met with the Italian LGBT associations on October 7th in Bologna, northern Italy to simmer the boycott from its products and company. Barilla is trying to turn down the heat by proposing pro-gay policies for the future.

Although Barilla said they won’t feature gay families in there advertising, many other pasta companies will according to the Huffington Post. Below are just a few of the companies that have been open to the LGBT community.

Buitoni Pasta:

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Bertolli Pasta:

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Garofalo Pasta:

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According to the company’s website Guido Barilla issued a formal statement of apology.

At Barilla, we care about everyone, regardless of race, religion, belief, gender or sexual orientation. Our mission is to help people – every single person – live better, by bringing well-being and the joy of eating into their everyday lives. 

We value and respect a family, that includes everyone. As stated in the Barilla lighthouse – our strategy document – we promote diversity. Diversity of all kinds is a clear objective that the company has put forward. 

Barilla recognizes cultural, gender and skills diversity as an essential value for the company’s well-being. Integrity, inclusion, social and environmental responsibility are the values in which Barilla reflects itself, as results of a strong and widely recognized identity. 

Barilla firmly believes that, in order to qualify its business activities as ethical, it shall operate in respecting and safeguarding human rights, the regenerative capabilities of the Planet and the welfare of communities, while promoting a sustainable human development.

Barilla’s goal goes beyond bringing high-quality food products that are good for people. We also take care of our planet, by focusing on growing the business of those food products that have a low environmental impact. 

We will take advantage of the recent incident to learn and to promote even harder the diversity path that Barilla has undertaken.

To all our friends, family, employees and partners that we have hurt or offended, we are deeply sorry.

-Guido Barilla

It’s shocking the way the company can go out and speak to the media and not be able to predict the consequences that come with their actions, especially by ‘coming out’ and stating an apology that you are wanting to propose pro-gay policies when we already heard that you don’t believe that the LGBT community has the same human rights as you do. Please save your fake apologizes for someone else, and next time, think before you speak.