May 7, 2013
Jason Collins made history when he became the first male player of a U.S. major league team to come out as gay. Cue media blitz. Some reactions were, of course, angry and hateful. Some said, what’s the big deal? Women athletes have been coming out for years. And a great many others, including a lot of straight men, showed lots of love and support for Jason.
And THAT, my friends, is why this is such a big deal.
Yes, it’s true that women athletes have been coming out for years. Martina Navratilova came out in the middle of her career in 1981(!). This year’s top WNBA draft pick, Brittney Griner, came out with barely a media mention (which is enough for a whole other post on sexism). The Atlantic writer Garance Franke-Ruta nailed it when she said “Female professional athletes are already gender non-conforming. Male ones are still worshiped as exemplars of traditional masculinity.” Ah, yes. That ‘traditional masculinity’ which dictates that men are tough, rugged, strong, (which of course implies that women are not) and like their intimate relationships to be with women. I think much of how we’ve defined traditional masculinity is harmful to our relationships, gay or straight.
There have been remarks about how inspirational Jason Collins must be to kids out there struggling with their own sexual orientation, but I think his action does so much more. He has given us the opportunity to shift our perceptions of what it means to be manly. Posts like 17 Moments When Jason Collins was Super Gay do just that. He has helped us acknowledge that we can love who we want to love and be who we want to be without the pressure to fit into a box that is not at all the right shape. And when our communities support us to be comfortable in our own skins, we are better equipped to forge happy, healthy relationships.
February 12, 2013
I ♥ football. Although I was really grouchy about this year’s Super Bowl because I was still bitter about my Falcon’s loss in the playoffs, I still watched the game. And the commercials. And I know there is A LOT I could say about how women are portrayed in these ads, but I’ll let you peruse the game day dialogue at #notbuyingit for your fill of that.
One (ridiculously adorable) commercial got me thinking about something else. First, if you haven’t seen it, watch this car commercial with cute human and animal babies.
Adorable, right? (In case you didn’t watch it, a little boy asks his dad where babies come from and dad tells a fantastical story about a planet full of babies that each day get rocketed to earth to find their parents.) All of us parents have had that moment of panic when faced with a tough question from our child. Your tongue caught somewhere between figuring out an age appropriate response and your own discomfort.
So I’ve got a solution for you! It’s a win-win. It buys you time, prevents you from having to make up space babies, AND it’s a chance to start a great conversation with your kids about healthy relationships. Try this: “That’s a good question, little Tommy. (sweaty palms on the steering wheel, deep breath) And it’s a little complicated to answer, but I know that often babies come from two grown-ups who love each other very much and want to start a family. What do you think it means when two people love each other?” Answers will certainly vary and could be quite comical. But it will open the door to a conversation about what healthy relationships look like, and get you out of stumbling over body parts and mechanics. For the time being. You’re welcome.
December 24, 2012
Like many of you, I’ve been sad for days, affected by the horrible events in Newtown. I haven’t been able to talk much about it. One because I have an almost 4-year-old who just doesn’t need to process this, and two, because I can’t be very articulate when I am a sobbing mess. But yesterday something happened that made me speak up. A college friend posted on Facebook that she refused to live in fear, and was planning to get her concealed weapons permit.
I was a bit shocked to hear this from this particular friend. Although I grew up in the South where we have lots of experience around guns, this friend didn’t seem like one to go for the firearms. I was clearly wrong. And I was immediately scared for her and her family. I begged her to do her research and let her know that statistics show that owning a gun does not make you safer. In fact, areas with more guns have more murders. Combine that with the fact that most gun-related homicides are not found justifiable in the eyes of the law (that self-defense plea you were banking on isn’t all that solid), and it seems clear that having guns around makes you less safe.
But what about the fear? How are we supposed to feel powerful and able to protect our families? After a tragedy like this, it’s hard to reconcile the senselessness and sit with the fear. We want to fix it. Be bigger and stronger than it.
I know that a lot of survivors of abuse feel this way every day. Firearms play a big part in the lethality of domestic violence situations. In Washington State, the majority of domestic violence homicides are committed with firearms. Domestic violence victims are five times as likely to be killed by their abuser if that abuser owns a gun.
Gun violence has something else in common with domestic violence: most of the perpetrators are men. Why? This ad pretty much sums that up. Assault rifles are glorified in the media and marketed to men. This is a real ad for a Bushmaster assault rifle that says “Consider your man card reissued.” Feel like you lost your man card? Going out and using this should make you feel better! That’s what this ad is essentially saying. We have to change the course of this gun toting ship we are on. Something has to give. For the sake of the people we love and the communities we live in.
November 13, 2012
Posted by Traci Underwood under Politics
| Tags: Election Day
, House of Representatives
, Michelle Obama
|  Comments
First all-woman delegation
In the wake of Election Day, women emerge victorious! History was made in the U. S. Senate when women secured more seats than ever before. In New Hampshire, they added two female Representatives and a Governor to their two women Senators for the first all-woman delegation. Let’s hear it for strong, smart women leaders! What an incredibly inspiring thing—especially for our young women and men—to experience. Progress!
*(insert record scratch)*
And then I see the “news” about Michelle Obama. Apparently, she committed a fashion faux pas on election night and wore a repeat dress. Even Sasha and Malia were not immune from fashion commentary. The point is—I saw nothing in the news about the First Lady’s prospective work for the next four years. Nothing about how she might continue her ground breaking work on the health of our youth, or how she could expand her work on food justice for the poor (OK, maybe that’s just my wishful thinking…) Anyway, there was nothing of substance discussed. But women have secured more seats in the Senate than ever before, you say. This is progress. What’s the harm in a little fashion commentary?
By focusing on what important, smart, powerful women are wearing and how they look, we are sending the message to young girls: this is what you should spend your time, energy, and money on. Don’t listen, girls and boys!
It’s time to move forward, and what better inspiration than last week’s election results. We have work to do and ground to gain, but we are headed in the right direction. Women’s voices will be better represented and that creates both policies and a culture where women are more respected, have more good choices available, and are ultimately safer.
August 21, 2012
Good news! Word is that all that single mothers need to do to ensure that their children are happy, healthy, and successful is to get married. Wait…what? According to the New York Times, poverty is the result of marriage choices. Now come on, we’ve been here before. Several years ago there was a federal initiative that gave states funding for programs that promoted marriage to people on welfare. The goal was to move families off of welfare and on to economic stability. These programs were by and large unsuccessful. Why? Because a man is not a financial plan. And what children need (besides the basics like love, full bellies, and a place to live) is parents who are respected, happy, and safe. Marriage is not the thing that will necessarily make this happen.
It’s myopic to conclude that children living in a home with two parents do better because of two paychecks. Yes, more income certainly makes it easier to afford the necessities, but (especially for moms who have been dealing with abusive relationships) marrying for an additional income just doesn’t seem like a wise choice. Let’s find some solutions that work for single moms and don’t insult their life choices. Let’s support funding for childcare, equal pay for women, and living wages for all. Fortunately, the New York Times also lets people like Katie Roiphe speak her mind: “The real menace to America’s children is not single mothers, or unmarried or gay parents, but an economy that stokes an unconscionable divide between the rich and the not rich.” Exactly!
July 10, 2012
Silenced. A word often associated with domestic violence and how victims feel. So while scanning my Facebook wall the other day, the title of a link caught my eye: Silenced: Gender Gap in the 2012 Election Coverage. It’s an infographic (which is apparently a schmancy graph) showing a glaring gap in major media outlets’ use of quotes from women—including on issues that by and large affect women! I sound surprised, I know. Some of you might say, Traci, really this shouldn’t be so shocking. It’s still a man’s world. Blah blah blah. I know.
Even on “women’s issues”—historically regarded as less important and thrown aside only to surface when politically hot—women don’t rise to the level of legitimate sources of information. So what makes the media go to men for expertise on Planned Parenthood, birth control, abortion, and women’s rights? I think sexism is the obvious answer. Our voices are perceived as invalid, even on issues that affect us more.
Why is this such a big deal? Because the media shapes what we think about and how we think about it. It is an extremely powerful tool, and if you, your mom, and that weird cousin of yours, are not hearing from women as well as men, you are not really getting the whole picture. None of us are. Decisions are being made, opinions are being formed, and without the voices of women.
But we can’t let this get us down. We have to continue to speak up. About domestic violence and all the other issues in this infographic. And also about the economy, workers’ rights, and everything else not considered a “women’s issue” because really, all issues are women’s issues, and what women have to say about them matters.
May 29, 2012
Marissa Alexander fired a “warning shot” into the wall of her abusive husband’s house because she feared for her safety. She was charged with 3 felony counts of assault. She argued that she was protected by Florida’s “stand -your- ground” law, but the judge and jury disagreed. She was arrested the day of the incident and is now serving 20 years in prison.
Photo courtesy of Lincoln Alexander
People often say things like, “there ought to be tougher domestic violence laws,” or “why doesn’t she just call the police,” or “she should get herself a gun for protection.” Marissa’s story is the sad reality of why those things don’t always work. And it’s exactly why those of us who do this work get so frustrated with that kind of advice.
It’s pretty clear that Marissa Alexander was abused. Even her husband admits that he was abusive on multiple occasions. She had good reason to fear this man. And she was angry. Apparently, this anger is what got her convicted. The jury couldn’t reconcile that she could be angry AND fearful when she fired that warning shot. The lack of understanding about domestic violence in this case is shameful.
But this story also highlights how even laws that seem clear, can be interpreted in different ways. Even though no one was hurt; even though she had been threatened; even though she thought she had the right to “stand her ground;” Marissa was charged and convicted of felony assault.
The systems that we have in place to address domestic violence do not always work. We cannot rely on the police to always do the right thing. We cannot rely on a jury to serve up justice when they don’t understand the dynamics of domestic violence. The problem is messy and the solution is not cut and dry. Yes, improving our domestic violence laws is a good thing, but what’s really going to help women like Marissa is for us all to realize domestic violence is our problem to solve―not the police, not the justice system, not the women being abused.
April 17, 2012
Posted by Traci Underwood under Politics
| Tags: abuse
, domestic violence
, Trayvon Martin
|  Comments
My parents met at a gun club. I grew up in Georgia where guns are everywhere. I could get to at least one (loaded) at any given time in the house I grew up in. I played with them and showed them to my friends. Nothing catastrophic happened. I (and my parents) are stupid lucky.
Others have not been so lucky. Bullets have been flying around western Washington lately: an eight year old accidentally shot in her classroom, gun fights in south Seattle, children killed because they were playing with guns. The high profile shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida has shone a light on the controversial stand-your-ground laws in many states. This “I have the right to fight back” attitude combined with easy access to guns is obviously a deadly combo.
You could argue that the world we live in is dangerous, and it is up to us to protect ourselves. As an advocate for victims of abuse, I am keenly aware that danger (even in your own home) is a reality for many families. I can understand the been-knocked-down-scared-threatened-too-many-times emotional roller coaster that has some folks turning to guns to feel powerful again, to feel safe. I also know that the majority of domestic violence homicides in Washington State are committed with firearms, and whether or not those who were killed are the victim (as are most) or the abusive partner, this act still ruins more than one life. Nobody wins.
Do guns really make us safer, or does it just make those who carry feel safer? Are more guns in our communities a recipe for safety? I’m not convinced.