Archive for the ‘Sociology’ Category

In recent years, I’ve come upon references to the concept of emotional triggers and “trigger warnings”..

The origin of this concept was in reference to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, where reminders of a traumatic event in a person’s past life would generate a temporary episode or flashback of emotional and/or physical reactions that interfered with the person’s mental health and normal daily functioning. Part of treatment for PTSD was to try to avoid situations that might typically set off one of these episodes.

But in more recent years, this concept has been co-opted by social justice warriors and others to refer to reminders of events or circumstances that might be upsetting, unpleasant, offensive, or merely a disagreement with events or circumstances that do not meet the criteria of the psychiatric definition of a mental health trauma.

For example, I read a message board thread about marital infidelity that warned readers of “possible triggers”. In another place online, it was implied that talking about class issues and poverty around someone who had grown up poor could be “triggering”. I’ve read about transgender people objecting to women talking about their biological functions: menstruation, pregnancy, etc, because they find it “triggering”.

But just what do they mean by “triggering” in such instances? Do they really think that being reminded of something unpleasant is going to generate a full blown episode of going to emotional pieces? Or do they actually find normal sadness or feeling upset comparable to a PTSD flashback?

I’ve seen the implications that others should walk on tiptoes around such people and always treat them with kid gloves as if they were emotionally and mentally fragile and might have a meltdown if they are confronted by anything upsetting, unpleasant, or something that offends them.

As for myself, my mother died suddenly when I was 13, an age that I really needed having my mother around. This event left a hole in my life that can never be refilled. Sometimes, to this day, I’ll read or hear things that reminds me of that event and I’ll be briefly sad and shed some tears. But I don’t allow this event from many years ago to define my life, nor do I expect to go out of my way to avoid reminders of it. Feeling sad about it from time to time is just part of my life and I’m not going to go to pieces about it. And I do not expect other people to avoid talking in front of me about their mothers, about death, and other things that might remind me of it.

Whatever happened to valuing emotional resilience and working through issues? Is it mentally healthy to avoid ever being sad, upset, offended, or even being challenged by disagreements? Is it helpful to go through life wrapped up in bubble wrap and expecting others to walk on eggshells around you in case you might be upset by something that might “trigger” you? I say not. Negative emotions are a part of life and working through the issues that upset us make us stronger in the long run.

(Note that I am NOT including PTSD or other events that do meet the criteria of a true psychological trauma that might generate actual flashbacks that interfere with a person’s mental health, but, rather, to lesser events that might make a person upset, sad, or offended.)


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Recently, I read an article on Huffington Post about how women “have to” pay more for female versions of common products.  Several women left comments pointing out that they circumvent this sexist pricing system by sensibly buying the male versions of the product093c0505b4debbb1224b4a693898ce04.

But none of the comments asked the obvious question of why do we need separate versions of such mundane products for men and women in the first place?

Why do we need gender-bombed products that “match” and call attention to our sex?  Do manufacturers of these mundane products think that people need constant little reminders of what sex they are?  Using the pictured example, did the razor manufacturer think that women might try to shave their faces rather than their legs if they use a blue razor (that they paid less for)?

In a larger sense, why does everything we do, think, say, feel, use, or express have to correlate to or “match” our sex?  Why does society think we need these constant reminders of what sex we are?

For the majority of activities people do in their everyday lives, their sex is no more relevant to those activities than their race or nationality is, so why the need for all the specifically gendered versions of what are neutral items?

One could argue that offering pink-ified versions of many products is simply another choice  that appeals to different tastes and personalities.  To some extent, this is true, but these products are not simply another choice among many others; they are specifically marketed to women only.  Isn’t it funny how ALL women are supposed to just looooooooove pink things?  And that men aren’t?

For adults, who should have the maturity to see stereotyping for what it is and are able to choose whatever products they want, however colored or labeled, without questioning their womanhood or manhood, such marketing is mostly relatively harmless, if redundant.  That is, save for the discriminatory pricing, which women can easily avoid by refusing to buy the “ladies’ auxiliary” versions.

And it would seem that many people do, indeed, get it, if the snarky reviews left on Amazon for the product below are any indication.   As one reviewer said

r-BIC-PEN-FOR-HER-WOMEN-REVIEWS-large570“Finally! For years I’ve had to rely on pencils, or at worst, a twig and some drops of my feminine blood to write down recipes (the only thing a lady should be writing ever). I had despaired of ever being able to write down said recipes in a permanent manner, though my men-folk assured me that I ‘shouldn’t worry yer pretty little head.’ But, AT LAST! Bic, the great liberator, has released a womanly pen that my gentle baby hands can use without fear of unlady-like callouses and bruises. Thank you, Bic!”

But it becomes less funny or harmless when toys, particularly those previously marketed as sex-neutral, are now offered in special, pink and purple versions just to girls.  Suddenly, the standard, original sex-neutral version has become a “boys’ toy”.

Children, whose cognitive functions are not yet fully developed, cannot see stereotyping for what it is as easily as adults can185c9df6700b9a5d80305cf58430b03e.  They are given the message that boys are regular, standard people and that girls are “other”, “different”, and “auxiliary”.

The picture to the left compares  Lego as marketed in 1981 and in 2014, using the same person in both pictures.  In 1981, the year I become a mother, non-sexist child raising was a current philosophy with progressive parents and some advertisers responded by including girls, as well as boys, in promoting standard, sex-neutral toys.

Indeed, even when I was a little kid in the 60s, before there was even a word for non-sexist child raising, Lego was not specifically marketed to boys and I enjoyed playing with them, giving nary a thought whether this toy “matched” my sex.

But, at some point, instead of simply just adding pink and purple bricks to the standard Legos, Lego introduced a separate girls’ version, ending their previous marketing of the standard version for all kids.  Instead of fostering the creativity which lies within each child, regardless of sex, the current marketing strategy sends a regressive message to children about fitting in to stereotyped gender roles.

As Rachel Giordano, the model for the 1981 ad, said in 2014:

“In 1981, LEGOs were ‘Universal Building Sets’ and that’s exactly what they were…for boys and girls. Toys are supposed to foster creativity. But nowadays, it seems that a lot more toys already have messages built into them before a child even opens the pink or blue package. In 1981, LEGOs were simple and gender-neutral, and the creativity of the child produced the message. In 2014, it’s the reverse: the toy delivers a message to the child, and this message is weirdly about gender.”

She went on to say when asked what is wrong with a separate girls’ version of Lego:

“Because gender segmenting toys interferes with a child’s own creative expression. I know that how I played as a girl shaped who I am today. It contributed to me becoming a physician and inspired me to want to help others achieve health and wellness. I co-own two medical centers in Seattle. Doctor kits used to be for all children, but now they are on the boys’ aisle. I simply believe that they should be marketed to all children again, and the same with LEGOs and other toys.”

As Lori Day concluded in her article:

Let’s give all children a world of play that includes all colors and all possibilities, and let’s market it that way. What do we have to lose, besides stereotypes?

Indeed.  Along with reviving non-sexist child raising, if children are given all sorts of toys, not specifically marketed to one sex or the other, they will be better equipped as adults to see stereotypes for what they are when confronted with them in advertising and in society in general and to make choices according to their own personalities.

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Recently, on Facebook, I saw two posts on different pages that expressed a typical feminist view of women, which I find woefully naive.

Namely, both pages put forth the idea that increased female involvement in two different types of situations would have brought about a totally different and better outcome.

The first page put forth the notion that had there been more female police officers in Ferguson, Missouri during the demonstrations following the shooting of Michael Brown, the situation would have turned out much differently.

The second page posted a quote from Coretta Scott King, which expressed the idea that if just 10 percent more women voted, there would be an end to budget cuts to programs benefiting women and children.


While I sympathize with the benign intentions of those who assert these ideas, such ideas are naive and don’t take human nature (which isn’t sex-specific) into account.

Such notions stem from the strain of feminism known as gender essentialist or “difference feminism”, best represented by the work of feminist Carol Gilligan.

In short, gender essentialist feminism agrees with conservatives that gender roles are innate, but part ways with them in asserting that stereotyped “femininity” is not inferior to stereotyped “masculinity” and is, in some ways, superior and that women should celebrate and value such differences. It also asserts that women, simply for the fact of being female, have something special and different to offer in public life than men do.

But women are not special snowflakes with superior capacity for caring, morals, or ethics. That’s a terribly heavy burden place on an entire group of people who are, at base, just as fallibly human as men are.

We are no more all alike than men are. We run the gamut of personality, character, and political opinions and are just as likely to vote against our own interests, be racist, and have a mix of character flaws and virtues, just like men do. Character and the lack thereof are not sex-linked traits.

I think the feminist Carol Tavris had a much better handle on the matter when she stated that “women are not the better sex, the inferior sex, or the opposite sex” in her 1992 book, “The Mismeasure of Woman”.

In other words, women are just as fallibly human as men are and there is very little you can reliably predict about how any individual woman will act, believe, feel, or say based on just her sex alone.  Like men, we are not generic representatives of our sex.

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(Author’s note — In the “About” section of this blog, I noted that though I’m a liberal, I am not particularly politically correct. The post that follows is an example of that assertion. Though my intent is not to offend, I know that offense will be inevitable with such a loaded topic. Such is often the price of honestly expressing one’s opinion – I can’t please everyone.

In recent news, I’ve been reading more often about pre-adolescent children who consider themselves transgender. Most such articles are about how the parents have unquestioningly accepted their child’s announcement at face value. They consider themselves as now having a child of the other sex, to the point of changing their names and presenting them in public as a member of the other sex, including at school and other places where officials records are kept.

While I applaud them for their hearts being in the right place and acknowledge that they mean well, I have serious reservations about such a response. With the caveat that, as a feminist, I’m glad these parents are not responding by making their child conform to the gender role stereotypes associated with their sex, I find it imprudent to apply the transgender label to children, which has far-reaching social implications to a child at this stage of cognitive development.

During the formative years, children go through a series of stages in their cognitive development before reaching adulthood. They cannot think and reason at the same level as adults until they are into their teens and, preschool children especially, are prone to “magical thinking”. That is, the belief that one’s own thoughts, wishes, or desires can influence the external world.

It is in recognition that full cognitive development in humans takes several years to reach that children are legally prohibited from voting, marrying, living independently, are treated differently from adults in the criminal justice system for the most part, and so on.

I can understand a child (and an adult, for that matter) not liking or being comfortable with the gender roles associated with your sex, as well as feeling more comfortable with the ones assigned to the other sex. I also sympathize with the feeling that one’s life might be easier or more comfortable if one was a member of the other sex and also sometimes wishing that one was the other sex.

Where the cognitive dissonance sets in for me is the conclusion that being uncomfortable with the gender role associated with one’s sex and preferring the one corresponding to the other sex means that one actually is that other sex trapped in the “wrong” body. This is where it becomes magical thinking. I simply cannot make that leap of faith. For me, it defies all notions of logic and common sense; it is Orwellian doublethink.

The idea that one would make the determination of whether one is male or female based on the obfuscatingly slippery definitions of “gender”, that differ from culture to culture and have not been consistent throughout history, makes no sense to me. The notion that such ideas of gender would trump the biological reality of sex, which does NOT differ from culture to culture and have been consistent throughout history, in such a determination is just ludicrous.

A big part of the problem is that, in recent years, people having been using the words “sex” and “gender” as if they are interchangeable words. They are not.

As I see it, whether one is male, female, or intersex, is firmly grounded in biology: genitalia, gonads, hormones, chromosomes, and skeletal structure.

Gender, which consists of roles, personality traits, and stylistic preferences assigned to and associated with one sex or the other, is a set of cultural affectations intended to merely emphasize and call attention to one’s sex. It is cultural window dressing that does not determine whether one is male or female in the first place.

I see the idea of transgenderism as reaching a conclusion based on the wrong emphasis. Rather than a challenge to sexism, I see it as, rather, a capitulation to it, in that they see the culturally and historically variable ideas of gender as being immutable, inherent, and necessary to one’s definition as male or female, rather than just accepting the biological reality of their sex.

Instead of becoming their own kind of man or woman, they choose to change themselves in order to fit the stereotyped role that feels more comfortable. If the shoe doesn’t fit, they conclude they must cut the foot, rather than change the shoe or dispense with shoes altogether.

I was a child who was not particularly comfortable with the female gender role and bristled at the idea of having to be “feminine”. I, too, felt it would be easier to be a boy and sometimes wished I was one.

But feelings aren’t facts. I understood that, despite my discomfort with what was expected out of females in our society when I was growing up, that I was female, like it or not.

Instead of deluding myself with magical thinking into believing that I actually was a male in a female body, I decided to play the cards I was dealt. I concluded that there was more than one way to be a woman and that I would decide what kind of woman I would be.

I ended up throwing out the entire “gender” script altogether, and just live according to my own individual personality, which incorporates traits and preferences from both stereotypes.

As I matured, I realized that what is now commonly referred to as “gender identity”, was simply my individual personality and, as such, it wasn’t tied into having a particular type of body. In other words, I don’t have a “gender identity”, I have a sex and I have a personality.

I was fortunate to have parents who loved me and didn’t have rigid ideas of how a girl “should” be. My childhood was happily spent as an untroubled tomboy and I grew up to be a straight woman who still does not have a particularly stereotypical “feminine” personality.

I think true liberation will come only when people feel free to be themselves and express their genuine personalities in whatever kind of body they were born with and it won’t matter so much to them what sex they are; they’ll be able to be happy either way.

Something to think about.


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cheating_rect-460x307One of my language pet peeves is the use of the word “cheating” to refer to marital/relationship infidelity, and the expression “cheating on” someone, to refer to somoene being unfaithful to their romantic partner.

It reminds me of math tests and country songs, such as “Your Cheatin’ Heart”.  It also has a decidedly juvenile, high-schoolish tone to it, as well as sounding more than a little redneck-y.

Though, of course, your mileage may vary, I prefer to use the words infidelity, unfaithful, and the like, rather than the mawkish “cheating”.

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Recently, I’ve been reading quite a bit about raising the minimum wage on Facebook.

Some naysayers have opposed this idea, insisting that minimum wage workers should not make as much as college graduates and those in skilled trades; saying that such jobs should only be a stepping stone, not permanent jobs.

But it’s not that simple.  Complex problems never are and they deserve more than simple answers.

First of all, no one is suggesting that minimum wage workers should now be making a hundred thousand dollars a year.

All that is being asked for is a minimum wage that keeps pace with inflation and does not lose buying power.  I remember once reading that in 1973, a minimum wage worker  who worked a 40 hour week made enough to keep three people above the Federal poverty line.  Now, that same worker cannot keep one person above it.  During the 12 years of the Reagan and Bush I presidencies, the minimum wage was not raised once, though prices most assuredly did during that same time.  Hence, the minimum wage’s buying power has steadily dwindled over the years.

If the minimum wage had been increased in small increments every year during those 12 years and in the years since, it most likely would have kept better pace with inflation and retained the same buying power it had in 1973.

To address another objection, that it should be only a stepping stone to a better job, well, that’s the ideal, but not how it always works out in real life.  And we must deal with this issue and those involved by how it really is, not by some ideal of how it should be.

First, there are thousands, if not millions, of college graduates and those in skilled trades already out there competing for a finite number of jobs, where there aren’t enough jobs for all those wanting them.  Adding every current minimum wage worker to that pool of applicants isn’t going to help matters any.

Second, with the student loan system currently the way it is, it is truly a gamble to take out such loans for further education, when one doesn’t have reasonable certainty that they will find jobs in their field upon graduation.  Many times, the person ends up in a worse situation than what they were in before — unable to find work in their field and now with the millstone of staggering student loan debt around their necks.

Third, there are many people who don’t have the aptitude for a better job, yet they want to work and not be on welfare.  They give up as much or more of their time and work just as diligently.  Their jobs are often much more physically demanding, with disagreeable working conditions, and are accorded little to no respect.

Yet, unglamorous as such jobs are, they are necessary jobs.  There is honor in all honest work, and no one should b look down on those in minimum wage jobs.

Surely, minimum wage workers deserve the dignity of making enough money working one 40 hour job to at least afford the basic survival needs of life: adequate shelter, food, utilities, and the like.  No one should have to work 2 or 3 jobs just to keep a roof over their heads.

To those middle class and near-middle class workers who were able to go to school and get jobs in their field, their ire is misdirected.   The poor aren’t their enemy.

Their grievances would be better directed at the fat cat CEOs, whose salaries are hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of times that of their rank and file workers.  (See this article, CEO Vs Worker Pay, for more information).

As an example, the CEO of McDonald’s makes 1, 196 times more an hour than that of the average McDonald’s worker.  That’s $9, 247 an hour compared to the average worker salary of $7.73 per hour.  For the CEO, that comes out to nearly $380, 000 a week and nearly 20 million dollars a year, while the backbone workers of McDonalds don’t make enough to rent an apartment or buy food without food stamps. Does any CEO really need to make that much money?

The one-percenters chortle with glee whenever middle class workers, who have legitimate grievances as well, misdirect the ire properly aimed at them at the poor instead.

Don’t be a tool.  Be angry, but focus your anger at the true culprits.

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It’s that time of year again.

Peace on Earth and good will toward all?

Unfortunately, no, not for everyone.  For some conspiracy-minded conservative Christians, both pious and merely political, it’s time to resurrect the dead horse they refer to as “The War on Christmas”.

In the last few days on Facebook, I’ve seen a particular meme repeatedly that expresses the sentiment:  “It’s not Happy Holidays, It’s Merry Christmas!!!!!”   Such posts are accompanied by typical comments expressing the view that to give the greeting “Happy Holidays” or its cousin “Season’s Greetings” is to somehow take Christ out of Christmas and to persecute Christians who wish to celebrate Christmas.  They assert that Jesus’ birthday is the (sole) reason for the season.  They also take great umbrage at anyone who dares to refer to a Christmas tree as a “holiday tree”.  Some relate anecdotes of how they loudly proclaimed the sentiment in the meme above to unsuspecting cashiers in stores who had the effrontery to wish them Happy Holidays.  One, presumably young, woman expressed this sentiment, “” I don’t live my life to please others and if I offend you then oh well. ”

Seriously?  Is this what they think the season is all about; arguing about word choice when wishing someone the joy of the season?  Do they think that such a childish and peevish attitude accurately reflects the Jesus Christ they claim to champion? Don’t they know that such an attitude totally defeats the purpose of giving such a greeting, which is meant to wish joy and goodwill to the recipient?  Do they think anyone will want to become a Christian after being berated in such a petty manner?

“Love thy neighbor”, indeed.  Pardon me for a moment while I roll my eyes.

Some young and not so young people apparently have the mistaken impression that the terms Happy Holidays and Seasons’ Greetings were recently invented within the last ten years just to annoy Christians, which couldn’t be further from the truth. These greetings have existed all during my 54 years on the planet  and existed well before I was born.

These terms simply acknowledge that there is more than one holiday at this time of year and they were meant to cover them all.   When I was a kid in the 6os, “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” were commonly used as a catch-all term to give wishes for both Christmas and New Year’s Day together and were often seen on greeting cards.  In public situations with strangers or those one did not know well, it was a handy way to wish the goodwill of the season when one didn’t know which religious holidays an individual might celebrate, if any.   Among family, friends, and those whom one knew reasonably well, one said Merry/Happy Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Solstice, or whatever applied and, again, no one got offended if they got the “wrong” greeting.

For those who think “Happy Holidays” is a bit of  “political correctness”, let me point out that no one was politically correct in the mid 60s or before.  Back then, it was simply known as “good manners” and “common courtesy”.

No nefarious purposes were intended, and no one at all was offended by such greetings, even conservative Christians.  People graciously accepted such wishes of goodwill in the spirit they were intended.

To those who assert that the season has “always” been about Christmas and that the birth of Jesus is the sole reason for the season, most Christian scholars agree that Jesus was not born on December 25th, but rather in the spring or summer.  Pagans had long celebrated the winter solstice at this time in December, so early church leaders picked this time to celebrate the birth of Christ and  re-purposed the Pagan celebration by appropriating several Pagan traditions along the way, hoping it would make it easier to convert Pagans to Christianity.  Decorated evergreen trees, holly, mistletoe, Yule logs, giving and receiving holiday gifts, the dinner feast, are all borrowed from Pagans. The original “reason for the season”, then,  was the Earth’s axial tilt; the solstice.
It’s also interesting to note that Puritans in Colonial America even banned the celebration of Christmas from 1659 to 1681, well cognizant of the Pagan roots of many Christmas traditions.

Personally, I don’t care which greeting anyone uses with me, as long as it’s sincere and meant to wish me goodwill.  I’m just happy that someone took the time to give me the good wishes of the season.   This time of year isn’t just about me; it’s about everyone.

There are real problems in this world. Whether a person says Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays isn’t one of them — it’s a petty, first world “problem”. There are people in this world who don’t have enough to eat, a home to live in, and are dying of curable diseases. People need to take a moment and think about what really matters.  A little bit of tolerance and goodwill goes a long way this time of year.


I recommend this excellent blog post written by a Christian in response to those Christians who are offended by the use of “Happy Holidays”:  Happy Holidays and Other Four Letter Words.


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