Tag Archives: social norms

On Being a Badass

A young woman biker zipping up her leather jacket.   (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)
Photo: Keystone Features/Getty Images

“Mac McClelland is used to being called a badass. “I’m always very flattered, always very honored that they say that,” she told Mother Jonesrecently. It makes sense: She’s a journalist who made her namehanging out with refugees of Burmese genocide, chasing a warlord in Democratic Republic of the Congo, and interviewing sexual-assault survivors in post-earthquake Haiti — in other words, doing a really tough job. “At the same time,” she continued, “it sort of depends on your definition of badass. I think that the normal definition is that you don’t have any feelings, right? So it’s like you don’t care, you’re not really comfortable, and you’re not touched by things, and you can do whatever you want.”

This isn’t always the connotation of badass. Sometimes the term is applied to people with palpable confidence and an uncompromising attitude whodo feel comfortable shedding a few tears and displaying nurturing characteristics. But McClelland is right that, as it’s most commonly used, badass implies both toughness and disaffectedness. It’s rare to look at someone whose chief qualities are measured thoughtfulness and open emotionality and declare her a total badass. As women carve out careers and comfortably adopt traits that were once considered “masculine,” there’s strong social pressure on them to mimic the stoicism that men have traditionally been expected to maintain in the face of hardship. By now, we know the drill: Lean In if we want to succeed, and Go Outside if we have to cry.

As one of the people who has referred to McClelland publicly as a badass — as well as her friend and former editor — I’ve been thinking about this ever since I read her new book, Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story. It’s an incredibly personal memoir about her experience with trauma and falling in love while trying to heal. Much of McClelland’s PTSD struggle is acknowledging that she had the right to be traumatized even though she was merely threatened and witnessed horrible things, not physically harmed, in the line of duty. During her panicked breakdowns, she tells herself things like, “These are the sorts of bullshit excuses you make for yourself when in fact You. Are. THE WORST.

It’s almost scary to realize how deeply many women — especially those who are pushing the boundaries of what’s traditionally been considered feminine — have internalized the message that toughness and feelings don’t go together. There is something very appealing about adopting this no-feelings badass approach when you’re a woman who’s outnumbered professionally or who’s chosen a line of work that, historically, women have been shut out of. There’s pressure to prove that you’re just as capable as men are, which can turn into pressure to ignore your emotional responses and downplay the tendencies you have that are traditionally considered “feminine.” I’ve internalized this myself: When I was a boss, Istruggled to downplay my emotions, even in extremely difficult moments. More recently, when an editor I respect tweeted about crying during her workday, I felt a pang of disgust. Keep it together, I thought.

Nothing throws a wrench in this desire to downplay the feminine quite like a pregnancy. Photojournalist Lynsey Addario also recently published a memoir that is, in part, about her decision to keep up her grueling and dangerous work while she was pregnant. “With the exception of military embeds, I took on all my regular assignments, hiding my growing belly beneath loosefitting shirts, cargo pants and sometimes, fortunately, a hijab,” she wrote in an excerpt for the New York Times. She pushes aside her growing fears about jeopardizing the safety of her child and her guilt about making her husband worry. She certainly doesn’t talk about it at work. “I adamantly didn’t want any of my editors or colleagues to know that I was pregnant until I could no longer hide it. I worried about being denied work or treated differently.” The fear is understandable. Most of her colleagues covering foreign conflicts were men. And once she told her story, exposing her competing concerns for her job and for her child, the backlash was swift. “I found Lynsey Addario’s behavior absolutely reprehensible!” wrote one commenter. “How a mother could put her own ambitions and ego above that of her child is beyond belief.” Wrote another, “I feel so sorry for the baby.”

The particular pressure to be a certain type of badass woman is not unrelated to the “cool girl” phenomenon — you know, how sexist stereotypes about “most women” pressure certain girls to be the womanwho puts away burgers and beers, laughs at sexist jokes, and sets herself up as an exception to the rule that women are soft and gentle and high-maintenance. The cool girl is just as hot but with far fewer feelings. While I’m sure McClelland and Addario would be the last to refer to feelings as a sign of weakness, both of their memoirs reveal how tempting it is to fall into gendered, old-school definitions of toughness. Badasses don’t worry about being assaulted! Badasses don’t get PTSD! Badasses don’t let pregnancy stop them from venturing into a war zone! If they have to cry, badasses go outside!

Although McClelland and Addario are journalists, this phenomenon is much broader than women war reporters. It’s tempting to think that a certain level of thick-skinned posturing will solve women’s problems. We advise women who are harassed online to simply toughen up, shake off their haters, and get on with their lives. In a more extreme example, conservative politicians are recommending women arm themselves in order to prevent sexual assault. “If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them. The sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their head,” said Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore. Anyone who knows anything about sexual assault knows that guns won’t solve it because most assaults happen between acquaintances, not as a result of brute-force attacks. Anyone who’s been the victim of hate-filled online attacks knows that the “block” button is not enough. The answer doesn’t lie in removing or ignoring all perceived vulnerabilities. It lies in recognizing those vulnerabilities exist — mostly owing to deep-seated cultural factors. And women are no less badass for feeling traumatized by them.

It strikes me that as women continue to break into traditionally masculine professions and defend their right to exist in unsafe spaces, the rest of us have a responsibility to do more than cheer them from the sidelines. We should also make clear that we understand this work is hard, that it often takes an emotional toll, that there are no easy answers, and that, when they acknowledge their feelings and admit their struggles, they’re all the more badass for it. This wouldn’t just help women with challenging jobs or in dangerous situations. It would also benefit men who have long been expected to bury their emotional responses and carry on as if they are unaffected by trauma. It’s not “badass” to survive a horrible situation without shedding a single tear. The real badass move, as women like McClelland and Addario show, is to fearlessly acknowledge how something has affected you and make space for others to do the same.”

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50th Anniversary of Civil Rights Act

http://blogs.wsj.com/briefly/2014/07/02/50th-anniversary-of-civil-rights-act-the-numbers/?google_editors_picks=true#facebook

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1) You are allo…

1) You are allowed to take up space. You are a human.

2) You are allowed to have a voice.

3) You are allowed to leave whenever you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

4) You deserve more than someone who doesn’t know how to respect you.

5) You are allowed to put your own needs first.

6) You are allowed to love yourself.

— 6:11 p.m. (Six reminders for bad times)

Source: http://expresswithsilence.tumblr.com/post/87848616484/1-you-are-allowed-to-take-up-space-you-are-a

 

Applicable to so many social justice issues.

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by | June 22, 2014 · 5:44 pm

Becoming Better Victims

When rape victims are told that it was their fault, when young women and girls are told that they must cover up their “distracting” skin and curves, when they are told to not walk home alone, when they are given pepper spray as presents for dorm life, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.

When children are told to stand up to their bullies, when they are told to stop the personal expressions that attract bullies’ attention, when they are taught preventative self-defense, when they are given bullet-proof mats to protect them in a school shooting, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.

When minimum wage workers, the unemployed, and the homeless are told that they need to use more ingenuity to get by, when they are told to manage their personal budgets better, when they are criticized for not being able to support their children, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.

When LGBT individuals are told that their sexuality and gender expression is a choice, when they are denied their existence and livelihoods, when they are denied dynamic roles beyond the typical stereotypes in popular culture, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.

When “minorities” are criticized for having high unwed birth and single mother rates, when they are seen as less capable of academic and financial achievement, when they are seen as dangerous criminals and drug addicts, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.

When people are encouraged to use guns for self protection, when they keep hidden defenses in their purses and wallets in case they get abducted or kidnapped, when they switch to the other side of the street to avoid walking by dubious-looking others, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.

 

Instead of examining why rape, sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, and other forms of arbitrary discrimination exist and why society produces these horrors, we are placing the blame on the victims.

We are saying: it’s your fault you were targeted, it’s your fault that you have big breasts for a 13-year-old, it’s your fault that a multi-million dollar corporation does’t pay you a living wage, it’s your fault that your school district does not teach comprehensive sex education, it’s you fault that you’re gay, it’s your fault that American prisons are for-profit and have capacity quotas to meet, and it’s your fault that you couldn’t defend yourself during a mass shooting, a robbery, or a rape.

We are saying, you are the one who is wrong.

We need to turn around and instead examine why the rapists rape, examine why the bullies bully, examine why the CEOs don’t pay a living wage, examine why the homophobes are homophobic, examine why “minorities” are given unfair treatment in the eyes of the law, examine why the murderers murder, and examine why the kidnappers kidnap.

We need to fully examine an individual’s journey to victimhood and see if it’s actually the fault of the victim as we are often too eager to assume in this society. We are brainwashed into thinking that it’s the victim’s fault that they’re in the position they’re in. I’m arguing for deconstructing that idea and re-examing how they became victims, and then pursuing/punishing those whose fault it actually is. I would argue that, more often than not, it’s not the victim’s fault that they’re a victim.Victim-blaming just perpetuates the cycle and it needs to change, now.

 

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From Agents to Objects: Sexist Attitudes and Neural Responses to Sexualized Targets

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3801174/

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How To Fight Racial Bias When It’s Silent And Subtle

July 19, 2013 3:26 AM
Researchers say it may be possible to temporarily reduce racial biases.

Researchers say it may be possible to temporarily reduce racial biases.

Images.com/Corbis

 

“In the popular imagination and in conventional discourse — especially in the context of highly charged news events such as the shooting of Trayvon Martin — prejudice is all about hatred and animosity.

Scientists agree there’s little doubt that hate-filled racism is real, but a growing bodyof social science research suggests that racial disparities and other biased outcomes in the criminal justice system, in medicine and in professional settings can be explained by unconscious attitudes and stereotypes.

Subtle biases are linked to police cadets being more likely to shoot unarmed black men than they are unarmed white men. (Some academics have also linked theresearch into unconscious bias to the Trayvon Martin case.)

Calvin Lai and Brian Nosek at the University of Virginia recently challenged scientists to come up with ways to ameliorate such biases. The idea, said Harvard University psychologist Mahzarin Banaji, one of the researchers, was to evaluate whether there were rapid-fire ways to disable stereotypes. Groups of scientists “raced” one another to see if their favorite techniques worked. All the scientists focused on reducing unconscious racial bias against blacks.

“Within five minutes, you have to do something to somebody’s mind so that at the end of those five minutes you will now show a lower association of black with bad. And so this was run really like a competition to see which ones of them might work to reduce race bias and which ones don’t,” Banaji said.

The results were as surprising for what they didn’t find as for what they did. Teaching people about the injustice of discrimination or asking them to be empathetic toward others was ineffective. What worked, at least temporarily, Banaji said, was providing volunteers with “counterstereotypical” messages.

“People were shown images or words or phrases that in some way bucked the trend of what we end up seeing in our culture,” she said. “So if black and bad have been repeatedly associated in our society, then in this intervention, the opposite association was made.”

Banaji, who has been a pioneer in studying unconscious biases, said she has taken such results to heart and tried to find ways to expose herself to counterstereotypical messages, as a way to limit her own unconscious biases.

One image in particular, she said, has had an especially powerful effect: “My favorite example is a picture of a woman who is clearly a construction worker wearing a hard hat, but she is breast-feeding her baby at lunchtime, and that image pulls my expectations in so many different directions that it was my feeling that seeing something like that would also allow me in other contexts to perhaps have an open mind about new ideas that might come from people who are not traditionally the ones I hear from.””

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by | July 24, 2013 · 5:53 pm