Friday, January 28, 2011

(VIDEO) Balls of Pride: How Can We Use This Form of Youth-Created Media?

cross posted from my RH Reality Check blog

I really adore youth who create media to send messages that are important to them. Rarely do I comment or write about such those that are poorly constructed or have unclear goals. This will be a first. The creators of the video below seem to really be invested and serious about their proposed project. What I'm wondering is: how can I see and find the value in this form of media versus just debunking it and finding the "wrong?"

This video was introduced to me when a friend shared it on her social networking site. It had several comments shortly after posting and I knew I had to check the video out. We have both worked at GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and are familiar with the goals and work of the organization. Needless to say, when I watched this video I was just as surprised and confused as many of her colleagues.

This video was sent to GLAADs attention via their twitter account when Jacob Sempler, Copywriter at the Miami Art School, sent it to them. Sempler is an art student who created this with two other classmates, Matilda Kahl the art director who is at Miami Art School and Emil Tilsmann the art director who is at the New School of Design/Parsons, for a class project. I want to be clear this is not an official video by GLAAD, it is a student project submitted to GLAAD.

The video is called "Balls of Pride" and seems to be focusing on heterosexual men (I'm including trans men who identify as heterosexual because the focus is on "gay men," and I recognize that the creators may not considered trans men or their sexual orientations in creating this video) and how they can show their "pro-gay" support/ideas/etc. through their girlfriends. The description by the creators reads:

“Straight men avoid publicly stating that they’re pro-gay for various reasons. Our idea is to have their girlfriends do it for them. That makes them pro-gay and unquestionably straight at the same time.”

The creators state in the video that "research" they found (which was by interviewing 2 men on the street who the creators may have known) is what led them to understand that many heterosexual men are "pro gay" but don't know how to talk or speak about it. Their goal is to do this through their girlfriends, have them announce their "pro-gay" ideologies while also affirming their heterosexuality so there is no confusion if they are gay or not.

I'm not sure how long this video will remain up, so apologies in advance for that! I’m also going to let you choose if this is appropriate to watch at work, there are no inappropriate terms or language used. However, I will share that the images and conversations around the “Balls of Pride” does center on wordplay for testicles. There is even a “wall of balls” they believe they can create that will demonstrate an increase in support via facebook.

See what I mean? There’s so much good here, but there is also so much wrong here as well. It’s so layered. I completely appreciate their attempts and their vision. I also really appreciate that they believed so much in their project that they were shameless in promoting it via social media and networking. It is that kind of drive that I adore in many young people.

At the same time I see how this form of media is a misplaced attempt to create a community of people who openly support the human rights of all people. There is still a fear of people thinking others may believe they are gay and this is what the main problem being a member of that community? This is at the heart of the issues. There’s so much more here to unpack, from using a partner to do this, focusing on genitals without recognition of the social construction of sex, and finding/using our voices to promote social justice without recognizing the ways we perpetuate certain types of oppression.

It's important to me to also address how some may react with laughter and see this as comical. I'm not a fan of continuing to laugh at this piece of media, I admit it did make me laugh a few times and the wordplay was juvenile in a way that reminds me why I love to teach sex ed. However, having a sense of humor and using it appropriately to create media that can result in some form of social or community change is a skill that not everyone has. Often such humor can be effective, but when done poorly or in bad taste it can lead to all sorts of challenges, ridicule of the target population, and even physical pain for some who may be harmed.

I share this in hopes that it may promote some form of discussion either here or in the spaces we are occupying. This may be a useful tool to begin conversations about media, media literacy and media justice with many youth, but also among ourselves.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: AntiBacterial Foaming Toy Cleaner

It’s been a while since I reviewed a toy and I’m excited at the opportunity to do so again! So, be on the lookout for reviews this year!

The first review of the year will be for something I think many of us using toys need: a toy cleaner. This is absolutely an essential item to have (Adult Toys has a good list of essential items as well). I’ve had several over the decades, and there are positives and negatives to each. I’ve learned what is good for me based on what I like and don’t like and how I choose to care for my toys. To be honest, if you invest in a toy you want to make sure it stays with you for as long as possible. If you enjoy your toy, you also want to make sure you care for it to extend its longevity.

The AntiBacterial Foaming Toy Cleaner is impressive. My first impression of the cleaner was that it was very light and accessible. What I mean by light is that the coloring of the cleaner was clear with no dyes, the packaging of the cleaner is not too busy, and the colors on the label were appealing and not too flashy. I have to admit that I enjoy cleaners that look professional like this, and yes I realize this is connected to my health/medical background, as this idea of “professional” appeal is a bit clinical.

Nonetheless, I was really impressed with the cleaner. I used it to clean various toys that have been sitting in storage and were a bit dusty to the toys I use on a regular basis and that are out in the open. The materials of the toys ranged from silicone, plastic to glass. It even worked on my Hitachi magic wand, which is crucial for me because that’s one of my favorite toys to date!

There are 5.5 fluid ounces and a cap that covers a push down button that emits the foam. This function is fabulous because you can leave it on a dresser or near a table and don’t even need to pick it up to get the toy cleaned. I enjoy one-button push items because sometimes your hands are sticky/dirty/etc. and why add to the mess when you just need to press the button? The fluid is unscented and dries fairly quickly once it’s on the toy and/or cloth used to clean.

As with all toy cleaners, even if using mild soap and water, remove the batteries of any toys that have them before cleaning. You can push the top button and make sure your cover the part of the item you wish to clean completely. It is recommended you put the cleaner directly onto the toy and not onto a towel or cloth first. You will wipe the cleaner off of the item with a moist/damp cloth. Depending on the level of cleanliness needed and how soiled the item is, you may have to repeat this a few times. I found that a washcloth was helpful for harder items to clean, such as those that may have attracted dust that solidified or that picked up a color of another item where the color had bled.

The ingredients may not work well for all folks with extremely sensitive skin, or those who have various forms of skin conditions. I have sensitive skin, but it is not extreme and I rarely have breakouts or rashes in general. Using this product for one month on a regular basis I did not see any difference in my skin, but that’s just me. I encourage you to check out all of the ingredients (listed below) and make the best decision for you regarding them. I appreciate the website Skin Deep to search such scientific terms and have linked to their ranking of these ingredients below for your review. I want to make it clear all of these ingredients have a low or moderate ranking via this website and they can all be found in various forms of cosmetics and lotions.


Water (Aqua), Ammonium Lauryl Slufate, Cocomidopropyl Betaine, Cocamide DEA, Sodium Carboxymethyl Lauryl Glucoside, Sodium PCA, Propylparaben, Methylparaben, Diazolidinyl Urea, Citric Acid

Well worth the cost of (only!) $7.99, you may purchase the AntiBacterial Foaming Toy Cleaner at the Their Toys Cleaner section.

Thanks to the folks at Adult Toys for providing this item for review.

Friday, January 21, 2011

My American Idol Rant (Part 1)

cross posted from my Media Justice Column

Last year I wrote about how American Idol represents working class White communities in ways that we often do not always see. I appreciated some of these representations yet recognized the complexities and layers of how such representations harm and help us all.

While watching the new season of American Idol Wednesday night there was a trend that was rather disturbing to me: Steven Tyler hitting on young contestants. I want to be clear; I’m not as uncomfortable with him hitting on the young women who are over 18 years old, because at that point they are adults. What I am uncomfortable with is his comments to young women who are under 18, some as young as 15 and 16 years old.

Now, the comments are quite obvious, and if you watched like I did last night, you know what I am talking about. He made comments about the length of the skirt of one 16 year old young woman from the south who they chose to give a “golden ticket” so she could go to Hollywood. His comment to her was (and I’m paraphrasing) “wow, that skirt is covering just enough.” The young woman responds by saying she wanted to “appeal to the boys but still wanted to be a lady.” He made comments about the way almost all the young women looked, saying as he shared his decision that they were pretty, beautiful, cute prior to sharing what he thought about their voice and talent.

I want to be clear again: I know that in this “business” appearance does play a huge role. It is possible to mentor young entertainers to understand the difference between performance attire and when someone is using their power over you to make comments about your body and dress. I find Steven Tyler to be doing the latter.

What are most troubling are his co-judges: Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson. Neither of them have anything to say about his commentary, often inappropriate and borderline harassment. Dare I wonder if Paula were on she would perhaps pick up on these comments and speak out? Perhaps not, we’ll not really ever know, but right now I’m not impressed with the laughter JLo and Randy are offering to Tyler’s comments. I’m also not comfortable with them using their power over young people to perpetuate such comments on national television, a “family show” even. The one television show we know many youth watch simply from the numbers of votes.

I can’t help but see a connection to what Tyler is doing and what Regis Philbin did to Nicki Minaj when she was on the Regis & Kelly show a few months ago. Kelly did nothing while Regis groped Nicki. My homegirl Jaz wrote a great article dissecting all of the complexities and problems with this interaction.

Finally, it’s not so much only Tyler who is doing some inappropriate things. There are the young women, mostly who I read as over 18 years, who are attempting to appeal to Tyler as a rock star. They are assuming that because he is a rock star he will be attracted to them (and possibly have (unprotected) sex with them?) he will then agree to move them to the next level. The young women are not completely off target considering most of the young women who were moved forward were ones who Tyler found attractive in some way.

As we watch the rest of the episodes for this season, let’s hope I’m wrong and that this was just a first episode type of deal. If not, well, we are going to have a lot of material to start conversations on regarding sexual harassment, inappropriate comments, violence, sexualization, and power.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

(VIDEO) NYC School Chancellor Jokes About Birth Control

cross posted from my RH Reality Check blog

If you live in NYC, or catch some NYC news feeds, the controversy of NYC schools chancellor, Cathie Black, is old news. For those of you who are not aware, the appointment of Black by Mayor Bloomberg (who may I add is in his third term which the people did NOT vote for) has been a zone of contention for many parents, teachers, and activists. Much of the concern around her appointment stems from her lack of experience in the field and hiring procedures. Now, her “jokes” around birth control in NYC schools can be added to that list of concerns.l

I’m a bit late to this story as I’m still trying to enjoy my last few days of vacation before the semester begins and I’m back to teaching on a regular basis. After reading some commentary on a few social networking sites by colleagues working in school based health centers in the city, I had to look up the story and read what exactly happened.

Perhaps there is too much irony in the fact that many of the sources that came up in an Internet search for this story were of a conservative space. Even the articles that referenced their original source came from those conservative news outlets. The one space I found online that offered a video of the conversation was at Clutch Magazine in an article written by Liane Membis. Watch the video below of the exchange:

Here are some of the concerns I have regarding her statement:

I have no problem with humor in the workplace, especially at tense meetings. What I have learned is that using humor takes skill and accountability for what may be the outcome. After all, it is not the intent, but the outcome that is often what folks remember and need to apologize for. What my concern about this joke is the connection to the history of eugenics, forced sterilization, racism, classism, and ableism that is not unique to the US, but that has a very specific history in NYC. For more information about specific experiences in NYC I suggest two texts: Women of Color and the Reproductive Rights Movement by Jennifer Nelson, and Killing The Black Body by Dorothy Roberts.

The comment made “could we just have some birth control for a while? It would really help us out” was made while a man was speaking of overcrowding in schools. He was speaking about what the current overcrowding situation is when she made that comment. Her comment regarding birth control is not appropriate because she made it regarding a situation where children are already here. Thus, it can be/is interpreted as questioning why birth control was not used by parents. I’m of the opinion that it is extremely tasteless to question why parents chose to continue a pregnancy and parent versus other options, especially years after their child is born.

To follow this Black then states: “I don’t mean this in any flip way. It is many Sophie’s choices.” New York Daily News reporter Michael Daly hit the nail on the head when he wrote:

“But the parents at that downtown Manhattan meeting were overwhelmingly white and well-off, which may have been why she felt she could make the joke in the first place. She knows that those folks are not going to think she is really telling them to stop breeding.

The rich white lady from Manhattan might have received a very different reaction had she attempted that humor in a poor neighborhood where hope lives in the children and the realization of that hope resides in education.

The poor have historically been told by people of Black's station to stop breeding and being such a burden”

Black, as a racially White woman with a large amount of power in how NYC schools are managed, must recognize how her power can be misused, even in conversations. Ignoring, forgetting, or being ignorant in how youth in NYC and their families have been treated regarding birth control and family size is not going to help convince her team or parents that she is a strong leader. Historical memory is real and there are many parents and intergenerational families that remember vividly what has happened regarding forced sterilization and over access to some forms of contraception in their community.

I’ve shared before how much of a challenge working in a school based health center was for me, especially in east Harlem where the student population was 100% youth of Color. One of the many challenges was questioning at one point why all of these contraceptive options were offered exclusively and so easily to the youth of Color I worked with versus the working class racially White youth, or youth with various social locations different from the students I worked with. It made me think more about what it means to have access and what it means when some underrepresented communities have more access than others.

I know I’m not alone in my discomfort or concern. Yet, I do not think this is a complete failure or mistake on Black’s part (or on Bloomberg’s in appointing her).

What I do appreciate about Black’s comments is that she is comfortable discussing contraception. I remember how much activism we did on lobby day to Albany, the grants applied for just to offer the services to the students we work with on a regular basis so they can make the best decisions for themselves. Discussing these topics in NYC schools is not as present as it could be and Black may open up such dialogue. She is clearly pro-contraception, yet that does not mean she is pro-choice. We’ll have to see what legacy she may leave, if any, while in her new position. I admit, although I think her comment was tasteless and dangerous, I am hopeful for the potential in conversation.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Abortion & Sons Of Anarchy

cross posted on my Media Justice column

Earlier last month I picked up season 2 of the television show Sons of Anarchy. My homeboy Mark who lives in LA (right now we are working hard to get him to the east coast), mentioned enjoying the show. I had assumed it was a reality TV series about motorcycles and riders, similar to American Chopper. However, that was not at all what the series is about and I was instantly hooked.

I’ll share a bit more about the TV show in a moment, but what I want to spend some time discussing is their representations of abortion and choice in the series. I also want to spend some time thinking about why there has been no discussion around this media representation as there has been for other shows such as Friday Night Lights, Private Practice, and Grey’s Anatomy. My belief is that this series focuses on certain members of our communities that we tend to want to ignore, and that, to me, is not all right. After all, our stories and lives are complicated (which is what makes some great fiction) and often when it comes to requiring reproductive health care, we need to recognize that we all must have the same access and freedom in making the best decision for ourselves. We also all deserve the best and safe care.

Quick & Dirty Overview Of Series

I’ll write this overview with limited to no spoilers because I’m hoping some of you may be compelled enough to want to check out the series on your own! First things first, there are three seasons so far and this show is aired on the cable network FX. There are some popular actors on the show, namely Ron Perlman (he plays Hellboy) and Katey Sagal (she played Peg Bundy on Married With Children). Other actors in the show I’ve noticed in several other advertisements, television shows, and media projects.

The series follows a California motorcycle club, Sons of Anarchy, located in Redwood and begun by nine male veterans of the US military. Ron Perlman is Clay, one of the founding nine members and the President of the club, which is referred to as SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original Chapter). Clay is partnered with Gemma (Katey Sagal) who is considered the “mom” of the club. Gemma’s son Jackson is the Vice President and his father is John Teller, one of the founding members. Yes, you should by now see some shadiness going on since Clay and John were homeboys and Gemma is now with Clay.

We follow the lives of each of the SAMCRO male members and their partners (wives, lovers, girlfriends, etc.) and their children if they have any. Not only do we follow their lives but also we get a glimpse into what some small town communities do to work within, with, and outside of the law. Originally SAMCRO helped law enforcement, which are a handful of officers and one sheriff who is friends with SAMCRO members and trusts the club. They work together to ensure some levels of safety and security in the community and keep outsiders who may cause trouble out of their city. Charming.

Now, we also see how the club has evolved under Clay’s leadership and have now begun to work with the IRA (Irish Republican Army) in Ireland (they go international in the third season) to traffic heavy artillery into the US and sell to other motorcycle clubs and/or organized gangs. They are also beginning to work within certain aspects of illegal narcotics, including pharmaceuticals. There was one storyline where they “inherited” some HIV medications and sold them cheaply to low funded and very much in need clinics in the California area.

Abortion Storylines

What I appreciate about this series is that the characters are complicated. The connection to “dealing drugs” even if pharmaceuticals, is something we consider in our society to be an illegal act, but then they add the HIV med component and that complicates our understanding of what illegal is and what “drugs” are considered.

There are also areas that I’m not crazy about in the series, as in it’s not the most positive representation of women or communities of Color, but the women who are presented and the people of Color are strong and important to the stories. However, we learn in the first season how the writing of activist and anarchist Emma Goldman inspired the name and creation of SAMCRO. John Teller shares in a written memoir his interaction with Goldman’s writing, and how it spoke to him in ways that made sense and that he wanted to share and create a community through. Although Goldman’s work is not dissected, the legacy she has left influences the club and we are reminded of it at all times through symbols and naming.

In season two we are introduced to sex workers that are supported and partnered with SAMCRO. We meet one specific sex worker who is a mother, Lyla. She partners with one SAMCRO member, Opie, and we watch their relationship grow, and the challenges they experience. There is also Tara who is partnered with Jackson (also called Jax), who is a pediatric surgeon in the community who left Charming as teenager and returned three years ago. Jax and her were high school sweethearts and their relationship continues throughout the seasons.

In season three Lyla and Tara become pregnant unexpectedly. We learn first of Tara’s pregnancy as her character has a larger role in the series. She is early in her pregnancy and her relationship with Jax is not exactly what she is hoping it could be. She struggles with whether or not to continue the pregnancy and as a doctor; she knows all of her options. She speaks briefly with Gemma about her options, but Gemma is in favor of her pregnancy and is also very much invested in having another grandson. Tara asks Gemma to respect her decision not to speak to Jax about the pregnancy yet, and Gemma obliges.

I really appreciated this interaction between the two strongest female leads. It was a very realistic representation of what may occur when people interact with others who know they may be pregnant and who have strong decisions about the pregnancy. Although Gemma was in favor of Tara carrying the pregnancy to term and parenting, Tara was clear she was not yet sure about what she wanted to do and was able to stand by that confusion and not be swayed. She was not to be bulled by Gemma and I think that is an important interaction for folks to see. Often older adults may encourage us to make certain choices based on what they want versus what we find and need for ourselves.

While Tara is thinking about her options Lyla approaches her and asks to speak with her privately. It is common knowledge Tara is a doctor and has helped numerous SAMCRO members who are in need of health care. Lyla asks Tara very matter of fact if she knows of any good abortion clinics and/or doctors she can refer her to. Tara is honest and says she does not personally but will ask and get back to her. Their conversation was so much like the ones I have had with many people in my life, clients, friends, and partners of friends. It was exactly what I’ve had happen in my life and the interaction between Lyla and Tara was supportive.

Tara asks her supervisor at work who provides her with a referral. Even though Lyla and Tara are not the best of friends as their partners Opie and Jax are, Tara offers to drive Lyla to her appointment and wait with her. We watch as they are seated in a moderately decorated clinic waiting room, and interact with nurses and providers. The clinic experience is on point! I’ve worked at abortion clinics and hospitals that provide terminations and the warm bedside manner, somewhat bare, but welcoming and informative d├ęcor of the area is exactly what we see and experience. Staff was helpful and gentle when working with the women. All of this in a short two minute scene!

It’s during this scene that Tara decides she too is going to terminate her pregnancy and asks for an appointment. She is helped and provided with paperwork and information for her appointment later in the week. Tara finds support from her supervisor at work, who she has not always been on good terms with, and her supervisor offers to drive her to her appointment and clear her works schedule the next day. While on their way to the appointment, they are stopped and I won’t tell you what happens or if she goes through with the termination you’ll just have to watch the show!
What I will tell you is that I was completely impressed with the supportive network of allies and love that the women showed for one another. Yes love! It is a form of love to support each other as women during difficult decisions. We are not lead to believe that the choice Lyla made was too difficult for her, she was clear “it’s not a good time” for her and Opie, as she shared with Tara. I believe Lyla’s confidence in her relationship and her own life goals was what helped Tara allow herself to come to a specific decision.

When we support one another we are in turn giving ourselves a gift. It is a gift to help others, not only to other people but also to ourselves. Often when we ask for help, asking a particular person is a gift we give that person as well. It’s not something we are often taught or told to recognize as gifts, usually we are told they are forms of weakness. But they are gifts. I was very much grateful for having these gifts shared among these women even if for a total of six minutes of the entire season. Those six minutes make a huge different for many people, as we’ve seen over the past few weeks.

Nobody’s Talking About These Storylines

So I began to wonder why nobody was embracing these storylines about abortion in the same way they have other primetime and cable television shows. It came to me that it could be a number of things from not having access to cable (although I’ve read a lot of articles that do mention and discuss cable television representations of abortion, like MTV’s “No Easy Decision” ), the series is not online streaming as some other shows, so it’s not as accessible. I also thought about how the characters and the lives they choose to live may be considered “negative” by some folks who write about these topics from a popular culture standpoint.

Now, I’ll be honest and clear here, there is writing about this episode but they are from anti-choice perspectives. One of the reasons this has occurred is because when Lyla goes for her appointment she uses a pseudonym: Sarah Palin. The one article I did find that was not by an anti-choicer, but by my homegirl Jaz, was this one, where she does a great job of outlining some contradictory tactics anti-choicers use.

Many of the SAMCRO members are working class people. It is clear that many members who own homes struggle with paying their mortgages, car notes, and even finding a place to live as many members stay at the clubhouse when needed. They are also living lives that many would consider “deviant” and disapprove of for various reasons. This is where the complexity comes into play. Often we are all complicated and not so easily put into certain categories or meet certain expectations. I believe because the characters in Sons of Anarchy make certain decision in the series, many of us make judgments about what we consider worthy of empathy and support.

I know I’ve done this, especially when cheering for a particular person or crew in reality shows as I’ve shared in the past. Yet, what does it mean when we as media makers and folks examining and deconstructing the media ignore such narratives? How do we isolate and only uphold certain testimonies about abortion and relationships as legitimate? What does this do to the narratives and experiences we don’t hear but we know exist?
My hope is that we can expand conversations that include abortion narratives in 2011 and that there will be more storylines that allow us to do that!

(VIDEO) Using Popular Culture to Address Violence & Bullying With Youth of Color

cross posted from my RH Reality Check blog

I saw this video Tuesday evening when a friend posted it on her tumblr page. There was a trigger warning regarding suicide, violence, and bullying. I wanted to share this video because I did not know what to expect while watching and when the video was over I was stunned. Not just with the messaging and representations, but in the possibilities of using this video in a classroom or youth group. Please watch the video below. I’ve posted a few ideas I have on how to use this video, please share some ideas and suggestions you may have!

There are so many ways to use this video with youth. I wanted to share and hope others want to add how they may use this video as well or what discussions you may envision having.

I’d first start by introducing the video. This may require some background of the artist
Marsha Ambrosius, who is the other half of the R&B duo Floetry. They reached a height in mainstream popularity in 2002-2003. This is important to keep in mind, as some youth may not know who the artist is because of this time period.

Discussions of Bullying

I’m not sure if the concept of “bullying” would connect clearly with some viewers. It may be that some youth and other folks may view the experiences presented as intra-racial violence and not only bullying. There may also be a connection between bullying and age. Some may view the men in the video as adult males who may be too old to experience bullying in the ways we’ve heard about it in the past several months. This may lead to some interesting dialogue about how bullying can be considered an age-specific experience.

Conversations about masculinity and how it is connected to gender, race, ethnicity, age, geographic location, and ability (to name a few) will also be important. How are racially Black men living in the US expected to present themselves? How was Black masculinity represented in this video (make a list of all the forms of masculinity and Blackness seen, for example clothing, forms of affection, solidarity, etc.). Were there attempts at defending masculinity? How is intra-racial violence affecting our community? (this may be a good opportunity to have information about intra-racial violence as connected to various forms of violence from rape to murder). What could some community responses to violence look like in this situation/scenario?

Discussions on Men of Color & Same Gender Relationships

I’d make it clear that this is NOT a “down low” relationship. Both men have publicly been together and showing affection for and with one another. Living in NYC where the anti-homophobia campaign “
I Love My Boo” began in October 2010, representations of men of Color in same gender relationships remain limited (see some of the images here). I have not seen in mainstream popular culture such images since Noah’s Arc (which I’m still recovering from it’s absence in my life) and the film that was released in select theaters in 2008, Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom.

The phrase “alternative Lifestyles” is the one thing I have an issue with in this video. My opinion is that this term assumes there is a choice in how people are living and I believe that we do not choose our sexual orientation. I came to this space while working as an intern at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) over a decade ago. GLAAD has a great
Media Reference Guide that has a section on offensive and problematic phrases/words to avoid and “lifestyle” is included with this discussion:

Offensive: "gay lifestyle" or "homosexual lifestyle"

Preferred: "gay lives," "gay and lesbian lives"

There is no single lesbian, gay or bisexual lifestyle. Lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are diverse in the ways they lead their lives. The phrase "gay lifestyle" is used to denigrate lesbians and gay men, suggesting that their orientation is a choice and therefore can and should be "cured

Heterosexual Privilege

In the beginning of the video the viewer may assume that there is a heterosexual relationship until there is affection in a specific way shown among two men of Color. This would be a useful time to discuss how we assume heterosexuality often, how heterosexuality is seen as a “norm” in our society, and what that does to all of us, not just people who do not identify as heterosexual. Here is a good
article about heterosexual privilege and a checklist that may be useful for this conversation.

These are a few things that immediately come to mind and I’m hoping that others will share some of their own. I know over the next several days as I think about this video I’ll come up with more ideas and possibilities. Thanks in advance for all of you who share!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reflecting On "No Easy Decision"

cross posted from my Media Justice column

I’m really excited to read so many young people writing about their responses to the MTV show “No Easy Decision” about young people and abortion. Although I had to wait until after it was aired to catch it online, I deliberately chose not to read any of the commentary by adults regarding the show. After all, I don’t think this show had older adults as a target audience, and wanted to hear more of what youth had to say. So thank you for all of you who wrote in a diary or blog post this week!

Avoiding adult commentary was difficult as the following day after the show airing there was a ton of articles written. However, I knew that when I saw the show I too would want to leave some commentary. Here are some of my thoughts about the show after taking a week to let it all sink in and to read lots of youth prespectives.

When I first realized Dr. Drew would be hosting the show I felt a bit of doom. I’m not a fan of Dr. Drew for numerous reasons, but this mainly stems from following his career on TV, especially MTV, over several decades. One thing I noticed very quickly was that Dr. Drew was very comfortable diagnosing everyone he came into contact with as having some kind of sexual abuse in their history, which lead to their “acting out” or behaviors considered “deviant.” Now, I have issues with mental health professionals doing this for all kinds of reasons that I can share but they will take me on tangents. Let’s just say that I think we are all more complicated than our experiences with sex and violence.

With that said, I have also not appreciated how Dr. Drew speaks to many of the young people who participate in the “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” series. At times I find him condescending and arrogant. I see him interacting with youth in the unfortunate and standard “I’m the adult I know more” approach but adds a hint of classism to the hierarchy he works in with the “I’m also a doctor so I know more than you.” It really makes my skin crawl, more so knowing that he’s not the only doctor who works with youth who has this same “bedside manner.”

So, it is needed for me to say that I was incredibly impressed with Dr. Drew’s hosting of the show. He allowed the young people to speak, interjected when they finished a sentence to share data that is factual and important for everyone to hear, not just folks who know what they would do with an unplanned pregnancy. I was pleasantly surprised and found myself thinking Dr. Drew is the perfect example, and reminder, that adults can learn to communicate more effectively at any age. This is not just a skill we acquire as we age; sometimes youth have to teach us how to do this as well.

I was also impressed with Markia, the young woman who spoke first and longest about her abortion decision and experience. As one of the young people featured on season 2 of 16 and Pregnant, I remember recently watching her episode with her partner and family about pregnancy. While watching her episode of “16 and Pregnant” I remember being overwhelmed or her. Watching her as she continued her pregnancy and her partner James, remained homeless stressed me out, so I can only imagine what it may have been like for her and her family. There were also times when I thought their lack of communication, distractions from friends and schoolmates, and riffs in their relationship were so real and so on point that I felt comfort in knowing that some of my time experiencing those similar stressors were behind me. It’s amazing how media can trigger such emotions, reminders, and relief. It was also uncomfortable for me to realize this for a while until I had to remind myself that part of being honest and open is being unashamed of some of the emotions I have and to share them so I can learn more or heal better.

Watching Markai and James on “No Easy Decision” really demonstrated their growth as parents, a couple, and as individuals. Each supported the other, listened well, communicated what they meant and felt to the best of their abilities, respected and trusted their experiences, and demonstrated some of the hardest parts of loving another person: appreciating and honoring the entire person by allowing them to bring their entire self into the partnership. They did not fight selfishly, learned the importance of eye contact, and showed affection in ways that give us all good examples of what a healthy relationship can look like.

Many of my concerns and hopes were not addressed: how youth are counseled and mentored in navigating the health care industrial complex, youth choosing diverse birthing options, and some issues with class and all of their connections. Yet, I believe we have been given a great opportunity to support young people through movements like 16 & Loved, watch young people grow, and receive amazing examples of strength and dedication that is centered in selflessness. These are things I never imagined having seen or witnessed and am glad to have had the opportunity with many of you.

If you haven’t seen the show “No Easy Decision” check it out below: