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When the country was “great”

7 Nov

To the people that really think it’s the end of the world and to the people who have said something like “I hope we can get back to being great again someday”:

When were we really great? Was it when we were repressing homosexuals? Or African-Americans? Or women? Or Native Americans? I mean come on! We have a tried and true history of being just downright awful! You want it to be great “again”? I don’t.

“Hope is that stubborn thing inside us that exists despite all the evidence to the contrary – that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.” – President Barack Obama, Victory Speech 2012

This is a borrowed post, from many people on my Facebook feed. I’m not sure where it came from originally. 

Protecting your community with journalism

15 Apr

Illustration by RedPeggy.

What if journalists acted as though they were the sole guardians of the community?

This was one of the questions brought up by Rob Curley, new media editor at the Las Vegas Sun, during his keynote last night at the Missouri College Media Association awards.

He said it’s up to the journalists to create community pride and protect it. To not just expose corruption and broken systems because it sells papers  — but expose it because the community deserves better than that. Expose it because the citizens need to know who is acting like their community doesn’t matter, when they (and the press) knows it does.

He said no one sits down with their newspaper (or the website on their iPad) to simply find out what happened yesterday. They want to know why something happened yesterday and what that means today.

Curley talked about the challenge of doing this in Las Vegas, where the population changes rapidly. The people living there now are not the same people who lived there 10 years ago. This is the same challenge we face at Park University, and at every college newspaper. Most of our audience is only our audience for four or five years, at most. They come in as freshman or transfers, read our paper, and graduate.

Over the past three years, the Stylus has chronicled the struggles our school seems to have with pride. Compared with other schools, it seems like our pride is lacking. We don’t have full stands at the sporting events and some days it seems like you hear more people complaining about something at school than proud of the education.

As editor of the Stylus, it’s one of my goals to change this attitude. I truly believe Park University is a fantastic school, and I’m proud to be a Pirate. Someone in the admissions department once told me, “Our strategy is to pick up a rock and see which ants are kinda weird and not following the same path as the others. We admit those ones.” I love that. I think of Park as the place that will give students a real chance – a chance to break out of poverty, a chance to finally get their education, and a chance to define their own destination.

That’s why it’s equally important for us to feature the avid volunteers and innovative academics alongside the stories of students just trying to find their way. We need both kinds of people at Park, and both stories.

Whenever we break news that isn’t exactly favorable to the university, one of my classmates will inevitably ask me if I hate Park. They’re sure we investigate because we all hold some vendetta against the school.

Thanks to Curley, now I know how to answer that question (besides with surprise). We investigate because we love Park. We talk about the problems so they can be fixed, because our community deserves better. No one on staff wants to report problems, but we have to. It’s our job, our university, and our community pride at stake.

Shusen Kinen Bi

15 Aug

Today marks 66 years since the end of WWII.

In Japan, they call it Shusen Kinen Bi, and it’s a day to mourn the lives lost in war and pray for a peaceful tomorrow.

In the years since WWII, nearly 21 Million innocent people (non-soldiers) have lost their lives to war-related conflict. I think today would be a good day to reflect on all the casualities of war, civilian or soldier. They all had lives, and they all deserve recognition for the sacrifice they gave.

My idealistic self hopes that we’ll see the end of war in the lifetime of my generation. That we’ll learn to use our words instead of our weapons, like mothers teach in sandboxes everywhere. Somewhere along the way, adults acquire power and forget about playing fair and cooperating. The victims are the ones who are silenced, and forced to be in a conflict zone for a war they didn’t volunteer to fight.

Let’s remember them today. And next time a world leader takes his proverbial shovel to the other countries in the sandbox, let’s remind him that we use our words to get what we want, not our weapons.


But I’m a Feminist, so…..

12 Jun

I apologize a lot.

“But I’m a feminist, so….” is a common refrain for me, after I’ve wrapped up a rant about political and social issues I care about. It’s always been something I said to soften the blow of my opinions – I give the listener an easy way to write off what I said.

What if I stopped saying “But I’m a feminist, so….”? What if I stopped apologizing for my beliefs about women’s issues, and stood solid in the knowledge that there’s no such thing as women’s issues, there are just issues? Is sexual assault a women’s issue? Or equal pay? Or a culture that encourages people to loath their own bodies if they can’t measure up to airbrushed perfection?

No, those are societal issues. If sexual assault is a women’s issue, then that discredits male survivors and any good man who would never assault someone. If equal pay is a women’s issue, what about equal pay for everyone who isn’t a tan trim white male (even overweight people, who make nearly $20,000 less than their skinny counterparts)? Even the myths of beauty, which made commentators on the aforementioned “overweight=less pay” story wonder if that news would encourage ladies to diet. These myths damage men’s self esteem too (not every man looks like Brad Pitt – but women still find them attractive, whether or not they feel worthy of that), and make it harder to get a compliment through to someone (“no, I’m not beautiful, because I don’t look like airbrushed Megan Fox”).

Even once those issues are squarely wrapped up for me, there’s still a self-examination left to do about apologizing. Saying that I’m sorry for how I feel, or inviting someone to discredit my beliefs because they’re uncomfortable or unconventional – goes against everything I stand for. Every time I say it, I’m doing a disservice to the women I admire, like Gloria Steinem, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and so many others. If they could stand up against society and say that they believed we should all be treated equally under law and under culture, then I have no excuse to be bashful in Kansas City in 2011.

From PinUp Clinic, a feminist group that creates pin up calendars to raise money for women's clinics - because what better way to take sexy back than to celebrate the female form?

If I stand steady in being a feminist, then I’m part of something much bigger than myself. I’ll stand in solidarity with other women who believe it’s ok to wear high heels if we want to, and shouldn’t have to fear being sexually harassed for it. Women who believe it’s ok to be sensual and sexy, and that doesn’t mean we’re any less entitled to be treated equally. And women who believe being a feminist might be more aptly titled being a people-ist, because women’s issues shouldn’t be draped in pink and set in the corner like they don’t matter.

I’m going to stop saying “But I’m a feminist, so…”. I am a feminist. Maybe you disagree with my ideas, and that’s ok. You don’t have to apologize, either.

Manning Up About Man Down

6 Jun

Rihanna’s new music video, “Man Down”, chronicles a girl’s struggle to make her world right again after being sexually assaulted. Her way to make it right (in her mind, at least) is to shoot her rapist – something I think every rape survivor has thought (fantasized?) about doing.

The video is being criticized for promoting violence, not encouraging girls to go for legal help, and for being sexist (because a man would never be able to make a video about shooting a woman – except that’s not actually true; read on).

Attacking the video for being violent misses the point. The world is violent, and asking a pop star to refrain from talking about uncomfortable topics doesn’t make them go away.

Rihanna’s character was struggling with anger, shame, depression, and all the other confusing feelings that follow being assaulted. Instead of accusing Rihanna of being needlessly violent, why don’t we examine the world that would allow this to happen to someone?

There’s a phrase in a lot of feminist literature, “rape culture”. This basically means a society where glamorizing assault is ok and even encouraged. A culture where girls are raised to appreciate men who “need” them so badly than they’ll rip the very buttons off her shirt, where he’ll sneak into her room to watch her sleep because he misses her, where he’ll fight (with fists) other men for her affections. This isn’t healthy.

Instead of criticizing a society that romanticizes acting like that, some parental groups say Rihanna shouldn’t have talked about it. And rumor has it that Rihanna is considering re-shooting the video to cut out the violence (both the shooting and the rape).

Some are going on to say that her behavior is sexist, because a man never gets away with violence towards women in their music. I would like to take a moment to reflect on: Love The Way You Lie by Eminem and Rihanna (where Eminem’s character kills Rihanna’s character when she tries to leave him), and about a zillion other songs.

There seems to be a trend with parental watchdog groups to try and suppress books, music, and movies that bring up topics they don’t want to talk to their kids about. (For example, And Tango Makes Three, a children’s book about gay penguins who adopt a chick, topping the banned books list every year – because, as one critic said, how are they supposed to explain homosexuality to their kids?)

As NPR pointed out this morning, banning teens from reading about or listening to dark topics – like violence, rape, drug use, self-loathing, or any of the other popular themes in teen media – doesn’t keep them from knowing about them or even experiencing them. One in three women is raped in her lifetime – and a third of those are raped more than once before they graduate high school – and 90% of them never report it. If we say this is a topic we can’t talk about, then what are we saying to the survivors? That they need to be quiet too?

Surrounding teens with happy images all the time doesn’t change the reality of what they see on the news and at school – a reality of No Means Maybe, of being scared to say no, of being ignored or bullied when she has the courage to report what happened.

I hope that more musicians will take it upon themselves to talk about these issues – they’re on a unique platform to talk to young people, and often they’re not much older than the teens who admire them. Instead of changing the video, let’s change reality. Rihanna’s character can re-shoot to a happy ending, but 33% of girls don’t have that option.

Career counselors say ‘blend in’; I disagree

2 May

I’ve sought advice from a lot of career counselors. I’m obsessed with furthering my career and becoming vibrant and successful, so I like to hear what experts think.

I’ve discovered these career experts are usually just experts on fitting in. They’ll advise someone going in for an interview to wear really bland clothing – you know, white shirt and black pantsuit. Nothing that stands out. They tell me to take off my headbands and take out my nosering.

Maybe it’s just because I’m in a creative field – right now my main job is doing in-house design – but fitting in is so passe. I’m a master of sticking out. I personally believe how a job fits is just as important as having it to begin with. Last year, my main job was as a barista – it was important to me to have a casual job involving massive intakes of caffeine.

Headbands are kind of my fashion signature, if you can call what I wear “fashion”. (I very rarely reflect the trends of the day!) I wear headbands nearly every day, and I have them in all different colors and styles. Headbands aren’t a common sight in offices, except on me.

I always have more job offers than I can take. My resume stands out even more than my headbands and I’ve never had an employer instruct me to lose my headbands or nosering.

That’s why I’ve decided to not consult career counselors any more.

I believe that career counselors are great if you’re just getting started on your path and you need help conforming to industry standard. But once you know the rules, it’s ok to break them.

Park student reflects on life-changing experience

14 Aug

Andi Enns makes friends in the tiny village of Kolo, in the Gulu district of northern Uganda.

Some people go the movies or read novels to discover a different world. I used to be one of those people, staring in wide-eyed wonder through 3D glasses and longing to experience something new. Then I discovered something so much better: travel.

Zoom over a few bumpy dirt streets in Kampala, Uganda and you’ll find an urban neighborhood made of sheet metal lean-tos and plywood shacks. Kids run everywhere, and women prepare meals in groups. Religious messages are scratched into the side of every structure. And while perhaps the most striking thing at first for a naïve American is the grime and the poverty, that’s not the image that stays.

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