Monday, September 15, 2008

Stir This Returns from Lengthy Hiatus to Support ADAPT Activists and "DUH City!"

The people in the above photo [depicts four activists seated near the Department of Housing and Urban Development] may appear homeless, but they have homes to which they will eventually return. Unfortunately, many seniors and people with disabilities don't. They've been moved into nursing homes and institutions because they can't afford to live independently. Some had homes, and saw their homes sold against their will. Others rented but fell behind on payments. Many never owned or rented a home and, upon reaching adulthood, faced a choice between living on the streets or in institutions.
That's why ADAPT has pitched tents outside the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and why the above activists are living in those tents, effectively homeless until key policymakers commit to ADAPT's housing reform platform. The tent city ADAPT has constructed is called "DUH City," a reversal of the acronym HUD, as well as a play on words indicating that, if you can't afford to live independently, you end up homeless-- "Duh!"
But, some say, that's why there are institutions-- to prevent these people from becoming homeless! ADAPT disagrees. People in nursing homes are homeless. Do you have a home when you don't have a choice about where you live? Do you have a home if your mealtimes, bedtime, medications, hygiene, and even whether you live or die, are decided by strangers in a building where you did not choose to live? Sounds like imprisonment, right? That's exactly what ADAPT considers the unwilling committment of people with disabilities and the elderly to nursing homes: Imprisonment, and homelessness, rolled into one package labeled "Care."
ADAPT wants lawmakers to pass the Community Choice Act, which gives people with disabilities and senior citizens the choice of receiving care in their own homes rather than nursing homes. Funding attendant care in individuals' homes saves money versus operating nursing homes. Despite these facts, many politicians including Senator John McCain have opposed the Community Choice Act on the basis of cost.
While the CCA has widespread support from lawmakers in both parties, too often have politicans promised support and withdrawn it at the last second. Under the table dealmaking and the flawed public perception that home care costs more public dollars can't be allowed to stop the Community Choice Act. That's why ADAPT is camping out outside the HUD, and that's why Stirring the Pot and the following blogs are following ADAPT's direct actions and covering them as they happen:
Disabled Soapbox (Susan)
Six, almost Seven (Cindy Sue)
FRIDA (Amber)
Crippled under the Law (Carrie)
Pitt Rehab (Greg)
Joy of Autism (Estee)
PTSD Online (Michael)
Retired Waif
Go Becky (Becky)
Wheelie Catholic (Ruth)
River of Jordan (Danielle)
All 4 Gals (Nicole)
Tremors of Intent (Josie)
Web Pulp 2.0 (Joe)
Uppity Disability (Mike)
Daily Troll (Terry)
Media Dis-n-Dat (Beth)
Geezer's Sermons (William)
Crip Power (Cripchick)
Whitterer on Autism (Maddy)
Rolling Rains Report (Scott)
Asperger Square 8 (Bev)
Chewing the Fat (Dave)
Drive Mom Crazy (Jason)
All That is Dazlious (Marla)
Growing Up with a Disabilty (David)
Wheelchair Dancer (WCD)
Stirring the Pot (Sandy)
The Gimp Parade (Kay)
Andrea's Buzzing About (Andrea)
Blogging Against Disablism (Nilesh)
Perserveration (Jeff)
Roadhogs Ruminations (Dawn)
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" — MLK (Nick)
Speaking for the Dead (Dustin)
Whose Planet is it Anyway? (abfh)
Multichiropter (Fledchen)
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network's NorthernVirginia (Paula)
PhilosopherCrip (Joe)
Please visit the blogs on this list often, and link to DUH City on your own blog if you have one. Whether you're old or young, able-bodied or disabled, Republican or Democrat, we can all agree that making affordable, accessible, integrated housing available and providing home care (which, again, SAVES money), is absolutely a necessity. FREE OUR PEOPLE-- and all people!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Nature of Sexism

I saw an article recently that gave me pause: 3 in 4 boys on B.C. street exploited by women. I've never been fully comfortable with feminism, especially as a female with a circle of friends that's 90% male. I don't dislike men, nor do I consider it in their nature to abuse any more than I consider it the nature of women to receive abuse (as some parents apparently believe). But this article moved me, for the second time in recent memory, to comment on sexism.

Please click the link and read the original article. The findings are interesting, though I have many quibbles with the method of sampling and data collection, as well as the method of reporting the findings. The Vancouver Sun seems to have written most of their article through copy-and-pasting from this press release. Next, if you like, read the 64 page PDF reporting the study's results. Incidentally, the research did not involve an original survey: Data sets from the McCreary Centre Society were used.

I noticed two things about the Vancouver Sun article:

1. The first statistic related to the abuse of females was buried 10 paragraphs down.

2. The headline is inaccurate. The headline reports that 3 in 4 B.C. boys on the street were sexually exploited by women. The actual statistics differ somewhat:

From the PDF:

"Around 1 in 3 street-involved youth indicated they were sexually exploited. Among the
younger street-involved youth in both surveys, a higher percentage of males than females
were sexually exploited (33% males vs. 24% females in 2000, 34% males vs. 27% females
in 2006). In contrast, among the older street-involved youth in 2001 in Vancouver, a higher
percentage of females identified as exploited (53% vs. 32% males)."

Using the most recent numbers, 36.5% of street-involved youth were exploited, making it impossible for 75% of all street-involved males to have been exploited, even if only males had been exploited. Let's find an accurate headline. From the Sun:

"Some youth in each gender were exploited by women with more than three out of four (79 per cent) sexually exploited males reporting exchanging sex for money or goods with a female."

So, a total of 33% of males surveyed were exploited. Of these, 79% were exploited by females. In other words, 26.07% of male street-involved youth surveyed were exploited by females.

Accurate Headline:

1 in 4 B.C. boys on street sexually exploited by women
However, this headline still sounds more like a press release than accurate reporting of the results of an important study. In addition, it's still sexist. Does the abuse suffered by girls have less import because, according to the report, it's more expected? I mean, really. Because we expect girls to be abused, let's report only on the abuse suffered by boys?
It's not impossible to report such results in a gender-neutral way. In fact, I'll demonstrate. The following is my version of the Sun article:
More than 1 in 3 B.C. street youth sexually exploited
Study says most abuse comes from opposite sex
VANCOUVER - Canada's largest study into the sexual exploitation of street-involved youth, including runaways, couch-surfing youths, and youths involved in street-based activities such as selling and purchasing drugs, has found that 36.5% of street-involved youth in British Columbia have been sexually exploited, with 86.5% of exploitation overall perpetrated by members of the opposite sex.

Boys and girls were equally likely to suffer from sexual exploitation, with 40% of males and 33% of females overall reporting that they had traded sexual activities for money, drugs, gifts, food, services, shelter, transportation or anything similar. Among younger street-involved youth, more males than females were exploited. Among older street-involved youth, females were more likely to have been exploited.

Elizabeth Saewyc, associate professor of nursing at the University of British Columbia, served as principal investigator for the study conducted by Vancouver's McCreary Centre Society.

The results were drawn from interviews with 1,845 youth - some as young as 12 - in surveys taken across the province between 2000 and 2006.

Sexual exploitation is defined as youth under 19 trading sexual activities for money, drugs, gifts, food, services, shelter, transportation or anything similar. This can include work in brothels, escort services, pornography and Internet sex but it also includes what's described as "survival sex," where a child provides sex in exchange for a place to sleep, a meal or a ride.

The study found that around one in every three children living on the street have been sexually abused, although many did not appear to feel that they had been exploited, said Saewyc. Some of the youth surveyed considered the persons exploition them to be friends or romantic partners.

"It's a shocking number. The law is clear: any adult who has sex with children for any form of consideration is exploiting them and it's illegal," Saewyc said.

The study found 94% of exploited females reported they had been sexually exploited by men. Of exploited males, 79% were exploited by women. Of the report's findings that 79% of exploited males were exploited by women, Saewyc said, "I must admit it wasn't something we were expecting."

The study says the social systems in place to deter and prevent sexual predation were only designed to help females and the criminal justice system wasn't concerned with what was happening to young males.

Saewyc said the findings were indicative of prevailing myths about sexual abuse, including the perception that most victims are girls and most abusers are men.

"Part of the challenge is that young males are not seen as being exploited because they are not coming to the attention of the police and the police aren't out there picking up the perpetrators. The system is set up to handle the sexual exploitation of young women, not young men," she said.

Community research associate Jayson Anderson said most of the programs to deal with sexual exploitation were designed by women for women. "There's really nothing out there for males. So we need programs for young boys," he said.

The study showed that the following youth were most likely to suffer from sexual predation:

- those who were lesbian, gay or bisexual
- Aboriginals
- those with physical or mental health issues
- those who had been abused by family members
- youth that had been in government care.
It's possible to report the findings of a study that involved gender-- even surprising findings about gender-- without sexism. It's possible to report the abuse of boys without disclaiming the suffering of girls.

It's possible to call for changes to the criminal justice system without forgetting that the current system is in place for a reason. It's possible to help boys without forgetting girls, and to help girls without leaving boys out in the cold.

Unfortunately, the nature of sexism is to expect that to extend opportunity to one gender, one must disenfranchise the other. It's unfortunate that in order to call attention to a study about sexual exploitation, authors must emphasize the results relating to boys and bury the results relating to girls. It's unfortunate that journalists accept the sexism in press releases and publish them nearly verbatim. But most unfortunate of all is that, if programs serving abused females are attacked as sexist, it's not sexists who'll suffer; it's abused girls.

The experience and expertise of professionals who treat female victims of sexual abuse must not be thrown away as sexist merely because boys and girls respond in unique ways to receiving abuse. The knowledge present in programs that focus on the treatment of females must not be denied because those programs have failed to adequately serve abused boys. It's that experience and knowledge that should advise a developing system of treatment for male victims of sexual abuse. Caring for sexually abused boys is a new and evolving science, and young professionals interested in this occupation will need the mentorship and oversight of persons experienced in the treatment of survivors of sexual abuse.

Make new programs, but keep the old. Don't reduce resources available to female survivors in order to increase resources available to male survivors of abuse.

Equality isn't everyone getting the same thing. It's everyone getting what they need.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

For Elizabeth McClung

Beth at Screw Bronze challenged all of her readers to go do something fun this past weekend and then post about it. I did a fun thing for Beth-- I went to a cemetery (just like Beth and Linda did, but minus the corsets) and took pictures of pretty things growing amongst the graves. These three shots of the same buds from a tree beginning to bloom were my favorites.
For you, Beth, because I remember that you took pictures of yellow flowers the last time you went outside your house for a walk without the chair. Some red flowers for a pretty lady in a black chair and red corset in a cemetery.

Survivor: Kindergarten Edition

When I heard about all the controversy surrounding Kid Nation, I recall thinking that teaching children that reality shows, in any way, resemble reality, couldn't possibly be a good thing. But perhaps I should have worried less about tough, adaptable kids, who are often smarter than one expects, and a little more about the people placed in positions of power over kids.

You see, it seems one Wendy Portillo has turned her classroom into Survivor: Kindergarten, and the first child not to survive, so to speak, is a little boy in the process of being diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Alex Barton has frequently had disciplinary problems, and one morning last week after he returned from the principal's office, Ms. Portillo led the class in telling Alex what each student didn't like about him, and then took a vote. By a vote of 14-2, Alex was voted out of the classroom.

Take a good look at the picture at the top of this blog. Does that little fellow look "disgusting" or "annoying?" I don't think so, but that sweet little blond boy sure does-- thanks to a teacher who allowed classmates to apply those epithets to him. He's five years old. Far too young to understand that some classmates do not know that his developmental disability means sometimes he does things hard for neurotypical kids to understand, or that sometimes the things he does may be seen as disgusting or annoying, but that he, Alex Barton, is a person wholly separate from others' perceptions.

Alex now says "I'm not special" repeatedly to himself, and has trouble sleeping at night.

Oh, and, by the way?

The authorities found no evidence of emotional child abuse. No charges will be filed, except the civil suit Melissa Barton is considering.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Summer Vacations

Okay, you can probably tell from my last post that I need to get away from it all for a while. So, summer vacation planning is go!

I can probably only really afford to take 4 or 5 days away, over a long weekend so that I don't miss too much work. I'd like to go by car, so I can take my dog with me; he's just barely too big to ride in the cabin of an airplane, and I wouldn't dream of shipping him in cargo in the summer heat-- especially since he's a black, long-haired dog.

I had been hoping to get to the Allied Media Conference, but it's looking increasingly less likely that I'll be able to get time off in time for that. Plus, I can't make definite travel plans until I get in touch with.... well, someone really hard to get to hold still and talk to me about this long, expensive trip I'm supposed to be taking to meet up with him and get something really, really important.

So it looks like July or August for my summer vacation.

I found this vacation guide on Disaboom, which is a downloadable PDF and suggests theme parks, music festivals, national parks, baseball stadiums, and state fairs, and has accessibility info for all the destinations. So that got me thinking, I've never seen Yellowstone. Maybe I should go?

But then again, Rocky Mountain National Park is only a short drive away, and I have a hard time imagining a park that's really more scenic than the one practically in my own backyard.

Maybe what I really want is to go somewhere and be a beach bum for a weekend? But Florida is so hot in the summer, and I don't really want to go to California again; I want a vacation to somewhere I've never been.

Decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Have Had A Lousy Month: Degrees of Bad

I have had a lousy month.

We all have our degrees of bad, and we all have a breaking point between "Life happens" and "Okay, now this is a BAD, inexcusably bad, depressingly, awfully bad month." I have reached that point. No, I'm not dying, and neither is (knock wood) anyone in my human family. But:

  • Lost two of my animal family suddenly
  • My fiance's grandfather is dying, slowly and painfully
  • Fiance has been nominated de facto caregiver and is suffering from caregiver fatigue
  • Fiance's family dismisses his caregiving work- giving injections, changing adult diapers, transfers in and out of wheelchair, monitoring bloog sugar, giving medications, providing companionship, cleaning, doing laundry often stained with human waste, as easy and unimportant to the point he is considering disappearing for a few days to see how the rest of the family copes with caring for Grandfather without him
  • On top of all that, the two pets we lost were his favorite rat and her son
  • Two pets that were abandoned with me and had been in loving homes for over a year lost their homes after the adopter became chronically ill
  • My favorite coworker is moving away
  • A forum that has been my support network through many things has appointed a moderator who really has it in for me, personally attacking me in every thread, and the forum owner says I- the female of course- must be the problem
  • My best friend and his first love broke up and he is devastated and depressed
  • A good friend's mother is dying of cancer and now I get to be the one to call my friend and tell her that one of the rats I was sending to her as a companion and friend died after his neutering surgery, for no apparent reason
  • Fiance's childhood best friend overdosed on drugs and nearly died, then disappeared back into the world of addiction and his whereabouts are unknown
  • A friend of a friend overdosed on drugs and died
  • Can't get ahold of someone who I'm supposed to be doing a 30 hour drive (one-way) to meet and get a pet from.

In short, life sucks right now, and I have nobody to really tell except the wide world of blog-friends. Everyone else in my life I have to try to be strong for, and being strong all the time means nobody to lean on, and lots of other people leaning on you.


I did something nice for someone last night. I will do something nice for someone tonight. I have to keep trying to believe in good karma.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

On Walking While Female

I think anyone who makes a habit of hanging around with activists has heard of the offense "Driving While Black/Brown," or DWB, referring to the way in which law enforcement profiles drivers based on race, searching the cars of black drivers pulled over for minor violations while releasing white speeders without even asking to take a peek in the trunk. Recently, I've been doing some thinking on a social, rather than legal, crime: Walking While Female. Google returns 211 results for the exact phrase, including this illuminating blog post, which mirrors many of my own thoughts.

I, like many of my generation, am loath to call myself a feminist in mixed company. Or, really, any company that's not activist or political company. I can be sitting on the couch drinking a beer after a long day of work while my boyfriend cooks, and if a couple of his friends are slouching around the living room, they don't notice the non-traditional gender roles. But let me say aloud, "I think it's a great outgrowth of feminism that you 20-something men don't notice our non-traditional gender roles," and you'll hear a tirade about feminism that is only barely matched by Rush Limbaugh in his most blustering fury. Unshorn legs, shorn heads, and combat boots will be invoked. Feminism as a whole will be accused of misandry and demands for special rights. It gets tiresome, and I confess I've largely given up on reclaiming that term as a positive one in my daily life.

However, there are moments when I realize that I am, by lifestyle, personality, and necessity, a feminist. Yesterday, I had one of those moments, when I unwittingly committed the grave offense of Walking While Female (WWF).

I generally stroll to the park with my pooch after dark, when a light-up collar and a pocket full of treats make it easy and safe to let him off leash for a run. Yesterday, though, I felt motivated to walk while the sun was still warm, and so departed for the neighborhood park with pup in tow. I was still dressed for work, in low-heeled boots, trousers, and a pink blouse, with a skiing jacket thrown on in place of the wool jacket I wear to the office. I did not present a particularly titillating figure; certainly, no more so than the young parents walking with toddlers, nor the day care moms supervising the play of a group of school aged kids, nor the couples out to enjoy the setting sun.

Yet, somewhere along the way to the park, a group of teenaged boys in a blue sedan decided that their entertainment for the evening would be repeatedly circling the block and calling out harrassing, sexual comments each time they passed me and my dog. Said dog, blissfully unaware of gender politics, spent most of his time piddling on various vertical objects. The first cat-call hardly fazed me; I was annoyed, and grumbled something to the piddling pooch about cowards who couldn't pull over and say something like that while they were in slugging distance. But they circled around to follow me, and I noticed several things.

Most notably, I felt compelled this time to yell back, when I'd felt no such need on the first go-round. I shouted something, which they likely didn't hear over their car's engine as they sped away, but which insulted their intelligence, male anatomy, and level of maturity. I was immediately ashamed about sinking to their level, but, really, what does one do in that situation? Ignoring hooligans seems only to encourage them, because they interpret silence as fear or shock.

The third time they drove by, I again resorted to ignoring them. Only after they'd disappeared in the distance did I think about recording their license plate number to report by calling *277 (*CSP, for Colorado State Patrol) for harassing a pedestrian and for speeding in a residential area. I was too busy being upset that they not only thought repeated obscene comments were appropriate, but that they chose a moment when I was walking by a playground where several young boys and girls were playing to shout those obscenities. I would be surprised if at least one of those children doesn't pick up a new word and blurt it out at the dinner table with Great-Aunt Myrtle as a result.

As I walked home-- thankfully, without additional running commentary from the hooligans-- I took time to notice my own curious emotions. I was angry, as one might expect, but I also realized I had my hand on my pocket knife, preparing unconsciously for a physical confrontation, despite the total absence of any evidence one was imminent. I was afraid. Not of anything in particular, but of the fact that strangers had intruded into a peaceful and pleasant nightly ritual. Of course, that's exactly the reward I'm sure the hooligans wanted.

Why do some men, particularly young men whose basic needs are met, who have cars and spending money and food to eat, think any woman on foot and alone is fair game for verbal harrassment? Are they just bored? Should their parents find better ways to schedule their time, so that they aren't roaming the streets in groups, driving irresponsibly and risking an accident by leaning out their windows to hoot at strange women? Are they raised by misogynist fathers, and truly convinced that they are in the right to cat-call at women walking down the street?

Have they ever had someone single them out and act in ways specifically designed to make them question their safety in their own neighborhood?

Are they aware how poorly they reflect upon teens as a whole? I have heard teenaged males say, "That waitress gave me bad service because I was young," or declare, "It's not fair to make people leave backpacks by the door in shops," or even, "Nobody respects teenagers' rights."

Can their behavior be blamed on the pre-frontal cortex, not fully developed until the twenties, which governs judgment and logic?

I'm not sure. I'm neither a parent nor a man, nor a psychologist or neurologist. I do know that all teenagers behave immaturely at times. After all, they're not mature human beings. However, this behavior is unacceptable, and as a child-free, mostly closeted feminist, and not really so many years older than those young hooligans, I have no idea how to change it.

Does anyone know how to decriminalize Walking While Female?