Girl Posts Selfie – Internet Retaliates

If you took any history 101 class, you may have heard of civil rights activist, and overall great guy, Martin Luther King, Jr.. And if you happened to be awake during your teacher’s lesson, you may have retained some of the brilliant and moving words Dr. King spoke, particularly his speech that included living “in a nation” that judges a person by the “content of their character”. And though these words were taken from a speech promoting civil rights and condemning racial segregation, being judged by the content of one’s character is apparently an ideal the internet has no coding for.

A friend of mine, like myself, and many people I know, finished a well earned degree and decided to travel abroad. She chose to teach English on the colorful shores and at times eccentric country of South Korea. New sights, sounds, smells and tastes were and continue to be exciting, scary and sometimes humorous all of which she has shared through, you guessed it, social media. Little did she know that sharing beyond her circle would mean opening herself up to an onslaught of superficial, misogynistic and downright cruel commentary.i5cKPM0

An innocent post on reddit, sharing the comedic value of translated English grammar, sent many users on a tirade, one such user suggesting that she take a picture “of the fucking hat not yourself you attention whore”. While others criticized her appearance, including a paragraph detailing what was physically ‘wrong’ with her. Though some users found the humor in the original post, and a few others came to her defense, many of the comments focused mainly on her physicality in negative and even derogative ways. But wasn’t the post about a hat?

The internet has a life of its own. I am not so ignorant to not see or accept, that as an entity, it cannot be policed in the same way a physical life is. But is it too much to ask that the few civilities that remain in our analogue world, also exist in a digital one? I have judged many a person’s looks – made a snide comment about a stranger to a friend, or expressed a dislike for a celebrity based purely of their appearance. We all have. The difference is, I have never done so within earshot, or in this case, text-shot, of the subject I’ve criticized. I couldn’t imagine walking up to a stranger just to question if they’ve had “botched cosmetic surgery” or if they’re “ an alien with a human skin mask”.

Anonymity online has its benefits; it allows groups and individuals to express their feelings, opinions, and even hardships, without fear of retribution. However that same anonymity can also be severely detrimental. As one reddit commentator said “I’m using the anonymity of the internet to do whatever I want. Why bother lying and saying she looks good when I can be straight up and tell her she has a messed up face”. Well, I can tell you why @Slappin_hoes, because it’s cruel for no other reason than being cruel.

I’m not an optimistic idealist, there will always be a level of nastiness in any arena, but the abundance of superficial malice online is unnecessary, and really, just pathetic. An uninvited sadist gets his/her pleasure from the pain and suffering of his/her victim, and we as a society condemn them for it. But verbal savagery continues to breed in forums and threads without consequence. And I wonder, has the freedom of anonymity become a cancer preventing us from being our online selves, or has it illuminated who we really are – detached and callous predators.

-Parry

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Shaping Rape Culture

Smoking was once the epitome of cool, at least by Hollywood and advertising standards. Mid century idols displayed a sense of sophistication with that white stick dangling from hands, mouths, or the even more glamorously, a cigarette holder. Smoking was normal, socially acceptable behavior – in homes, schools, hospitals, and most influentially, in the neon allure of the media. Cut to 2014 and let’s replace that imagery: the vision of smoking, with misogyny, sexism and even rape.

Rape Culture – a ghastly sounding term originating with second wave feminists of the 1970’s – is still prevalent. The phrase itself describes a culture that normalizes rape based on its attitudes towards gender and sexuality, and that culture is one we have embraced, wittingly or not. It can’t be denied that the conversation – the dialogue on misogyny, sexism and rape – has become less taboo than decades past, but the sexualization of women has also become more brazen than ever before. It’s in our music, on our televisions, at the movies, in our video games, and enacted in the institutions built to protect us.

It would be unwise to assume that the media is the root cause for these atrocities, as there are many consumers who would rather chew off their left arm than succumb to reflecting the imagery presented before them. Nonetheless, it would be equally ignorant, and even dangerous, to disregard the impact the media has on what culture and society deem normal.

For example, Robin Thicke’s dance anthem, Blurred Lines, has been described as ‘rape-y’ by many, with it’s suggestive lyrics, and shameless accompanying video, and yet it tops the charts. Kate Upton evocatively groans and disrobes at a drive-in to sell a Carl’s Jr. burger, and she continues to be lauded as a standard of beauty. Players can elect to batter, abuse, and even kill prostitutes while playing Grand Theft Auto, however age restrictions are not enforced. And toddlers are put on display and dressed in the likes of Pretty Women and a Hooters waitress for the amusement of reality television viewers, but the pedophilic grey area is dismissed.

The objectification of women in our media is nothing short of abhorrent, and yet we are surprised by the sexual harassment and assaults played out on our streets, campuses and even in our military. Some go insofar as to condemn those that attempt to dissuade assaults, particularly those on campuses, claiming new rules and regulations place a burden on male students.

In the article The Escalating War on Campus Rape, Margarette Wente of The Globe and Mail chastises North American campuses for rooting out “sexual harassment and misconduct, however slight…”, which only further devalues the issue. Bloomberg’s John Lauerman and Jennifer Surane use the theft of an unlocked bike to justify victim blaming and continue by empathizing with college men over their burden of hesitancy in pursuing women. While additionally suggesting female students need to avoid “drunkenness and other risky behaviors”.

While being incapacitated could be dangerous for a multitude of reasons, the onus of rape should not fall of the victim’s shoulders – your clothing, your level of sobriety, your gender, creed, or religion should not define an unwanted invitation, in public or private sectors. The mismanagement, or blatant indifference to sexual misconduct in education and military institutions only perpetuates rape myths and condones the culture in which it breeds.

The New York Times reported in May 2014, that a case study done by the U.S. Pentagon found that out of 26,000 reported cases of rape in the American military, only 376 resulted in a conviction – a result that is difficult to swallow. While statistics for North American post secondary campuses vary, 64 campuses are currently being investigated for violating Title IX – a public law that protects equal opportunity in education. And though government attempts are being made to implement concise sexual assault protocols, even Time Magazine’s Christina Hoff Sommers scoffs, “rape culture” to be “a panic, where paranoia, censorship and false accusations flourish”.

In days past, smoking was a socially acceptable behavior, and even known to be recommended by some doctors as a means to manage stress. But through social pressure and awareness, we have come to see it as harmful and even deadly – no longer does it carry the glamour it once did. I wait with baited breath for society to have the same level of concern for a women’s right to consent. And for the media to acknowledge its role in shaping it.

-Parry

Home Is Where the Toque Is

It has been far too long since I’ve written anything, as we know, life can get in the way, and it sure doesn’t give a damn about your plans. Nonetheless, I’ve finally returned to good ol’ Canadian soil, and (gladly) left the suffocating smog of Beijing.

Travel has been a huge part of my identity for the last five years, and I have had the opportunity to explore and immerse myself in several Asian countries and even a couple of European ones. I’ve met some amazing people and developed some lasting friendships along the way, but there is really no place like home.

Canada is my homeland, and I wouldn’t go insofar as to say I’m proud to be Canadian – after all what does that really mean? Still, I am delighted my passport carries that reassuring coat of arms, as we canucks really do receive a certain hospitality abroad. Nevertheless, like with any home, it requires maintenance and even some upgrading now and then.

Now, don’t get your under things in a bunch, I know it is a privilege to live here, to be a national. Canada has one of the strongest banking systems in the world; we have public healthcare, and an abundance of natural resources. We are welcomed warmly the world over, and pollution masks, are not an accessory we require. Canada is a great country, but I’ve never been satisfied with ‘great’, especially when I know ‘better’ is within reach.

My comparisons of Canada to places like Norway, Denmark, Sweden and even the Netherlands – countries who have truly embraced a socially responsible ideal – have been a common utterance of mine. But each time the suggestion arises that we have the potential to be as socially liberal, and environmentally conscious, I’m countered with, “(blank) is a small country, and establishing (blank) would not be possible here, Canada is too big”. Well that is some defeatism if I’ve ever heard it. If you can’t find the solution, you haven’t looked hard enough.

There is no reason Canada cannot establish an affordable and fuel efficient rail system, establish limits on urban sprawl, offer affordable post secondary education, build vertical farms, or even implement bicycle friendly cities. The solution for being better than great lies in the cure for the apathy that hinders it. We are the Great White North, but its damn time we find a new adjective, eh?

-Parry