OPINIONATRIX…because my opinions dominate











{February 20, 2009}   “Sexting,” It’s All The Rage

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It’s slightly worrisome that the new teen trend involves sending naked pictures of yourself to all your friends, but it’s even more unsettling that this lapse in judgement could be criminally prosecuted as a sex crime.  Lets face it, teenagers have never been known for their brilliant decision making skills.  Lack of impulse control is a rite of passage, and current technology has just thrust old behaviors into a new arena. 

I don’t condone ‘sexting.’ Like many reckless teen behaviors, it’s a dumb decision that could have unforeseen consequences.  That being said, prosecuting teens criminally as sex offenders does absolutely nothing for anybody.  If adults want to curb this behavior there are various ways of doing so without impeding a teens life in dire ways.  Being convicted of a sex crime follows you everywhere.  There are rules about where you can live, work and who you can spend time with.  Furthermore, why waste the courts time to fix a problem that can be handled in so many other more appropriate and effective ways.

Many may argue that distributing nude pictures is the definition of child pornography, but that misses the point.  These kids aren’t trying to market or sell these photos, they are simply showing off and acting out.  Yes, technically I suppose this fits the definition of child pornography, but any logical person looking at the majority of these cases will deduce that trafficking pornography was not the intent of these ‘sexts.’

If the courts are really looking for a way to prosecute teens for online and digital transgressions, perhaps a better place to start would be online bullying.  This is an area that we could benefit from looking at as a society.  Research has shown that many more teens are affected by vicious online bullying than harmless nude text messages.  Sure, circulating naked pictures is never a positive (unless of course you’re Hugh Heffner or Larry Flynt) but there are some cases where the punishment (being declared a sex offender) just doesn’t fit the crime (teenage stupidity).

 

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A few days ago, Nebraska ammended its Safe Haven Law, so that it applied only to babies 30 days old or less.  Originally when Nebraska enacted its Safe Haven Law, it neglected to specify an age limit, because the legislators did not think it necessary.  No one could possibly forsee parents leaving older children and teenagers at hospitals because they could no longer care for them.

The original law was enacted in July and since then 35 children have been abandoned at area hospitals, none of whom were babies.  In fact, the majority of kids left by their parents were over 11 years old!  Clearly, something is going on here.  Many are quick to jump on the adults.  Alledging bad parenting, irresponsibility and cruelty.  However, I think we need to dig deeper than that.

It takes a lot to drive a parent to the point of relinquishing their child over to state custody.  Many of the parents who utilized this law say their kids had mental illnesses that they could no longer deal with at home.  A few claimed they did not feel safe living in close proximity to thier out of control teenager, and some thought that leaving their child in state care would be the only way to get them the help they truly needed.  After all what is a parent with limited economic resources supposed to do with a seriously mentally ill or troubled child?

I do not advocate the abandonment of children.  In fact I think this points to a new low in our society.  However, I am not as quick as some to demonize the parents.  Instead, I place fault on the state.  Nebraska (and all states) need to get hip to the fact that mental illnesses require extensive (and expensive) treatment.  This may include therapy, hospitalization and medication.  If families cannot afford to treat their children on their own then there should be state departments to help them facilitate this.  Often times, insurance companies wont recognize and cover mental illnesses, and thus financially strapped families run up against a terrifying wall.  How can a parent watch thier child deteriorate and do nothing?  These parents who utilized the Nebraska Safe Haven law (many driving great distances from other states) were desperate.  They felt they had no other choice.

The recent Safe Haven “crisis” in Nebraska revealed the ugly truth of what often occurs behind closed doors.  States need to provide resouces and support for families dealing with difficult kids. Obviously, facilitating abandonment is not the answer, but maybe a better child services department is.  Perhaps states across the US could band together and provide support networks and services for these families.  Clearly if Nebraska has taught us anything, it’s that we need a better emotional support system in this country. That it is not only our finances that are suffering; our families are in peril too.

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It is so easy to become a tabloid addict.  You know what I mean, devouring People, US Weekly and In Touch one after another, ogling the bodies, lives and lifestyles of the rich and famous, and then in turn berating yourself for not even possessing a fraction of that perfection.  These days the images of stardom, beauty and wealth are everywhere.  It’s only natural to get sucked in, to start comparing and as a result – despairing. 

Honestly, I do it all the time.  I’ll hear a story of some starlet around my age, and inevitably I will start to compare myself to her.  Almost immediately the focus turns from her to me.  Why aren’t I rich, famous, successful, uber beautiful and happy as a clam?  Granted, I know these feelings are more about me and my own insecurities, but surely I am not alone!  I know others must fall into this trap too.  Lately though, I am starting to realize that despite perfectly airbrushed portrayals of sunshine and lolly-pops, often the lives of the rich and famous are anything but perfect.

Case in point?  Just this week, we learned that Madonna is divorcing her husband and Jennifer Hudson is dealing with the brutal murders of her mother and brother.  These announcements are only the latest in a string of celebrity confessions and disasters ranging from addiction and depression to loneliness and mockery.  Surely these stars are dealing with just as much as the average person, only they must do it in public.  If I mess up and wear something horrible out with friends it barely registers, but a mere bad hair day could land a starlet on the worst dressed list in tabloids across the nation.

It’s hard sometimes to focus on the reality of the situation.  The glossy pictures and gorgeous hair and make-up are so much more alluring than the underbelly of hurt and reality that celebrities so often mask with picture perfect smiles.  Frankly, I don’t buy the tabloids anymore.  If I find one or a friend gives me hers I’ll read it, but I try not to actively seek it them myself.  Even though I know the veneer of fabulosity is fake, it’s still hard for me not to buy into it.  I suppose all I can do is keep reminding myself that we all deal with stuff, and that no one is perfect.  You get nowhere by comparing yourself to others, especially when the life you are comparing yourself to is mocked up, airbrushed and altered for public consumption.  It’s like a horse trying to live up to the standard of a unicorn – the unicorn doesn’t exist and thus the horse will never succeed. 

From now on I am going to try and guage my life and success by my own internal intuitions and feelings.  I am going to get off the comparison train and get on board the “me mobile.” Surely, this will take time, but I am willing to give it a try.  Plus, my mom always said “perfect is boring,” and I sure as hell don’t want to be boring so I guess perfection just isn’t an option.



It recently came to my attention that last Wednesday was Love Your Body Day.  I am not sure exactly how or if this was publicized (I found out about it this weekend from a friend), but I have no doubts that its creators meant well.  Judging from the promotional website, this was a campaign aimed at women (though I’d argue men have body issues too) in order to get them to take a special day to love and appreciate their bodies.

In theory, I think this is a wonderful idea.  The majority of women and men (myself included) constantly fault and punish their bodies, focusing on weight and appearance rather than being thankful for their health and the multitude of things our bodies do for us daily.  In today’s appearance propelled culture, body image is at an all time low.  You know our society is in trouble when it is not uncommon for children under 10 to feel the need to diet.  Obviously, all this self hatred/criticism needs to be addressed, and I imagine that was a part of the “love your body day” campaigns goal.  Kudos to them, it’s about time we addressed this important issue on a large scale.  This is just as prevalent a problem as the rise of obesity (if not more so).

Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all just decide to love our bodies and be done with it.  Like “no TV week,” it would be so easy to just flip a switch for a week or a day and be able to experience the difference.  The problem here, is that unlike a TV set, there is no switch that flips easily from self hatred to self acceptance.  Loving ones body is a process that takes years for some, and is endless for others.  I know I am constantly critiquing, comparing and feeling unsure about my own body, and it would take much more than a day to move me over into the world of body love.  I don’t think it is too far a leap to say that this is the reality of most women (and men) out there.

I think a better day might be “Be Good to Your Body” day.   A day where we could take the time to pamper and reward our bodies for all they do for us daily.  A day to abstain from dieting, constant working out or belittling comments, and instead thank our bodies for getting us through the day.  This would be a far more feasible task than simply “loving” our bodies.  It has taken many of us years to develop an ideal body to lust after and hold up in our minds as perfect, and it will take just as long for us to rip that down and accept the body we were given.  Loving your body may sound simple, but in reality it is anything but.



{September 24, 2008}   Are You A Feminist?

This past weekend while spending the afternoon with a friend, our conversation turned from shoes, work and life to something a little more intellectual: feminism.

Me: I’m not a feminist

Her: You’re not?! Yes you are!

Me: I mean I’m all for women’s rights and I fully support women, but I don’t consider myself a feminist.

Her: What’s the difference?

I couldn’t give her an answer.  I wasn’t sure what the difference was. I just knew that for some reason I didn’t want to be considered a feminist. I have been thinking a lot about this conversation in the past couple of days. I wonder when and how the idea of feminism went from being a strong and powerful woman to a bad word.

When I hear feminist my first thoughts are of an angry, man-hating, slightly butch woman running around without a bra and protesting anything in her way.  Obviously, I know this is false. Regardless that is the image my mind conjures.  I hardly believe I am in the minority.  Think about it – how many women have you heard proudly refer to themselves as feminists?

My circle of friends is filled with strong working women all of whom believe in equal pay, women in the workplace and women’s rights.  However, I would be hard pressed to find a “feminist” in the bunch. Except that we all are.  The majority of women in this country are feminists, yet only a small minority identify as such.

The feminism of today is starkly different from that of the past.  There are even some who’d argue that today’s women are throwing the hard work of past generations out the window.  We constantly objectify ourselves, buying into beauty myths and continuing to place more value on our appearance than it’s worth.  On the other hand, more women are venturing into the workplace, running companies and holding high political offices.  So by my count, we’ve come plenty far from the days when “women belonged in the kitchen.”

However, this hasn’t come without backlash.  Women can now have it all, and unfortunately many of us (myself included) feel the pressure to live up to that.  We want to marry, raise children, run a company and look great doing it.  What is this doing to us?  What is the cost?  Research shows that even in households where both parents work, it is the woman who does most of the household chores and child-rearing.  Women are often stretched thin with responsibilities that more often than not men do not have. Today’s girls are brought up by mothers who do everything: they work, they help with homework, they clean, they cook and they maintain an “image.” Often times what we don’t realize is that our mothers are stressed out, and working hard to appear “fine” and put together.  Unfortunately, as a result of this “superwoman” image, we grow up believing that is what is expected of us – to do it all flawlessly.

I am still learning and trying to accept that this is a fallacy.  NO ONE can have it all!  It just isn’t possible, sometimes things have to give.  If that means you have to order in take out, or dont have time to get regular haircuts and manicures, so be it.  I believe both women (and men) should have equal opportunities, be paid equally and have the exact same right to live adjusted and balanced lives.  If that makes me a feminist, then I am proud to be one.



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