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I am a proud and active alumnus of my fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau. Since Joining in October of 2011, I have felt great pride in knowing that Zeta Beta Tau is one of the only, if not the only, Social Fraternities that has completely removed pledging from their New Member process. Many are flabbergasted by this, while many more praise it. Pledging is, after all, the time when the most numerous and intense acts of hazing are performed. In fact, in 1989, ZBT abolished pledging primarily to curb the instances of hazing in its organization. Had there been pledging in Zeta Beta Tau, I doubt I would have ever joined.

This, of course, is not true for most other people. Thousands of young people join Fraternities and Sororities each year and happily pledge. I, personally, do not think pledging is necessary, and am whole heartedly devoted to Zeta Beta Tau’s non-pledging position, and I am not trying to make a statement about pledging. Pledging can be successful, if done right – even if I maintain that the same or more can be done without pledging.

Our community was rattled recently with many large hazing stories. One, from my Alma Mater, the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh, one from Penn State, one from Florida State University, and apparently just last night, one from Ohio State university. As always happens when hazing comes to light, Fraternity and Sorority members step up to denounce the evils of the trade, proudly reporting how their own organization had a no tolerance stance on hazing (usually ignoring some of the very problematic things they would do instead of hazing).

However, what most interests me is the small conversations that sprout up around campuses and among those who personally knew those involved. These conversations are often ignored or undervalued. The conversations I refer to are those where people whisper “So it’s true” or “I thought they stopped that” or “I can’t believe they are still doing that” or, possibly the worst offender, “That’s exactly what they did to [inset name of person here].” Its these small, often short, often emotional conversations that warrant further inspection. It is these conversations that outweigh and immediately cancel out all those talks about how great an organization is, how empowered they made their members feel, or how against hazing they were.

After the Pi Alpha Nu incident at SUNY Plattsburgh, I felt guilty. I didn’t personally know anything about the hazing activities happening there, but I should have done my due diligence as a Fraternity and Sorority Life student staff member and as an Interfraternity Council Vice President to bring these things to light. I now know that they were occurring during my time there, because several of these small conversations from people I know, who either knew members or alumni, made comments confirming it. I was just too blind to see.

This caused me to think about my time as an undergraduate. Reflect. I realized that there were a lot of people who knew what was going on. Girlfriends, boyfriends, friends, alumni – who knows who else. I pondered: Why did none of these people say anything? I can understand why the hazing victims didn’t say anything – hazing psychology is clear on that. But of the countless others who knew, nobody said anything? Of the countless men and women who proudly purport that they are anti-hazing, how many of them said or did anything about it? We do know that a single person can blow the lid off of hazing. We also know it is hard, and a lot to ask of someone. Hazingprevention.org’s Anti-Hazing Heroes are proof of that.

Unfortunately, we can’t rely on the random hero to show up and save us. Hazing is a community problem, and it requires a community solution.

One thing that I rarely ever see when people are discussing hazing is a dialogue about how chapters, even those that do not haze, contribute to the issue of hazing. We tout our organizations as social organizations, but never use that social power to truly affect cultural change, or accept responsibility. Rarely do I ever see professionals suggesting to members to refuse to support groups who are rumored to be hazing. Never do I see chapters calling out other organizations. I’m sure it happens privately, but never is that one of the first suggestions. I read a great article today from a Sigma Sigma Sigma alumnae about this very issue. She provided many ways people can help reduce hazing in their communities, but not even she mentioned using our organization’s social power to affect change.

Never do I see professionals suggesting that Sororities refuse to mix with fraternities who they believe, or more likely know, to be hazing, and vice versa. Rarely do I see people explicitly telling people to actively avoid going to programs and events of groups who haze.

Sure, these things are implied. It seems so obvious that it doesn’t merit mention. But that is not how it works. Our Fraternity and Sorority Community has developed by supporting each other. Many groups fear that by not presenting a united front they are confirming that Fraternity and Sorority Life is not as Idyllic as they try to claim. Sometimes it is out of fear of retaliation – perhaps taking a stand against hazing will get some of their own clandestine activities unearthed. Sometimes it is to keep the status quo.

I am not a Fraternity and Sorority professional, in as much as I do not get paid to work with these groups. As a volunteer, I am quite passionate about, and critical of, Fraternity and Sorority life. Whenever I see a group touting how against hazing they are, I wonder what sort of activities they do that are breeding grounds for hazing. Many groups, for instance, like to play games when it comes to big/little reveal. I have seen new members completely stressed, because the chapter is trying to trick them into thinking their big is someone it is not. Is this hazing? I would argue yes, but most others wouldn’t. However, in this case, where is the line? When do you cross over from fun little game to mental abuse? And how does this benefit anyone? Chapters rarely have those kinds of conversations with themselves, let alone other groups.

The problem with Fraternity and Sorority Life is that we, too often, ignore our faults. We, too often, ignore our own little quirks and blow up those of others. I cannot begin to tell how many sorority women I know who took no hesitation in blasting Pi Alpha Nu, though had no issue mixing with them or going to their programs. When the allegations against Pi Alpha Nu first became public, absolutely nobody was surprised. Even those who didn’t know what was happening were not surprised, because organizations like Pi Alpha Nu are breeding grounds for toxic masculinity. Everyone knew that something bad was happening, or was about to happen, because they saw the way the members acted. Instead, they were more often rewarded than challenged. This is the social nature of our groups at work. Why should Pi Alpha Nu stop hazing when it has not caused them any issues? In fact, they may have been rewarded for doing it with sex, drugs and alcohol.

And nobody did anything.

We cannot continue to post about how great and hazing free our own experiences were. We cannot continue to act like we are morally superior to those who haze when we are turning a blind eye to it. We cannot continue to claim that our own organizations are that different from those like Pi Alpha Nu. We need to take responsibility as a community, because if our community was really so against hazing, it would be doing more to prevent it.

I am tired of seeing groups denounce hazing thinking that is enough. We cannot continue to act like it’s not our problem if it’s not our organization. We are quick to use all positives to reinforce all of Fraternity and Sorority Life, and quicker to single out a person or a group for their bad actions.

The sooner we own our negatives, the sooner we can change them.

The sooner we tackle toxic masculinity and homophobia in our community, the sooner we can have true values driven organizations.

The sooner Fraternities and Sororities become more accessible to cultural and financial minorities, the sooner we can tackle the privilege that often leads to hazing behaviors.

Ignoring a group who I believe to be hazing doesn’t seem like it would really align with the values of any of the organizations I know of. We need to hold each other accountable to values. We can’t rely on the IFC or Panhellenic to fix everything. It starts with the individuals and the individual chapters.

It’s not enough to not haze. You need to make change, using the power you have. That’s the only way.

 

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I received an email from Planned Parenthood today telling me about Florida Senate Bill 444, which is a bill that would require the Florida Department of Health to have a contract with Florida Pregnancy Care Network, Inc, a network of what many care calling Crisis Pregnancy Centers in Florida. The goal of these places is to “encourage childbirth.” This bill would effectively make it the state government’s role to facilitate the encouragement of childbirth (and therefore, the discouragement of abortion). To combat this, Planned Parenthood has asked all Florida residents to contact the Florida Senate Health Policy Committee, who will be voting on this on Tuesday, November 7, 2017. The members, and their contact, are as follows:

Chair: Sen. Dana D. Young (850) 487-5018
Vice Chair: Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (850) 487-5028
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto (850) 487-5027
Sen. Dorothy L. Hukill (850) 487-5014
Sen. Travis Hutson (850) 487-5007
Sen. Bill Montford (850) 487-5003

I was able to contact Senator Dana Young’s Office via phone, but when i contacted Senator Kathleen Passidomo’s Office, they asked me to submit my opposition via their online contact form. I wrote a letter, quickly, to express my opposition. It can be found below. Please feel free to borrow from it.

 

Senator Passidomo,

I am contacting as a resident of the State of Florida to express my opposition to the SB 444. As the Co-Chair of the Florida Senate Health Policy Committee, I would expect you to want to encourage the health and success of your constituents. A well educated person knows that health comes in many forms, not just physical. The Senate Bill 444 threatens the mental, physical, social, and financial health of all of Florida’s residents.

 

I am primarily concerned with the fact that this bill requires the Health Department to have a contract with Florida Pregnancy Care Network, Inc. I do not believe it is in the best interest of Florida’s population to force a government contract with a group that is unwilling to provide the appropriate information. As much as I would love for the world to be filled with more amazing people, refusing to provide or acknowledge pregnancy termination services will negatively affect overall public health.

 

As Co-Chair of the Health Policy Committee, I hope I do not need to remind you that access to accurate, thorough information on all aspects of pregnancy, including ways to terminate, has positive benefits on public health. This is particularly true in more low income and rural areas, where overall access to healthcare in general is lacking. Florida has many areas like this.

 

I do not believe it is appropriate for the State Health department to “contract with the network for the management and delivery of pregnancy support services to eligible clients.” This wording effectively makes it the Health Department’s responsibility to provide this specific information, while not providing other information. It could, potentially, cut off the department from working with other groups and providing effective community healthcare. At best, it is ambiguously worded, at worst it is a formal and direct proclamation that the health department does not care about providing comprehensive health care services, be they clinical, educational, or otherwise, to the residents of the state.

 

Thank you for choosing not to support this bill. Doing so would be a betrayal of the state and its residents.

 

Sincerely,

Sean Conklin

Palm Beach County

Boynton Beach

After sending this letter to her, i decided to look a little more into Florida Pregnancy Care Network, Inc. What I found – or did not find – was unnerving. I could find an address, but no other contact information. No website, so name to associate with it. Searching for the name on google provides you with a location and a website for Florida Pregnancy Support Services. This may be the same group, though nowhere on the webpage can i find the phrase Florida Pregnancy Care Network, Inc. I wish is aw this before, because this is a huge red flag. This information needs to be public so constituents can know who their government can potentially be trusting with their health care.

Take a stand against this ridiculousness and contact these Senators!

Verizon’s Hurricane “Relief”

As Hurricane Irma approached the coast of the Florida Peninsula, people were panicking. Fortunately, the benevolent Verizon wireless announced, as the hurricane drew nearer and stronger, that they would be providing “Hurricane Relief” to all affected customers.

I recall being stuck in a powerless house with scared and confused animals when I received a text from Verizon saying “We’ve got your back; we’ve got your usage.” It promised Domestic Data, Voice, and Text relief in affected areas from 9/9-9/11. This was later extended to 9/15. I was very excited, as I had a battery pack to charge my phone, but no internet connection. I could not use my phone to pass the time in the storm.

As I used the phone over the next two days, however, I still got my usual data warnings. 50%, 25%, 10%, then suddenly, I’m out! I follow the link Verizon provided so see what the details of this relief were. All it said was that all overage charges would be covered, so you don’t need to worry about going over. At first I was relieved, though I decided not to tempt fate and use more unnecessary data.

Monday morning, after the storm had passed and everyone was assessing the damage, I checked my home over. Fortunately, it was untouched though powerless (and, as of right now, still powerless). I went to my parent’s house because I had received a call from them saying their Florida patio (also called a lenai, Florida room, etc) was ripped up and trashed my father’s car. I went over to help them clean up the damage. They got power back that day, and internet soon after.

Once everything had settled down, I thought of all the data I had used. I thought of the fact that the relief was over on 9/15 and wondered what that meant. The next day, I returned to work, and took some of my down time to contact Verizon directly. I had realized that, after the storm, I would be left with less than 1gb of data, to last me and my roommate another 15 days. I figured there was some mistake. Verizon would probably do some sort of data restoration to the affected people so they do not accrue more overage charges.

I spoke with someone via the online chat, which I regret now because I think a lot was lost in translation and made it more difficult, and I had an error at my computer at work and was unable to save the conversation (the reason I used the online chat to begin with). I asked the person for the details on the Irma relief. He was kind and cordial, asking me if I was safe and all that kind of stuff, before getting to the nitty gritty.

He repeatedly told me that all overage charges during the relief period will be credited. This much, I explained to him, I already understood. I asked him repeatedly about what happens afterward, when people are back to a more normal life, but have less than 1gb to share among their family plan for the next 15 days. He either didn’t understand what I meant, or didn’t want to.

He said that any overages after the relief period would not be covered.

This frustrated me. Had I not received a text saying I’d get data relief, then I would not have used so much data. I knew I had finite data and that I needed it all month. Now, I knew, based on my phone usage, that I would definitely be using more than 1gb in the second half of the month. I asked him, struggling to find the best way to phrase it, if there was a plan for that.

He continued to tell me that the overages during the relief timeframe would be covered. He said he would put me on safe mode, which would, in the event I used up all my data, put me down to 3g speed, rather than add another GB of 4g speed. He hadn’t answered my question, so I then gave him an example. I said something along the lines of “I have 4gb of data between 2 people. I used it all during the storm. I got 1gb of overage data. I know that that will be covered. I appreciate that. But if I have .5gb left after the relief period ends, I am stuck with that, for two people, for the rest of the month, and if I go over I will be charged?”

And he still gave me the “overages during the relief period will be covered” line. I knew what that meant. It meant that yes, I would be charged overages after the relief period. So I asked him “Will I get the data I used refunded?”

Finally, to this, he said yes, and added 3gb to my account.

The reason I gave that long account of my experience was because I do not believe Verizon’s relief is really relief at all. I Do appreciate that Verizon is giving people relief during the storm for overages, that is great. But the manner in which they did it was, in my opinion, highly unethical. I feel like I was tricked into using my data so that I would end up getting overage charges later in the month. I would never have used the data if Verizon didn’t tell me about relief.

The issue is that after the relief period, people are going to start accruing overage fees, even if they are using their data like they normally do. Because it is the beginning of the month. Add that to the fact that people have lost income from work, lost their homes, had to spend money to either get away or prepare, and you see how this could be a potentially bad policy.

During the last hurricane in our area, Verizon gave free data. They just said “Your data is free.” And data you used during the free data time just didn’t come out of your monthly data allowance. I remember that, because I was out of state when I received that message, and I told people around me about it. It was an interesting tidbit for us all.

I wonder how many people used data assuming that was the same thing? I wonder how many people will be adversely affected by this “relief” they are providing. Imagine having your home or job destroyed and then on top of that getting an extra large bill just for using your phone like normal.

I am frustrated because Verizon seems to be doing this for publicity, rather than anything else. They had a press conference to announce this relief. They told everyone about it beforehand. This was calculated. It was no mistake that people will be left with almost no data for the rest of the month. I would be willing to assume that the analysts at Verizon figured all the overages they credited would be made back and then some in the rest of the month.

So, what do we do? Well, if you contact them and ask them questions, it seems like you will get extra data at no charge. But if you do not, I’m afraid you will be at the mercy of overage charges. I hope I am wrong, and I hoe Verizon rectifies this on their own. We will see.

It seems, also, that the other major Cell Phone providers are doing the same or similar thing. Most are waiving fees during the time of the hurricane, up until a specified date. But it seems they will all end up in the same ballpark.

I am not trying to say that they shouldn’t be doing anything. Of course, Verizon and other companies should be lauded for trying to help. However, it seems that announcing it beforehand, rather than afterward, was not the right thing to do. It created an expectation that data would not be a problem because of the hurricane. But it will still be a problem. People will be feeling the effects of the hurricane on their data plans for a while after.

Verizon is waiving fees for overages and other related things for monthly customers, but they will be “Credited on your next bill” which still seems like it will be inconvenient during the immediate aftermath. Prepaid customers will get 3 extra gb of data total at no charge.

Most other companies are waiving overage fees all around. Please check with your provider about their specific relief policies.

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Fuller House Season 2 released on Netflix earlier this month. I, being a fan of both Full House and Season 1 of Fuller House, watched the show in my free time. On the surface, Season 2 seems to be more progressive than season one, with more LGBTQ+ representation as well as more challenging of gender norms. However, I couldn’t help but feel like I had been tricked and cheated by the writers of Fuller House into believing they were progressive (especially since they literally have the cast members proclaim that they are anti-Trump and that they are for a large variety of progressive ideals).

When thinking critically about the show, however, it seems that, sure, there are many progressive ideas, from sustainable backyard organic farming to female empowerment, and the show likes to challenge gender norms and expectations, but that certain things are only there as a joke. That is mostly the LGBTQ+ themed parts.

Take, for instance, the very first scene of Season 2. Season 1 ended with protagonist DJ deciding to take time to figure herself out before she decides whether she wants to date her high school sweetheart, Steve, or her new, hunky (better option, imo) work partner Matt. Season two begins and she has finally decided who she wants to date. DJ has not seen Steve or Matt all summer (even though Matt is her work partner? I’m not sure how that worked out. They’re veterinarians, not teachers), so this is her first time catching up with them. Apparently, Matt and Steve bonded over the summer and became best friends (for plot simplicity, probably). They come over together all buddy-buddy, making jokes about wanting meat. The scene was set up so that it actually seemed like they were a little too close to be just friends. The expectation that Matt and Steve were going to come out and say they were dating each other escalated as they stood next to each other, arms wrapped around each other, and proclaimed “We’ve actually found someone.”

Only for the punch line to be delivered by Stephanie: “Each other? I always had a feeling!”

And it’s played off as a big laugh, because obviously they weren’t dating each other. They each actually had found girlfriends, and their girlfriends were coming over to meet the Fullers/Tanners/Gibblers. This would not be a huge deal if this was how Matt and Steve’s friendship was – very close, a lot of touching, etc. However, this is one of the only times Matt and Steve are portrayed this way, and it is all a set up for a gay joke. I know I was a little disappointed to see that they built that up just to make a joke about it.

But Matt and Steve are not the only examples of this. We have an almost opposite joke in one of the following episodes. DJ and Stephanie decide to crash a wedding. While there, DJ meets Sean, a charming and attractive man around her age. She and Sean get along very well, and DJ is very interested in seeing him again. He even asks her for her phone number! It’s at this point that he informs Stephanie that he’s gay – and he suddenly starts behaving differently. He starts dancing flamboyantly, talking about the cute waiter – things that he hadn’t done in the last 10 minutes (of screen time) we were interacting with him. It’s played off as a big joke. Haha, the guy DJ was into was actually a gay guy all along. How could she not tell?! Let’s also remember that they live in the heart of San Francisco, literally the gayest place in America, and Sean is the only LGBTQ+ person they ever interact with.

But this post wouldn’t be complete without going into more detail about the apparent challenging of gender norms. We see this with both Steve and Matt’s friendship as well as the relationship between the older generation of brothers, Danny, Jesse, and Joey. I’ve already mentioned how Matt and Steve’s friendship is built up just to make a gay joke, but there is also a scene later that I am quite frustrated with. After Steve gets DJ a birthday gift and gives Matt the credit, they have a really tender broment (bro moment). Matt asks “Should we hug?” and Steve and he hug. After a few seconds, Matt asks “Should we stop?” Steve responds, “It’s your hug, your decision.” So instead of stopping, Matt slowly and awkwardly puts his hand on the back of Steve’s head and pats it tenderly. The scene then ends.

What I described above sounds like it’s awesome. Two male best friends who are not afraid to hug each other and be intimate. How great is that?! It would be great, if there wasn’t a laugh track over it.

The problem is that Fuller House is a show intended for children. Although there are adult moments overlaid there to appease the generation who grew up watching Full House, it is primarily a children’s show. That’s why making these jokes is bad. The reason it’s funny that Matt and Steve are hugging like that is because “Boys don’t hug like that!” Brothers hug like that. Kids hug like that. Adult men don’t hug that like. How silly.

The same goes for the thanksgiving episode, where Danny, Jesse, Becky, Joey and their children come. Jesse and Danny end up sharing a bed. The next day they are talking about it, saying one was trying to snuggle the other, but then they reveal that they were actually quite comfortable snuggling each other. This, again, is played off as a joke, because adult men don’t cuddle in bed together.

The problem I’m having with this season of Fuller House is that they are turning intimate, close male friendships into jokes. They are telling the children the show is directed at that these are things that are weird and out of place, and they should think it’s silly. It shows that despite their progressive assertions, there is a bit of internalized homophobia going on here. It’s based in stereotypes and gender policing. It should be better than it is. You can have fun, interesting LGBTQ+ characters, or non-stereotypical men (like Jimmy Gibbler!), without making gay jokes.

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If you are a fan of the CW’s Superhero TV shows Arrow, Flash, or Legends of Tomorrow, you have been seeing plenty about time travel. The way that the CW presents this makes it seem like all the time travel makes sense – however, it doesn’t stand up to even the smallest level of scrutiny and it is destroying the integrity of all of the shows. Here’s why.

Time travel is most evident in Legends of tomorrow, though it is most problematic in the Flash. In the Flash, our Villain, the Reserve-Flash travels back in time from the future and kills the Flash’s mother. However, in our TV universe, the Reverse Flash doesn’t have enough speed force to travel back to the future and therefore gets trapped in the past. He then takes Harrison Wells’ place so that he can create the Flash and siphon speed force from him so he can return to his own time.

Jump to the end of Season one, when the Reverse Flash is defeated when his ancestor kills himself. This is the first problematic thing. This literally puts us in an infinite loop. Had Eddie not killed himself, the Reverse Flash would never have come back. But then edit never would have killed himself to stop him, and the cycle continues. Viewers sort of just accepted this based on a whole bunch of time travel bull that the CW writers decided to make up – which makes absolutely no sense.

Then we have Season 2, which was light on the time travel, though introduced the incredibly convoluted concept of Time Remnants, which make even less sense than the previous infinite loop. I have tried to understand it multiple times and every time I can’t logically accept what explanation I come up with. I’m not even going to try.

Then enter Season 3, which takes the whole concept off time travel and decides to give a huge middle finger to the audience. The Flash decides to go back in time and stop the Reverse Flash from killing his mother. He then captures the Reverse Flash and imprisons him. However, Flash eventually realizes that he’s losing all his memories and that the world he created was not a good one, He’s also losing his powers, and he doesn’t have enough Speed force to go back in time and stop himself, so he asks the Reverse Flash to go back and kill his mother. Of course, Reverse flash goes back and kills Barry’s mother, but also decides to mess a whole bunch of other stuff up.

This is where it so far doesn’t make sense. This is the same Reverse Flash that originally, after having killed the Flash’s mother, didn’t have enough speed force to time travel and had to wait for Barry so he can use his speed to go to the future. Now, for some reason, after 3 months and absolutely no work, Reverse Flash is able to not only go back in time, but also mess up a whole bunch of stuff, suggesting he went back to multiple points in the past and changed them.

So why was Reverse Flash suddenly able to go back in time when he originally couldn’t? And, if for some inexplicable reason the Reverse Flash was magically back to full power, why did his existence as Harrison Wells not change? If Barry took him to the past, to the future (creating Flashpoint), and then he took Barry back to the past then back to the future, why would he return to the past and stay there? It makes no sense at all.

Throw that in with the fact that Reverse flash is currently messing up the timeline in Legends of Tomorrow – which I assume, possibly incorrectly, is supposed to be what he did right after leaving Barry – then you get a really crazy and intensely convoluted time travel story line.

Because of this, i feel increasingly disconnected from what is happening in the shows. i feel like I wasted two years watching Flash just to see the character arcs shift unexpectedly and disappointingly. This seems like lazy writing just so they can shoehorn Killer Frost in. The new season of Flash is a frustrating mess where we have no idea of what the character histories are or know anything about them, really. We don’t know what is the same and what is different. We assume that they are generally the same as before, but we know there are fundamental differences. It’s annoying. And then Barry tells them he changed time and it someone makes all of their problems less relevant tot heir personal interactions? No, it’s frustrating.

If someone can give me a legitimate understanding of the logic they are using, I’d love to get it.

I’m Here for Us

To my LGBT+ Brothers, Sisters, and other Siblings,

 

I feel your pain. I feel your anguish. I feel what you are feeling, though you may not know it. I am not as open or expressive in my queerness as you may be, but I feel it. I feel the fear. I feel the panic. I feel the uncertainty. I feel that lack of feeling – that numbness that makes you unable to move or act. I feel that feeling of helplessness. I feel that desperation where you seek desperately for a way to fix this – you seek for a way to make this somehow less frightening, less dreadful, and less terrible. I know you are seeking a way to come to terms with this – and better yet to fight against this – because I too am feeling it. I am fortunate to be surrounded by loving supportive people. If you are not, I am sorry. I am here for you. I am here for us.

I am here for you when you post your angry, sorrowful rant against those who voted against you. I am here for you when some idiot decides their opinion on your feelings is wanted or needed. I am here for you when all you want to do is vent and someone tells you to calm down – or worse – that you are wrong. I am here for you when someone tells you that your concerns have no merit. I am here for you when someone tells you that you are wrong about your assessment of the situation. I am here for you when someone erased your lived experience to replace it with their own.

I am here for you when you wonder if you are safe taking your significant other’s hand in public. I am here for you if you wonder if you are safe expressing your identity in public. I am here for you when you hear that random guy at work or school spouting hate. I am here for you when you get those remarks that you probably get regularly, only this time it feels a bit more personal. I am here for you when you feel threatened by the people who claim to love their countrymen. I am with you when you are not sure if it is worth it to go outside today. I am here for you when you are not sure it’s worth it to live.

I am here for you when the supreme court tries to invalidate your marriage. I am here for you when your parents force you into conversion therapy. I am here for you when you are sick but your doctor doesn’t accept you as a patient. I am here for you when you feel like nobody else is.

I am here for you when you just want to say that you are sad, and someone won’t let you. I am here for you when you just need a shoulder to cry on. I am here for you when you need a friend. I am here for you when you need an ally. I am here for you when you need a brother.

I am here for you when you are celebrating your triumphs. I am here for you when you tell the one you love that you love them. I’m here for you when you dance into the night, surrounded by friends and happiness. I am here for you when you lie down to sleep with a smile on your face.

 

I am here for you, forever and always. And I will fight for you. I will fight for us.

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When CBS has first announced their decision to run with a Supergirl TV show, I was – needless to say – very excited. As a hardcore DC fanboy and an even harder-core Superman fanboy, I was excited. But the feminist in me was also excited. Supergirl would mark another step toward female superhero domination. And for the feminist hoping to see some great female storylines, Supergirl delivered. Before I knew how great Supergirl would actually be, though, I penned a little opinion piece called “Why the world Needs Supergirl,” which was, of course, a play on the article written by Lois Lane in the 2006 Superman Returns “Why the World Needs Superman.”

When wonder woman was announced, I was, of course, excited – but nervous, too. DC had been making some odd creative choices with their holy trinity in the cinematic universe, and I wasn’t totally sure if I would like their interpretation of Wonder Woman. I was much happier when I learned that a woman would be directing the film, and that Christopher Nolan was not going near it. Zack Snyder is a producer, which is concerning, but Geoff Johns and Allan Heinberg are writing the script. They are two big names in comics whom I have faith will be writing a great Wonder Woman. Johns, due to his great work on Smallville and also for his overall great job as CCO for DC; and Heinberg for his experience with the character.

When Batman vs. Superman came out (which I loved, so shut it), I cannot tell you how exciting it was to watch Wonder Woman fight Doomsday. Her theme music sounding in the moment she is first shown in her armor and bracers is one of the most powerful feminist images in modern history. I remember bringing the extended edition to watch with my parents and seeing how excited my mother got when Wonder Woman appeared in battle was one of the most exciting moments in recent memory. She probably didn’t even realize it, but I watched her body language change from “slightly interested” to “heavily invested” in what was happening as Wonder Woman entered the scene.

And then they released a trailer. It was good, but it didn’t give much away. But then they released another trailer, and OH MY GOODNESS did that trailer give me so many feels. I have never seen a movie trailer that literally gave me hope for the future. After watching that trailer for the third or fourth time, I sat back and said to myself, “This movie may literally change the world.”

It sounds exaggerated and extreme, but after thinking about it more, I am even more certain that this movie has the potential to be a massive catalyst for change, in a way that no modern female-led movie has before. Below are the reasons why:

 

This can open the door for female-led superhero movies, as well as more female led movies overall.

Superhero movie goers are all too aware of the lack of female leads in superhero movies. Marvel fans have been begging for a Black Widow movie since the first Avengers film and so far there are no plans for it. It is difficult to get original movies with female leads to be created unless they are rom-coms.

I foresee wonder woman bringing in large scores of women. I foresee Wonder Woman being successful and therefore teaching the movie producers that action and superhero movies are – in fact – marketable to women. This, in turn, will result in more action movies with female leads, and will most likely result in more female roles in action movies – outside of the roles we are already accustomed to. This in turn, will lead to a larger female cinematic audience, which will hopefully result in more women involved in the production and creative levels.

 

Wonder Woman will be a feminist dream!

Maybe dream is a bit of an oversell, but I believe, based on my knowledge of wonder woman and my knowledge of this movie, that they will have strong feminist themes in the movie. And, if it is anything like the comics, this movie will not hide its feminism in undertones like Frozen and Tangled did, requiring the viewer to be very critical to learn the basic message. It will be in your face and quite possibly patronizing at times. We’ve already seen some feminism in the trailers, particularly in the scene where Etta Candy explains who she is to Diana, and Diana says it’s like a slave.

I’m very confident in the theming of this film, mostly due to the scene in the newest trailer of Diana climbing out of the trenches and walking into No-Man’s land, deflecting bullets off of her bracers. This woman, walking out into a land the men feared to enter. If that doesn’t set your little feminist heart alight, then I don’t know what will.

I just think of the message that she will be sending to young girls and women everywhere about their own power and determination to succeed. I just think about women and a mainstream message about women working side by side, hand in hand with men, each building each other up.

 

This will reinvigorate the DC Cinematic Universe

I think it is safe to assume that DC is expecting there to be a large Wonder Woman demand after this movie comes out. I think that, if they are smart, they are already planning to make Wonder Woman a key player in the future DC Cinematic Universe. They would be wise to give her a lot of screen time to appease the desire for Wonder Woman that will exist if the movie does well.

This will reinvigorate the salty fanboys who can’t get over the very logical and literary “Martha” scene. It will draw new fans in who have been waiting for a female headed superhero flick. It will give the DCCU the momentum it needs to propel forward.

 

If Wonder Woman fails, so does hope of female lead superhero movies.

If wonder woman does not succeed in the box office, or in our hearts, we may be looking at the last superhero film lead by a woman in a while. If it is determined that “female superheroes don’t sell” then the field will stick to that assumption. Studios will not be as willing to make a movie with a female superhero as the star. Marvel is already apprehensive about giving Black Widow a movie and she’s got as high off a following as the other Avengers. DC, fortunately, has faith in Wonder Woman, but if that faith is not rewarded, we may not see another female superhero in the titular role for a while.

If Wonder Woman succeeds, we can probably expect to see more female DCCU superheroes.

We already have confirmation that Supergirl was on the crashed Kryptonian ship that Superman finds in the arctic. We just don’t have her in universe. We have a large group of people who are obsessed with Catwoman and Poison Ivy comics. We have people straight up demanding a solo Harley Quinn movie. If Wonder Woman succeeds, we will get more of this. They may not get their own movies, but they will become important. We will be more likely to see Supergirl in a movie with Henry Cavil if Wonder Woman succeeds. Harley Quinn will be more likely to get her own movie if Wonder Woman succeeds.

If Wonder Woman succeeds, the DCCU will become much more queer.

Wonder Woman is not only a feminist icon, but a queer icon. DC’s current cinematic universe like to take a lot of direction from the Earth One comics. As I explain in my Wonder Woman: Earth One review, Wonder Woman: Earth One is incredibly queer. If the Universe continues to take creative freedoms from the Earth One stories, expect to see a LOT of queer characters in the future, at least in Wonder Woman titles. If there isn’t a queer character in the movie, I’d actually be surprised, even with its WW1 timestamp. Wonder woman is both a feminist icon and a queer icon.

 

Well, I have rambled on enough about Wonder Woman. Please take the time to view the trailer if you haven’t already (or if you have, too!), and buy some Wonder Woman comics! She’s great!

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Spoilers ahead for Superman: Earth One, Batman: Earth One, and Wonder Woman: Earth One.

I was a major fan of Superman: Earth One when I first read it sometime in 2011. I was such a fan, that when Man of Steel came out in 2013, I immediately recognized the similarities between the two stories (Man of Steel was Based on Superman: Earth One). Much to my delight, DC announced they would be doing Earth One renditions of other DC Superheroes. They released Batman: Earth One, which is currently unfinished with two volumes, and Teen Titans: Earth One, also presently with two volumes. The most recent release was wonder Woman: Earth One (with Aquaman and Flash in production!). I was pretty excited to read Batman: Earth One, and after reading, just had to get my hands on Wonder Woman: Earth One.

I had heard that Wonder Woman was not as good as the other Earth One stories, but I wanted to make that judgement for myself. I ordered it from Amazon (which in itself is ironic) and it arrived this past Sunday with Volume 3 of Superman: Earth One. As I’d been dying to see Earth One Superman face off with Zod, I read that one Sunday night. Last night, when my internet decided to fight with me, I decided to read Wonder Woman.

I was not disappointed. Well, sort of. I was disappointed because, unlike Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman doesn’t really do much in her story. However, what I wasn’t disappointed about was the feminist, queer story that I read. Let me start with the bad of the story. Which really isn’t much, and really is only bad when related to other Earth One stories.

The BAD

Superman: Earth One focuses on Clark Kent, with his amazing abilities, trying to find his place in the world. He’s smarter than the smartest scientists, stronger than the toughest body builders, more deadly than the best trained military – yet he cannot find a place in this world. When an alien menace, Tyrell, arrives, searching for the last Son of Krypton, Clark Kent emerges as Superman to take down the menace (and, in turn, discover his true calling).

Batman: Earth One focuses on a fledgling Dark Knight who is trying to uncover the sleazy underworld of Gotham City and discover who put a hit out on his parents. He’s got his epically savage butler, Alfred, as his partner in crime, who continually urges him to bring guns to gun fights where Bruce Wayne insists on bringing flying razors, even when the guys with guns tend to wallop him. Bruce eventually uncovers who the criminal mastermind is and wins the day!

Wonder Woman: Earth One focuses on Princess Diana, who lives on the feminist island paradise of Paradise Island (was that exposition necessary?). The Amazonian society left “Man’s World” and created their paradise in the Bermuda Triangle after escaping from the slavery of the “man-god” Hercules. The story starts with Diana facing a trial before her mother and other Amazonian sisters. She tells her account of what she did, and the story takes place as each witness tells a part of the story in the trial. Each year, they have a three-day festival to commemorate their liberation from Man’s world. However, Diana is not like her Amazonian sisters and has a whole mess of special powers they do not, because her mother claimed she was a clay statue turned to life by the gods. Anyway, Diana always plays a special role in this ceremony, but this year she stumbled upon Steve Trevor and decided to take him home to help him, since the Amazonian healing technology only works on women. Diana defeats the strongest of her sisters in combat, being named the “Wonder Woman” and claims the invisible jet as her prize. When her mother smells the scent of man on her, she realizes what Diana is going to do and sends a hunting part after her. Diana escapes and manages to bring Steve Trevor to a hospital in the USA. She goes home after seeing how bad the men treat the women in Man’s World. But not before her mother sends Medusa the Gorgon, to turn Steve to Stone so he can never tell of what he knows of the Amazons. In her time in America, Diana saves a bus full of sorority women on their way to spring break and befriends them, eventually being named an “honorary sister.” They pretty much teach Diana all bout feminism in Man’s world. Then Steve gets turned into stone, before Diana even knows the gorgon is there. Then she surrenders to the Amazonian hunting party to stand trial.

 

Do you notice a difference between those three stories, other than the fact that I went into a lot more detail about Wonder Woman than the other stories? Well, the main difference is that while Superman and Batman start their stories taking on supervillains and crime bosses, Diana starts her story convincing her mother to let her go outside and play. Now, the way it is done is good, in my opinion, but it’s still important that Diana’s first step is nowhere near the first steps of her male counterparts. It’s ironic that a story with so much feminism in it fails to so much as show that Diana is a contender. Diana is part of the “Holy Trinity” of DC Comics and should be regarded as one of the ablest and most fearsome women in the world. It’s unfortunate that her first outing into the grittier world of Earth One is barely heroic and barely shows her skills. It’s ironic that it contains its titular character bound and chained for a good portion of the story.

 

The Good

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This is a feminist masterpiece (other than what was mentioned above). It has everything you can think of. Hell, it even has man-hating radical feminists. It talks about body shaming, sexuality, and women’s roles. It puts sorority women in a loving and supportive light.

The most important conflict in this story is between Diana and her mother, Hippolyta. Hippolyta is the woman who killed Hercules and freed the Amazons from slavery. She was enslaved by men. She was used by men like an object. This created her hatred of Man’s World. We even learn that Hippolyta literally created Diana to be her weapon used to destroy Man’s World. Hippolyta is that rad fem most feminists despise being compared to. A lot of other subtle things lead me to identify Hippolyta as the radical feminist here.

Hippolyta has a magic mirror she uses to look at the world. At one point early on in the story, she shows Diana an image of a woman in underwear, wearing a collar and leash held by a clothed man, and sitting over a food dish. She tells Diana that that is how men treat women in Man’s World. Clearly, she is taking a snapshot of a situation and using it to fit her means. Is it possible that woman was actually enslaved into bondage? Yes. But most sex positive people know that sometimes women actively participate in role playing, S&M and bondage activities like that with their lovers. Was the woman Diana was shown a slave or a submissive? We won’t know, and I don’t think Hippolyta cares. Which is ironic, because Hippolyta and the Amazonian culture regularly say that willful submission is a sign of love.

When Diana uses the purple rays to restore Steve Trevor from his stony fate, Hippolyta is shocked that the purple rays worked on him. Diana tells her that she simply re-calibrated it, something Hippolyta never even cared to try doing. And it clearly only took Diana a few moments to do so, as she hadn’t had access to purple rays until just a moment before.

The main conflict between Diana and her mother is that of choice. Diana wishes to choose her role, rather than have it be assigned to her from her mother. Hippolyta believes that women have only one role, and that is to be better than men and to rule.

Diana meets Betty (Earth One’s Etta Candy), one of the sorority sisters she rescues, and Betty is a slightly overweight – but healthy – bisexual woman. Betty is a symbol of modern feminism. When brought before Hippolyta at the trial, Hippolyta and other amazons scorn her for her body. Even Diana makes a comment about it when first meeting her. Betty is always mature yet firm in her response that she loves her body, is healthy, and is happy. Diana accepts that, but Hippolyta does not.

Betty is more than just body positivity;  she is also sex positivity. She talks about her crushes on both men and women, and about how Paradise Island is a kinky lesbian sex island. I can foresee Betty’s character being the most sex positive of all the characters in future volumes.

But that’s not all Betty does. When Hippolyta is using Betty and other women as examples of why Man’s World is cruel to women, Betty fires back. Betty tells Hippolyta that the patriarchy may be bad, but they (women) are fighting against it and trying to make change. Betty uses actual feminist language to counter Hippolyta’s insults. Betty is probably the hero of this story, in terms of theme. (And well, Diana doesn’t really do anything except save Betty’s sorority sisters, so maybe Betty is the bigger hero after all).

Aside from all of that, this is a primarily female story. Steve Trevor and Hercules are the only men who actually have names in the story (there may be a named soldier somewhere but they play no real role in this volume). This story is about women of all different backgrounds. There is Diana, the social outcast who wants to leave home and see the world. There’s Hippolyta, the vengeful, bitter women with a chip on her shoulder. There’s Betty, the young, optimistic, positive and happy one. There is Nubia, Diana’s black Amazonian sister who struggled to understand her then defends her in the end. There are Betty’s sorority sisters who support Betty and Diana equally, even though they are pretty opposite people.

 

But that is not all. This story is also incredibly queer. First, we have both visual and verbal confirmation that Paradise Island is pretty much a lesbian paradise. In one scene, we see the Amazonian women asleep, at different levels of undress, after an insinuated orgy. Diana tells Steve that she left her lover on the island to save him. Betty tells us that she has crushes on men and women. This is such a queer book and I love it.

We have Diana, who at this point has shown no interest in men, and is therefore only confirmed Lesbian. We have the rest of the Amazons, who have had no contact with men for three thousand years and most likely do not lust after them. We have Betty, who is surely bisexual, and will hopefully use that language in the future volumes.

And again we get back to Betty. Betty is the one most interested in the sexual themes of the story. She is the one commenting about the Paradise Island kinky lesbian sex. She is the one talking about her crushes. She is the every-woman, and she is teaching Diana what it is like to be a woman in Man’s World.

 

And if that isn’t enough, Steve Trevor takes the cake. After being saved from stone by Diana, Steve is wrapped in the lasso of truth and asked questions by Hippolyta. When he tells them he lied to his superiors to protect them, Hippolyta assumes it is because he lusts after Diana. He tells her, under the truth of the lasso, that he did it because his ancestors were slaves (Btw, Steve is a pretty badass Black Man) to men who thought they were better than others; men with too much power. And all of a sudden you realize that this story is about so much more than just feminism. Steve says he hid their secret because he understands why they don’t trust man’s world, since he doesn’t, either.

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So the story may not be too epic, but it is still powerful. It makes powerful social commentary – commentary you don’t need to make with a superpowered fight or badass moves. Commentary that I hope we get to see metaphorically in the future of this series, hopefully introducing Cheetah with her own idea of feminism.

This story brings you back to the golden Age Wonder Woman, but takes the terrible tropes and flips them on their head. I strongly recommend it! (even after all these spoilers!)

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Privilege is something that tends to be difficult for those who have it to understand. I never truly understood privilege, being a white, middle class, mostly-heterosexual male with a college education. However, after starting to use my bicycle as my primary means of transportation, I have learned that even the most privileged can be put in a position which educates them about privilege. I do not own a car, so I am literally forced to use my bicycle to go to work or the store or the beach or whatever else I am doing. However, even someone who decides to bike for a week or two will experience what I experience daily and can hopefully begin to understand privilege. Below is a list of ways in which cycling can teach you about privilege.

 

  1. When you are either in a bike lane, or in the road (in a share the road state/city/county/etc), and passing motorists honk or yell at you to get out of the road even though you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. You are just riding along, following the law, and you are being harassed by people who think you are doing something wrong. You are either told to get out of the way, go faster, or get on the sidewalk. People honk at you as if you are in their way. You then, inevitably, feel one of two things – guilt or rage. Guilt for inconveniencing someone, or rage that they are so misinformed that they believe you are doing something wrong.
  2. When you are in the road/bike lane, and people tell you to get on the sidewalk, but when you are on the sidewalk, people tell you to get in the street. There is no way you can ever act in a way that pleases everybody.
  3. When you are on a bike path or other pathway that crosses a street, and you slow down to allow a car to pass, but that car then slows down to let you pass, so you slow down further and the cycle continues until you both end up stopping, wasting everyone’s time. You get frustrated because if the person just kept doing what they were doing, neither of you would have been inconvenienced, but because the person was trying to be helpful, they screwed you both over. You then begin to resent any car that attempts to stop to let you pass, even though it is a kind act.
  4. When you attempt to cross a two lane road, and one lane stops and the other doesn’t. The stopped lane then realizes that you cannot cross and continues. You then feel guilty about them stopping in an attempt to be kind that ended up wasting their time, knowing that it’s possible that person may be less likely to stop the next time they see a cyclist waiting to cross.
  5. When you turn onto a road, or cross a road, and get honked at by a motorist who is nowhere near you and is completely unaffected by your actions. You then get frustrated because any time a car honks at you, it puts your life in danger.
  6. When you are riding up a road or in a bike lane and the vehicles around you act erratically and unpredictably, making you hyper vigilant about your actions and paranoid that you are doing something wrong. You get frustrated because you know they are behaving erratically because they expect you to behave erratically, but you are not doing anything wrong and their erratic behavior is what is most likely to cause you harm.
  7. When you do anything on the road and a motorist honks or yells at you, as if you were unaware that you were on a busy road, or that a vehicle was there. You know that you are significantly more aware of the road than they are and that if they just leave you alone, nothing bad will happen.
  8. When you are on a road and notice every little thing that motorists do wrong due to the fact that a small mistake by a motorist, like driving on the line or not signaling when turning or changing lanes, puts you in extreme danger, though they do not think anything of it.
  9. When you are on a path or sidewalk and a vehicle stopped at a light is stopped in the crosswalk, causing you to go around them often into active traffic. You get put in danger because a motorist could not follow simple road etiquette of stopping behind the line, or because a motorist is in such a rush that they think stopping 5 feet further will affect their travel time.
  10. When you are riding up a one lane road without a bike lane or sidewalk and motorists behind you are going slow and not passing you, even when it is safe to do so. You get frustrated because people are intentionally inconveniencing themselves because they think that going around you will somehow inconvenience you, but instead you feel like they are hovering and you feel trapped until they finally decide to turn or go around you.
  11. When you are riding in a bike lane and motorists are using it as a turning lane or a shoulder. You get frustrated because the lane is specifically designed for you and not motorists, but they still feel like they have the right to utilize it in whichever way they feel necessary.
  12. When motorists assert that because they pay taxes and registration fees for their cars and cyclists do not, that they bicycle should not be allowed on the road with them, when cyclists inevitably learn that roads are paid for by tolls, registration fees, and gas taxes a maximum of 71%, with a national average of about 50% (varied by state), and that most cyclists ALSO own a vehicle, and so have actually paid for the roads and are actually helping to preserve them by not using their vehicle.

How does this knowledge help a person understand privilege? Each example can be compared to real examples of minority groups who are struggling to be understood in the United States, and each example is one that, as a motorist, you never need to think about.

  1. The first example can be compared to affirmative action programs. Privileged people do not understand why these programs exist and believe that it is unfair to give minority groups their own special programs and treatments and believe they need to just fit in with the systems already in place.
  2. This can be applied to pretty much anything. Any time a minority group is doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing, someone of privilege tells them they are wrong and need to do something else.
  3. Many minorities understand their system and how it works in relation to the larger systems. Sometimes when someone of privilege attempts to be kind and assist a minority group, it actually just ends up inconveniencing both groups and nobody leaves happily. This also reinforces the idea that a minority group does not understand a particular system.
  4. Often times our systems are complicated, and though one part of a system may be willing to assist a minority group, it is only effective if every part of the system does it. Otherwise, it just leaves the part that did try to help feeling bitter and less likely to attempt to assist in the future, which creates systems that do not work with minorities.
  5. Minorities are often targeted by others for no reason and put into dangerous situations through no fault of their own.
  6. People react to their environments, and when minority groups (or any groups) are placed into an erratic, hostile environment, they are more likely to respond in an erratic and hostile manner.
  7. Minorities are often treated as if they are ignoring the majority or other groups, but minorities are often more aware of other groups than those groups are of themselves.
  8. The majority often holds minorities to a higher standard than they hold themselves and do not notice when they do the same bad thing they are calling out a minority for doing, and often identify certain things as wrong when they are actually correct.
  9. Majority groups often make decisions and do things without thinking of how it will affect other groups, and will often blame those other groups for not adjusting properly to said changes.
  10. Many minorities often feel coddled by the majority group, or worse, like they are having their every move watched, making them less likely to behave in an organic and natural manner.
  11. Often times the majority group will attempt to use programs and systems specifically designed for minority groups (or to take resources from that system), without understanding or caring about why the system is in place or how their interaction disrupts the system.
  12. Often times minorities are accused of not being as involved in the country as others, in terms of paying taxes, voting, or other civil duties, when this is simply untrue.

Why Safe Spaces, Trigger Warnings, and other PC culture Encourage Freedom of Speech

 

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If you go to college, have a child who goes to college, know anyone in college, work at a college, live near a college, or watch the news, you will constantly hear people – generally older people and conservatives – decrying the concept of Safe Spaces, Trigger Warnings, and general PC culture. These critics will claim that their freedom of speech is being denied to them. They will claim that college is about the sharing of different points of view and broadening the horizons of students. They will say that if people can’t deal with conflicting ideas and need to be “protected” from them, that they shouldn’t be in college to begin with. This, my friends, is bullshit. You may notice that lately, there have been a lot of conversations going on regarding this topic. Different schools have been “banning” or “speaking against” or “disavowing” these practices much more recently. Even the hit show “South Park” had an episode about safe spaces. Here is why they are all full of shit.

Safe Spaces

Ironically, when these detractors complain about safe spaces, they are showing just how truly ignorant they are. Let me give a brief history of safe spaces. To begin, safe spaces are often associated with minority groups, either Gender and Sexual Minorities (Our LGBTQ+ friends) or Racial groups (Black, Latinx, Muslim, etc). Most of the complaints about safe spaces would center around the idea that they are excluding ideas that are different from theirs. They are blocking out things they do not like because it upsets them. This is far from the truth.

Before safe spaces, do you know how many open and honest conversations were held on college campuses about issues pertinent to the LGBT+ population? Very few. Either people were afraid to express their ideas and opinions, or their ideas and opinions were interrupted, disregarded, and overlooked by the rest of the group. These conversations were just not happening. Have you ever tried to go up to a group of people and tell them about how they were mistreating you? Did they respond very openly and receptively, or were they defensive and dismissive? I’m willing to bet (due to human nature) that it was the latter.

So someone thought up the concept of safe spaces. A place where people can go to have open honest discussions about their lives. They can discuss how they have been mistreated, or ways they are struggling. They can talk with people who understand and respect their struggle and get aid and assistance without worrying that one of those people is going to try to silence them or cause them harm simply for talking about their thoughts or experiences. They know that when they talk, someone is listening.

Safe spaces literally facilitate conversations that were never had on college campuses. It gave those people involved in the safe spaces the language and skills and confidence required to bring those conversations outside of that safe space and into the real world. Safe spaces have literally facilitated greater sharing of ideas on college campuses. It has told a group that their story is relevant, their story is important, and their story needs to be told.

The issue people often seem to have with safe spaces are that certain people are excluded. Straight people are excluded from LGBT+ safe spaces and White people from Black or Latinx spaces. In theory. However, most Safe spaces will allow for others to be in the conversation, so long as they do not act to diminish the power of that space. If a person truly wants to learn and be part of a larger conversation, they are invited to join. Sometimes, there are conversations that can only be had by people of the same identity. A straight person will not be able to identify with many things that a Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual person is discussing. A white person will not be able to identify with everything a Black, Latinx, or other person is discussing. Often Times, Gay men are excluded from Lesbian and Bisexual Groups and vice versa. Black groups do not always interact with Latinx groups. But that does not mean that they do not value those ideas and opinions. It simply means that this particular group needs a space where they can discuss the issues they have and create language and skills to help them better discuss it in the outside world.

Safe spaces allow for people to determine the best way to respond to a homophobic or racial slur. Safe spaces allow people to be on the same page so they are not sending inconsistent messages. Safe spaces allow people to vent frustrations without causing a public uproar. Safe spaces empower our students to lead social movements. It allows them to gather and collaborate and plan. It allows them to express their rights without fear of being disregarded.

Take, for instance, a young gay man who attends many meets at his local safe space. They have strong discussions and he feels confident with his viewpoint. He is in a class one day, and a discussion starts about something related to what he discussed in his safe space. He expresses his viewpoint and has many others who disagree. Because of his safe space, he now has the language and confidence to continue that conversation and introduce a new idea to the others.

Ideas cannot be contained. Information travels. People fear that safe spaces are cutting off communication and the spread of ideas, but they just do not. They facilitate the generation of new ideas and teach people how to spread them.

 

Trigger Warnings

Many people who argue against trigger warnings claim that they somehow fundamentally change conversations. They make people who “don’t want to deal with something” able to leave a conversation and not partake in it. They make it so that people do not learn to deal with their feelings and instead “coddle” and “comfort” students.

I disagree. Triggers warnings do not stifle conversation and coddle students. Trigger warnings allows students to prepare for a conversation. When a rape survivor is told that there will be a discussion of rape in a lecture, this allows them to emotionally prepare for it. This allows the person to think something along the lines of “Ok, we are going to talk about rape. I know I feel X way when rape is brought up, so I can now deal with those feelings and be part of this conversation.”

Does every person respond in such a way? No. Some people are not ready to engage with a particular topic. Allowing that person to leave that conversation before it starts is more conducive to that conversation. Nobody wants someone having a break down or freak out in the middle of a conversation. Nobody wants a veteran with PTSD screaming and running around at the sound of gunfire on a video. Nobody wants a person to have a strong emotional response to something and interrupt the conversation. Trigger warnings literally allow these people to figure out what their role in the conversation is going to be. Are they going to mention their experience, or are they going to be quiet? Are they going to be emotional or logical? Trigger warnings allow more effective lectures and conversations with fewer interruptions and more intellectual discussions.

“Politically Correct” Language

Probably the largest issue most people have is with language. They often find that trigger warnings and safe spaces lead to “PC Language” and contribute to “PC Culture.”  This is true. However, their idea of PC Culture is misinformed and incorrect. Firstly, politically correct means nothing. It’s a phrase that sounds right but has no meaning. We need to stop using and validating the term “Politically Correct” and just start saying “Correct.” Political things can be contested. Correct things cannot.

What people tend not to understand is how language shapes our cultures and our minds. Words carry meaning – much more meaning than a simple definition. Slurs and hate speech carry with them history and experience. Calling someone a fag isn’t just calling them gay. It’s calling them gay and saying that they are worthy of abuse, denigration, and hatred. Calling a Trans* person a “tranny” or a “trap” doesn’t just say they are trans, it says that they are a manipulative joke who is trying to dupe men into believing a lie. This type of language isn’t politically incorrect. It’s just incorrect.

And people do not realize how the words they chose express their own thoughts. People who know that you shouldn’t call gay people fags or black people niggers but chose to anyway are saying that they don’t care about how that language affects that group of people. And there is a common misconception that this language is problematic because it upsets individuals. That is not why that language is problematic. The language is problematic because it reinforces social systems that negatively affect that entire group. These words have negative connotations, and even if you do not fully know what they are, you know they are negative. You then associate those people with negativity and are more likely to identify their negative aspects than their positive ones.

There is a lot of sound psychology that goes into it, which I physically cannot teach people over a blog post. However, this correct language also facilitates conversations. It shows people that their thoughts, feelings, and opinions are valued, which makes them more likely to share ideas. It shows people that others are open to change and compromise, making them more likely to listen and share ideas.

There is so much more to it than just that though. People are not one dimensional. They have thoughts and feelings that they do not even understand to know about. A university’s responsibility is to educate all their students, so if a student is subject to language and ideas that make them feel unsafe, they are less likely to utilize the resources there. They are less likely to stay at the university. When they feel safe and supported, they stay and learn.

You do not support free speech and the free spread of ideas by alienating students who have different experiences than the average person.

 

When people fight against Safe Spaces, PC Culture, and Trigger Warnings, they are not thinking of others. They are not worried about the quality of an academic institution. They are simply thinking of themselves and the fact that they may need to actually think before the speak. They do not like that they are being called out for their less than honorable behaviors as it shatters their own self-image. Safe spaces, PC Language, and Trigger warnings force people to evaluate themselves and sometimes they do not like what they might learn, so they fight against it. They do not care that the language people use reinforced decades if not centuries of oppression, hatred and mistreatment. All they see is a bunch of millennials whining about their feelings. It’s simply not true.