Daily Activism-Products to Boycott

Our generation, our era is known for it’s internet activism or “slactivism.”  We  prefer to call it easy activism.  We sign Change.org petitions, arrange groups on Facebook, and write emails to editors and politicians.  For those of you who are interested, I have Change.org petitions linked at the bottom of my Make a Change page.

One popular way to show a complaint with a company is boycotting their products.  Hit the companies in their profits, not the blogosphere.  It’s easy for us to write, but companies respond more to sales than to reviews.  Remember the fiasco with Bic For Her pens?   Despite the creative reviews by anonymous bloggers and Ellen Degeneris, Bic actually turned a profit, and they didn’t change their marketing strategy.

It wasn’t enough for us to write sarcastic reviews about how this plastic ink thing didn’t work as a tampon.  We need not to buy the products in the first place.  So here are other products to avoid.

Anything else to avoid?  Let us know in the comments!

How to Handle a Rape Joke

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve been aware that there has been controversy over rape jokes.  Which ones are funny, which ones aren’t.  The question of what makes a good rape joke has been debated ad naseum this summer, in light of the Daniel Tosh routine.  The feminist conclusion seems to be that jokes that use rape as a punchline aren’t funny, while jokes that make fun of rapists or rape culture are.

Unfortunately, given the number of staunch defenders of rape jokes, we can still expect to hear jokes that use rape as a punchline.  So here is some advice from Divorce Divorce on handling rape jokes.  I was especially surprised to hear that Divorce Divorce’s author is a 33 year old man.  He is Daniel Tosh’s target demographic, but he is writing with advice on how to handle a rape joke.  Allies come in all shapes and forms.

I think the best response to a rape joke is this:

I don’t get it.

Persist until they explain, explanations always being the death of any joke, funny or otherwise. Persist until they reach the point where they have to say “she got/gets raped”.

And nod, slowly, looking a little confused.

This method works for all methods of offensive jokes.  Avoiding confrontation may change minds in a way that direct activism might not.

Any other advice on how to handle offensive jokes?  Leave suggestions in the comments.

Quotation Tuesdays-Zero Tolerance

“When Rudy Giuliani became mayor of New York in 1993, his belief in the ‘Broken Windows’ theory led him to implement the ‘Zero Tolerance’ crime policy. Crime dropped dramatically, significantly, and continued to for the next ten years.
Personally, I feel the time has come for women to introduce their own Zero Tolerance policy on the Broken Windows issues in our lives – I want a Zero Tolerance policy on ‘All The Patriarchal Bull@#$%’.”
― Caitlin MoranHow to Be a Woman

In an environment where every micro-aggression makes the larger aggressions seem less important, we have an obligation to keep fighting even the smallest issues.  On one hand, we cannot change every opinion, vanquish every troll, or banish all sexism.  What we can do is create expectations for dialogue and try to convince others to do the same.  While fighting the small incidents, we have to keep focusing on larger issues, policies that will make lasting changes.

Let’s face it.  This is a generation of multi-taskers.  We can establish boundaries and work to change national policies simultaneously.  Let’s do it.

Leave your advice for eliminating micro-aggressions without detracting from larger causes in the comments.

Motivational Mondays-Reverse Psychology

I’m amazed by this.  As someone who loves libraries and public literacy, this project is awesome.

Let’s Talk about Guns

Within the past week, there have been two mass shootings.  The last one killed elementary school students.  Children, too young to defend themselves.  Children, who still are trying to learn their times tables.

It’s time to talk about guns.  There have been fourteen shootings in the past year.  14 mass shootings in a year.  And yet, it is never time to talk about guns.

And yet, we hear how more guns would solve the problem.  So in addition to being psychologists, parents, specialists, doctors, nurses, and friends, teachers are now supposed to be body guards.

I’ve been a teacher’s assistant in an elementary school classroom.  I have had to comfort crying eight year olds, correct spelling, stop children from eating crayons, and mediated countless fights.  I’ve also had students charge at me because they were angry at the world, and I happened to be standing in the doorway.  I’ve been jumped on, tugged, hugged, and had my hair braided.  With so many children in such close proximity, the thought of wearing a gun is absolutely terrifying to me.  The risks of one of my students jumping at me and accidentally discharging the gun is too easy to imagine.  I’ve seen students go through the teacher’s desk when they’re upset, so it’s not like keeping the gun in the desk would be any safer.

I can’t imagine why anyone who honestly thinks that bringing guns into emotional situations with children will keep them safe.

So let’s get over this notion that more guns are the solution, and start looking at evaluating mental health, gun access, and balancing the need for protection against invasive governments with the desire to keep the public safe.

If anyone has any good information on the shootings, leave the information in the comments.

Motivational Monday-Kids off the Block

This woman is amazing….

She provides kids in Chicago with a place to stay, an adult to talk to, and someone who trusts them.  She is a lifeline for kids who don’t have one.

She has done nothing more than open her home to kids who need a place to go.  She hasn’t asked for cookies, rewards, or praise.  She just helps people out by simply treating them like human beings.

So, in the spirit of the holiday season, take a page out of her book, and treat everyone like a full human being worthy of dignity and respect.  Don’t assume anything about them, and ask them about their stories, hopes and dreams.  

That’s your challenge for the week.  If you learn something new or hear a cool story, email me at cafeaulait0913@gmail.com and I’ll publish it.

Readers, are there any other everyday heroes you would like to acknowledge?  Honor them in the comments.

Activists and Allies-a Call to Arms

For those  of you who don’t know, I’m a huge fan of Rosie’s blog, Make Me a Sammich.  She is hilarious, and always has new insights on popular culture.  For those of you who don’t read it, you should.

Recently, I read Rosie’s amazing piece , on the impact and responsibility of men to help fight sexism.  She gave great suggestions, with concrete steps to take.  I’ve shortened them to adapt them to fit the format of this blog, but they’re worth reading in their own right.  The original suggestions are for video games and internet forums, but they are adaptable to the real world.

  1. Mockery. Use public shame to police the idiots who can’t behave. They’re social inadequates, immature losers. Let’s tell them so, loud and clear, in front of their friends.
  2. Shut them up. The right to speak in a public forum should be limited to those who don’t abuse it.  Anyone who persistently abuses others gets automatically muted. New users don’t even get the right to talk. They have to earn it, and they keep it only so long as they behave themselves.
  3. Take away their means. Make it abundantly clear that it is unacceptable, then deny him or her the opportunity to do it further.
  4. Anonymity is a privilege, not a right. Anonymity is a double-edged sword.  The default setting in all online forums that are not intended for people at risk should require real names.  A limited number of people need it in certain circumstances: children, crime victims, whistleblowers, people discussing their medical conditions, political dissidents in repressive regimes. But those people normally don’t misuse their anonymity to abuse others; they’re protecting themselves from abuse.
  5. Impose punishments that are genuinely painful.  This isn’t all that unusual; if you smoke in a non-smoking hotel room, you are typically subject to a whopping extra charge for being a jerk.

Any other suggestions to get people to be more polite and more inclusive?  Share your ideas in the comments!

Motivational Mondays-Give a Book this Holiday Season

English: Students in an elementary school clas...

English: Students in an elementary school classroom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge advocate of childhood literacy.   Students who don’t learn to read by the end of third  grade are statistically unlikely to graduate high school.  Half the fourth grade curriculum (at least in the United States) is inaccessible for those who cannot read on grade level.  At some of the schools I have been to, there have been amply filled libraries, ones that I could never finish reading, no matter how hard I tried.  At other schools however, there haven’t been enough books for students to read.  How are children supposed to learn to read, to enjoy reading, if there aren’t books to be found?  As one of the students I worked with said, “Books are for school.”  And that school was in the process of developing its own library.  That girl deserves a library so that she can learn how to read and be successful.

In the spirit of the holiday season, you can donate books to children’s classrooms.  So I’ve rounded up a few resources for you to donate a book from the comfort of your own home.  Donors Choose is a great option that allows you to pick the project you’re donating to.  There are amazing pictures and stories of the students you’re helping.

Another option is Fill the Shelves, in which you simply add an order to your Amazon cart and the library of your choice receives your donation.  This holiday season, they are matching donations.  So go and donate a book to help a child learn to read.  Give the gift of reading this holiday season.

All For a Strawberry Milkshake-Selfishness and Activism

Last weekend, I was running around, looking like a fool.  I was running around, picking up food for several of my friends, during a lunch break at a conference.  Carrying three bags of stuff, I was approached by an older woman.  She looked homeless, with a slightly vacant look in her eyes.

Homeless Lady - Hollywood Blvd

Homeless Lady – Hollywood Blvd (Photo credit: Chris Yarzab)

She asked me for a dollar, and I told her that I didn’t have cash.  “I’m sorry,” I apologized, and I offered to buy her a sandwich.  She nodded and said that she wanted a chicken sandwich, a side of fries and a strawberry milkshake.  Feeling broke, I nodded and went into McDonalds.  I ordered my lunch, a water bottle for another friend, and a daily meal for the lady.  She followed me in and interjected, “Where’s my strawberry milkshake?”

Glaring at the cashier, she snapped, “I ordered a strawberry milkshake!  I didn’t want any water!”

I looked back at the cashier, and just signaled to continue processing the order.  While I was waiting for the order, the woman went outside.  I picked up the order, juggling the bags, a drink tray, and went out to find her.  She took the food and sat down and ate it, without saying thank you.

I was so annoyed that she hadn’t said thank you.  That she had followed me into the store, and complained about food that was for someone else.

Then I remembered my own philosophies of being decent for decency’s sake.  Why should I expect her to thank me?  I had just given her food, and I hadn’t bought her the strawberry milkshake she wanted.  I hadn’t listened to what she wanted and had just given her what I thought she should have (aka the cheapest full meal on the menu).  Was I expecting cookies for buying food for someone who needed a meal?  I’m a big proponent of no cookies-the notion that basic human decency doesn’t deserve praise.  It’s the bare minimum of decent behavior.  So why did I feel annoyed at Strawberry Milkshake lady?

Why can’t I practice what I preach?

Readers, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.