I don’t want to be a predictable feminist here or anything, but I’m fully behind the new “Yes means yes” bill passed in California. There’s this bizarre, slippery slope type argument that it will be the end of sex. We’ll be accusing innocent people of rape left and right on college campuses. It seems bizarre to me that people argue we need a vague amount of consent to enjoy or participate in sex. “What if they have to make sure the person is enjoying it the whole time?! What will happen?!” Get a grip guys. This will not be the end of sex. This will not be the end of rape. Will it help? God I hope so. At the very least it will draw attention to the subtleties of consent and motivate people to be more aware of their desires in every moment of a romantic encounter, not only at the start.
I can’t count the times I’ve heard “but it’s just a joke!” as an attempt to absolve any responsibility from sharing a disparaging joke. The fact is, jokes against women and/or people of color are not just a joke, but have real life consequences to the people targeted, and to those who laugh at their expense.
A recent study examined the effects of sexist jokes on men, particularly their attitudes about our current gender dynamic, after reading a conversation including sexist jokes. Two other groups of men read the same conversation, but with neutral, non-sexist jokes or non-humorous sexist statements.
The results showed men with antagonist attitudes towards women (those agreeing to statements like “women seek to gain power by getting control over men”) report greater acceptance for the current gender dynamic (in other words, feel there’s nothing wrong with it) after reading sexist jokes than after reading a neutral joke or a sexist statement.
The same lead author published a similar study in regards to anti-muslim humor. As to be expected, participants scoring high in anti-Muslim attitudes tolerated prejudice against a Muslim person more after reading an anti-Muslim joke than after reading a neutral joke or an anti-Muslim statement.
Humor has the chance to reduce stress, boost our immune system, and connect us with our friends. However, it’s also a strong transmitter of prejudice, stronger than sexist/racist remarks, because it makes light of serious struggles.
This scenario came to mind when I read about black preschoolers facing higher suspension rates than white preschoolers. Black children make up 18% of the preschoolers, yet represent about half of the students suspended more than once. Boys usually face higher suspension rates than girls, except for black girls, facing higher rates than all other girls and most boys. Actually, when comparing black girls versus black boys and white girls versus white boys, the difference by gender is lower for black girls, meaning they are more likely to be suspended compared to black boys than white girls are to white boys. The intersectionality of race and gender makes black girls even more susceptible to suspension. To bring this all back into perspective, we’re talking about preschoolers ranging from 3-5 years of age. On NPR,
“Here’s what the education data show: kids who are suspended or expelled from school are more likely to drop out, and those dropouts are more likely to end up with criminal records. In many places, school discipline pushes kids directly into the juvenile justice system.”
Obviously, my comic is an over-simplification of the issue, but the point is the race of a child may affect the evaluation of something as innocuous as a drawing. Colorlines reports on a study suggesting “imaginative and expressive pretend-play” elicits different associations from teachers, depending on the race of the student.
It’s disheartening that children as young as 3 years of age are already viewed through the lens that’ll define their actions in the dominant sphere. The story is as old as time, though. People of color, particularly girls/women, don’t fit the dominant definition of behavior and are punished by being robbed of an education and placed on the fast track for poverty and criminality.
We switched over to VoIP phones at work and recently set up my new voicemail. I never set up the old machine, or any voicemail ever, where I had to say my last name. I usually only say my first name on my personal line.
I found myself re-recording & listening to my name at least 10-15 times. I switched between the Spanish and English pronunciation of Villarreal. I was quick to give up any accents, written or verbal, on my name as I started learning English and acculturating to the United States. The less ethnic my name sounded, the more likely I was to be accepted. Now, years later, when I’m no longer ashamed to be different, and hold much pride in my Latin@ culture, I find myself wanting to embrace it more and more. Part of me wanted to leave the Spanish pronunciation and part of me knew recording the English version would be easier and more comfortable for everyone. I find myself in a similar situation in many moments throughout my days, straddling Latin@ and U.S. values, melding them, and making them my own. With that same spirit in mind, by the nth-teen time, I recorded my last name in Spanglish, blending two of my identities into something unique and personal: Villarreal (vil-uh-rrhe-al).