Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Emma Watson, Women's Rights, the U.N. and the War on Women That Isn't

Emma Watson, the actress who starred as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies, is the Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N. In speaking for women's rights and against the daily and sometimes subtle and sometimes overt hostility against women, Ms. Watson has become a target of threats against her safety and against her reputation. But there is no war on women. For doing nothing more than speaking for equality, Ms. Watson is now the target of webpages threatening to release nude photographs of her in an attempt to tarnish her reputation, to humiliate her, and to cause her to stop speaking.

Now I don't know if there are nude photos of her, nor do I care. We all know how rampant photoshopped photographs are and before one more person says, "If you don't want nude photos leaked, stop taking them", I suggest you listen to the speech this impressive woman gave to the U.N., because you are part of the problem. What a woman does in her private life, is not anyone else's business and when that business is hacked and leaked, the blame should rest solely on the criminal, not the victim.

What the vast majority of people don't realize, both male and female, is that such an attack should be an affront to all of us, regardless of who we are or what we believe. If one person is stifled by threats of violence, and you sit back and do nothing or say nothing, you are as guilty as those who make the threats. And if you sit back and do nothing and say nothing, what do you expect to happen when someone threatens you as a way to intimate you into silence? Are you going to look around and wonder where the outrage is? Are you going to be looking for support in righting the injustices that happen to you when you didn't rise to that challenge when faced with the injustices happening to those around you?

When did women wanting to be treated with respect become such an affront to so many men? I am surrounded by loving, caring, compassionate men, all of whom want to see the women in their lives succeed and be happy. None of them are walking around cat-calling women, degrading them, blaming them for being attacked or raped. None of them think that because their wives or daughters wear athletic clothes to run means it's okay to attack them or wearing a skirt means it's okay to put a phone under her skirt and take photographs of her panties.

How did our world become so upside-down and when are we going to right it? Too many men are
keeping silent while women are victimized daily. Too many men are being silent when other men talk about women asking for it, liking it, wanting it, deserving it. Too many men are doing nothing while women's rights are being stolen.

If you think there is no war on women, I challenge you to go onto Twitter and search #YesAllWomen and listen to the issues that women face every day. Read the comments and take in the anger at these women for doing nothing more than vocalizing their personal experiences on Twitter. If you think there is no war on women, I challenge you to read some of the laws proposed in the past two to three years restricting women's access to health care and birth control. If you think there is no war on women, I challenge you to go to this site and read the bills that have come up in the past several years. I don't care if you read the article. I'm not trying to slant or sway your political views at all. Read only the last portion, if you like, which lists the bills and what they do.

Bill HR 358 is a bill in Pennsylvania that allows insurance companies to deny birth control to the extend that hospitals can refuse to do the abortion and refuse to transfer the patient to another facility, even if the mother's life is at risk.

Bill 1217 is a South Dakota bill that was signed into law in May of 2011, that requires women to have spiritual counseling prior to any abortion. It also limits who can provide that counseling. The councilor will make the final decision as to whether the abortion is performed or not.

Bill HB1166, also in South Dakota, is a bill that forces doctors to tell women seeking an abortion that they're at higher risk of suicide, a claim that is unsubstantiated by any scientific or medical evidence.

Bill 1210 in Indiana requires that physicians tell women that abortions cause breast cancer, even though there is no scientific or medical evidence that this is true.

Bobby Franklin is a State Representative in Georgia and has proposed a law making both abortion and miscarriage illegal. He calls it prenatal murder and wants it punishable by the same code as homicide, which means a woman who has either an abortion or a miscarriage could be sentenced to death.

Texas has made the so-called creeper photos, a protected right. What this does is make it perfectly legal for anyone to shove their cell phone or camera under your skirt or down the shirt of women, take a picture, and be protected from any criminal charges.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court threw out a lower court ruling penalizing a man for taking photographs up women's skirts and dresses on the public transportation system. State lawmakers quickly created a new law making this specific activity illegal.  You can read about it here.

This has to change, people. Look at the women you love and ask yourselves what life you want for them. Stand up.

Read this and tell me there is no war on women. Read this and tell me you're okay doing nothing and saying nothing. Better yet, read this and do something.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Beyonce Baby Rumors, Child Abuse, and the NFL

Rumor has it that Beyoncé and Jay Z are expecting baby number two. Wonder what color they'll name this one? I'm not a fan of odd names for children, which will come as some surprise to my children.

Let me explain. My kids all have traditional names, however, they're all spelled oddly. I didn't realize my spellings were as far out of the norm as they were, but as four of the five are grown adults, I can't fix it, either. Sorry, kids.

And on a side note, someone buy her a pair of pants. Seriously. Doesn't she ever get cold?

Let's talk about the difference between disciplining a child who's misbehaving and beating a child. Honestly, I didn't think the distinction was that difficult to figure out, but NFL players just don't seem to understand how to control themselves. Minnesota Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson, has been arrested for child abuse.

He says he didn't abuse his four year old son, Adrian Junior. He says he disciplined him. I ask you. Does this look like discipline to you or does this look like a man who lost control?

Discipline is the act of teaching. Discipline is meted out with reason, thoughtfulness, love, and compassion. This was a beating. This left marks, wounds that were open and bleeding, and bruises on a four year old child. There is nothing of discipline in these photographs. This is child abuse.

The images were released by CBS 4 Minnesota, the same station which reports that the child was taken to a doctor upon his return from his father. The doctor states the child suffered open wounds and lacerations on his buttocks, thighs, and lower back, along with his hands. The doctor termed it as child abuse, an allegation that was substantiated by another person termed as an examiner by the news station.

According to the child, his father also has hit him with a belt, has had leaves put in his mouth, and his father has a special room in the house in which these whoopings take place.

Now keep in mind that Adrian Peterson makes no excuse for his actions, nor does he deny them. What he does deny, is that it's abuse. He maintains he disciplined his child and nothing more. I ask you this. If someone did this to you, would you consider it abuse?

Do not misunderstand me. I care not whether you perpetrate such acts on your child or another. I care not how you justify this behavior. I care not for your talents on or off the football field. You are a child abuser. That is all I need to know of you.

Wonder what the NFL and Roger Goodell will make of this? He won't be playing on Sunday. This week, anyway.

Can't make this stuff up, folks. Can't even use this in a book. I wouldn't treat a fictional child this way. Let alone a defenseless four year old child.


Monday, September 8, 2014

NFL, Ray Rice, and Delayed Justice

Okay, so taking the chance that I'm boring you stupid with my utter contempt of Ray Rice, I have to give the NFL credit for finally doing the right thing. I've several contemptuous blogs noting the total lack of integrity with which the NFL, the Baltimore Rav
ens, and Roger Goodell responded to Rice's clear abuse of his then girlfriend Janay Palmer...who eventually married him and announced that she was somewhat responsible for her own abuse...can this situation sicken you even more, you ask? The answer is yes.

The latest video to emerge shows the left-handed knock-out punch delivered to Palmer's face. It's a vicious, brutal, and extremely dangerous assault. The video shows what happened inside the elevator. Prior to this, the only video released was the video showing Rice pulling Palmer out of the elevator by her hair, caveman style. This video shows Palmer launch herself at Rice, who then strikes her, leaving her crumbling to the floor of the elevator.

Should Palmer have launched herself at Rice? No, of course not. Did she deserve to be beaten unconscious for doing so? Again, of course not. Does anyone honestly expect us to believe that Rice couldn't control her without delivering a potentially lethal blow to her face? Seriously, people.

I wonder if this is a case in which it's appropriate to say, "Better late than never?" I am glad justice is finally being dished up by the NFL and I pray that Rice and Palmer (Palmer especially) get the deep therapy they both obviously need. Still. I have to wonder how it is that Rice was allowed to take a few anger management courses and avoid serious jail time. I guess in this case, some justice is better than no justice.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The NFL, the NFLPA, and the Lack of Progress

So the NFL and the player's union, the NFLPA, have been hard at work trying to hammer out a new agreement to address some of the inconsistencies in current policy. While they all agree there isn't likely to be amnesty for players who have been suspended for marijuana use, they do agree they'll update the policies to include a higher testing cutoff point before players are disciplined. I'm sure that's very reassuring for Josh Gordon, the receiver for the Cleveland Browns. Josh, as I've discussed here before, has been suspended for a year after testing positive for marijuana.

Now before anyone gets on me, I do not personally condone marijuana use. I don't have strong opinions as to whether it should be legal or not but I do believe smoking anything is dangerous. Our lungs are made for air. Not pollutants designed to make us feel better through chemical alteration.

But, having said that, I still have a huge problem with players being suspended for an entire year for smoking pot but for two games for acts that should have put them in jail. Yes, Ray Rice, I'm talking to you. You may be a male but you are certainly not a man. You are a coward and an abuser and you deserve to go to jail.

Over the past several weeks, reports have come out telling us that the union and the league have moved closer together in negotiations, then further apart, then closer together. Even reaching an agreement isn't going to bring about any real changes for some time as the agreement must go to lawyers for review and be voted on by the NFLPA board. So really, the only thing the two parties can report is a lack in progress toward any meaningful progress.

You know, if I wrote a book that included the punishments handed down by the NFL, it would be viewed as utterly implausible. How very sad that it's not fiction. To those of you who write NFL fiction, I salute you. Personally, I have trouble watching it right now. I can say this, though. In my book, Ray Rice would suffer a horrible fate in prison while Josh Gordon would have served a two game suspension and been back on the field. That's just me, though. You decide which reality would be better.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Joan Rivers, Duck Dynasty, and Dancing With the Stars, Oh My!

It's with a sad heart that I learned we lost another comedic icon today. Joan Rivers passed away after suffering complications from a routine procedure being performed in a doctor's office. Coming so soon after the suicide of Robin Williams, it feels as if the laughter has faded from the world.

As many of you did, I grew up watching Joan Rivers step in as a guest host on the Tonight Show on the occasions when Johnny Carson wasn't able to do the show himself. Personally, I loved those shows more than the shows when he was on stage. And I was upset when she wasn't chosen as his successor, although I've always loved Jay Leno, also.

I won't say I was a big fan of her later years but I don't think that takes away from the hours upon hours of laughter she gave to me throughout the years she performed on television.

Robin Williams was such a part of my young adult life, I still can't fathom his loss. Watching him on Comic Relief with his good friends and talented cohorts, Whoopie Goldberg and Billy Crystal, I would be in pain from laughing, crying in equal parts from laughter and sadness as they highlighted the plight of the homeless in this country. Laughter with a purpose is a gift to both the performer and the listener.

Our local news is filled with information on LoLo Jones performing on Dancing With the Stars. She's a talented athlete and she grew up here in Central Iowa, so it's no wonder her every move is reported by the news. It's come to my attention that a cast member of Duck Dynasty will also be on DWTS. Sadie Robertson, teen daughter of Willie and Korie Robertson, will be performing along side LoLo, Tommy Chong, and others. Even with the draw of our local celebrity, I'm not likely to watch.

I'm not a huge fan of Duck Dynasty, but I'm not really a fan of reality television of any kind. For me, personally, the show comes across as a bunch of very wealthy people acting like redneck hillbillies, not because that's what they are, but because that's what they're paid to be. I think there are a lot of good things about the show and the families portrayed but there are enough contrived things and disturbing things to make me turn the channel. It's not my thing.

The events of the past several months...the loss of two beloved comedians, the odd mix of contestants on DWTS, and events of the world make for an interesting blend of ideas in my head. I wonder what a romance novel driven by such events would look like. Keep an eye out. You might see one in six months featuring a local celebrity and a reality television child star facing off in a contest that takes place in a world distracted by a decades long war. But then again, that's not escapism, is it? It's our daily life.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Jennifer Lawrence, Nude Photos, iClouds and Football

Unless you've been living under a rock the last 24 hours,  you've no doubt heard the news that several actresses have had photos of themselves in various states of undressed stolen through and iCloud leak or faked to be included in the popularity of those stolen images. The hacking of someone's account, simply because of their fame, is disgusting. It pains me personally, because as silly as it sounds, I feel a kinship to Jennifer Lawrence.

No, I don't know her personally, nor am I a stalker. I am a writer. My third book in my Walkers Ridge romance series is in progress and the heroine is Jessa Waters. In my mind, Jessa Waters is Jennifer Lawrence...or I should say Jennifer Lawrence is Jessa Waters. Having lived with Jessa Waters in my head for a long time, clamoring to have her story told, this feels very personal to me.

When I write, I often pick a person to picture in my mind when I write a specific person. The reason is simple. It helps me keep that character true to one personality. Jennifer Lawrence has a cadence to her voice that creates an image (for me) of the girl next door. A kind, compassionate person who I would be friends with and enjoy hanging around with. Since that's the type of personality I want Jessa Waters to have, it makes sense for me to keep Jennifer Lawrence in mind when I write Jessa Waters.

My heart goes out to all of the women who have had personal and private information stolen from their personal iCloud or faked through image manipulation and released to the public simply because of their careers. It's disgusting to recognize that we really haven't come all that far from the whole caveman dragging a woman around by her hair mentality. The blaming of the women for having images on their private devices has been a common response. I'm not going to address what someone else should or should not do. In my opinion, that's not my business. What I will address is this. Someone hacked into information that does not belong to them and released it publicly with the intent of gaining money and fame, and to shame and embarrass people they do not even know. Why, I wonder, is there no backlash against the one who committed the crime? Really, does the content of what was stolen matter? The theft itself isn't enough? Now we have to justify our own right to have what was stolen? When does the blaming the victims stop? Will it stop?

And speaking of dragging women around by their hair, what in God's name is up with football players and the NFL? Five days ago, Cleveland Brown's receiver Josh Gordon was suspended for a year for smoking marijuana while Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was given a two game suspension and fined an additional game paycheck for beating his wife unconscious and dragging her out of an elevator by her hair. Am I the only person who's totally disgusted by this bizarre and unbalanced punishment of those who break various NFL rules? I mean, come on. A full year for getting high on a substance that's legal in many places and two games and a fine for something so incredibly violent? This seems to be the exact opposite of what it should be.
And while NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell now admits Ray's punishment is not severe enough, he will not increase the penalty, either. That makes it worse for me, somehow. That the man with the power to correct this situation publically acknowledges that he got all wrong but refuses to fix it, anyway. How is that okay and where is the outrage from players and fans? Because I'll tell you the truth, I don't se any outrage.

I had an entire series of books planned around football players but I've scrapped it. The idea is just so distasteful now, that I've scrapped a year's worth of research, notes, outlines, and plans. I'll start over and I'm happy to do so.

The takeaway here? If you smoke pot, you're out for a year but if you beat the crap out of a woman, you get a slap on the hand. Never mind that pot is legal in many states and beating another human being is illegal in all states. Never mind the video showing Rice pulling the unconscious victim out of the elevator by her hair. Never mind that even the
Commissioner himself admits this is wrong. Just ignore all of that. It's the Boys of Fall, after all. Tradition and money and bonfires and money and tailgating and money and booze and money get the idea. If you don't think Ray Rice and the NFL aren't benefiting from all this publicity, I've got some ocean front property in Iowa for sale. We should talk.