An Abuse of Power

So, we have another suspected case of police brutality. This time? A nineteen year old boy versus twelve Louisville Metro Crisis Intervention Team. He was playing basketball at a local high school at night, and got so hot that he decided to take his clothes off.His friends had left him there alone, and police were called.

Shawn Gellhaus was roughed up, and threatened with rape if he did not stop “jiggling.”

My thoughts? Based on the article, I’m guessing he was suffering from some hot weather injuries. Summer in Kentucky is serious business, regularly reaching 80-90 degrees with close to %100 percent humidity. The heat, humidity, combined with dehydration and a lack of food, I’m surprised the boy did not collapse a lot earlier. I myself passed out earlier this week despite my being hydrated and well-fed.

LMPD, especially the Crisis Intervention Team should know better–but they were likely, like the commenters on the article (which I would not advise you to read. No really, I know you’re going to click it. Don’t.) quick to assume that he was on drugs.The commenters are also quick to blame the young man for LMPD’s actions, if they believed he was attacked at all.

There are a lot of things to dissect in this situation, and none of it is good.

Shawn’s condition should have been apparent to LMPD. Like I already said, the heat of Kentucky summers, especially in Louisville, the largest city in Kentucky, is oppressive. It’s very easy to get heat exhaustion, heat stroke, etc. if you’re not careful. That Shawn’s health was not considered is appalling. According to the article, he was out of it, and not able to remember parts of the encounter. His symptoms would have been apparent to anyone paying attention.

Police brutality…is police brutality. It’s wrong, reprehensible, and a disgrace to the idea of the Louisville Metro Police Department. However, it does not surprise me. Nor does the mental hoops people will through to justify police brutality, or dismiss its occurrence altogether.

Why? People want desperately to believe in the goodness of people coded socially as good. Police are authority figures; authority figures are socially coded as…you guessed it! Good. In American society, one that revers democracy and fears tyranny, the very idea that the police force could be abusive is frightening to the very core.

Like the military, the purpose of the police force is to protect the citizens of the society that they operate in. People believe in the goodness of these institutions, they see the need of them, and fear what would happen to them without these institutions. That belief in these institutions’ goodness transfers to its members, naturally.

Respect is instantly given to a servicemember or a police officer–because of their sacrifice, their willingness to put their life on the life, and many other common tropes we’ve all heard before.

Another reason instant and unquestioning respect is given to police and members of the military is that people fear danger. The idea of putting oneself in danger, and out of safety, exposing oneself to harm, is something most cannot imagine, and people that do are almost superhuman to them. That these superhumans can be corrupt, capable of gross abuses, mistakes, doesn’t fit with their idea of who police and servicemembers should be. Hence, the mental hoops.

But that’s not all. We’re all only just human. But society, and people, refuse to recognize that otherwise good people can do bad things. People can do bad things and still be human. That people do good and bad things, and that does not translate into who they are, i.e. good people or bad people. No one is perfect–we all know this on an intellectual level, but when it comes to applying it, many times we falter. Especially when it comes to police, servicemembers, and those who the former are to “protect” the public from.

The consequence of this is that police are not able, by this faulty logic, to be bad. It is also that “criminals” are not able to be good, or innocent, and human. This is why it is so easy, and so common for people to believe that a suspect or person of interest deserves whatever the police dish out.

There is a lot more to digest here, but I’ll end this here. I hope Shawn recovers from his injuries, and from his trauma. I’ve heard that his uncle is a member of LMPD, so perhaps he will get justice. But that won’t negate the wrong that was done him.

I was going to post the symptoms of various weather-related injuries, but this post is already getting too long. I’ll put them in another post, and link back here.

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Gives Me Hope

Last night I discovered a website that, as it’s name suggests, gives me hope. I’m going to add it to my list of websites that I visit daily. The premise of the website is, is an FML-style website that features stories submitted by readers about acts of kindness that betters their view of humanity. Several of them have already made me teary eyed, such as the story I read last night of a young girl telling her dying mother, who told her how sad she was that she wouldn’t be able to tell her daughter she loved her every day, to make a video. Two years later, the story said, the little girl still watched the video every single day. Blub.

Check it out.

I Write Letters: Feminism in the Paper.

Remember the controversy regarding Jessica Valenti’s column about Sarah Palin’s “feminism”? The controversy that was, essentially, Palin fans crying foul that Valenti pointed out that Palin’s political beliefs were not feminist beliefs. A woman wrote in to The Courier-Journal, claiming that, as so many do, that Valenti was trying to play gatekeeper to the Feminist Funland.

I wrote The Courier-Journal also, and my thoughts were published in the editorial section of Saturday’s paper, available here. My letter is the third one from the top.There are comments, of course. As I write this, they’re safe, but of course I need to say that it’s not a safe space. My letter is available below the cut, just in case.

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Slut Shaming

Chloe Angyal wrote a piece for the Christian Science Monitor about slut shaming. I’m glad to see this piece on CSM. It’s a very succinct, well written article. It uses an episode of the ABC show What Would You Do show as a lead-in. The show hid cameras in a diner, and filmed patron’s reactions when women, actresses, were abused by their assumed-boyfriends, actors.

Not surprisingly, the patrons defended the women and confronted the boyfriends when the women were modestly dressed, though they were slower to react when the actors were POC, which is a big issue, all in itself. However, when the women wore low-cut dresses, the patrons did nothing. Two even speculated that the women were prostitutes, and when later interviewed, offered that as the reason they did not intervene.

One of the actresses asked, “What difference should it make if she were a prostitute?”

What, indeed.

Women’s clothing is coded socially. Revealing clothing indicates a woman’s sexual status in our culture. Low-cut tops and short dresses or shorts are given meaning, namely, that a woman is sexually active and available. Clothing is of course neutral, nothing about them tells us anything save their fashion choices. But people take intellectual shortcuts in judging people, and clothing is one of those shortcuts used. It’s wrong, of course, and it hurts a lot of women.

Race is another social shortcut. POC women are hyper-sexualized in our culture. Chloe’s article was a good one, but she left out this aspect, and it needs to be addressed. Racist “cultural” indicators of sexuality are part of our society, and they shouldn’t be. Race is intellectually neutral, yet we attach meaning to it. Men of color are violent, criminals. Women of color are extremely sexual, aggressive, bad mothers.

Slut shaming is not complicated, but it is intertwined with sexism, racism, and a whole slew of other isms. Once you examine it, it’s easy to see. Exposing slut shaming in a popular newspaper, and breaking it down for those not familiar with these facts are key to educating, and then eradicating it.

A lot of people are afraid of the f-word, or rather intimidated by it, convinced by all the man-hating, shrew propaganda that’s been perpetrated for years. Blogs are not yet seen as valid sources by many. But a piece in a large newspaper? A good piece to refer friends and loved ones to when trying to talk to them about this issue. We’re trying to change the world–by activism. And talking to people, educating them, is a big part of that.

A Big Deal

How is this NOT a big deal? Like, holy-shit-we-should-do-something-about-this-rightthefucknow big deal?

Let’s look at this photo:

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Period.

Clear blue liquid doesn’t come out of my vagina. Menstrual blood does.

Pads don’t “move with me.” They scrunch up and the adhesive weakens enough to come off my panties, but not so much that it doesn’t also stick to my skin.

Tampons will leak, no matter if it’s accordion shapes or conical, because it’s still cotton, and every woman is shaped differently.

The period itself doesn’t make me cranky. The cramps, jokes, misconceptions, myths, and lack of understanding about periods do.

Cramps are not some vague little side effect of a period. It is pain, and it is different for every woman. My cramps are a strong throb that reaches from my lower rib cage to my knees. You wouldn’t roll your eyes if I called that pain something other than “cramps.”

Stained panties are a reality of periods. Stained pants sometimes are, too.

“Period sex” is actually a lot of fun. Kind of like “sex.” Only you know your partner isn’t one of those who are one of those irritating jerks who makes you feel dirty for your biological process.

My vagina, along with all my other lady parts, are actually 3D. And are not blue, contrary to the directions in the tampon box.

My period doesn’t make me horny; I’m actually horny the other three weeks of the month, too. It just gives me a couple extra reasons to want sex: cramp relief, and a partner performing cunnilingus during that time is super sexy.

My period isn’t a disease. It’s a natural process my body does every month. You won’t get it by talking about it, I promise.

Yeah, you can still pee while wearing a tampon.

You cannot, however, have sex with one in. You could, but it’s not very pleasant.

No matter how thin you make the pad, it still feels like a diaper.

The first morning bathroom trip is a rush to make sure yet another pair of panties aren’t stained.

For all its faults, there’s something relieving about wearing a pad after wearing tampons all day, in that you’re finally just letting it all come out, and the whole not having something wedged inside you all day thing.

The creators of those toilet paper commercials that brag about its absorbency have obviously never had to use it in lieu of a pad.

There are actually more options that tampons and disposable pads. Too bad they’re not widely available like said pads and tampons are.

No matter how many cutesy names squeamish people give to it, menstrual blood is still coming out of my vagina.

Where am I going with this? Let me tell you. I’m sick of the commercials dancing around reality because some ignorant people think talking about my period is “obscene.” I’m sick of people shuddering and silencing any conversation women have about their periods because it’s “gross.” I’m sick of periods being shrouded in mystery and misconception because people won’t just come out and be plain old honest about it. So here it is.

Any other realities I’m missing?