Image By ReadingTeen.net

Book-Banning Controversy

Originally Published By: Women’s eNews on December 13, 2010

A book-banning effort against “Speak,” a young-adult novel about date rape, is creating an uproar. A campus group is making a documentary, a Twitter feed is discussing censorship and a library group expects the controversy to attract teen readers.

(WOMENSENEWS)–A Missouri State University professor’s bid to ban a young-adult novel about date rape, among other “filthy books,” from the school district’s English courses is spurring young-adult authors and teachers to speak out against censorship in a country where more than 10,676 books have been challenged in libraries and schools since 1990.

“Teens don’t live in a vacuum,” Andrea Cremer, author of the young-adult novel “Nightshade,” wrote in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal. “They inhabit the same brutal world as adults without the knowledge and tools of adulthood. For those teens whose lives have already been affected by drugs, violence, suicide or any number of traumatic experiences–what children as well as adults struggle with–books can provide comfort, healing or simply the realization that one isn’t alone.”

One in six women will be a victim of sexual assault during her life, according to data published by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, based in Washington, D.C. Young women between 16 and 19 are four times more likely to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault.

“Speak,” a young-adult novel by Laurie Halse Anderson about a teen who was raped at a party, is on the New York Times bestseller list, was a National Book Award finalist and has received many honors, including the Michael L. Printz and Golden Kite awards.

However, Wesley Scroggins, an associate professor of business management at Missouri State University in Springfield and a fundamentalist Christian, is demanding that “Speak” and two other books be banned from public high school English coursework in Republic, Mo.

Scroggins filed his complaint in June to the Missouri public school board and wrote an opinion piece on Sept. 18, arguing that the two rape scenes in the novel should be classified as “soft pornography.”

Call to Ban Two Other Books

One of the other books Scroggins wants struck from high school reading lists is “Slaughterhouse Five,” the 1969 antiwar novel by Kurt Vonnegut, which Scroggins complains has too much profane language and sex for high school students.

The other is “Twenty Boy Summer,” by Sarah Ockler, published in 2009. Scroggins said the book “glorifies drunken teen parties” and sex on the beach with condoms.

He is opposed by those who argue rape is a violent act of assault–not porn–and that removing the book would infringe on students’ First Amendment rights.

“Teen readers lose their First Amendment rights as well as access to information that may help them grow intellectually or emotionally if a book is unjustly removed from their local school or public library, or if the library unjustly restricts access to it in some way,” Beth Yoke, executive director of the Chicago-based Young Adult Library Services Association, said in an interview with Women’s eNews.

Since 1990, the association has documented the removal of at least 10 books from the schools and public libraries in Missouri. However, the information provided to the group is voluntary, said Bryan Campbell, an administrative assistant for the Chicago-based Office for Intellectual Freedom, in an email interview.

He also said the group is working on a system for larger data collection that may provide a more reliable picture of book banning statistics in the future.

Each year the American Library Association, based in Chicago, recommends a variety of books to libraries, including “contemporary realistic fiction that reflects the diversity of the teen experience.”

Hundreds of books, including some recommended by the organization, are also challenged or banned from schools and libraries each year.

Between 1990 and 2009 the most common reason listed for challenging a book was “sexually explicit,” at 3,046 complaints. Complaints of “violence” numbered 1,258, according to data provided by the American Library Association.

Thousands Say Thanks

“When ‘Speak’ was published, there was some whispering that this was not an appropriate topic for teens,” Halse Anderson said in an interview with the Springfield, Mo., News-Leader four days after Scroggins attacked the book on the newspaper’s opinion page.

She added that thousands of readers had written to thank her for the book: “They said it made them feel less alone and gave them the strength to speak up about being sexually assaulted and other painful secrets.”

The highly popular young-adult author, Judy Blume, a frequent target of book banning herself, has written to the National Council Against Censorship, based in New York City, on behalf of Halse Anderson.

Ockler, author of “Twenty Boy Summer,” one of the three books condemned by Scroggins, blogged on her Web site in September and October about the dangers of censorship. She also emphasized the importance of healthy discussions among parents and their children: “Truly asking for parental involvement would mean encouraging parents to read the books in question, discuss issues and themes with their kids and come to their own decisions about what’s best for their own families.”

“I’m against book banning in schools,” Daisy Whitney, author of “The Mockingbirds,” a young-adult book published on Nov. 2 that also treats the subject of date rape, said in a phone interview. “‘Speak’ is a novel that has helped so many teenagers understand the emotions surrounding someone who has been through a traumatic experience. The reason some people have suggested banning ‘Speak’ also concerns me because in no way should rape ever be equated with sex.”

Teachers, Librarians, Parents Protest

Paul Hankins, an English teacher from Indiana, started a Twitter feed called SpeakLoudly in response to Scroggins’ complaints. A community of teachers, librarians, parents and publishers also founded SpeakLoudly.org with Hankins soon after, in September.

The controversy has also helped publicize the books under attack for censorship.

“Tell a teen that a book is banned or challenged and they will want to read it to find out why,” said Yoke, of the Young Adult Library Services Association. “So, in one way, book banning actually piques many teens’ interest in the controversial titles.”

Vern Minor, superintendant of the Republic school district where Scroggins’ complaint was received by the school board, told the News-Leader in September that “Slaughterhouse Five” was removed from the English course curriculum.

However, in a Dec. 6 e-mail with Women’s eNews, he said: “We have not made any decisions on the books in question. Our discussions are currently focused on board policy, not the three books per se. We are really trying to look at this matter from a much broader perspective than just three books.”

The school board hopes to set standards for book selection. They do not have a set time frame to implement the revised curriculum policies.

Candice Tucker and Brandon Bond, students at Missouri State, have started filming a documentary about the events, censorship and Scroggins’ “radical views.” Bond has also launched an advocacy group on Facebook called “No More Banned Books,” where he hopes to fight against “the enemies of reason and tolerance.”

Subscribe

Would you like to Comment but not sure how? Visit our help page at http://www.womensenews.org/help-making-comments-womens-enews-stories.

Would you like to Send Along a Link of This Story?
http://womensenews.org/story/books/101212/filthy-book-attack-spotlights-date-rape-novel?page=0,1

Christa Fletcher is an online writer and editor dedicated to promoting awareness about women’s issues. Her work has been featured by Channel One News, InterviewHer.com, Marie Claire and she keeps a blog at ChristaWrites.com.

For more information:

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network:
http://www.rainn.org/

National Council Against Censorship:
http://www.ncac.org/

SpeakLoudly:
http://speakloudly.org/

Speak
http://www.powells.com/partner/34289/biblio/9780142407325?p_ti

Image By Terry Richardson

Nothing GQ About It

GQ Cover, "Glee Gone Wild" 2010
GQ Cover, "Glee Gone Wild" 2010

The cover and featured photo shoot of GQ this month is its own rocky horror picture show. Three actors from the hit show Glee pose as a “sexy” threesome of co-eds without much clothing — on the girls. Meanwhile, Cory Monteith sports long sleeves and pants. And a grin.

What’s worse, the article is boring and the photos inside might as well be in Maxim, with crotch shots and poses pandering to a Lolita fetish. Yep, red lollipops and white cotton underwear — not exactly what you’d want a tween girl to admire and emulate — especially while straddling a bench… at school.

The headline, “Glee Gone Wild,” is reminiscent of “Girls Gone Wild,”  made particularly distasteful given the constant oversexualization of young women in entertainment and the reports that Lea Michele and Dianna Agron have “never been shot in so little clothing.”

Image By Terry Richardson, GQ

“I don’t know how they got me to do half the stuff I did.” Michele said. “But I was in really good shape this summer, so… ”

…You did it anyway? Did you do it for Mardi Gras beads? Was Joe Francis there and has GQ forgotten that they are referencing a business created by a convicted child abuser who was charged with prostitution (aka a sex offender)? I don’t get it.

After all the fun and compelling girl power of the show, Michele and Agron are selling out to celebrity sexism — they’re just two more women who feel like they need to expose their bodies to gain attention.

“It’s simply a case of two actresses seizing the career-climbing opportunity to appear on the cover of a popular men’s magazine,” writes Kevin Fallon in the Atlantic Monthly.

Image By Terry Richardson, GQ

Yeah, it’s “simply” a reality, but it doesn’t have to be — women don’t need to debase themselves — just as they don’t need plastic surgery, to lose weight, or to change who they are to get ahead.

I thought these two got it, but clearly I was wrong. “I’m proud to be on a positive show and to be a voice for girls and say, ‘You don’t need to look like everybody else. Love who you are,'” said Lea Michele about deciding not to get a nose job.

It’s one thing to be confident, but it’s another to seek this kind of “American Apparel ad-inspired” attention. Tweens and teens look up to these actors and it’s their responsibility to be decent role models — especially because they play underage characters on the show and GQ is for men.

“It is disturbing that GQ, which is explicitly written for adult men, is sexualizing the actresses who play high school-aged characters on ‘Glee’ in this way. It borders on pedophilia,” said the President of the the Parents Television Council in the Wall Street Journal.

While it’s not actually “pedophilia,” because they are in their twenties, I get what the PTC means, it’s confusing because they portray high school students, so to feature the actors (un)dressed as “teens” to men, is very Humbert Humbert.

I believe women have the freedom to pose in their skivvies when they are of age (Dianna Agron is 24, Corey Monteith is 28 and Lea Michele is 24), but I don’t understand why anyone does it. The show is a success and it often touts empowerment to women, why pose with your ass showing on the cover of a magazine, but then talk about loving yourself? Given Lea Michele’s desire to be a “positive” influence, the photos and interviews I’ve read are completely contrary.

Glee is great because everyone can enjoy it. People say the median viewer age is 38-years-old, but I’ve heard many tweens say their families watch it together. And, I’m sure that age stat doesn’t count all the views on Hulu — where most teens are consuming their shows anyway.

Image By Terry Richardson, GQ

Aside from being disappointed in these talented young women, I’m mostly angry with how sexist GQ is: What’s so wild about Cory Monteith’s rugby shirt and pants? Why is he fully clothed and the young women are not?All of the pictures of him are so wholesome!

GQ is a sexist rag, degrading women with racy photos and at times violence-inspired images like the January Jones shoot. These photo spreads may be “art,” but I’m sick of the art of demeaning young women.

There’s nothing Glee-ful about this publicity. Nor is GQ showing any “style” or “smarts.”

Enhanced by Zemanta
Image By NFL.com/women

Women Shoppers Blitzed by NFL

The NFL is all about the ladies this year, from selling team-branded gear at top women’s stores, to rooting out sexism within the league toward women sports reporters. And I have to say, these new efforts are totally a win.

Known as the ultimate boys’ club, the NFL is now reaching out to women and improving their image to include more equality. And, it makes sense, both men and women enjoy football and it’s smart to avoid alienating nearly half of your audience with sexist spats in the locker room, one-sided marketing and ill-fitting apparel.

Image By NFL.com/women

Did you know that 44% of NFL fans are women? Yep, that’s why the league is launching a $10 million marketing effort with television commercials and a new website at http://www.nfl.com/women. Though the campaign officially begins today, I was surprised to see Jets branded panties, tanks, flip-flops and other items at the Victoria’s Secret PINK store in SoHo this weekend.

When I came across this article about the new campaign, I realized this was a huge step for the professional football organization, yet it also seems like a no-brainer. I mean, football fandom is intense and people who love a team really want to show it.  Most women I know follow a team and support it by wearing shirts, sweatshirts and whatever else works for them.

I’m just glad they are finally making clothes for women that fit our shape, have cool designs and are generally more attractive without being uncomfortable, unrealistic, or overtly “sexy.”

Supposedly the league has thousands of new designs for all the pro teams and will be selling the products at over 3,000 stores.

Image By NFL.com/women

In an effort to gain some yardage in women’s interest, the NFL put together a Look Book with wives of football players modeling the clothes on the new website mentioned above. Plus, there are bios of each woman and webisodes in the “Beyond the Sidelines” section.

Now, I get selling a wide variety of products from apparel, to yoga mats and lotion, because everyone expresses their athletic zeal in different ways, but I’m going to be honest, I’m calling a flag on the phrase, “Who says football isn’t pretty?” What does that have to do with clothes that fit properly? In fact, a few of the phrases in the Look Book are a bit annoying, including one of the names for the tees, “Oil Can Flirt Tee.” Other than that, the whole thing seems pretty great.

Jezebel disagrees in some respects, asking the question: “What Does Football Have to Do with Lotion?” They think it’s stereotyping women’s behavior in the types of products they are branding, which is partly true, but I’d totally buy the lotion for a guy who’s a fan.

And, I get it, it’s fun to put festive lotions, soaps or towels in your bathroom on game nights or if you’re hosting a Super Bowl party — no matter the gender of your guests. I mean, it’s for decoration, it’s not a must-have like a T-shirt, but someone will totally buy it.

The National Football League has finally opened their eyes to the fact that women like football too, though it was motivated by money and not feminism, I’ll take this as a score for equality.

Related articles by Zemanta

Enhanced by Zemanta
gmail-logo

Google Thinks I’m Gay

My Gmail account thinks I’m a lesbian.

You see, I’d be totally cool with a human mistaking my sexuality because it’s not a big deal, but the fact that Google gave me ads targeted to a presumed sexuality is disturbing. Since when is my sex life remotely relevant to the internet?

I mean, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since Facebook has given me fertility and baby advertisements since I changed my status to “married.” And, since Gmail doesn’t know I’m married, but I have Google alerts for “sexism,” “feminism” and “women’s issues,” the email provider made a generalization that I have sex with women.

So being a feminist makes me a lesbian? Does that mean all lesbians are feminists? Wow.

You know, it’s too bad you can’t be a person concerned with issues that affect women without being forced into gender roles, sex and other labels. Why should anyone define themselves by their email usage or Facebook status? Targeted ads are another form of stereotyping.

Let’s be honest, these personalized ads are totally sexist. Why are my sexual habits even coming into play? When men change their status to married, do they get fertility and baby ads? I mean come on, as if my age, family and heterosexuality aren’t pressure enough to have kids, I have to deal with Facebook giving me tips on becoming pregnant, or Gmail encouraging me to come out of the closet?

So what if I have a Google alert for “sexism.” Yeah, people laugh when they hear that, but it’s informative and I need to know exactly what people are seeing, saying and hearing about the topic.

The truth is, both men and women should care about equality whether they read the news, set Google alerts, or pay attention to these subtle cultural niches, because in the end, it will affect them in the work place, at home, in public and in their families — if they are so inclined.

I understand ads are generated by calculated algorithms and these links pay for the free services I use, but there’s a big difference between sponsored ads based on my searches and ads that make assumptions about my personal life.

I don’t want anyone to be defined by their gender, where’s that preference in our Google account settings?

Enhanced by Zemanta
xmarksspot

X Marks the Spot

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about sexual objectification as you read in my piece about Taylor Lautner. Well, funny story…

Recently a co-worker sent me a link that shed some interesting light on sexism and treating men as objects. So, everyone loves a treasure hunt, right? Though x may mark the spot, Calvin Klein wants you to find a very different treasure…and his name is Mark.

Mark is an actor who hangs out shirtless on the floor of his apartment with his abs on display. Not into guys who wear beanies? Well then, there’s celebrity stud, Kellan Lutz, or Jamie, a pilates instructor, with a toned body to prove it. Watch as his hot wolf-packian shoulder tattoo flexes in the video as he talks about how he really likes to surf and wax his — er —  surfboard. Don’t worry, he’s not doing anything “dodgy,” but CK definitely is…

While watching these videos I thought these men were attractive (hello, that’s the point), but they all seemed really dumb. Not dumb in the sense that they didn’t speak coherent sentences, they just seemed air-headed — not because they were attractive, but because of the way they were being shown on camera and in photos. And, it wasn’t just me. As women gathered around my desk to watch the videos sent in by men from around the globe (there’s a map), promoting X Calvin Klein underwear, we all thought they seemed like such silly, half-naked little men.

“You just can’t take them seriously,” said one onlooker. And she was right, who could take them seriously as they chat onscreen looking like cabana boys? What’s funny is that, socially, men tend to talk about what they can provide, yet, without clothes it’s pretty unsubstantial in their appeal. This interesting bit of marketing is precisely why objectifying women is sexist and can lead to harassment and the degradation of women. More often than not, women’s bodies are used to advertise products and arouse (being the operative word) interest in anything from a beer, to a bathmat. And, despite this venture down underwear, men are sex objects in advertising far less than women. Just ask your buddy Don Draper.

strength-word

Lackluster Libido Language

If there’s anything my fourth grade teacher taught me — aside from the importance of memorizing my multiplication tables — it’s the relevance of vocabulary. In school, words were my favorite. I adored spelling tests, reveled in playing dictionary roulette and now have a soft spot for the click-for-definition feature on the NewYorkTimes.com. However, there are a few words that irk me to no end. Like vagina.

Have you noticed how many words are gendered? Or, how many words regarding women are terribly sexist?

I mean, one of the most important parts of the female body is a pretty sexist term if you think about it. It’s the ultimate downer and it’s for our genitals — vagina — it sounds like an incurable infection. Eve Ensler had it right. No matter how many times you say it, “vagina” sounds so clinical and unappealing. Men get the simplicity and succinctness of “penis,” along with strong, powerful slang like “dick,” “cock” and “johnson.” The thing practically sounds like a law firm, or at least a Harvard educated lawyer.

And that’s precisely the point –everything about women and their bodies is referred to in diminutive, weak terms. “Pussy,” “snatch,” twat,” and “coochie” all sound like pet names — or worse, a waspy Connecticut wife who can’t even say the word “cunt” because she’s been taught to hate it so much.  But maybe that’s precisely the problem, if we were given nicer names for out “naughty” bits, we wouldn’t feel the need to punish them with these stupid nicknames. Don’t even get me started on cat and cougar references.

Obviously, there’s nothing we can do about “vagina,” but the slang words are ridiculous! And, what’s worse, even pharmaceutical companies are contributing to the sexism of gendered language.

Even sexual enhancement drugs are getting the shaft (and not in a good way!). The FDA is currently reviewing what some are calling “Viagra for women.” Well, truth be told, it’s REAL name is Flibanserin. Flibanserin? Really? So, let me get this straight, not only am I a pussy with a bad case of vagina, Flibanserin is my only treatment option? Meanwhile, men get a Harvard legacy in their pants and Viagra, to boot.

VIAGRA: by definition, the most potent and virile drug name ever. Men get a drug that sounds like a superhero or spaceship to rocket them to pleasure island, but we’re supposed to swoon over a pill to make us feel like superheroes with an STD.

(Woman enters bedroom.) “Honey, I got Flibanserin.”

(Lover looks up, worried.) “Is it contagious?”

Who needs a bad name to confuse sexy time? I’m sorry, it may be a sign of equality that researcher even developed a sexual enhancement drug for women, but if it’s called Flibanserin, will anyone buy it? Hopefully, if the drug proves to be safe and (O-so) effective, marketing people can have their way with Flibanserin and conceive something better.

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON

More Than A Wolf Six Pack

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) & Jacob Black (Ta...
Image by Nayara - Oliveira via Flickr

After writing my previous post on men’s fitness, I started thinking about how their bodies are exposed the media in comparison to women’s. You’d have to live in a cave (or coffin) to avoid all the Eclipse hoopla this month. And, you’d have to be in denial to be unaware of all the drooling over Taylor Lautner who plays Jacob Black, a werewolf and love interest for Bella Swan in the Twilight series.

Yet, I have to say, even though I think he’s attractive and the movie creators knew what they were doing to cast him without a shirt for most of the film, I’m a little creeped out by all the sexual exploitation this guy is facing.

I mean, yeah, women go through this stuff all the time, but it’s very interesting how much sex, his body and his character (and therefore him, in real life) are connected (which is funny because his character doesn’t have sex).

In fact, so far, no one is having sex in the Twilight films — and maybe, it’s this presence of desire without fulfillment that make people think it’s ok to objectify him? Hmm… I’m not so sure it’s works that way.

Anyway, what got me thinking was the Twilight special on Jimmy Kimmel. Every question from the predominantly female audience was about the male characters’ sex life or bodies. One girl even asked Taylor Lautner to lift up his shirt so she could see his sixpack. Kimmel said it was probably sexual harassment, but I couldn’t help but wonder how difficult it must be for Lautner to be a male sex object at such a young age and with such a fierce following.

Lautner can’t even get away from it on set. According to some quotes by co-star Robert Pattinson, he even gets teased while wearing spandex. I’m sure it’s all in good fun, but how far will it go among his fans and in the film industry? Will he forever be typecast as Jacob Six Pack? At least people aren’t throwing blood on him like Pattinson experienced last year, but that doesn’t discount the crazed attention he receives. Is this the new sexism? Or are we tipping the scales toward balance?

Even Jezebel found reasons why they think it’s alright to objectify men in a piece about World Cup players. Yet, I’m still not convinced this is a step toward equality.

Not sure how men can be treated as objects? For a look at some pretty intense instances of sexual objectification of men’s bodies, look at this slide show by Trend Hunter.

Enhanced by Zemanta