On October 19th, the two presidential candidates faced off for the last time before voters head to the polls on November 8th. The promos that ABC and CNN played leading up to the debate felt more like advertisements for a reality TV show than for an official forum for candidates to discuss complex issues that affect American citizens. But those advertisements weren’t too far off from what went down during the debate.

The night started off relatively uneventfully. Moderator Chris Wallace told the audience to remain quiet, we were reminded of debate rules, and the candidates entered. Then came the first question. Secretary Clinton gave a polished, if perhaps a little too rehearsed answer to how she would approach the issue of the Supreme Court. We heard about the second amendment, which the candidates obviously disagree on, but nothing too out-of-field yet. Then came the first polarizing question of the night: How would the candidates want reproductive rights to be handled by the Supreme Court?

Clinton is, of course, pro-choice, and Trump pro-life. Neither of these views is necessarily right or wrong (of course, I am adamantly pro-choice because I believe that a woman’s body is her own. But I digress). However, what Trump said about late-term abortions was not only scare rhetoric but factually inaccurate: You can take [the] baby and rip the baby out of the womb. In the ninth month. On the final day.” What frightens me as a woman is that Mr. Trump has no understanding of the laws that regulate abortion. 88% of abortions are performed during the first trimester, and even though late-term abortions can be permissible in special circumstances (i.e. when the life of the mother or the child is in danger) there is no such thing as a ninth-month abortion. Well, actually, I guess there is; It’s called a Cesarean section. This final debate demonstrated that the only person on that stage who had an understanding of women’s health and abortion procedures was, in fact, the woman.  

Thankfully, moderator Wallace switched the topic to immigration rights. While I don’t believe either candidate presented a fully functional plan to help mitigate our country’s influx of immigration over the past decade, their speeches weren’t what caught my attention. When Trump tried to throw in a bit of Spanish to appeal to a minority group, it failed epically. By calling immigrants “bad hombres,” he alienated not only Spanish-speaking citizens but also immigrants and individuals who know people who are immigrants. I doubt Trump even knew that “hombres” meant “men” until his campaign manager told him to say it.

I could go on and on (and on) with the insults that Trump used in the debate. All of them disgusted me. From his infantile “You’re a puppet” comment to calling Ms. Clinton a “nasty woman”, every minute of the debate proved that he is unfit to lead the United States of America. He lies about both big and small matters, and has no grasp of foreign affairs. He poses a danger to the entire international community if he is elected.  So to all the Trump supporters: I hope you get out and vote! Remember, election day is November 30th 🙂

 

Sources:

http://www.safestabortion.com/in-the-know/abortion-laws/

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/10/full-transcript-third-2016-presidential-debate-230063

Your “Comfort” Is Not My Responsibility: The Distrust of Difference

In a discussion I was involved in today about LGBTQ issues, one participant said that, when discussing the rights of transgender people to move in public spaces (i.e; use public restrooms that align with their gender identity and live in dorms that match their gender identity), one has to take into account the “comfort” of the people around them. My immediate response (albeit in my head, since it was a classroom setting) was bullshit. Here’s why.

“Comfort”, in my opinion, has become a euphemism for “prejudice.” People don’t want to say “I am prejudiced against transgender people & don’t want them in the same public spaces I operate in” so instead they say that they are uncomfortable. While still offensive, it is arguably less offensive and more socially acceptable than openly admitting you are prejudiced. But the reality is, this discomfort is, at its core, a function of the ingrained, internalized prejudice we have all been taught since we came out of the womb. We are constantly told by society that people who are different from us should be feared and distrusted. This leads to discomfort with difference- an incredibly problematic phenomenon that breeds hatred.

The problem with arguing that because of a cisgender person’s discomfort with a transgender individual, that transgender individuals should not be afforded the same rights as other human beings (such as being able to go to the bathroom and access public transportation) is that you can’t limit this to only transgender individuals. Where can you draw the line? What if we barred black people from using the same facilities as white people because white people were uncomfortable with these individuals who were different from them? (Oh wait, we did. It was called Jim Crowe.) What if we barred women from accessing education or jobs because males were uncomfortable with a female’s presence (Oh wait, we did. Women haven’t always been able to access higher education and well-paying jobs)?  What if we barred Muslims from being in the same areas as non-Muslims because of “discomfort”? (Oh wait, a presidential nominee believes this is a good idea…). It’s impossible to draw the line, because then anyone could claim discomfort and attempt to bar a marginalized group from access to certain places or rights.

The point I’m making is, this isn’t an issue of comfort. It’s an issue of prejudice and fear of the unknown. It is not a minority’s responsibility to make you feel comfortable in their presence, when they are doing nothing except existing. It is your responsibility to confront your prejudices and learn. Educate yourself! You don’t get to take away someone’s basic human rights to live freely and express themselves simply because you are “uncomfortable.”

What the Brexit Vote Should Teach America

As a dual citizen of America and Britain (albeit one who cannot vote), the results of the EU Referendum have left me disappointed in British citizens. Voting to leave the EU is an unwise decision that has already had significant consequences, including the value of the pound dropping to a 30-year low and the economy going into a “free fall”, according to some economic experts. David Cameron, Britain’s Prime Minister, has resigned. Scotland may hold their own referendum and attempt to leave the United Kingdom again. Some political analysts believe that this vote may lead other countries to attempt to the EU, hurting the supranational organization. Britain is entering an era of uncertainty and chaos, one that was brought on by xenophobia, short-sightedness and backward thinking.

However, this isn’t only a grave misstep for Britain- it is a warning for America. As we approach the general election, Donald Trump, the (and I am HORRIFIED to say this) Republican nominee, continues to gain speed. While people may say (and most hope) that someone like Trump could never possibly win the general election, Brexit serves as a warning that racism and xenophobia actually can, astoundingly, prevail over common sense. Trump stated that he was proud that Britain had “taken back their country,” continuing his promotion of division rather than working together. Trump’s support of Brexit demonstrates to American citizens that similar actions may occur under his administration, a warning we should not take lightly.

While we are thousands of miles apart, Britain and America are very similar. A particularly saddening similarity is that many citizens of both countries resent immigrants, especially refugees from Syria. This xenophobia is what allowed the Brexit vote to go the way it did, combined with resentment of the establishment, and the same thing will happen in America in November if we aren’t careful. And for those who say that a man like Trump can’t possibly win, I say just look at the similarities between him and Nigel Farage, one of the most vocal people for the Leave option. They both make racist but factually incorrect statements, are viewed as a joke or a long shot, and are said to be everything that is wrong with their party. Yet, last night Nigel Farage won; What’s to stop Donald Trump from doing the same in November?

If we allow xenophobic politicians to be treated as though they are credible, decent leaders, we may have a Trump administration that, in my opinion, will destroy America socially, economically and politically and will drastically change the world…and not for the better. America should not make the same mistake in November that Britain did last night- ignoring the fact that problematic politicians (Donald Trump and Nigel Farage), as much as they seem like a joke, have widespread support and can win if something is not done to stop them. Brexit was a mistake. Let’s just hope the general election in November 2016 isn’t one too.

What Jo Cox’s Murder Says about Women in Power

I’m a British citizen currently visiting the UK to see my family, and I was here when news broke of MP Jo Cox’s murder. The event was tragic, but as facts came to light it became clear to me that this murder was not only devastating to her family, friends and colleagues; It was a devastating public statement about women who are in politics.

Jo Cox’s husband, along with many others, has stated that he believes that her killer was motivated by Jo’s political beliefs and outspoken nature in Parliament. While I cannot comment on Cox’s political beliefs, as I do not know them well enough to do them and her career justice, I do know this: Killing a woman for her political beliefs is outright sexism and, in my opinion, a hate crime.

Women in countries all over the world have their opinions suppressed, and are not allowed to speak their minds. Luckily, Britain is not such a country- women can hold powerful roles in government. However, women who dare to possess strong views are often shamed. They are name-called and treated as less than their male superiors- many of them face hatred and threats, like Jo Cox did, except this time she paid with her life. She died far too young because a man didn’t like that her political views. He didn’t like that she was expressing her beliefs and working for what she deemed just causes- He hated her for doing her job. In the free world we do not kill people who hold opposing viewpoints. It is clear, in my mind, that Jo was specifically targeted because she was an outspoken female MP, and she was vocal on issues of controversy like the rampant Islamophobia in her constituency, and that is a sad state of affairs. Women in power are too often seen as a threat, and they are not. Women have as much right to be in power as men do, and they have the right to hold power without fearing for their lives.

So, as many of us mourn Jo Cox, think about this: Why, when women allow their voices to be heard and place themselves at the metaphorical table, do we shame them and treat their presence as abnormal? Why are women judged for having strong views?

Why Slut-Shaming Young Girls in School is Wrong.

I’ve written a lot about sexist expectations for girls on how they should dress in certain locations. Many times, dress codes are unfairly aimed at women and emphasize hiding/covering up their bodies, even blatantly non-sexual parts. Yet, sometimes it isn’t even the dress codes that are slut-shaming; It’s teachers who have old, traditional values and shame kids simply for clothing choices, even if there is no dress code violation.

Take today, in one of my classes. Dresses without sleeves are permitted at my school, as long as the straps are not “spaghetti straps” (I.e.; really thin). My dress has relatively thick straps, went down to my knee, and seemed appropriate to wear for school. Admittedly, it was slightly low-cut, but nothing obscene (See below for a similar looking dress so you can judge for yourself).


When I went to put my jacket on during class because I was cold, my teacher felt that it was acceptable to say “Well of course you have to cover up, you’re practically naked.” While this irksome comment could have been passed off as a joke or a rude, incorrect observation (I assure I was fully clothed), she continued to talk, saying I was “clearly dressing to get attention” and “if I want to get attention from the boys by showing off my body, I should.” The body part I was blatantly parading to win the gaze of my male peers? My. Freaking. Shoulders. About as sexual as a piece of cardboard.

Not only were these statements misogynistic, hurtful and ridiculously uncalled for, they were said in front of the entire class, in order to ensure my humiliation. The feminist in me really wanted to get angry;  internally, I was screaming. But, because she is a teacher, I had no power to say anything, and I had to sit in class with my jacket pulled over my dress, humiliated and upset.

This teacher is a female, so I was shocked at how blatantly sexist she was towards me. Firstly, she was accusing me of dressing in a “slutty” way (in her perception) solely to gain the attention of males, without considering I chose the dress simply because it was comfortable and I liked how I looked in it. Secondly, she publicly humiliated me by calling attention to my perceived “sluttiness” and allowing others to see that such embarrassment of their female peers is acceptable. It is attitudes like hers that contribute to the rape culture in our society. 

No matter the motivation behind my clothing choice, it was deeply wrong for her to insinuate that I was making choices for a boy and I was trying to get attention. In doing so, she detracted from my education and reduced me to a distraction for the boys in my school, rather than allowing me a safe environment in which to learn. The tragedy is, so many girls face situations like the one I described above. So many girls are punished for being a “distraction” or a “disruption” to make education, with no regard to how such punishment and embarrassment will affect their education. Teachers have been prioritizing male education over female education for far too long, and us women can no longer stand for this blatant disregard for our educational and emotional health.

Hillary Wins New York :(

Yesterday, April 19th, was the New York Democratic & Republican primaries. Unfortunately both parties’ front-runners came out on top; Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had double-digit leads over their opponents.

Hillary’s victory over Bernie is not an omen of a defeat at the Democratic convention this summer. Because of New York’s rule that only registered Democrats or Republicans can vote in the primaries, all the registered independents were unable to participate. This is clear evidence that this two-party system is rigged; If the 3 million registered  independents had been able to vote, Bernie would likely have been able to come out on top. He had a lot of support from the younger demographic, and from people who are tired of seeing establishment politics crush the little man. Hillary’s Wall-Street and Super PAC-backed campaign may have won this one, but come the summer, Bernie supporters will come out in force and will hopefully be able to block Hillary’s nomination.

Although the mainstream media is clearly biased against Bernie, and he doesn’t have the support of rich, corrupt corporations, he has the support of a nation of people who are sick and tired of Wall Street controlling politics. Bernie is the only one who can bring this country the political revolution it needs. Hillary may have won this one (After all, you’ll always be loved by the things you create [Wall Street]); but, the nation loves Bernie, and he will win the Democratic nomination and the 2016 General Election if we keep fighting for him.