Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sunday: Rocking, Rolling, and Hyper-Sexualization Everywhere You Look

Hey, wasn't it just this week that we had a blizzard, everything was buried in snow, schools were closed? I've got an eighteen-year-old living at home, told him to shovel, ended up getting a warning from the city that they'd fine us a hundred bucks if we didn't clear the sidewalks. I hung the warning on the kid's door so he'd see it when he woke up in the morning afternoon. Luckily it warmed up the day they were going to come back and check, and the ice melted. I don't know, what you gonna do? Well, it's like summer out there now, amazing how it changes.

Our band played last night out in Germantown. This is fun. I'm about a gazillion years old, you know, my hair's gray, what's left of it. I played music for a living for a long time, but I haven't really played gigs since I guess 1994, until a couple of weeks ago. My friend who plays bass saw a TV show a year or so ago about rockabilly music, and he said, "Why don't we start a rockabilly band?" I'd kind of like to see the show, it must have been pretty good. I said, "Well I probably know three or four hundred rockabilly songs." So we started playing in his basement, Blue Suede Shoes, Bebop-a-Lula, Peggy Sue, stuff like that. Then we found a drummer who lives in the house right behind the bass player, so now there're three of us. We are called The Colliders and we play old songs from the earliest days of rock-n-roll, mostly rockabilly but a little country and a little blues. I mean, Hank Williams and Elmore James are rockabilly, right? We played last night and people enjoyed us, people danced all night long and they booked us back. But I'm getting a little old for moving that equipment, I'll tell you! Well hey, playing music will keep you young.

There is some craziness going on at the school district, which we've been documenting here. The Citizens for Responsible Whatever complained about a video the schools were planning to use. The citizens advisory committee evaluated the video and liked it a lot, but the CRW decided to be offended by it, they sent some letters to the school district and sure enough the district decided to ban the materials. The CRW didn't like it because abortion was considered an option -- the word was never used, but you knew the girl in the movie was considering it -- and also because it showed the scene where she got knocked up. The CRW likes to say it's "soft porn," because the boy takes his shirt off and they breathe heavily.

Also, the actors in the video are black. That's what ultimately killed it. If black teenagers have sex it's a "racial stereotype." If white teens have sex that's just how kids are, y'know. The inherent racism in the decision to ban this video is mind-boggling.

The citizens committee voted seven to three to adopt the video. Two of the three votes against it were by members who were on the committee because of a settlement agreement, they represent conservative groups that won a temporary restraining order against the school district several years ago, and the district promised they could be on the committee if they'd drop it.

I'm on the committee and we work together pretty well most of the time, but let me show you this. Peter Sprigg is the representive for PFOX-GAG, a group that thinks gay people should stop being gay. The "X" stands for "ex-gay," their group thinks if you are gay you have a choice to become "ex-gay," and you should take that choice. Anyway, he thought this video was offensive and voted against it. To put it in perspective, here is a link to Peter Sprigg's review of West Side Story from The Examiner: HERE. This is not some avant garde new hippie version of the musical with nudity and cuss words, this Washington's National Theatre production, directed by the 90-year-old guy who wrote the original book that the musical was based on. Okay, so West Side Story is "hyper-sexualized," and this video for health class is pornographic. As the kids used to say, "Wouldn't wanna be ya."

Here the school district is exactly modeling the very worst of adult human behavior. You try to do something right, you get bullied, you give in. The administration is modeling cowardice, and you know teachers get the message that they should change whatever they're doing if anyone criticizes them, and it gets to the kids.

Here's Montgomery County's lesson in bullying: if a bully tries to beat you up, lie down on the ground and cry.

They had forever to look at that video, they studied it, it went through their whole process. If they were doing their job the people in the office discussed the steamy sex scene, the possibility of racial stereotyping, the question of abortion. They checked it out as professional educators and decided it was fine. Showing it to the citizens advisory is one of the last steps in the process, and the committee liked it, too.

Then the Citizens for Responsible Whatever write in, hint at lawsuits, and the school administrators change their minds.

Hey, there were a couple of news stories this week that sort of fit a theme. You have the CRW calling a health-class video "porn," you have Peter Sprigg telling the world that West Side Story is hyper-sexualized, and HERE you have people complaining because there's a picture of a pretty woman in a bathing suit on an airplane. Southwest painted a big picture of Bar Rafaeli, an Israeli supermodel, on the side of a Boeing 737.
A slew of passengers, many on Southwest's corporate blog are complaining about the paint job, equating the image to "soft porn." They want it taken down.

I think the guy at this travel site who wrote this has the right idea.
Have you ever seen soft porn? It doesn't look like this. Women less adorned are all around us, from billboards in New York City to The Sears Catalogue to, oh, I don't know, THE BEACH.

Southwest is just having a little bit of fun turning heads in the direction of their aircraft, but if you can't stand the sight of a pretty Israeli woman, cover your eyes or stop flying for the next couple of months until they repaint her. The promotion only lasts a few more weeks.

Oh, and this one -- the hyper-sexualized issue of Quilter's Home. From The Post:
The issue is wrapped in a prim plastic sleeve, but the lurid electric blue display copy still leaps from the page:





As in, "Shocking Quilts: We Show You the Controversial Patchwork." Advertised right on the cover of Quilter's Home.

(The magazine's other cover lines: "5 Popular Appliqué Glues Put to the Test," "Read This Before Buying That Longarm.")

Mark Lipinski, the editor of Quilter's Home, knew that the January/February issue might be perceived as scandalous.

This is why he took precautions -- $2,500 worth of precautions, which is what it cost to wrap each of some 45,000 copies in plastic before distributing them to newsstands and craft stores across the country. Doing his best to protect the unwary public from the adults-only images inside (but you buy it for the articles).

The precautions were fruitless.

Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts, the sewing and scrapbooking mega-chain with several locations in the Washington area, opted not to carry the sordid edition -- a little "too hot" for Jo-Ann is what Lipinski says his distributor told him. Phone calls to Darrell Webb, chief executive of Jo-Ann, and Lisa Greb, public relations director, were not returned. "Good grief! What year is this???" writes a poster identified as "Sara Volk" in response to the news on Lipinski's blog. "Since when did JoAnn Fabrics become the arbiter of MY morals? I'll go to church for that . . . and when I want styrofoam chickens I'll go to JoAnn's." Uncovered! The Unseemly Side of Quilts

No joke, the quilting magazine is "too hot" to put in their stores. I saw one of the controversial quilts -- somebody quilted a pattern made up of blue shapes that represented Viagra pills. Shocking!

Wouldn't wanna be ya.

Oh, one more, just because I liked the headline. From Australia: Clothed Tourist at Nudist Swingers Party Sparks 'Mini-Riot'.

Is this a great world, or what?


Blogger David S. Fishback said...

I agree with Jim's take on Peter Sprigg.

Nevertheless, having viewed the video per the link Jim provided, I think MCPS made the right call here.

The CRC/PFOX opposition was silly. The video is not at all insulting to African Americans, in my view. However, I think the video at issue was probably aimed at schools in which most (or nearly all) students were of color. In such a context, the dangers of stereotyping (i.e., "what will the "others" think or say about us"?) are at a minimum. The video becomes a very useful "lets talk seriously among ourselves" exercise in an all-minority school. But screened in a heterogeneous school community, the downsides become more obvious to me.

It may be that the Staff presented it to the Committee because the Staff thought our entire community was well past the sort of racial divisions that could create problems. I think that is true of much of the community, but not all of it. On further reflection, the Staff thought better of it.

It is good to have diverse views on the Committee -- even when it becomes a bit of a pain (as I well know from my own experience). And while the motivations behind the CRC/PFOX attack were not the best (by my lights), the discussion did ultimately lead to what I think was an appropriate result.

Indeed, had there been "good faith" opposition during the curriculum discussions in 2004, a lot of grief could have been avoided. The CRC/PFOX folks did not engage in a good faith effort back then, lying to the district court in 2005 and delaying curriculum implementation for two years.

It is good to see the system operating the way it should.

March 08, 2009 9:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


March 08, 2009 10:57 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

David, I think what you're saying is that if you had been involved in the review of this resource you would have argued against using it. Actually, I could go either way on that, and don't think the quality or relevance of the video is the issue.

MCPS had plenty of time to look this over. I'm sure they were aware of the content of the video and its implications, and cannot believe they didn't discuss it before they approved it to the point of showing it to the CAC. The video was evaluated and accepted by all the relevant MCPS insiders, and then was evaluated and approved by the citizens advisory committee.

I have said before, I give these things the benefit of the doubt, and trust that our excellent health teachers will know if it is appropriate for their classes or not. I vote against things that contain incorrect information or are patently offensive, and this passed both those tests.

There is a process here and it was followed, and the resource was approved. THEN the CRC threatened the school district, and the district simply collapsed and overruled the judgment of its own experts and the citizens who volunteer to help evaluate materials.

I have two major complaints here. First, MCPS has a process for evaluating materials, it was followed, and then an attack from outside the system elicited a response of cowardice and capitulation. Second, the rationalization that there is "racial stereotyping" in this video is frightening. These are ordinary teenagers making choices that ordinary teens face every day. The script is believable and engaging, the production is top-notch. The only reason that this was banned by the district is that the actors are black. Maybe somebody can explain to me some sense in which that is not racism.


March 08, 2009 11:24 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Jim writes,

Maybe somebody can explain to me some sense in which that is not racism.

Racism is where one racial group oppresses another based upon the prejudice of the oppressor. For example, when Obama is defeated in the 2012 elections it will not be because he is black, rather it will be that he promised and did not deliver. Jim, you see prejudice where there is none.

March 09, 2009 12:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"THEN the CRC threatened the school district, and the district simply collapsed and overruled the judgment of its own experts and the citizens who volunteer to help evaluate materials."

That's the best part of the process!

The film is gone because it depicted abortion as just another happy-go-lucky choice.

That's an evil depiction.

March 09, 2009 6:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an occasional visitor to this site, I am cynically amused by all these "anonymous" people who don't have the guts to put their name to their beliefs...
With regards to "anonymous" above, I challenge your assertion that abortion is presented as a "happy-go-lucky choice." Having worked with teens for many years, and in clinics where abortion services are provided, it has never been my experience that ANYONE approaches the decision to have an abortion as a "happy-go-lucky" one. That remark is very very disrespectful of anyone who is confronted with that decision. Also, having worked in many countries where abortion is ILLEGAL, we do not see the social and economic toll that unwanted pregnancy takes on young women and the risks they will take to end a pregnancy -- including sterility and death, because to have a baby at 14 or 15 will put a very rapid end to any sense of future. I am THANKFUL that abortion remains a safe and legal option for women.
This video presented all the choices and decisions that a young person is faced with when an unplanned pregnancy occurs. The beauty of this video is that it did not preach or lecture or provide the students with the "correct" answer, but presents an opportunity for young people to discuss and air opinions and ideas that contribute to making appropriate decisions.

March 09, 2009 10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think what you are afraid of, Anonymous, is school kids having the opportunity to discuss anything. You adhere to the old educational practice that the students should just sit at their desk and listen to what the teacher has to say. Rote learning has not been in vogue for over 40 years now, in case you aren't aware of that fact.
Showing this film in a class that is dealing with issues related to human sexuality (and not a class just being receptacles for a "facts injection" by the teacher)
should raise the issue of abortion or any other viable options that are available out there in the world (which you obviously abhor) and should raise issues and questions on the part of the students. Brainwashing them, by excluding options with which they will be confronted once they are out of the school environmen, will not give them the tools they need to make responsible decisions.
The film was not a propaganda screed extolling the virtue of abortion, as you would have the Board of Education and a misinformed public think, but rather a springboard for discussion and analysis by a class of students. CRC's inclusion of "racism" in their complaint is just a red herring, a convenient handle used to roil up emotions by those very people who are least concerned about racism.

March 09, 2009 11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Having worked with teens for many years, and in clinics where abortion services are provided, it has never been my experience that ANYONE approaches the decision to have an abortion as a "happy-go-lucky" one"

I never said anyone did. I said the film presents it that way.

"The beauty of this video is that it did not preach or lecture or provide the students with the "correct" answer"

When evil is presented in a classroom without qualification, that is unacceptable.

Teaching is generally designed to give students the correct answer.

March 09, 2009 11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's the right answer when full-term pregnancy is over 10 times as dangerous as first trimester abortion?

March 09, 2009 4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I said the film presents it that way.

The film presented abortion as something that could have split up the young couple; he was opposed to it and told her so. She loved him and wanted to stay with him, but she also wanted to finish her education before becoming a mother, just like Bristol Palin said she wished she'd done. What makes you think MCPS teenagers will see that as a "happy-go-lucky" presentation of abortion?

March 09, 2009 4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw on the news today that the Pappa Ratzi has endorsed the excommunication of a mother of a girl, who authorized, and doctors who performed, an abortion on her daughter.

Apparently, the girl is 9-years old, 80 lbs., had been raped by her step-father, and may not have survived the pregnancy (again, 80 lbs. and 9-yrs.-old with twins).

I think this link will work:

Vatican denies eternal salvation to mother and doctors

Abortion is illegal in Brazil, but there are exceptions for rape.

March 09, 2009 5:06 PM  
Blogger David S. Fishback said...

Anon has a one sentence response to my post in which I have a different take on the video from Jim: "Traitor."

It may come as a surprise to Anon, but those of us with open minds sometimes have disagreements. By airing those disagreements in a reasoned way, we all learn from each other.

Anon and his ilk should try it sometime. They might find it quite invigorating.

March 09, 2009 6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your link works fine, Robert. Thank you for providing it.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Roman Catholic Church’s Congregation for Bishops, told La Stampa, an Italian daily newspaper, that the case was sad, but that “the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons, who had the right to live and could not be eliminated.”

The regional archbishop, José Cardoso Sobrinho, excommunicated the mother for authorizing the operation. He also excommunicated the doctors, who carried out the operation for fear that the 80-pound girl would not survive a full-term pregnancy.

Apparently the Church thinks the 9 year old girl's life, which her doctors feared would be lost if the pregnancy continued, was less valuable than the unborn. The Church also apparently preferred that her mother and doctors allow the 9 year old girl to risk death for herself and her rapist's spawn rather than submit to a medically safe procedure to ensure her safety.

March 09, 2009 6:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just rattling your cage, David.

I actually engage in reasoned disagreement here quite a bit. An epithet is the customary response from the TTF crowd although you're usually civil, David.

March 09, 2009 6:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aunt Bea said: What's the right answer when full-term pregnancy is over 10 times as dangerous as first trimester abortion?

LOL, Bea. And death is easier than life too.

Also, I'm giving myself a name so I won't hear anything more about being an anonymous blogger.

Aunt Robert Cate

March 09, 2009 8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey -- before everyone has a cardiac arrest -- I'm not really going to call myself "Aunt Robert Cate." It doesn't suit me anyway....

March 09, 2009 9:30 PM  
Blogger David S. Fishback said...


I'm curious. You say I am USUALLY civil. Can you cite a single instance when I was not civil?


March 09, 2009 11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrea- not anon
Per the quilting scandal- I remember the controversy over a fabric arts exhibit at a law firm lobby at 12th and Pennsylvania. One of the artists crochets her people and animals with genitalia. The law firm decided this was inappropriate(as if the nature of their own work probably wasn't worse than some crocheted breasts or penises). They demanded the work be removed and I heard that the curator removed everything-from all the artists-not just the pieces that were offensive. As a crocheter myself- although hardly an artist- I later went to see some of the work at a gallery. I found out that Adam and Eve had body parts- not fig leaves- who knew??? And here is another shocker- cows have udders!!! I thought you just turned on a spigot somewhere on the cow for the milk.

March 10, 2009 11:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, I remember a couple of times when I thought David really lost his cool today

the site is too much of a maze to go back and search for it

you don't comment much anymore

no big deal

March 10, 2009 12:48 PM  
Blogger David S. Fishback said...


Actually, it is a big deal. When saying things in a public forum, one should not attack people -- even if you view it as a minor attack -- unless you have some evidence to back it up.

This is a simple rule for civilized discourse.


March 12, 2009 10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, it's a matter of opinion, David

for example, one could say this:

"It may come as a surprise to Anon, but those of us with open minds sometimes have disagreements. By airing those disagreements in a reasoned way, we all learn from each other.

Anon and his ilk should try it sometime. They might find it quite invigorating."

could be viewed by some as an incivil comment.

Making an issue of an insult is viewed by some as incivil as well. Most experts on etiquette say an insult is properly left unanswered and unreciprocated.

Again, a matter of opinion.

March 14, 2009 8:31 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home