The Terrifying Radical Truth

As I read Suzanne Pharr’s “Homo-Phobia: A Weapon of Sexism,” I was originally taken back by the radicalness of her views.

The right has used homophobia, sexism, and racism as the magnetic fields for organizing heterosexuals, men, and white people to oppose civil rights and democratic values. It has organized middle and working class people around anti-tax and anti-government sentiment, leading to an attack against services for the poor and increased economic injustice (96).

Yet, as I continued to read I found myself finally admitting the scary truth behind her warnings. Why else would the right be so adamant to deny same sex marriage, reinstate “don’t ask don’t tell,” and decline an already minuscule welfare program?
Republican candidate Rick Santorum’s responses at the most recent Republican Presidential debate in regards to “don’t ask don’t tell” proves a continued and unnecessary attempt at repression by the right. He explains that “any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military” and that “what we’re doing is playing social experimentation with the military right now.” Referring to homosexuals as an experiment is absolutely appalling. What is most scary is that his view is not a singular held view, rather he just happened to be the unlucky candidate who had to answer this particular question.  The other candidates that stood by as he stumbled his way through the question were in absolute agreement with him.

The chance that any of these republican candidates could be our next president is absolutely frightening to me. I find myself wanting to scream my brains out when I hear friends discussing how well certain candidates performed in the previous night’s debate. Instead, I keep quiet yet inside I am baffled.

How can people not see the glaring proliferation of repression by the right? Don’t they understand that the future of their freedom is at risk? Candidates that are running on the platform of reinstating “don’t ask don’t tell,” implementing universal bans on same sex marriage, repealing Roe vs Wade, and preventing and or ending affordable access to health care for women are an anachronism in the 21rst century. The fact that people may age, who have grown up in a generally more liberal society, are even considering risking their freedoms by voting for a republican candidate is mind boggling to me and absolutely terrifying.

Amidst an economic crisis, many people are forgetting the importance of other issues. As Milton Friedman points out, our freedoms are tied up in a multitude of political arenas. Thus, I believe it becomes dangerous when society allows one avenue to become the dominant issue. By focusing and voting solely on the economy, Americans are putting other freedoms they enjoy at risk. I just hope people realize this before next fall. For the next year I will be keeping my fingers crossed and actively holding myself back from screaming in people’s faces.


Does the United States Need a Female President?

Sarah Kendrick is a rising junior interning at Legal Momentum for the Equality Works Division, which works to increase the entrance and retention of women in nontraditional careers.

Although a female president will not mark the end of gender discrimination, the first female president will present a giant stepping stone to overcoming gender discrimination. Without a female president, it seems that gender discrimination can only improve at a sluggish pace and thus would take decades more to overcome or, on a more practical note, to make any headway. A consistent flood of women running for president and winning on a frequent basis will condition society to be more comfortable with women in high political positions and thus eventually end, or minimize, gender biases in this field.

Further, the president of the United States is one of the most public figures in the world. A female president will not only defy gender discrimination and biases within the political world, but will adjust the lens that Americans see the entire country with. Consequentially, the position of women across all sectors will improve.

For instance, the media greatly influences the United States’ perceptions and biases. If more women are running the media will be forced to report more on women and will hopefully become more comfortable talking about women in an appropriate manner. This conditioning combined with greater experience covering female candidates will hopefully help to rid the media of biased reporting that promotes gender norms and discrimination.

Additionally, consistent backlash from Americans against the media for discriminatory reporting will help to bring greater attention to gender discrimination in this country and thus shame media to report in an unbiased manner. Without constant biased reporting and discriminatory language flooding the media outlets that pour onto our computer screens, phones, televisions, iPads, and radios, Americans will have one less influential outlet to learn discriminatory language and biases from.

But how do we get more female candidates running for president and thus eventually a female president? I believe that one of the many vehicles is role models. Role models provide a source of encouragement and example for women and girls. In a field where women are highly underrepresented, role models are crucial to persuade and support more girls into running for office. Role models provide women with a safe and understanding ear to confine in with their struggles in a male dominated world. This support will provide women with the courage and strength to continue forward. Lastly, role models serves as an example for all women and girls for they can be or become, thereby influencing their aspirations and goals in life, such as to be the first female president of the United States.

Politics is a crucial way to improve women’s status. While it is a messy and often fraudulent endeavor, it is essential to carry out and enforce many of this nation’s operations and goals. Politics has done both good and bad. For instance, it has ended slavery but also created it. Its immense power for good and the intricate delicacy that makes up politics are most interesting to me. People must efficiently weave in and out of various political ideals in order to use politics as an effective vehicle to achieve social action. This often controversial dance is what allures many to follow, utilize, and loathe politics.

I believe that both the government and grassroots groups are necessary in order to achieve significant social change. Grassroots groups encourage the government to make changes and the government implements and enforces grassroots’ goals so that all people must follow, in order to achieve universal change. For instance, during the civil rights era, if only grassroots activism had been utilized to rid segregation it would have been impossible to persuade every single employer, public location, educator, local government, and anyone else to stop segregation without the enforcement of the government.

Getting Over the Feminist Learning Curve.

Sarah Kendrick is a rising junior. She is interning at Legal Momentum for the equality works division.

When I first decided to apply to the Moxie Project, I knew that I would learn a lot but I definitely underestimated the toll this learning experience would have on me.   I originally believed that all the international Duke Engage programs would be drastically more stressful than Duke Engage in NYC because these programs would force students to experience and adjust to new cultures and lifestyles, which would ultimately adjust these students’ entire outlook on life.  Being that I would only be an hour from my home in New Jersey, I did not think it would be possible for me to have nearly the same learning curve as students in the other programs in countries like India, South Africa, Egypt, China, Guatemala and Kenya.  Yet, I can say, without a doubt, that I have never been more intellectually challenged in the past 20 years of my life than I have been in the past three weeks.

I have come to question every aspect of my life and the world around me.  I have grappled for hours about how my life fits into feminism and what I need to change in order to be a “better feminist.” What makes a good feminist?  More importantly, what even is a feminist? As Dukies we want to be perfect and be able to tackle and understand anything at the drop of the hat.  Yet, it is clear that all of us are struggling with the true meaning of feminism and how we can each be one in our own ways.

My very idea of change and what is required for significant social change has been challenged.  Sitting around a table with my peers we were all confused as Ada and Erin challenged the fact that our organizations, which we all believed to be god’s gift to earth and thus ourselves successful servants to the feminist cause, were maybe not enough to make the necessary social change required to uplift women from marginalization. Initially, many of us were enraged. How is this not enough? What the heck more can one do? I remember Erin saying that when she challenges people’s ignorance and makes them feel uncomfortable she knows she has done her job. They definitely were doing their job.

As I looked around the table, all of my peers’ faces were just as perplexed and frustrated as mine. You know the saying do not shoot the messenger, well this applied to this case. At first, the frustration, which eventually turned to anger, and confusion I felt about this new world-view, was directed toward Ada and Erin because they merely were delivering the message. The idea that we had to go deeper than policy, educational reforms and outreach programs scared me.

Finally, after I got past my initial confusion and alarm I saw that they were right. Going to the root of problem seemed scary and unknown but was essential to induce the necessary social change to elevate women’s standing once in for all in society.  It was not that they were saying our non-profits were pointless but that we needed to change the very fabric of society that forced our non-profits to exist.  Yet, now I grapple with how can I even make a significant change or impact because going to the root of the problem seems almost impossible.

As each day passes I learn more about the feminist cause and the amazing ideas and theories it encompasses.  I have become fascinated with viewing the world through this new lens.  Yet, when I step outside my group and discuss with other people what I am learning it becomes challenging to stick to these views. It becomes clear that the stigma surrounding feminism is still so strong.  The moment I mention the word “feminism” people are automatically turned off.  It is literally like the plague.  I am struggling with ways to discuss these new views with others in a way that can get people back onto the side of feminism.  Feminism, like many things in this world, has been tainted by a few and thus turned so many people off.  In order to invoke social change something has to be done to get mainstream society onto the feminist side.

Where are the angry mobs?

Sarah is a rising junior. She is interning at Legal Momentum for the Equality Works program, which promotes opportunity and equality for women in non-traditional job sectors, such as the construction trades and in law enforcement.

When I think of activism I think of angry mobs of people marching across the State Capitol with protest signs. My mind instantly flashes back to images from my U.S. history textbooks of factory workers picketing factories and demanding higher wages. I think of Martin Luther King leading boisterous rallies of thousands and thousands of people to uproarious applause with his “I Have a Dream Speech.” All of my mental images of activism are filled with drama, excitement, and of course marching, lots of marching.
Obviously, I expected from the gay pride rally nothing short of a mixture of all of these images plus better since from what I have seen on TV and in magazines and newspapers about gay pride events is full of color, flamboyance and other spectacles as people extravagantly and passionately display their pride.

When I got off the subway stop near 72nd St. & 5th Ave. I expected to see rainbows everywhere and colorful signs lining the way to the Rally in central park. Yet, I was surprised to find the exact opposite. In reality, I had a lot of trouble finding the rally. As I am not a true New Yorker, or maybe I cannot blame this truly dumb mistake on that, I ignorantly forgot that Central Park encompasses 6% of Manhattan’s total acreage so I showed up to some random entrance point expecting the rally to be right there but it was not. I then asked a park police officer if he knew where the gay pride rally was and he had absolutely no idea what I was talking about, which I thought was strange. In my mind this was supposed to a massive event that encompassed the entire 843 acres of Central Park. How could anybody miss it, especially the park ranger for god sakes?

After calling a friend for directions, I finally found the right region of central park. Once I got to the general vicinity I followed the sound of the music to the surrounding area of the event. I was slightly skeptical that I was in the right place. No signs or symbols demarcated the outside of the event to let one know that this was indeed the gay pride event. As I mentioned before, I did hear music playing but I thought maybe this was just a concert going on. I had to ask the security guard at the front gates of the event if this was in fact the gay pride rally, to which he replied yes. So far, this Rally was not meeting my very high expectations of a loud, colorful, life-changing march across central park.

When I walked into the rally I found a confined spaced filled with colorful food trucks selling pride themed food. Upon entering I was bombarded with flyers promoting various pride events throughout the city. The stage was lined with pride signs and a singer, I am not sure who, was singing passionately for a happy crowd. I finally knew I was in the right place.

Everywhere around me people were hugging, dancing and just feeling free to be themselves in plain site. Never before had I been able to discern so many people being their true selves. Usually in society, especially at Duke, it is hard to tell who is gay, bisexual or straight and thus one automatically assumes that they are typically surrounded by straight people, which is the sexuality that is deemed “the societal norm.” Yet, here it was clear that not all the people were straight and those who weren’t were proud of it. I no longer felt like a majority, I felt like a minority and I enjoyed it. Being a minority gave me a chance to see and experience a whole other culture, something the “Duke bubble” does not always afford.

I suddenly realized that activism does not have to be a dramatic escapade complete with police barricades holding back mobs of protesters. Rather, it can be a much smaller event than Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” or the Stonewall riots. This rally gave people hope and reassurance that they were in fact “normal” and that a good portion of society welcomed people’s true selves. Hearing people happily greet each other with “happy pride day,” a greeting I had never heard but liked a lot, made me realize that even small acts of furthering the cause, even if it is just a cheery greeting that lets people know you welcome them and their cause, are forms of activism.