October 17th, 2012 | Posted by: Vlad Chituc
My high school does a blackface skit reenacting domestic violence
Waverly, New York, the small town I grew up in, has received national media attention this week because of a skit performed by students during a pep rally last Friday. Two students dressed in blackface reenacted Chris Brown’s 2009 assault on his then-girlfriend Rihanna — to the tune of her hit, “Umbrella.” After a bit of Facebook rallying and email writing (and mostly some citizen reporting by a friend of mine), the story exploded on tumblr, Buzzfeed, the Associated Press, Crommunist, and eventually a proper report and write-up by CNN, including a few brief (and somewhat snarky) quotes by me:
Of Waverly’s 4,444 people, 4,312 were white, according to 2010 census data.
Chituc said he was “extraordinarily offended” by the skit and ashamed that his school seemed to be OK with it.
“On the one hand, I can’t blame the kids for being ignorant,” Chituc said. “It’s a small town, and the kids don’t know any better. It’s the responsibility of the administration to let the kids know this is not how you behave in 21st-century America. … They’ve been failing at that spectacularly.
The last I’ve heard is that no students had been punished for the skit, and I strongly suspect that no one would have even thought that something was wrong were it not for the national attention. But even if the blackface could legitimately be blamed on ignorance on the part of a small, white, and sheltered town, there’s no excuse for making a joke out of domestic violence. I got a response from the principal saying that “the format of the pep-rally will need to be reconsidered.” The format’s not the problem at all; rather, it’s a systemic failure on the part of the administration to teach students that racism and misogyny are not okay.
Mitt Romney has binders full of women
Though Mitt Romney’s comments at the debate last night quickly inspired jokes on tumblr and Twitter, Leah Libresco suggests on the Huffington Post that we’re too quick to judge what was actually a great move to support women.
There are a lot of things about Romney I don’t like, but what he did to address sexism was excellent, and I’m frustrated it’s being treated as a laugh line by other liberals. What he did was (sadly) pretty remarkable:
- Romney noticed they weren’t thinking of hiring women
- He assumed this indicated a problem with his team’s process instead of evidence that no qualified women existed
- He realized he and his team didn’t know how to find well-qualified women
- So he turned to womens’ groups for guidance
- And then he hired women!
Most organizations don’t make it very far past step one. They assume the dearth of qualified women is a fact about the world, not evidence of their own bias or problems in the pipeline. Even though, just this month, another study came out showing that men and women rate a sample resume as less qualified if there’s a woman’s name at the top of the page.
The HPV vaccine doesn’t lead to risky behavior
A recent study in the journal Pediatrics showed that the HPV vaccine doesn’t encourage promiscuity. My reaction is split between, on one hand, being embarrassed that such a study even needed to be done (“Wait, we should stop. I don’t want to get HPV” whispered no teenager in the heat of the moment, ever), and on the other hand, thinking “so what if it had?”
I get that it might convince some concerned parents, but it’s sad that sexual purity is a larger concern than protecting our daughters from disease.
More from Jezebel: outing trolls to protect women
The personal information of Michael Brutsch, renowned Reddit creep who moderated the jailbait subreddit (a forum dedicated to posting sexualized photos of underaged girls), as well as the alleged identity of the sexual predator that drove 15 year-old Amanda Todd to suicide, have both been recently released by Gawker and Anonymous, respectively. Jezebel writes:
I agree with Doyle that “Knowing Michael Brutsch’s name is less important than knowing that we will challenge attitudes like his the next time we meet someone who expresses them.” But if people aren’t held accountable for their actions, men will continue to grope women on the subways, post creepshots, and bully teenage girls into flashing them — or worse. So let’s name names instead of continuing to accept this type of objectification as depressingly commonplace.
There’s a broader conversation to be had here about anonymity on the internet (the CEO of Reddit has come down sternly on the side of anonymity, refusing to ban any content so long as it is legal and doesn’t release personal information), but I’m just happy right now to see repercussions for people’s terrible behavior online.
Vlad Chituc is a lab manager and research assistant in a social neuroscience lab at Duke University. As an undergraduate at Yale, he was the president of the campus branch of the Secular Student Alliance, where he tried to be smarter about religion and drink PBR, only occasionally at the same time. He cares about morality and thinks philosophy is important. He is also someone that you can follow on twitter.