Deliberation Nation was, for me, a mix of fascination, anxiety, and desperately trying to find time to attend a second discussion.
As it happened, the only deliberation I was able to attend was Friday’s Hate Speech vs. Free Speech discussion. Although it was the only meeting that fit into my schedule that week, I’m really glad that it was the one I was able to go to – I found the conversation engaging and thought provoking, and I’ve come back to think about the deliberation several times.
There were about 12 of us seated at cafe tables in Frasier Commons, and after five minutes of introductions and donut-munching, we split into two groups. The approach teams then spoke to the smaller groups, giving us a more intimate setting for conversation and discussion. I thought this method was really effective at engaging every attendee, as the small groups forced a certain level of participation. I enjoyed discussing all three approaches, but I found our discussion of legal censorship particularly fascinating. I was sitting next to a girl who had a very different idea of free speech than I do, and it was really cool to discuss how far our government can really go to prevent hateful speech.
All things considered, the Hate Speech vs Free Speech deliberation was a really cool experience. I got to see what it was like to sit on the other side of a deliberation (without the anxiety of “Oh god I hope we can get them to talk for the whole 20 minutes”), and I was able to meet other Freshmen that care about this issue. I thought the deliberation was a fantastic opportunity to challenge my perceptions of free speech and hate speech, and to practice civic engagement with other Penn State students.
The second approach to our deliberation considers the social stigmas placed on sex and sexuality in the United States. We want to talk about how abstinence only curriculums promote double gender standards and misconceptions about intimacy. We started doing research on how social stigmas are created in our current sex ed curriculums and began looking at what changes we wanted to see in the United States.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information has a great article that discusses social stigmas created by our current sex education situation. The piece delves into the issue of abstinence only curricula, which tend to create the misconception that STDs and other negative health problems are caused by sexual promiscuity. This is not accurate, and the article suggests we combat that stigma with a more relaxed view of sex and sexuality. We should promote sexual health regardless of what kind of sex people are having, and inform our students on the myriad of ways STDs can actually be spread.
The Center for American Progress also made an argument regarding stigmas in sex ed. The article explains that LGBTQA students are often at a severe disadvantage, because schools do not provide sex ed programs that are inclusive of all sexualities. The piece suggests creating a more comprehensive K-12 curriculum that would encourage students to ask questions and maintain their sexual health.
I was surprised at how much research has been done regarding sex ed and social stigmas – I would have thought that their findings, which clearly indicate a problem in our society, would lead to action creating a more inclusive and comprehensive curriculum. The lack of appropriate sex ed programs for students has created a cultural problem with stigmas that affect each and every one of us – children, teens, and adults alike. We need to address the issue of abstinence only sex ed curriculums and face the taboo our society has put on sexuality – let’s talk about sex baby.
“LGBT-Inclusive Sex Education Means Healthier Youth and Safer Schools.” Center for American Progress, 28 June 2013, www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/news/2013/06/21/67411/lgbt-inclusive-sex-education-means-healthier-youth-and-safer-schools/.
“Sexual Health Training and Education in the U.S.” PubMed Central (PMC), Mar. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3562751/.
Our group has decided to discuss sex ed for our deliberation this month.
We believe that this is a subject that is usually considered taboo do discuss in public, and that is exactly why we need to bring it to the deliberation table. We know that some states in the US require sexual education for middle and high school aged students, but we also know, partially from our own experiences, that our current sex ed system is certainly not proactive about teaching safe sex practices, but in many cases actively harming adolescents.
We discovered that many students reach college without knowing how to properly use condoms, and are uninformed about the risks and consequences of STDs and sexual harassment. Our group wants to meet with members of the State College community to figure out what the pros and cons are of our current system, and to discuss potential ways to create a more comprehensive and inclusive sexual education curriculum in the United States.
We have broken our deliberation into 3 approaches to cover three different aspects of the sex ed conversation – first, the medical misconceptions regarding birth control and vaccinations, followed by a look at the social stigmas associated with sex and human functions, and finally the effect of sex ed on harassment and rape in our culture.
My role in our deliberation is to tackle our second approach: Social Stigma. Our sub team is working to find out how our current sex ed curricula promote unhealthy patterns including homophobia, period shaming, and double standards for sexual behavior between genders. So far we have found that LGBTQA students are far more likely to get STDs and be uncomfortable seeking answers to their questions regarding sexual health because sex ed is taught from a strictly heterosexual perspective (read the Center for American Progress’ article ). We also found that most American girls grow up with the idea that menstruation is a dirty function, and that “men don’t like to hear about it.”
We will be continuing our research and developing several key questions to put in our deliberation packet. We hope to spark conversation on campus and in State College about sex ed, and how it desperately needs new regulation. We want to point out that the way students learn about sex, sexual health, and respect for intimate partners is incredibly important, and our country would benefit from enhancing our sex ed curricula – let’s talk about sex ed baby!
Anybody who knows me at Penn State will tell you that I’m outspoken. I’m a diehard supporter of LGBT rights, and I can typically be found entrenched in a debate about gender equality or waist deep in research on religious discrimination.
I didn’t always have that rep though. I was known for being a talkative child, but not for being the outspoken advocate that I try to be today. If you’re wondering how that changed, it’s pretty simple: I was raised by two moms.
Like most kids, I spent my early childhood without worrying about what was “normal” or “abnormal.” I had my mom, dad, and little sister, and that was that. My world shifted however when I reached the fourth grade and my parents divorced; my mom, sister, and I moved in with Tara, who has since become another mother to me. My new home and family were huge changes for me – I didn’t always handle myself very well, but never once did I find it weird or unusual that my mom had moved in with another woman. I became accustomed to referring to my parents as “my moms,” and I don’t remember a single time in elementary or middle school when anybody challenged me about why I phrased it that way.
High school was a different story. I spent my freshman year at Conwell-Egan Catholic High School, and I was hit by the reality of prejudice in a way I had never experienced before. Many of my teachers voiced their opinions that homosexuality was a sin, and that two people of the same gender could not properly raise a family together. I was surprised by the harshness of their words, and angry that nobody was standing up to challenge their hateful message.
One day, about halfway through the year, I reached my breaking point. I remember sitting there in my blue uniform and knee high socks, thinking “Why isn’t someone saying anything?? Why doesn’t someone speak out?” Then it occured to me, “I need to do it.” I was terrified to speak out about something the adults in my school disagreed with, but I was tired of being silent. I raised my hand, feeling small. I explained to Mr. Papirio, my history teacher that our class lovingly dubbed Papi, that I didn’t believe the church could tell us who we can or can’t love; I shared that I was raised by two women, and expressed that I felt lucky to be part of such a loving family. I challenged my teacher to find something about my upbringing that made me different from the rest of the class. When I finished, I expected Mr. Papirio to argue with me, to tell me why I was wrong. I sat there, shaking in my hideous saddle shoes, waiting for an argument. Instead, he thanked me for sharing my story, and told me that I had shaken his perspective. I was taken completely by surprise, but his reaction helped me build the courage I have needed to keep fighting for my strongest beliefs.
Looking back, that day changed my life. The simple act of standing up in Papi’s class, of voicing my belief in my parents and in equality regardless of sexuality – it redefined my world view and set me on a path to a career in LGBT advocacy. It made me the outspoken and passionate young woman I am today, and made me more confident as a friend, an ally, and an advocate. I don’t expect to change the minds of everybody I meet, but I do believe in the power of speaking out for equality – it empowers the world to be a better place.
“It’s What I Do” tells of Lynsey Addario’s life as a conflict photographer – it unveils the inner workings of a woman who has seen almost every modern world conflict up close. However, the pages of her memoir do more than just detail her experiences; it tells the stories of those on the other side of her camera lens.
This image from the memoir has been seared into my memory. This boy’s face (pg. 189, 210 ) is full of uncertainty, his brow furrowed with the weight of his surroundings. The dirt on his lip and his bloodshot eyes reveal that this child has faced more in his short lifetime than I will ever have to; the bandages on his face a stark contrast to the brightly colored bandaids I wore on my scraped knees as a child. This photo reminds me to fight for peace, to prevent more pictures of children like this one.
This second picture is equally penetrating to me. These Pakistani men serving the Taliban (pg. 198, 210) look directly into the eyes of the camera, their gaze unwavering. The young, handsome face of the man in front is unsmiling, his head resting gently against his automatic weapon. War has forced him to become a man, and no matter which side he fights for it breaks my heart that youth all over the world are losing their innocence to violence and hatred.
My passion blog centers around discrimination and ways American college students can fight for equality. We as young people can connect to the powerful visuals, and I will use that to further my cause. By showing the world how people are affected by prejudice I hope to strike a chord in my peers that will encourage us to promote peace, and protect children from horrors of war.
On January 21st, 2017, hundreds of thousands of people gathered for the Women’s March on Washington D.C., the now famous protest in response to President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The march demanded equal rights for women, but also for the other minority groups concerned by the presidential election. One of the largest rallies ever held, the Women’s March created a forum for the modern feminist movement. Symbols like the We The People campaign, the pink hat, and the empowering upraised fist came to be associated with the events of the day. The song “Quiet,” by Connie Lim (or MILCK) is another such symbol, and it has become a call to civic engagement for American women from Seattle to Boston.
When MILCK first wrote “Quiet” several years ago, she was told not to release the song. The ballad, she revealed in an interview with Allure, was written as a retelling of her experience with fear and empowerment. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, MILCK grew up with a double set of social expectations; one from her family, and one from the Americans around her. Put on your face, know your place, shut up and smile, don’t spread your legs –the first lyrics of the song represent the confining demands that were placed on her as a woman in America.
Following the events of the presidential election however, MILCK decided that she had to share her song with the world. In a time when American women, MILCK, and myself included, are wondering whether our voices will be heard in this administration, “Quiet” validates our fears and then dissolves them by calling us to action.
The lyrics of “Quiet” embody the spirit of not only the Women’s March itself, but of the uncrushable spirit of the women in our country. It addresses the challenges we face and the fears that hold us back, and empowers us to break through the fear and speak up for ourselves. Many American women, especially teenagers, are hesitant to voice their opinions because our society often labels outspoken women as “aggressive” or “pushy” – MILCK sings openly about these feelings, refusing to hide even her fear.
But no one knows me no one ever will,
If I don’t say something if I just lie still –
Would I be that monster scare them all away,
If I told them what I have to say
Those lyrics pierce right through me, and strike at the heart of my fears. As I cross the line into adulthood, it is dawning on me that people won’t be asking me to raise my hand – if I have a message to spread, I have to voice it on my own. Chances are the world isn’t going to like everything I have to say, and I will be reprimanded more than once for being an outspoken American woman – I will be that monster. As I’ve struggled to come to terms with that, “Quiet” has reassured me of the importance of speaking out anyway:
I can’t keep quiet, no
I can’t keep quiet, no
A one woman riot, oh
I can’t keep quiet
MILCK’s lyrics have calmed my fears of facing judgement from the world, and have empowered me to fight for the things I believe in. Women like me all over the United States are discovering the inner strength to stand up and demand equal rights; we can’t keep quiet anymore, and “Quiet” is giving us the power and the reminder to engage our world and fight to make it a better place.
The soulful lyrics of “Quiet” relieve our fears of expressing ourselves, but it also encourages us to actively engage in our communities. The song comes to a climax when MILCK sings
Let it out, Let it out
Let it out now
There’ll be someone who understands
MILCK’s notes appeal to that urge inside each of us to let it out, to tell the world how we feel and to fight for the change we want to see in our society. The song asks every woman to share what they have to say, pleading with us to show everyone how powerful we truly are. MILCK also reminds us that, no matter where you are or how isolated you feel, none of us is alone. Each one of us is fighting to reach the same goal of equality, and when we feel alone and unheard, There’ll be someone who understands.
The empowering message of “Quiet” could not have come at a better time. The 2016 presidential election was one of the most controversial in our history, and it has raised a lot of debate on topics covering immigration policy to reproductive rights and everything in between. The candidate’s attitude towards women and women’s rights created upheaval on more than one occasion, and it was a deciding factor for many people when they went to vote. Millions of women in America were downright afraid of the results of the election and many women, myself included, have become concerned about the future of our rights and social standing in America.
MILCK recognized this fear, and it motivated her to finally release “Quiet.” She first performed the song at the Women’s March in a way that unified all the women present. As the women’s march approached, she reached out to 23 women across the country and asked them to debut the song with her in D.C.. The women rehearsed the piece online, preparing for the event. The http://now famous video of their performance was not only the first time they had sung together, but the first time any of these women had met each other. The performance was, and is, a reminder to all of us that we can make anything happen when we work together to fight for our rights. Together we can change the world we live in.
“Quiet”’s achingly beautiful melody is still shaping the way American women are looking at their place in society. As the song gains popularity, MILCK’s message of courage and empowerment is reaching a wider audience, and is causing women everywhere to rethink the way they perceive the world. The original video recording of the Women’s March performance went viral, quickly reaching a national platform. MILCK released a music video accompanying the song, a visual story equally as powerful as the song itself, and performed “Quiet” live on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Women around the world share their stories of empowerment with the hashtag ICan’tKeepQuiet, a tag now synonymous with the Women’s March as well.
In today’s political climate, MILCK’s single “Quiet” calls on American women to speak out and become engaged in our communities. By acknowledging the fears and doubts we have about doing this, the song becomes relatable to its audience, and allows us to hear the message of her song. She promises that we are not alone in our search for equality, and that when we feel isolated and alone, there will be someone else who is fighting alongside us. With every chord we are encouraged to take the risk, fight for our beliefs and above all, to make our voices heard.
I can’t keep quiet
~ For the readers of a women’s life magazine (Live Happy, Darling, Cosmopolitan) ~
“With each new assignment … I felt more fortunate to be an independent, educated woman. I was thirty-one years old, and I cherished my right to choose my love, my work. I had the privilege to travel and to walk away from hardship when it became too much to bear. Most people on earth didn’t have an exit door to walk away from their own lives.”
As a white American woman, Lynsey Addario knows that she will never have to face the injustices that the people in her camera lens experience. Chapter 8 of her book “It’s What I Do” opens with her expression of gratitude for the life she is able to lead, following her account of Congolese women who had been raped.
The stories of these women were the most intense part of the book for me; I do not connect to things easily, but the rejection of these women by their families brought me to tears in anger. Lynsey tells their stories of hardship and cruelty, and through her words I could feel their anguish. When she then contrasted the stories with her gratitude for the privileges she had been born with, it made me realize just how lucky I really am.
In my passion blog, I hope to address the conflict between privilege and discrimination the way that Lynsey Addario discusses rape in her book. I want to shed light on the prejudice that people face without sensationalizing it, to remind those who are not targets of discrimination that it is still their responsibility to oppose it. As a white American woman, I have privileges that many others would never dream of having, and it is up to me to use my gifts to make the world a place where equality is a reality, not a distant dream.