Monday, December 15, 2014

No Evidence of Rape? Try Harrassment.

As disturbing as the recent trend of college girls accusing young men of rape without evidence is, I thought there was still a modicum of restraint. Oh, sure, I've been keeping up with the news. I know about how the Duke lacross players were crucified in the court of public opinion and how their innocence, when not doubted, is shrugged off as irrelevant. I've read Zerlina Maxwell's opinon about how a woman who makes an accusation of rape should be automatically believed, an opinion that is especially ironic coming from a black woman considering all the black men who were lynched because the white women who accused them of rape were automatically believed. I've seen the comments about the Rolling Stone story of horrific gang rape at the University of Virginia, a story that has completely unraveled but has defenders who argue that even if it didn't happen, it could have and so ultimately it doesn't matter if it's true or not. But I really truly thought our society had hit rock bottom until I read about Emma Sulkowicz.

She's become famous for lugging a  mattress around Columbia, calling it performance art and proclaiming that the mattress will travel around campus with her until her rapist is expelled. I freely admit I don't understand modern art. I remember asking a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art when a painting was going to be unveiled-turns out what I had mistaken for a drop cloth was the painting. When I asked why another painting had been hung when it was streaked with dirt and needed to be cleaned, he politely suggested I try another museum. So I know I don't have a leg to stand on when it comes to modern art-I don't appreciate it and I'm not in a position to criticize it.

What I do know is the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It's the foundation for the United States of America, it's what makes this country special, and it's pretty clear about what rights a person accused of a crime is entitled to. It's also pretty clear these days that a male college student accused of rape is denied all the rights of due process and that he can be expelled and branded for life as a sex offender without so much as the opportunity to confront his accuser.

Enter Emma Sulkowicz, a woman who was in the middle of consensual sex with an inebriated man she had previously had a sexual relationship with. She claims she was raped because the man penetrated her anally against her consent. Since Sulkowicz never went to the police, never filed charges, and never had a rape kit, it's impossible to know if she's telling the whole truth, part of the truth, or making the story up. Nevertheless, Columbia took her accusation seriously enough to investigate. Campus courts have a very low standard-they only need to find that it's fifty-one percent likely that a rape occured to punish the accused. In Sulkowicz' case, even this low standard was not met, and when she appealed the decision, the dean, in a rare show of courage, refused to expel the man.

In response to the university's decision, Sulkowicz started lugging a mattress around. Apparently by taking a facsimlie of the "crime scene" everywhere she goes on campus, she hopes to force the university to change its mind, or apply enough duress to the man she accused that he will leave voluntarily. Feminists and art lovers are enchanted-the feminists because they see Sulkowicz as taking a stand against the man who attacked her, the art lovers because they see the mattress going everywhere as a great work of performance art. She considers her mattress such a serious work of art that she worried about taking it off campus for a photo shoot lest it violate the rules for the performance. I find myself perplexed by it all. Like I said, I don't understand modern art. Maybe this is a great work of performance art. Or maybe this is the act of a vindictive young woman who didn't get her way and is now out for revenge against an innocent man. Impossible to say one way or the other, because she didn't go to the police.

Sulkowicz does say that there should be a disinterested party trained to deal with rape survivors adjudicating her case. Sounds an awful lot like what she wants handling her case are the police-they're very well trained to deal with rape and they're disinterested, without the kind of personal stake in a campus rape case that the college has. Of course, the police will question a woman making an accusation of rape. They will take her statement, run a rape kit, talk to the man she's accusing, talk to anyone and everyone who may know something about the case, and then come back to talk to the woman again if the physical evidence or the recollections of other people don't match her account. Sulkowicz didn't go that route. She preferred to make an accusation after the fact, present no evidence, consider Columbia University idiotic when they didn't expel the man she accused, and now she is dragging around a mattress to call attention to her desire to have this man removed. I suppose in her mind, there should be no trial, on campus or elsewhere, just a presumption of guilt and a straight line to punishment.

And what of the man she accused? He's still at Columbia, laying low, not even listing his email at the campus' FaceBook page. It's impossible to know if he is an innocent victim of Sulkowicz or if he actually is a rapist. Our society theoretically has a presumption of innocent until proven guilty, but nowadays pointing that out will get one branded a rape apologist. The irony is that the so-called rape apologists are generally open minded people who admit the possibility the accused man could be guilty, but the people making accusations about rape apology are not open to the possibility of innocence. According to writer Vanessa Grigoriadis, a woman who doesn't support other women's rape accusations is an ugly thing. What's uglier is women supporting an unfounded accusation without evidence. And ugliest of all is the spectacle of a woman claiming to be performing art in an attempt to force a young man to derail his future.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

So A Guy Holds A Door Open For a Woman...

...and that makes him a sexist? I recently ran across a comment on the Internet to the effect that a guy who holds doors open for women is a sexist-not on the same level as the guy who wants to keep women barefoot and pregnant, but sexist. This door-holding guy would be horrified if he was told that he's being sexist-he's just being polite, but he's really a bigot. Not that telling him he's wrong to hold the door open will change him, he'll go on doing it because he fervently believes he's a nice guy, doing a nice thing, and any woman who has an issue with him is in the wrong, but a woman sick of being patronised sees it in the correct light.

So this was the gist of the comment, and I'm seeing some questions that beg to be asked. For one thing, what if the guy holds the door open for everybody? Men as well as women? Is he still a sexist? Should he hold the door for men, but not women, just to avoid misunderstandings with women who judge by gender? I mean, it's hard for me to picture the most ardent feminist having a problem with a woman holding a door open for her. It's possible the woman who holds the door for another woman has other issues. Maybe that woman only holds the door open for young pretty women. Maybe she only holds the door for older feeble women, or women carrying groceries, or maybe a baby has to be around for her to hold the door open. So many preconceptions over a simple act of courtesy! Getting back to the man, if it's acceptable for him to hold the door for a woman as long as he holds it for men as well, how the heck does the feminist know when she's being patronised by a sexist who only holds the door for women, or being given the same courtesy as a man by a man who holds the door for everybody?

Confused now. I know that my son has been yelled at, and even cursed at, by women who have assumed that he's a sexist patronising man who holds doors for women. Doesn't bother him-he says he's going to act like a gentleman even if the woman he holds the door for is not a lady. He also offers his seat on the bus if he sees a woman who has no seat-he says a gentleman doesn't sit while a lady stands. Shame on me-I'm the woman who raised him to respect my sex, to treat women with courtesy and respect, to watch his language and behavior around women and be polite and kind and considerate. What was I thinking?

Another question that comes to my mind as I sit here mulling this over is why the feminist with the preconceived notions about men holding doors has a valid point of view, while the man who is trying to be courteous is considered a bigot. Don't the man's feelings count just as much as hers? All right, I see a fundamental difference here-the woman doesn't want a man holding a door for her unless he holds the door for everyone. The man wants to be courteous. Let's say for the sake of the argument that he only holds the door for women. Is that really such a terrible thing, to offer a small courtesy to a woman because she is a woman? There are women being beaten and raped and stoned and denied education around the world, by men who don't respect women at all and wouldn't offer a courtesy to a woman unless you held a gun to their head. Somehow I just can't see that holding a door for a woman is some awful thing that patronises and degrades and slights women. And if a woman does feel that way, I can't see that it is going to hurt her to accept the courtesy without being nasty about it. Or even decline the courtesy, if that's how she feels, without being nasty about it. Do feminists honestly believe that the occasional man holding a door for them is going to turn back the clock, and women won't be able to vote, have access to abortion rights, be able to leave the house and work and live their lives the way they want to? That's an awful lot to put on a door.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that when a person tries to be kind, I think it's best to give that person the benefit of the doubt and assume that all they're trying to do is show a little kindness to a fellow human being, even if the person offering the kindness is a man, and the person he's offering the kindness to is a woman. I remember a bumper sticker I used to see a lot. "Practice random acts of kindness." I haven't seen that bumper sticker for a while. I'm starting to wonder if the random acts of kindess have been killed by political correctness.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

When The Cops Ask For Your ID

There's been a huge buzz in the news lately about Daniele Watts, an actress who claims the police were called on her because she was showing affection to her boyfriend in public. Miss Watts is black, her boyfriend Brian Lucas is white, and they are both celebrities. Well, sort of. He's not noteworthy enough to have a page at Wikipedia. She did get a Wiki page after the police incident but at the time of this writing, the page is being considered for deletion because Miss Watts is not noteworthy as an actress. Miss Watts has appeared in a few things, like many many other young actors, including the acclaimed movie Django Unchained, where out of almost 80 actors, she is perhaps the 60th listed. Briefly, on September 11, 2014, Miss Watts claimed that she was showing affection to her boyfriend outside an office building. The police were called on a complaint of a couple engaged in a lewd act. When they arrived, both Miss Watts and Mr Lucas were fully clothed and not doing anything. The police asked to see the couple's identification. Mr Lucas complied, Miss Watts refused.

It gets complicated real fast from that point. According to Miss Watts, she refused because she loves America, she wasn't doing anything wrong, and she had the right to refuse to identify herself to the police. She called her father, asked the police to talk to her father, and then tried to walk away. The police officer, Sergeant Jim Parker, a 25 year veteran of the LAPD, called for a female officer to bring Miss Watts back to the scene. Miss Watts resisted the other officers and was handcuffed and brought back. At this point three police officers are involved-Parker, who is gay, a female police officer, and a Hispanic police officer. In other words, three minorities. Miss Watts insisted the police were harrassing her because she was black. Sergeant Parker pointed out that she was the one who brought up race. Miss Watts asked if the officers knew who she was and said that she was an actress and had a publicist. Sergeant Parker had already obtained identification from Brian Lucas, who was not handcuffed, but despite his repeated requests for identification, Miss Watts refused to comply. She burst into tears, and finally Mr Lucas either gave her ID to the officers or he persuaded her to show her ID. A quick background check was run, the handcuffs were removed, and everybody was on their way.

It gets even more complicated. Mr Lucas claimed the police thought Miss Watts was a prostitute, despite the fact that not one of the officers made that accusation. He backed up Miss Watts' story that they were not doing anything. Then TMZ posted some pictures of Miss Watts straddling Mr Lucas while he sat in the front seat of his car with his feet on the curb. They also released an eyewitness account that claimed Miss Watts was grinding on Mr Lucas, that her shirt was up and her breasts were exposed, he was playing with her breasts, and she cleaned him and then herself with some tissues, which she then threw on the curb. Miss Watts responded by saying they were doing yoga, and Mr Lucas again backed her up, going so far as to pose for a picture which she posted on her Facebook page, where she's kneeling on his lap while his legs were crossed. Doesn't look like yoga, and I don't think anyone is going to believe that yoga is practiced on the front seat of a car with one person playing with another person's breasts, but that's the story and they're sticking to it.

So what are we, the American people, to make of all this? It helps to know the law. The ACLU recommends cooperating with the police, even if you feel your rights are being violated, and filing a complaint later. Some states have stop-and-identify statutes but California is not one of them. According to the LAPD, a police officer with a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed has the right to detain a person and identify them in the course of an investigation. In this particular case, a complaint was called in about a couple having sex in a car with the door open. They were described as a black woman in floral shorts and a white man in a black shirt and the car was described as a silver Mercedes. Miss Watts and Mr Lucas fit that description, so Sergeant Parker had both the right and the duty to detain them while he assessed the situation and completed an investigation of the complaint. And Miss Watts was not handcuffed for refusing to show her ID. She was handcuffed by two other officers after she walked away from Sergeant Parker while he was detaining her. Did Miss Watts have the right to refuse to show her ID? Absolutely. She also had the right to be belligerent and uncooperative with the police and she exercised that right. She did not have the right to leave while being detained, and the police responded predictably by returning her to the scene of the detention while they completed their investigation.

People are polarized on this issue, with one side insisting that the police were right and that Miss Watts should have just cooperated, and the other side defending her right to refuse to identify herself. My personal feeling is that it's stupid to argue with people who carry badges and guns. You're not going to win the argument on the street. No one has ever won the argument on the street. People have won the argument, and sometimes huge settlements, in court, and the police have had to issue apologies, and officers have been disciplined and even fired, but it was all after the fact. On the street, you can get along with the police or you can go along with the police, because one way or the other, the cop on the street who is asking for your cooperation is going to get it. Some people say it's important to fight against that mindset, that it's important to resist police abuse, and I agree. I just don't want to do it in a stupid way, that gets me cuffed and stuffed in a patrol car. And I don't feel the need to resist when a police officer is just doing his job. If a cop asks for my ID, I'm going to hand over my ID, let him do his job, and be on my way with a minimum of fuss. There's no inherent injustice in a police officer investigating a complaint and exercising due diligence in the performance of his duty, no matter how much someone may not like being detained, questioned, and identified.

One final thought. Once upon a time, there was a serial killer and cannibal named Jeffrey Dahmer. On May 26, 1991, Dahmer picked up a fourteen year old named Konerak Sinthasomphone. He took Sinthasomphone to his apartment, where he sexually assaulted him and then drilled a hole in his skull and injected acid into his brain. Sinthasomphone escaped and was found by some women, who called 911. Dahmer tried to get Sinthasomphone away from the women, but they said they had called the police. Two officers showed up, and Dahmer said that Sinthasomphone was his 19-year-old boyfriend and that he was drunk. The police helped Dahmer get Sinthasomphone back to Dahmer's apartment, where he was susequently killed and dismembered. Had a background check been conducted, it would have revealed that Sinthasomphone was only fourteen years old, and that Dahmer was a convicted child molester on probation. I suppose Daniele Watts and her defenders would applaud the actions of these officers in not identifying the two people involved in the complaint. After all, like Miss Watts and Mr Lucas, the only reasonable suspicion the officers had that anything was wrong was a 911 call, and according to Miss Watts and her defenders, that's not enough reason to identify anyone. It's true that Sinthasomphone wound up dead, but at least he didn't have to show his ID.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Just Get Your Colonoscopy!

That's right. I'm going there. I admit it, when I turned fifty and the doctor started recommending a colonoscopy, I put it off. I didn't want to do the prep and I didn't want the long tube snaking through my guts. I just kept putting it off until I was fifty-two and my mother mentioned that her mother died of colon cancer. This was news to me. My mother always said that my grandmother died of heart disease. I checked with my sisters. Yup, that's the story they got-heart disease. But my mother had gone for a colonoscopy, and they found some precancerous polyps, and she suddenly remembered that her mother had died of colon cancer. Go figure.

Well, whether or not my mother is an unreliable narrator, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and get the procedure done, so I went for a consultation. The doctor assured me that he had done hundreds of colonoscopies, that it was quick and painless, that they would sedate me and I wouldn't even remember what happened, and he'd be glad to fit me in that very week. Lucky me!

I still wasn't very enthusiastic, but I went down to the drugstore and got a gallon container with some powder. The pharmacist explained it all very carefully. I was to mix the powder with a gallon of water and drink three fourths of it the day before the procedure, and the remaining fourth four hours before the procedure. He also warned me that if I didn't follow the directions faithfully, the doctor wouldn't be able to see anything and I'd have to come back and get another gallon container.

My test was scheduled for 8:30am Friday morning. I ate as I pleased up until 6:00pm Wednesday evening, then I didn't eat at all on Thursday. I drank a lot of clear tea, and at 5:00pm, I mixed up the powder and started drinking. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be-it tasted like lemon flavored Gatorade. True, I hate Gatorade a lot, and I don't like to drink large amounts of liquid at any time, but I managed to drink the amount I was supposed to get down.

I was afraid it would make me feel sick, but it didn't. It did cause diarrhea, so much so that I basically sat in the bathroom until it stopped, but it wasn't the painful cramping kind that you get when you're sick. It just caused everything to run out. I wasn't looking forward to doing it all again at 4:30am (remember, my test was for 8:30am and I was supposed to finish the liquid off four hours before the test) but since I had already started, I might as well do a good job of it. As it happened, I did have some cramps, not too bad but enough to make me want to get up at 4:00 and start drinking again. The nurse explained later that the cramps were from the bowel continuing to try to work with nothing to work on.

The great advantage of having a colonoscopy is that they take you promptly at your appointment time. Your gut is all cleaned out, and even without food, normal metabolism will continue to clean waste out of your cells, so they're not going to dilly dally. I was taken right in for the test, and I must say, it was the easiest part of the whole procedure. They sedated me, and I woke up in the recovery room. It's a bit disconcerting to think I was awake and I don't remember the actual test, but considering what they were doing, I don't mind. I felt a little sick all day from the sedation, and it took a little while for my bowels to get back up to speed. I take probiotics, and that was helpful-after all, when you clean out your colon, you're also cleaning out all the helpful bacteria that live in your colon, so you want to replace them as fast as possible.

Bottom line-of course the pun is intended! They found one precancerous polyp and removed it. The doctor recommends another colonoscopy ten years from now. I think I can handle it. So why did I want to write about something so personal?

For one thing, the doctor told me some pretty disturbing statistics. Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates there were 96,830 new cases of colon cancer and 40,000 new cases of rectal cancer in 2014. The death rate has been dropping for more than twenty years, thanks to screening, which finds polyps and removes them before they can develop into cancer. It also finds colon cancer in the early stages, when it's much easier to cure. And yet, only half of the people who should get screened, do get screened. I get that. Like I said, I put it off for two years. The prep is time-consuming and unpleasant. I wouldn't put it higher than unpleasant, but some people just don't want to do anything unpleasant. Colon cancer is a lot more unpleasant than a colonoscopy, but nobody ever thinks they're going to get cancer, so screening gets put off. It doesn't help that there are a number of people out there who put out misinformation about colonoscopies and encourage not getting them.

Are there risks to a colonoscopy? Of course there are. There are risks with any medical procedure. The bowel can be punctured, the site where a polyp was removed can start to bleed and require surgery, you can have a bad reaction to the sedation. You can also get into a fatal car accident driving to the doctor to get the test. The benefits far outweigh the risks. What's a day or two of minor misery compared to the peace of mind of knowing that you are cancer free? Or that something was found and fixed before it could ruin and possibly end your life?

Here are the risk factors for colon cancer. If you have one or more, and your doctor recommends getting a colonoscopy, get it done. It's a cliche but it's true. The life you save could be your own.
Older age. The great majority of people diagnosed with colon cancer are older than 50. Colon cancer can occur in younger people, but it occurs much less frequently.
African-American race. African-Americans have a greater risk of colon cancer than do people of other races.
A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps. If you've already had colon cancer or adenomatous polyps, you have a greater risk of colon cancer in the future.
Inflammatory intestinal conditions. Chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, can increase your risk of colon cancer.
Inherited syndromes that increase colon cancer risk. Genetic syndromes passed through generations of your family can increase your risk of colon cancer. These syndromes include familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, which is also known as Lynch syndrome.
Family history of colon cancer and colon polyps. You're more likely to develop colon cancer if you have a parent, sibling or child with the disease. If more than one family member has colon cancer or rectal cancer, your risk is even greater. In some cases, this connection may not be hereditary or genetic. Instead, cancers within the same family may result from shared exposure to an environmental carcinogen or from diet or lifestyle factors.
Low-fiber, high-fat diet. Colon cancer and rectal cancer may be associated with a diet low in fiber and high in fat and calories. Research in this area has had mixed results. Some studies have found an increased risk of colon cancer in people who eat diets high in red meat.
A sedentary lifestyle. If you're inactive, you're more likely to develop colon cancer. Getting regular physical activity may reduce your risk of colon cancer.
Diabetes. People with diabetes and insulin resistance may have an increased risk of colon cancer.
Obesity. People who are obese have an increased risk of colon cancer and an increased risk of dying of colon cancer when compared with people considered normal weight.
Smoking. People who smoke cigarettes may have an increased risk of colon cancer.
Alcohol. Heavy use of alcohol may increase your risk of colon cancer.
Radiation therapy for cancer. Radiation therapy directed at the abdomen to treat previous cancers may increase the risk of colon cancer.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I love not using shampoo!

I never would have thought I could give up shampoo. I always had at least three or four different brands of shampoo-I went back and forth, trying to find the magical shampoo that would live up to the promises on the bottle. All the disappointment in the world couldn't convince me that there wasn't the perfect shampoo out there. I just had to find it. Oh, sure, I read about the no-poo method of washing the hair with baking soda and rinsing with vinegar, but there was no way I would ever try it.

No way until last summer when I noticed my hair was shedding. There was more hair in the brush, I even had more hair in the drain. Naturally I panicked. I'm fifty-one years old. I don't want to be bald on top of that. But I was already doing all the right things-eating right, getting enough sleep, using organic shampoo and hair styling products. I don't blow dry my hair, and I use henna to cover the grey. There just wasn't anything to try! Or was there? I decided it was time to take the plunge and try the baking soda and vinegar.

First thing I learned when going off shampoo-you have to listen to your hair. There is no more forcing your hair to be shiny, or pumped up, or anything it doesn't want to do. No more hiding behind gels and mousse and hairspray, although you still can use hair styling products if you wish. It's just you and your hair and I found that hair that's been washed every day for decades with commercial hair care products is pretty touchy when you finally let it be itself.

The holy grail of the baking-soda-and-vinegar method is to not wash your hair as often. I tried not washing my hair every day. I really did. I went through the transition period of greasy hair, which in my case was pretty mild since I had been using organic shampoo, and I so wanted the no-poo method to work and give me beautiful shiny hair that I only washed once a week, but it was not to be. I have a lot of hair, but it's fine and my skin is oily. Fine hair and oily skin does not work well with washing once a week. In my case, it didn't work skipping just one day. I tried DIY (Do It Yourself) dry shampoo to absorb the oil. Cornstarch worked very well, but I have red hair and the cornstarch gave it a ashy cast. I tried 100% cocoa power, which didn't look ashy but unfortunately didn't work nearly as well as cornstarch. I remembered to listen to my hair, and since my hair was telling me it was going to get greasy if I didn't wash it every day, I washed it every day with baking soda and rinsed it with vinegar.

The vinegar was also an adventure. I started out trying Bragg's. This is a completely natural unfiltered, unheated, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, which is what a number of people on the no-poo method recommend. My hair didn't really like it, though. It never seemed to rinse out completely and my hair didn't look as nice as when I tried Heinz vinegar. My hair liked the Heinz apple cider vinegar, but I didn't. It had a very strong smell and I could still smell it when it dried. It was very faint, but I could smell it and I didn't like it. I switched to Heinz white vinegar. Success! I washed every day with the baking soda-I just took a teaspoon of baking soda, mixed it with a little water to make a paste, rubbed it in my hair, and rinsed it out. I then used a vinegar rinse-half vinegar, half water. The baking soda was not pre-mixed, the vinegar rinse was. It worked beautifully.

Or, well, it worked beautifully for a while. Did I mention the henna? For some reason, the baking soda and the vinegar stripped the henna out of my hair. Maybe if I didn't wash it every day but I didn't think I should have to choose between grey hair and greasy hair. I didn't want to go back to shampoo, so I did a little more research on the Internet and decided to try Dr. Bronner's liquid soap. I like the rose scent and it doesn't strip the henna. Only problem is, washing your hair with soap leaves it dull and sticky and tangled. You have to use an acid rinse afterwards. Back to the vinegar-when I washed my hair with Dr. Bronner's liquid soap and rinsed with my usual vinegar rinse, my hair looked pretty good.

I did decide to try the Dr. Bronner's citrus hair rinse, and while that is a bit pricey, I must say that washing with the soap and rinsing with this stuff works best of all. I premix a bottle of it every night-one capful of the hair rinse added to eight ounces of water. Perhaps it's slightly time-consuming, but my hair looks really good, doesn't shed or tangle, the henna holds very well. It seems a bit thicker too and it's definitely growing faster. I used to go six or seven weeks between haircuts and now I have to cut it once a month. Even with the pricey citrus rinse, I spend less on my hair than I used to, and it takes much less time in the morning because I don't have to use styling products on it-I wash and go. I just wish I had given up shampoo years ago!