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“Explaining Away The Violence”: Is The Hoodie The New Miniskirt?

Is the hoodie the new miniskirt? Of all the politically – and emotionally – loaded details of the George Zimmerman case, the matter of Trayvon Martin’s hoodie may be the most telling.

Martin, after all, was not just a black teenager walking in a gated community where he did not live. He was wearing a hoodie – which, Zimmerman’s defenders note, is somehow akin to carrying a machete in terms of sheer provocation.

Fox’s Geraldo Rivera apparently thinks so, noting that “if you dress like a thug, people are going to treat you like a thug.” And singer Ted Nugent, who is prone to provocative behavior and comments himself, called Martin a “Skittles hoodie boy,” referring also to Martin’s recent candy purchase.

It sounds bizarre to those of us who have worn hoodies (when you grow up in Buffalo, a hooded sweatshirt is just another necessary element to the three layer rule of keeping warm and dry during the winter, and also the fall and spring). When I was a kid, the style was to wear a blue hooded sweatshirt underneath an open denim jacket (how cool were we?!!).

And before the whole Martin–Zimmerman case, the most prominent hoodie–wearer, at least to football fans, was New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. He’s irritating, to be sure, and has even acquired the nickname “hoodie,” but no one has suggested he’s a symbol of violence or crime because of his clothing.

But women get it, because we have been told from an early age that what we wear could get us assaulted – and that if we are assaulted, people will think it’s our fault because of what we were wearing. If a female is walking down the street in a miniskirt (or whatever someone else might find provocative) and is sexually assaulted, part of the equation is – what was she wearing? And why was she wearing that? What other possible reason could she have for wearing a miniskirt other than that she was inviting rape or sexual assault? The old analogy still holds: would a defense attorney rip apart a male victim of a mugging who had been walking down a dark street wearing a natty suit and expensive watch, practically asking to be robbed?

The underlying premise – that wearing revealing clothing or a hoodie automatically makes one suspect, and therefore complicit in one’s own attack – is troubling. What’s even more offensive is the idea that some Taliban–type control group gets to decide how certain groups of people should dress in order to stay safe. Sometimes a hoodie is just a hoodie.

 

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, July 17, 2013

July 18, 2013 Posted by | Zimmerman Trial | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Basic Civility: Who Will Teach Congress to Behave?

To make sense of the  vitriol, lack of cooperative spirit and just bad manners being displayed on  Capitol Hill, look no further than Massachusetts.

It’s not that the Bay State is unusually mean or even  rude. Visitors flocking to the Cape, the Berkshires or Boston’s North End will  surely find friendly people. But recent news in Massachusetts demonstrates just  how high our tolerance for—even celebration of—bad behavior has become.

The Boston Globe informs us  that the Boston School Committee is drafting rules for basic civility  at its  public meetings. This is not a response to shouting and  disruption by children,  who by definition are still learning how to  behave in public and how to  adjudicate disagreements with honor and  mutual respect. No, the school  committee’s actions are a sad response  to the heckling and all-around disrespect  shown by adults—parents and  teachers—who have been unhappy with school closings  and other matters  before the committee. Disruptive students have been at the  meetings,  too, which makes it worse, since the lesson they are learning at the   meetings is that it’s acceptable to shout and be rude to display one’s   unhappiness with a public policy. One protestor last December yelled  “liar”  at Superintendent Carol R. Johnson. Was this individual merely  parroting the  behavior of Rep. Joe Wilson, who yelled, “You lie!” at the President of the  United States during a live, nationally-televised speech in the House chamber?

Remarkably, some of the adult activists have not been  shamed at the  fact that they must be treated as recalcitrant children. The Globe  quotes the teacher’s union  president, Richard Stutman, jokingly  comparing the decorum rules to Stalinist  Russia. That’s not only an  insult to the people who lived in the brutal  dictatorial regime, but an  insult to public education. Surely, teachers do not  instruct their  students that self-control and civility are akin to  totalitarianism.

But if the school meetings aren’t distressing enough,  Massachusetts  can look to its professional football team, the New England  Patriots.  The team recently signed Albert Haynesworth, whose behavior, on and  off  the field, was so poor that the Washington Redskins couldn’t stomach  him  anymore. In sports, the bad boys are often given a pass if their  on-field  passes are complete. But Haynesworth—who was paid $35 million  to play in 20  games and didn’t always show up for practice because he  didn’t like the coach’s  defense strategy—became just too much for the  ‘Skins, who traded him to the  Patriots for a fifth-round draft pick. At  least Haynesworth won’t be a double burden to the Pats, since Randy  Moss, another behavior problem, left the team last year and announced  Tuesday he would retire from the sport. Defenders note that Patriots  coach Bill Belichick whipped Moss into shape. Haynesworth could be a  heavier list; at one point, he was juggling four different legal cases  against him even as he feuded publically with his coach.

We should expect more from members of Congress, who have  been  through campaigns and theoretically should know better. But the  public—even  as they deride the dysfunction and bad manners in the  Capitol—are enablers,  rewarding malcontented lawmakers with campaign  contributions. Republican Wilson  and former Democratic  Rep. Alan Grayson, who famously accused Republicans of  wanting people  to die as a way of saving on health costs, were two of the  biggest  fundraisers last election cycle, with much of the cash coming from out   of state. Grayson lost, but the message was clear: acting up is  profitable. And  both Democrats and Republicans are raising money off  the recent uproar over  Republican Rep. Allen West, a Tea Party movement favorite who sent an email to  a colleague, Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz,  calling her “the most  vile” member of the House. Wasserman Schultz had  criticized West’s approach to  Medicare, although she did not name him  in the floor speech that led West to  accuse Wasserman-Schultz of not  acting like “a Lady.”

The Boston School Committee may be able to teach civility  to adults  who apparently never learned how to sit still and listen. And perhaps   Belichick can control Haynesworth. Who will do the same for members of   Congress?

 

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, August 2, 2011

August 2, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, GOP, Government, Lawmakers, Politics, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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