I’m not Watching the Sochi Olympics, but Don’t Call it a “Boycott”

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The official Sochi Olympic logo. I hope you are as inspired by this as I am.

Greetings Friends,

First, let me confess that I love the Olympics. I’ve loved them since my vague memories of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. The United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, the last Olympics to be held in Russia. The real Olympic fever set in during the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles (ah, those dashing Red, White and Blue stars!). I collected the cups, saw the torch run through my town, and because our main competition, the then Soviet Union, returned the favor and boycotted our Olympics, US athletes won a ridiculous number of medals.

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Now THAT’S a logo!

Because of all of this bad sportsmanship, I grew up thinking that not only are the Olympics an essentially American thing (that Sarajevo thing was a blip), but that we were amazingly awesome at them. Look at all of our medals! I wanted to be a gymnast and bask in that glory myself. That dream was short-lived since I had neither the flexibility nor the natural talent to even do a backbend much less flip and fly like Mary Lou Retton.

My love of the Olympics continued. When the Seoul Olympics ended, I actually cried. Calgary bobsledding! I’ll admit during my cranky late teenage years, I let the 1992 Olympics slide (except that amazingly epic lighting of the torch by flaming arrow at Barcelona. The world still tips its hat, España). More recently, the Beijing Olympics gave me a much needed distraction during my recovery from a serious illness.

But I’m not watching the Sochi Olympics because the organizers are stepping on two matters that, well, matter to me. The first is their controversial approach to homosexuality. The news has blown up about this over the lead-up to the Olympics and some people have called for another boycott. Now, boycotting something that is meant to bring the world together is, I think, an inappropriate response. If an individual athlete does not want to compete, that is his or her prerogative. That is not a decision that needs to be made from the top. In fact, the best approach to such things is to go and annoy the host country by acting in a manner that undermines their draconian laws. Google is demonstrating how to do this.

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I can feel Putin’s annoyance from here.

The second matter is their approach to animal control. Russian cities are home to many feral dogs (the ones in Moscow commute to work!), I suppose because the cultural infrastructure is not such that puts excessive resources toward government-run animal shelters or humane population control measures, such as Trap-Neuter-Return programs. Rather than expend any effort during the past several years (Sochi was awarded the Olympics in 2007, so they had some warning) toward dealing with these animals gently and over time. Instead, city officials have ordered mass poisonings for these dogs.

Sochi dog

I wouldn’t trust that abandoned hamburger, old fella

Lastly is the matter of the planned display of two orca whales, captured as juveniles in the wild, as entertainment at the Olympic Games. Russia regularly captures wild cetaceans and delivers them into captivity around the world. This plan, apparently, has been changed or cancelled, perhaps due to outrage/bad press or perhaps due to further planning woes. No wild cetacean should live in permanent captivity (rehabilitative captivity is often required for injured individuals) and it is just one more reason to eschew these “Games”.

A poster reading "Justice for all Captives" with a beluga whale breaking handcuffs on its flippers

Someday…

Given these matters, I’m not watching the Sochi Olympics. This is a personal decision. The IOC made the (I think bad) decision to award the games to Sochi despite the infrastructure for the Games not being in place (and reports coming in from Twitter suggest that it still isn’t) and officials there seem to be intent on making a stream of boneheaded decisions. I am just one person, but the Olympics is a huge source of advertising revenue and general kerfuffle. By not taking part in that, I’ve lessened the impact of the Games, if only by one-eight-billionth.

However, this isn’t a boycott, it’s a decision, in the same way I make the decision not to watch a certain movie or television show or musical concert. No, the argument that I need to “support the athletes” is invalid. They don’t need my support. Most of them are reasonably wealthy and furthermore they are having the time of their lives and competing on the world stage. I doubt they are excessively concerned with who’s watching on television. After all, the Games are older than television itself, so I’m sure they’ll manage.

Ancient Olympians from Greek ceramic

Also, we wear pants now

I’m not expecting anyone to join me in this, but I also don’t need to give my attention to something I think is unworthy of it. Hopefully, Rio de Janeiro will deliver.

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The Power of “Mom”

Hello, Friend.

A young woman wearing a frilly dress and apron rolls out dough with a smile

I’m so glad my favorite baking gown was back from the cleaners!

Sit down. We need to talk. I only bring this up because you’re being severely manipulated by such subtle, little things that you may be unaware of it. The one that caught my bright eye today is the use of motherhood in media.

Now, there are the obvious stories, such as Wendy Davis’s political opponents questioning her abilities as a mother. Riley even says at the end, “Americans will forgive a lot in a politician. But a woman who leaves her kids is just beyond the pale.”

Why?

Because women in American society serve two important functions. The first is to make themselves sexually attractive, but the second is to be a GOOD MOTHER. Yes, this is a double-standard because there is plenty of slack in the leash for a man (in politics or otherwise) to be a disengaged or absent father. In fact, many male American politicians have less-than-stellar track records when it comes to their commitment to family.

But this type of verbal thwacking to reinforce societal gender standards is obvious. Less obvious is the subtle use of the word “Mom” in mainstream media.

See, the word “Mom” conjures thoughts of frilly aprons, apple pies, a string of pearls and the delicate scent of Chanel No. 5. What? Your mom smoked a pack a day of Marlboro Reds, never wore a heel higher than one inch in her life and worked the night shift at the distribution warehouse? Well, picture the other lady. That’s the real American Mom.

This lady is a saint and everyone knows it. She loves her kids. If she works outside the home, she doesn’t let them know it. She sacrifices even the least of her personal needs for the sake of her husband and children and her fierce mamma bear nature means that if anyone including her husband got in the way of her taking care of her children, that person would be sorry he or she had been born. If you are a woman, this is what you are supposed to be (or want to be).

This lady is as fictitious as Santa Claus (sorry, kids), but the Good Mother an important tool of propaganda. This isn’t to say there are not good mothers. Most probably are, but very few of them are June Cleaver, especially in a society where only 1/4 of married mothers of children under 15 stay at home (5 million out of the total US population female population of circa 160 million).

The Good Mother means a lot. According to US Census Data, “About 1 in 6 custodial parents were fathers (17.8 percent).” Advice for divorcing parents does not paint a nicer picture. [1], [2] Now, the legal system is what it is an every civilization must continue to evolve and strive for justice. But the facts are that there is a perceptual bias that says women are, by nature, better caregivers.

This perceptual bias, like all perceptual biases, is man-made, not nature-made. The media in America and Britain constantly and carefully reinforce the idea that mothers are the better and primary caregivers to children and have a unique access to a child’s needs. They do this through terminology. Just a few examples:

  • “One group of mothers from Connecticut gathered for a group interview with Pelley and told him that the stigma is one of the most difficult parts of raising a child with mental illness.” [CBS 60 Minutes] Why just interview mothers? Did the fathers refuse to appear on camera? Are all the fathers absent? One father in a hospital was briefly interviewed at the beginning of the piece.
  • The morning news and information show, has a parenting subdomain called Today Moms. Today Dads? Not a thing.
  • Headline: Family of murdered Newport News mom: ‘We just want justice served for our sister’ [WTKR] This is extremely typical for headlines. If a woman does something, or if something happens to her, she is listed as a “mom” or “mother” and not more generically as a “woman”. Given that 81% of women have had at least one child by the age of 44 [1], the only purpose for headlining the title of “mom” is to garner an emotional reaction. (Compare this to just one of a plethora of headlines about men: Cops: Man killed daughters because he didn’t have car seats” [CBS] He’s obviously a father, why not say, “Dad killed daughters…”? Perhaps because men are not defined in our culture by their reproductive status?)

None of this is mean to be Mom-bashing, as if such a thing exists. Rather, it is meant to highlight the ways in which media outlets use “Mom” to establish cultural norms. The media could do better showing parents equally and reinforcing that men are, can, and should be equally willing and able to provide child care and that women are not defined primarily by their reproductive status. Headlines about women should be about women, not “Moms”. “Local mom to run for Congress” is irrelevant. “Mom rescues her baby from fire” could just as easily read, “Woman rescues her baby from fire”. “Today Moms” should be “Today Parents” because, well, that’s just embarrassing.

Next time you read a news article or watch a news show, pay attention to how men and women are portrayed and discussed vis-à-vis their reproductive status.

The news will never be the same.

How to Handle Bad News

I have some Bad News for you, my Friend.

This will probably ruin your very day and I am Sorry for it, truly. Conveying bad news to another is almost as bad as receiving it. Almost, but not quite.

So I have some Advice on the matter, for Friends only.

First, if you must give someone Bad News, you should just Do It. Mucking about with “We need to talk” and “I think you should sit down,” just makes the whole affair worse. Building up to something Bad is never Good. Consider. If you prepare someone for some truly devastating news, having asked them to “Sit down first” is going to appear quite insensitive. You, the bearer of Bad News, should, of course, be prepared to catch the recipient if he/she receives the news Badly, but just tell them. “I am sorry to tell you that your father died this morning,” or “There’s been a collision and your spouse did not survive.” This is Extreme Bad News (unless the recipient did not like the person in question, in which case you’ve now become the bearer of Good News, but that is for another post) and nothing else said or done will change that. Just tell them.

But there’s another kind of Bad News, which is not so bad, and winding this up to be more than it is will make you look Foolish. I would hate for you to seem Foolish. So asking someone to “Sit down first” before a mediocre shock is also silly and you’ll get them expecting something grand and life changing which, “I just received 20% off my car insurance!” will not do for them.

Now, as for the situation in which you, my Friend, stand in as the recipient, here is some advice: If the news is concerning you, you’ll react however you will and you are Entitled to this. Moving past that, if the Bad News is about someone else, see my earlier post about How to Express Sympathy. If the Bad News is something general, such as, “Oh my, did you hear that ninety-seven Cashmere goats were killed in a freak skiing accident in Italy?” then you should, if you are female, put your fingers delicately on your lips and softly gasp, “Oh good gracious! What a tragedy!” or if you desire to be more masculine, you may spread your feet slightly, shake your head as you look down thoughtfully, and mutter, “Terrible thing, that.”

So there you go, Compadre, now you know how to handle Bad News.

Meanwhile

Rainbow Games

Here at the Pernicious Tit, we are great advocates for Equality. Therefore, we are concerned with recent reports coming out of Russia, such as This One, where homosexual people are facing persecution. In their homes even.

Obviously this news is distressing and such manoeuvres by a government against its own citizens recalls the approach of such horrific periods as the Inquisition and the Holocaust.

All of this is bad enough, but it comes ahead of Russia hosting the next Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Many Equal Rights advocates are pushing for nations to boycott these Games in solidarity. Everyone else is making the case against this, (here, here, and here just to name a few) although many of these voices shouting against a boycott are similar to the voices that want to convince you, Dear Friends, that group action is Fruitless and Ineffectual. We believe it is not, but that is for another post.

One of the Main Arguments against an Olympic Boycott is that the “athletes worked so hard and it’s not their fault” and “some of these Winter sports have no other public venue” and that it is “Unfair” and would “Prove nothing”. Well, Friends, what is unfair is being thrown into prison because someone does not like you. That is significantly less fair than getting to Bobsled with Attention.

But we are not without compassion, which is why we should hold a Rainbow Games concurrently with the next Winter Olympics. A previous venue, such as Lillehammer, Lake Placid, or Turin, should open their facilities to those athletes unwilling to support the Russian regime. Make awards, television contracts and get sponsorships from like-minded companies and individuals.

It is time to Stand Up and demand equality for all humans. Tits too.

Miley Cyrus Wins!

The Pernicious Tit again…

The Internets are all a-flitter with a certain burlesque-style performance that aired on the television last evening. One “Miley Cyrus” appears to have delivered into everyone’s homes a free Strip-and-Grind show (sans shiny pole).

We haven’t the foggiest notion why everyone is Up in Arms.

She gave us a FREE striptease. Why in heavens should we complain about this? Certainly, her choice of attire was in rather poor taste. Personally, here at Tit-Central, we prefer something with more style, more flair, more color, with a certain je ne sais quoi, n’est-ce pas? The hair. The beige. Those shoes. No. Rewind and try again, my girl.

Actually, the Tit believes all of this literal song and dance was quite calculated. You, my Friends, are far more likely to become Hot and Bothered over something you don’t like, and this will drive you to Say Something about it to any and everyone. People don’t bother going and saying nice things about that which they like or admire. However, put a Bee down their pants and you’ll never hear the end of it.

So this is what the demure Ms. Cyrus knows. If she wants all of us, even here at the Pernicious Tit, to pay attention to her, she has to act in a manner that flips our collective wig. However, we here would like to remind you, Friends, that oversexed teenagers enjoy startling all of you who think you Know Better when really you don’t. Britney, Madonna, Elvis… everyone just sit down already over this.

Also, have you SEEN old photos of Led Zeppelin? Those jeans leave nothing to the imagination. Nothing.