In this TED talk, Jay Smooth addresses how to communicate racist comments that come up in conversations.

He begins with an anecdote about how people often ask him “What are you?” and he proceeds to joke that he’s not a philosopher in any way but that he is a light skinned African American male that is essentially a mix of various races.

He then proceeds to discuss a video that he posted on YouTube and how he attempted to provide suggestions to people who were faced, in a conversation, with a racist comment. He told people to focus on the racist comment, not on the fact that the person who said the fact could suddenly be racist. He further explains that when he points out that a racist comment, the person who said it immediately assumes that he is accusing them of being racist and they immediately deny that label. Thus, he stresses the importance on focusing on the comment, not the person. However, he received mixed reviews from this video with some people saying that his strategies worked and some saying that his strategies didn’t work at all.

He then discusses how race is a socially constructed system that was created to essentially exploit people and so it requires a lot of effort to combat this deeply ingrained system in society. He then likens racism and prejudice to tonsils. He says that people often think that they are either racist or not and that there is essentially no ‘gray area’. Furthermore, he says that we have to actively address our imperfections and see ourselves as trying to be ‘clean’ people in that we work daily to maintain our cleanliness/awareness of our racist comments and attitudes.

Despite the barriers that have been broken, he emphasizes the fact that we all need to work together to breakthrough these issues through conversation and create strategies to keep moving forward.


The message that Jay Smooth gives in his video, specifically his metaphor about maintaining awareness and not automatically assuming that one is either racist or not at all is helpful. I realize now that instead of trying to think of myself as a perfect person that has no racist attitudes or prejudice is destructive to myself and others because I am human and I have imperfections, but that does not make me a bad person. I also think that the metaphor of social awareness being likened to cleanliness is understandable and effective because it is important to keep oneself aware and consistently working towards self-improvement, which will in turn, help improve society as a whole.

A scandal involving the Penn State football coaches, athletic department, president and administration has unfolded in the past few days.

Basically, Joe Paterno the 84-year-old head coach of the Penn State football team, was fired. Why? Because Jerry Sandusky, a former football coach was sexually abusing young boys over the past decade. The former athletic director and former head of the finance department were charged with “failing to report an incident” aka BEING COMPLETE IDIOTS AND TURNING THE OTHER WAY WHEN YOUNG BOYS WERE BEING SEXUALLY ASSAULT.

Sandusky was able to find his victims through a foundation that he created called Second Mile in 1977. This foundation provided needy children the opportunity to participate in athletics. Even though Sandusky was technically not a faculty member at Penn State, he had access to athletic facilities and even had an office in the Football building, where he would sexually abuse his victims.

According to the 23-page grand jury report, the assistant coach had seen “a naked boy … whose age he estimated to be 10 years old, with his hands up against the wall,” and a “naked Sandusky” forcing him to have sex.

Unbelievable. Even more unbelievable is the fact that Paterno claims: “he was never questioned by university police or other law enforcement until he testified before the grand jury in December 2010.” WHAT?! HOW CAN YOU NOT REPORT YOUNG BOYS BEING RAPED? How can you simply WALK AWAY and not report that sort of thing to the police? I cannot even imagine what kind of moral code he has. Just. So disappointing that the administration and athletic department kept quiet about the sexual assault of these young boys just for the football team.

It’s upsetting enough to hear about the fact that young boys were being raped and nobody did anything, but, of course, it gets worse.

After it was announced that Joe Paterno was being fired, thousands of Penn State students began to riot. WHAT THE WHAT.

 They turned their ire on a news van, a symbolic gesture that expressed a view held by many: that the news media had exaggerated Mr. Paterno’s role in the scandal surrounding accusations that a former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, sexually assaulted young boys.

OH I’M SORRY NOT SAYING ANYTHING ABOUT YOUNG BOYS BEING RAPED WAS EXAGGERATED BY THE MEDIA?! I can’t even. I can’t even believe that these students are my peers and are acting out in such a way. The fact that they are SO UPSET about the loss of a football coach and their school’s football reputation and NOT about the fact that their school allowed sexual assault of young boys is shocking to me.

It’s infuriating. It’s unbelievable. It makes me feel a complete lack of optimism for the future because of how incredibly skewed and distorted our sense of morality and our values as a generation. I’m glad they’re passionate about something, that’s better than apathy, but based the fact that this upset is over their university’s football team is just ridiculous.

I think what President Obama had to say is very fitting:

“And I think it’s a good time for the entire country to do some soul-searching — not just Penn State. People care about sports, it’s important to us, but our No. 1 priority has to be protecting our kids. And every institution has to examine how they operate, and every individual has to take responsibility for making sure that our kids are protected.”

Jon Stewart addressed the situation and his satire makes the scandal a little less infuriating.

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This is my weekend. I’m pretty excited as this is my first conference. Ever.

I feel like an adult, which is bittersweet. I also feel like I’m taking more responsibility for the development of my interest in social justice/feminism.

The website states:

Activists and campus leaders from 10 Western States will converge to strategize, share ideas about feminist activism, and formulate a plan of action. We will be tackling issues that affect us on a local, national, and global level. From the upcoming elections, to reproductive health and rights, violence against women, anti-choice extremism, education access, and campus activism, this is weekend that is not to be missed!

Be prepared for a weekend of activist training, amazing workshops, strategy sessions, and inspirational speakers. One year out from the 2012 Election, the conference will feature “Get Out HER Vote” workshops where we will learn about the election’s impact on women’s lives and what you and your feminist group can do now and next Spring to gear up for 2012.

The Feminist Majority Foundation started this program to inform young feminists about various issues ranging from abortion access, affirmative action and LGBTQ rights. The program works with students on campus to create change at the grassroots, national and global levels. It also provides an opportunity for feminists to connect with other feminists and contribute to the larger feminist movement.

I’m hoping that this conference will be a good experience in the sense that I learn to expand my mind and not reiterate knowledge that I already have in a ‘preaching to the choir’ sense. Another thing that bothers me a little bit is the fact that the conference is obviously geared to women even though feminist issues and women’s rights also affect men. Even though the discussions and programs will be geared towards women, specifically reproductive issues, I believe that men should also understand the importance of the issues and contribute their perspectives. I think that would also encourage discourse about what men think about the issues and how to better inform/raise awareness people without alienating them. I guess I’m curious to see how many guys show up to the conference.

I looked at the RSVP list on facebook and noticed that there was an obvious majority of women, which was not surprising. The word ‘feminist’ and the stereotype of ‘feminism’ continues to alienate both males and females, which is an issue that I hope will be discussed. I often wonder how to express myself as a feminist without giving the impression that I am a “crazy radical bitch”.

I’ll update this post later to share my experience this weekend.

Take care!

– Sarah


This article, written by Jessica Valenti, discusses the accomplishments and present goals of third wave feminists. She incorporates her own personal input and experiences to provide the reader with deeper insight about Anita Hill and the broader topic of sexual harassment.

She begins the article by establishing a time period based on her own age. This decision expresses an informal style that breaks away from the traditional ‘professional journalist’ style. As a female, Valenti incorporates her own personal emotions, pathos, to draw the reader in. In some ways, she also utilizes ethos because, as a female, she has been affected by sexual harassment and she also explains her discovery of feminism and her decision to engage in the women’s movement.

Valenti goes on to prove that sexual harassment continues to be a major issue in the United States even with seminars provided by corporations. She points out that the media is quick to blame the victim instead of evaluating the more serious problem of sexual assault and rape. She references an article in the Wall Street Journal about a graduate student that had been raped and beaten to death. She also lists another article titled “Listen up, sweetheart, buy the ticket, you take the ride” to show another example of victim-blaming. This use of logos with the two examples is simple and satisfactory in pointing out how the media approaches these cases. Perhaps more examples would have been more effective, but too many could also be overwhelming.

The last two paragraphs express optimism and acknowledge Anita Hill’s courage to speak out. Valenti lists a few organizations that demonstrate how young people have begun to address the issue of sexual harassment. She connects this new generation of the women’s movement with Anita Hill and how cultural progress is slow, but steady. Valenti’s balance between optimism and realism creates a sense of hopeful persistence that resonates. The length of the article was long enough to emphasize her point and yet short enough that it was not too detailed.

However, I believe that more context about the Anita Hill hearings would have strengthened the introduction. I also think that her use of a cuss word in the conclusion was slightly unnecessary and could be considered mildly offensive.

Overall, Valenti efficiently connects Anita Hill’s hearing and the issue of sexual harassment to demonstrate how it continues and how this generation is handling it.













Yeah. I said it. He just doesn’t know.

At a campaign event in Sioux City Iowa, Mitt Romney was asked by Beth Schopis if he was opposed to the use of birth control. He answered “I don’t”, which means that he was not opposed to the use of birth control…

However, he told Mike Huckabee that he IS in support of a law created by an anti-abortion group, Personhood USA, which would “redefine life as beginning at the moment of fertilization, effectively outlawing contraceptives like birth control pills.” If the law is passed then miscarriages would be considered murder and common forms of birth control would be “the legal equivalent of a homicide”. Awesome.

Rachel Maddow discussed Romney’s lack of knowledge about how birth control works. Complete with “The Man Cave’s Not-Too-Upsetting Guide to Down-There Parts“. Maddow very blatantly, but politely, explained the purpose of each part of a female’s reproductive system and clearly pointed out that straight women often enjoy spending time with gentleman but don’t want anything popping out of them nine months later.

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Even though Maddow approaches the issue in a humorous way, she communicates the fact that making birth control illegal would have serious (and scary) consequences.

Passage of this legislation would also have scary implications about the control that females have over their bodies. It would imply that the government can control how women behave sexually and restrict what they are and are not allowed to do. I think the whole religious belief that life begins and conception and so birth control/abortion is murder is a means to keep women from having the power to decide what they can and cannot do with their bodies. It’s all about keeping the males in control of females and maintaining this patriarchal society. However, I respect those in support of pro-life and I can understand that removing a developed fetus from a female’s uterus can be seen as the destruction of life. I just do not understand why it should go so far as to prevent the use of contraceptives.

It’s scary how ignorant and unaware people are… ESPECIALLY THOSE THAT WANT TO BE PRESIDENT IN 2012. If Mitt Romney does become president and birth control is made illegal, I am going to seriously consider moving to a different country because I do not think I could tolerate any more.

I always wonder how different the world would be if MALES experienced menstruation and childbirth.

One thing that absolutely makes me extremely upset is rape culture.

I hate it when people misuse the term rape in a sentence is clearly unrelated to rape. I’ve seen way too many facebook statuses that were to the effect of “I raped that test” or “Just got raped by that test”. It is extremely upsetting because it is offensive to anyone that has experienced sexual assault or rape and essentially trivializes a traumatic and devastating experience.

It is also frustrating when people assume that the way people, specifically a girl, dresses means that she’s asking to be raped. Last time, I checked, rape is defined as: “to have sexual intercourse with him/her, esp. by the threat or use of violence against them.” ( And I would almost bet my life that no one wants to ever be forced to engage in sexual intercourse against his or her will. It angers me that people would automatically assume that anyone would welcome that because they are wearing clothes that reveal skin. It is confusing for females because we are told to be ‘feminine’ and dress in such a way that highlights our femininity and what essentially makes us different from males. Because when we dress in such a way that suggest masculinity, it means we’re lesbians! So this presents a difficult situation for females and what it means to dress. This issue of clothing being somehow connected with sexual assault entered the media with the first Slutwalk in Toronto.

Before I begin discussing the Slutwalk movement, I want to mention a court case in Italy. In 1999, a woman was raped and when she went to court, the rapist was found not guilty. Why? BECAUSE APPARENTLY HER JEANS WERE SO TIGHT THAT SHE HAD TO HAVE HELPED THE RAPIST TAKE THEM OFF SO HE COULD RAPE HER. SERIOUSLY?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!?! The more I think about this, the more frustrated I get. It’s just. Unbelievable. (Article here).

Anyway, so the Slutwalks began because the Toronto Police Constable made a comment (here) about how women should ‘avoid dressing like sluts’ to avoid being raped. In response, nearly 3,000 people showed up to raise awareness about slut-shaming, sexual assault, rape and the use of the word “slut”. The power of language influences the meaning associated with words and so a major aim of the Slutwalks is to change the connotation of ‘slut’ so that it describes a female that is in control of her sexual activity.

I hope that these Slutwalks encourage discourse about sexual assault, rape and how men and women can work towards promoting a culture that does not blame or alienate the victim.

I also hope that one day, people of any sexual orientation can walk freely during the day, at night, wearing what ever they choose and living without the fear of being raped or sexually assaulted by a stranger or by someone they know.

An important part of making progress, however, begins with addressing how people interpret the word ‘rape’ and how we approach rape culture.

ALSO: An interesting article about Slutwalks and racism here.