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Category Archives: Culture

A Year’s End Reflection

After tomorrow, I will no longer officially be an Online School for Girls student.

That’s both strange and, to be honest, a little relieving.  I say “strange” because I’ve really loved taking these classes, and I’ll miss learning about different countries and governments.  However, it will definitely be relieving, as these two courses have been a lot of work!

From AP US and Comparative Government, I’ve learned that while the world is a large and daunting place, all countries are somehow tied to one another, whether through a shared history, government, ethnicity, and so on.  I’ve learned that the United States’ government is based on one essential principle: “liberty and justice for all.”  Even if we don’t always succeed in carrying out this principle, I admire that we continue to challenge, push, and change laws in order to measure up to this statement.

However, I think the most important thing I’ve learned from this course is that we are all interconnected, whether we are citizens of a city, country, or even global citizens.  These APs have helped me learn that the differences that divide us can be overcome, and that bridges can and should be built, rather than burned.  I certainly didn’t expect to get this much out of a high school course, and I’m eternally grateful that I’ve had this opportunity.

I’m looking forward to taking more courses like this when I depart for college in September, and I know that I’ll be ready and prepared to face the challenges that come with learning about history, thanks to OSG.  I couldn’t have asked for more.

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Does the War on Women Exist?

In this upcoming election, one of the most common   statements made is that the Republican Party is waging   a “war on women.”  This phrase has been used most frequently in the debate on abortion and contraception in the U.S.  Just this week, “the war on women” conversation was revived once again, due to Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s comments about the legality of abortion in the case of rape.  Mourdock stated that “Life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Mourdock later apologized (or did he?) for his comments, but Democrats still eagerly jumped to paint the candidate– and the rest of the Republican Party– as ignorant conservatives.
Mourdock’s comments were obviously inappropriate and ignorant, but they’ve helped to raise a prominent question: is “the war on women” really a war on women?  Or is it actually a war on the unborn child?

The Democratic Party and liberals believe that this war is indeed directly aimed at denigrating women at large, and argue that the right to abortion is a woman’s right to her body.  Most articles written about abortion in the liberal news media, such as the New York Times and Time Magazine, mention the “war on women.”  The Huffington Post has even gone so far as to have a playlist entitled “The War on Women,” with tracks such as “99 Problems” and “Butterfly Fly Away.”

The Republican Party and conservatives tend to believe that they aren’t waging a war at all, but rather that their opposition is waging a war on the unborn child.  Many Republicans and social conservatives insist that they are fighting for the unborn child rather than directly attacking the women who are, or will be, carrying one of these unborn children.  Some Republicans also insist that “the war on women” is sexist fiction contrived by Democrats as party propaganda.

So does “the war on women” really exist?  And if so, is it really a “war on women?”  I have to say that, yes, the “war on women” exists, but not in my state.  I live in New York, a historically liberal state, and there aren’t particularly strict abortion laws or politicians who make rape comments on a frequent basis.  But there are states where   both events happen frequently, and I find it hard to believe that most women in those states are happy to hear that their representatives believe that rape is intended by God.  I also find it hard to believe that women in Virginia who wanted, or needed, an abortion were happy with being forced to get a trans-vaginal ultrasound before they could have an abortion before this bill was repealed.  I’ll admit that the Republican party has a decent point when they say that a war is being waged on the unborn child.  But I also have problem with the fact that they’re more concerned with a war waged on a person who isn’t alive than they are about a war on their current citizens.

It’s true that the “war on women” will someday come to an end.  But if politicians keep making ignorant comments and attempting to pass what a Nebraska judge called “Draconian” abortion restrictions, it’s going to be a long time before we see that day.

 

What’s Race got to do with it?

Disclaimer: Below is a very controversial topic. I mean no offense whatsoever to anyone; I only wish to talk about a subject that deserves some discussion! Please do not take offense to anything I say. If I am wrong, please do correct me!

We’ve all seen it. That one question on the survey, SAT information, school registration, or political ballot:

“What is your ethnicity/Race? Check all that apply”

Is this really necessary? Do defining questions and the demographics based on these questions help or hinder us as we try to be less discriminatory?

We are now in an age of equality. There is no more slavery in America, women can vote, and skin color is not an acceptable reason for denial. But to every improvement there are exceptions. As we strive to provide equal opportunities for all, are we limiting the opportunities of others?

I have grown up as a minority. As a white girl in America, that is pretty rare! My school has called itself “97% people of Asian descent” for six years now. I’ve learned to appreciate other cultures, and don’t bat an eye when my Asian friends and white friends talk. It’s normal, since for us, race just doesn’t matter! So when I am asked “what is your ethnicity/race?” and my only option is “white,” I get a little confused.

Race is often used to categorize problems. Areas with economic problems often have a correlation with race, so that is what people focus on. They assume that there is a direct correlation between race and the problem, and to solve the problem, you need to eliminate the racial barriers. That is great. Really, it is! There is no reason why someone should face poverty just because they have a different skin color.

But here’s where it gets complicated. Say, to solve the economic problem, we plan to eliminate racial barriers. To do this, we need to have more minority students in a particular college. Because of this, a quota system is set up. A certain number of students of each color are needed to fill these quotas….and we are back to where we started: race is the determining factor in acceptances and denials.

The problem has gone beyond simply skin color. Now, the lack of diversity in a certain location is not just because of discrimination, but also because of family history, different cultures between towns, and personal finances, to name a few. These are not issues directly related to minority races, but issues that everyone faces. Instead of seeing the problem differently for different people, why don’t we look at the entire issue? Everyone has a different opinion on the issue. A California school actual made a short documentary on how race factors into our lives, and how opinions can vary (the trailer is above). As one speaker explained,

“[the problem is above and beyond [race]”.

I agree with this speaker. Things have changed. It is time to change our ways of thinking as well!

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Culture, Current Events, Rights and Liberties

 

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Mad Man Mitt: Stuck in Sixties’ Style Sexism

This presidential election has focused a lot of attention on women and winning the female vote, and last night’s debate returned to the topic again when a young woman asked the candidates what they would do to address the problem of unequal pay for equal work. In response, Governor Romney recounted how as governor of Massachusetts, he hired numerous women to work in his administration. He also said that he had to make work hours “more flexible” in order to accommodate his female chief of staff, citing her desire to get home earlier to make dinner for her family and be with her children. On the surface, this response might seem like a good one; Mitt Romney is flexible and doesn’t discriminate against women. In fact, he went out of his way to hire them. But this attitude comes with deeply sexist implications.

Maybe it was true in the fifties and sixties that women were the primary homemakers for their families, and needed to be home to make dinner. But times have changed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2011 that 70.6% of all mothers with children under the age of 18 are in the labor force. You can find more specifics in this study: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/famee.nr0.htm. In addition, more and more men are becoming the primary caretakers for their children (although the number is still relatively low). Mitt Romney’s assumptions on what issues are relevant to women in the workforce aren’t necessarily true anymore as gender roles in our society become less defined.

And frankly, those assumptions are offensive. Women don’t need special accommodation so that they can be home in time to make dinner. They need a partner who is willing to share childcare and homemaking responsibilities equally, and America needs employers who understand that men and women deserve equally flexible hours, to give both parents the opportunity to care for and spend time with their family, as well as equal pay for equal work. (Both candidates somewhat avoided the question regarding equal pay, but if you’re interested, here is a description of the Lilly Ledbetter Act: http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2008/09/15/080915ta_talk_surowiecki.)

This isn’t a problem exclusive to Mitt Romney; politicians and journalists alike often talk about “women’s issues” and the “women’s vote”, as if all women have the same problems and vote the same way. Some issues, of course, are more specific to women, such as access to contraception and gender discrimination. But not all women care about those issues on the same level. And in the twenty-first century, childcare and flexible work hours are no more exclusive to women than unemployment is to men.

The comments Mitt Romney made in the debate Tuesday night, and those other politicians have made before him, are just another kind of sexism. It might be easier for politicians to keep gender roles strict, so they can fit the electorate inside little boxes (or binders) and pander to those issues. But it’s time for us to realize that the structure of our society is changing, and we need to change with it.

 

Democratic Party? Republican Party? I prefer to identify with the pizza party…

Whenever people at my school hear that I’m interested in politics, the first question they ask is “Are you a Democrat, or a Republican?” I tend to dislike this question for a number of reasons. First, either answer comes with a host of implications and people automatically assume you associate with all of the beliefs of the party. If you are to say you are a Republican, you may even face significant bias at my school, situated in primarily liberal Los Angeles. No one even thinks for a second about the dozens of other political parties, like the Libertarian or Green parties.

Throughout America’s history, there have generally been two major political parties, with a few exceptions. It began with the Federalists and Anti-Federalists; then it was the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, the Democrats and the Whigs, up to the modern day where our country is obviously split between Republicans and Democrats. One difference is that in the past, while tensions between parties were high, compromise happened more often. After all, our entire Constitution was built on a series of compromises (Three-fifths Compromise, Connecticut Compromise, the electoral college, etc.)

Over the weekend, I went to a debate tournament and participated in a format called “extemporaneous speaking” (extemp for short) for the first time, in which you go into a room and draw three topics out of a box. You then pick one and have thirty minutes (without internet!) to write a seven minute speech about it. For my first round, the topic I picked was something along the lines of “Now that the 2012 election is approaching, what should the Republicans do in preparation for 2016?” My speech, though consisting of many components, focused partially on the importance of compromise to make sure the system continues to function as it should, laws are passed, and the Republican party isn’t painted as unnecessarily stubborn and reluctant to pass laws that could potentially benefit the entire nation. I got first place for that round. Political compromise sounds appealing on paper, yet these days it rarely seems to happen.

Barack Obama has tried to pass numerous pieces of legislation, only to be outvoted or filibustered by the Republican House majority (I have graphics showing representation of House and Senate in a slideshow at the bottom of the page!) There wasn’t a single Republican vote on Obamacare, even after many attempts to appeal to Republican Congresspeople. There is a group of Tea Party Republicans who refuse to vote for any legislation that proposes any tax whatsoever, regardless of the predicted benefit. Of course, it is not only Republicans who don’t compromise, I only use these examples because naturally, since we currently have a Republican House majority and a Democratic president, clash is bound to happen. This development is honestly quite alarming, for a number of reasons, the most important being that legislation isn’t being passed to make progress in the country and it signals further division between the two parties. If two parties can’t work together… can a country’s government really function at all?

A government must have compromise to function and actually get anything done that appeals to the majority of the country, so this current system could be very detrimental. The question that this begs is… how do we stop that from happening? The simplest solution would be to force legislators to compromise, but it is very difficult to manipulate human beings’ minds, and this would likely lead to them being replaced by their party with another legislator who appeals more to the core of the party. What we need instead is structural solutions; huge cultural shifts that are nearly impossible to start. I’ve said it enough times to sound like a broken record, but I think the first step is abolishing the electoral college. This would allow other smaller parties to become more prominent and help people see the broader spectrum of views than just the Democratic and Republican parties. What else can we do? It’s hard to say, but it’s imperative that this country learns to compromise before it filibusters its way into a political standstill.

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Posted by on October 16, 2012 in Congress, Culture

 

There’s Still a Point

yep, those are my big feet in that voting booth.

As the presidential election looms closer and closer, there are ads everywhere urging us to pick the “right” candidate for whom to vote.  However, I think the more pressing issue than deciding whom to vote for is lurking beneath the surface: young people have begun to stop voting.

All across the country, politicians, business-owners, and everyday people are insisting that young people are becoming increasingly apathetic towards the idea of voting.   A poll published in Gallup recently said, “Young people are losing interest in voting.  Just 58 percent of voters 18 to 29 years old said they are “definitely likely to vote” this November, down from 78 percent in a poll taken in October ahead of the 2008 election, and 81 percent in 2004. “

This seriously alarms me in multiple ways: first, I have a hard time understanding why young people- or for that matter, any group of people- would voluntarily choose not to vote.  Voting is how we express our beliefs as citizens, and is more effective than protesting ninety-nine percent of the time.  If we don’t believe our representatives are serving our needs as a people, we are able to nominate someone else who will represent us better.  We’re able to select who we want in our government, pushing for our needs, caring for our safety, and bettering our lives.  If people don’t vote, they can’t complain about not being appropriately politically represented.

Second, I think that to not vote is a disgraceful waste of our abilities as citizens in a democratic society.  Our Founding Fathers gave us the right to vote and the right to express our political beliefs, however directly or indirectly we choose to do so.   Reading the papers of Madison, Jefferson, and Hamilton in APGOV has shown me how much they believed in a republican society, and how much they desired that their citizens be able to vote and express their beliefs.

I’ll be eighteen this October, about a week before the presidential election.  I’ve been registered to vote since this March, and it’s all I’ve been talking about for the past six months.  I firmly believe that there’s still a point in voting, despite the apathy of some members of my generation.  No matter whom I end up voting for, I won’t be part of the youth demographic who remained silent during one of the most important elections of this century.  I’ll have chosen whom I want to represent me and serve my needs, and whom I genuinely believe will do a good job leading our country for the next four years.  For me, that’s all the motivation I need to get to the voting booth.

they want you to vote as much as i do!

 

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Society’s View of Women

I would like to start off saying that I haven’t been quite myself these last two weeks. Because I took four days extra for spring break so that my family can vacation on my sister’s college week off, I have been behind. To me getting behind is a tough situation. You have to worry about emailing teachers, make-up work, and did you miss anything. Woah! Just thinking about it makes my head hurt. Then to believe that I haven’t walked physically into school for two weeks, but because I do not feel that way makes me dread going back. The course load in AP Government this week has not been bad at all, but I feel like the computer is getting to me. It runs in my family to have horrible vision, so it is no surprise that mine is bad and getting worse. Besides that lets look to the brighter side of things!

So before writing this, I had NO clue what to say. I looked at other classmates’ work, and it was all great. But I cannot copy their ideas, I want to be original. Then it clicked. Earlier I was watching the new hit series GCB which if you haven’t seen on abc you should. It stereotypes every Texas Christian women, and it goes overboard. However, what many might not know is the controversy over what GCB stands for. Now I will not go into much detail about that because I do not say such words, but I find it funny how even the Republican candidate running for nomination Newt Gingrich commented on this show. He called the show “un-Christian.” In my mind, the show is not trying to show the Christian side of things; instead it is showing the hypocrisy of American culture. We all have the right to the freedom of speech. This show was not created out of pure imagination, it came from a book which was already published. The way women are viewed is displayed in the tv show that’s comedy in it.

GCB on the View    

Before tuning into this show, I went to pick up a dress for a fashion show on Tuesday. While picking out a dress, I had five other girls around me all from different backgrounds. I come from a family where I am not restricted by conservativeness like you cannot show your shoulders or you must cover your hair though my brother is muslim. But when I was shopping, I realized not everyone is like me. Many girls had to okay whether the color was to bright or if showing the shoulders was too much. This experience made me see that women are hiding behind themselves, and it is because of history. I’m not 18 yet so I do not know what it feels like to vote, but I’m waiting for that experience. Women have to wait for so many things like the typical life of marriage, kids, and career. While watching GCB, people disgusted, but do they not see the reality because I do. The reality that women grow up with the same liberties and rights, but we don’t really use them. We depend on others to care for us because that’s what society taught us, but we complain about welfare. I do not know for sure just some thought.

As always thanks for reading and have a blessed one!

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Culture