A Real Dog and Pony Show

It was early in the morning, and I had just gotten to work. My brain was in a bit of a fog, and I was just going through the motions. I had logged into the City of Seattle employee website to fill out my time sheet, when this image popped up.

Capture

I had to rub my eyes and stare at it for a minute. Were they serious? Clearly whoever put that training together had no idea what the term “Dog and Pony Show” really means.

If you google the definition of this phrase, and go to the most qualified of sources, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, you find that it’s an elaborate or overblown affair or event, and that its first known use was in 1949. Innocuous enough, I suppose.

But if you go to Wikipedia, you learn that the term is typically “used in a pejorative sense to connote disdain, jocular lack of appreciation, or distrust of the message being presented or the efforts undertaken to present it.”

Now, why would the City of Seattle want to name a training about public engagement, designed to attract people who are “curious about training and managing digital communications” a Dog and Pony Show? It boggles the mind.

Oh, but it gets worse. Because this is NOT the only definition of a Dog and Pony Show. It’s certainly not the definition that I learned and cannot ever wash out of my head. This definition is crude. It’s about sexual exploitation. It’s so disgusting that I refuse to go into detail here. If you’re really interested, follow this link. But be advised that it’s not safe for work, and it’s definitely rated x. All of these definitions are gross, but scroll down to the very bottom one, which is by far the worst, and you’ll see the one that I was taught. Perhaps that’s because I spent the bulk of my life in a military town. Either way, yuck.

So anyway, that was what was going through my foggy head that morning when I saw that particular training on offer. At first I kind of scoffed at their ignorance, and planned to say nothing. Let the stuff hit the fan and sit back and watch. Because even the least innocuous, more official definition, with all its implications of incompetence and disdain, are very, very bad optics for the City of Seattle.

But as the day went on, it began to eat at me. Any woman in the know would be offended by the name of this training. They wouldn’t want to attend. And I’d certainly think less of any man who did so. The City of Seattle prides itself on its enlightenment and inclusiveness and its diversity, but this is not the first time (see my post entitled The Cubic Yard Test) that they’ve clearly demonstrated that they have a long, long, long way to go.

So I decided to contact the training department. In fairness, they were very polite, and said that the training was being sponsored by the Information Technology Department, and they would forward my concerns to them. Several days went by. The graphic remained on the employee website (where it still is as of this writing). Surely, I thought, more people were complaining about this.

But no. I came to work today to an e-mail from the IT department that said, basically, that the Urban Dictionary isn’t an official or credible dictionary source. Instead they provided sources that refer back to the pejorative definition mentioned above. As if that would be acceptable.

While I wouldn’t cite the Urban Dictionary in a master’s thesis, these definitions exist because some portion of the general population (read “unwashed masses” if you must) interprets these words in this manner. That, to me, would be enough to rethink the name of my training, especially when you are representing a public entity like the City of Seattle. But hey, that’s just me.

This is purely speculation, but they’re probably loathe to give up such a cool graphic. (I have to admit, it is really well done, and probably took more than a minute to design.) I’m sure they’ve got all their power point presentations in place and don’t want to change them. And they’re IT people who hate to be (rightly or wrongly) considered out of touch with popular culture. And no one wants to be  called out as foolish or wrongheaded in any way, so to heck with the small percentage of us who are shocked and appalled by their poorly researched idea.

So in the end, they’re absolutely right. This is a dog and pony show, indeed.

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The Creepy Concept of Covenant Marriage

Recently, I came across a disturbing little factoid. In 1997, the state of Louisiana passed Covenant Marriage into law. Arkansas and Arizona later jumped on the bandwagon. Thank goodness no other states have taken the bait.

These policies, if you opt into them, make marriage more difficult to get into, and a lot more difficult to get out of. For starters, according to Wikipedia, you have to attend premarital counseling sessions, which “emphasize the nature, purposes, and responsibilities of marriage”, and you must sign a statement saying that the marriage is for life.

While I think premarital counseling is a great idea, I wonder who exactly is conducting these sessions. And I really would have a problem with having someone other than me and my spouse dictate what the nature, purpose and responsibilities of our marriage are to be. Marriage is what you make it. No two are alike.

And as for signing one’s life away, if you aren’t confident that the other person is going to try for a lifelong commitment unless they put it in writing, then you might want to reexamine how much you trust this person in the first place. Trust is the bedrock of any relationship. If you don’t have that, you’re building a castle on sand.

This is starting to sound like the equivalent of a homeowners’ association for relationships. I chafe at rules and regulations. I’ll pass.

Even worse are the restrictions placed on getting out of the marriage. In a covenant marriage, you are waiving your rights to a no-fault divorce. Before you can even consider divorce, you have to first go to counseling. You must also be able to prove that your spouse has committed adultery, a felony, is a drug addict or a sexual predator, or that you’ve been living apart for at least a year (perhaps two, depending on the state.)

First of all, why bother with counseling if your spouse is involved in such heinous acts? Those things, as far as I’m concerned, are deal breakers.

And you notice there’s no provision for your husband punching you in the face and not being prosecuted for it, nor is there an option if your wife suddenly joins a cult. Your only recourse in those situations would be a long painful separation, and there’s no guarantee that the nut job in question would agree to being apart.

Life is messy. It can go south in many ways that are outside the bounds of these few legislative dicta. No one should have the right to define what you deem to be unsupportable.

Is it just me, or is it creepy and strange that these three super red states, full to the brim with conservatives who claim to want less government, not more, are all for these highly regulated covenant marriages? But then, this legislates religion and “family values”, and restricts the freedom of women even further, so yeah, I guess it makes sense.

Fortunately, these three states have not made covenant marriage mandatory, and less than 1 percent of the couples getting married each year in these places opt in to this foolishness. But still, it seems like a disturbing, backward trend, and it gives me the willies.

I love holding my husband’s hand, but I wouldn’t want to be handcuffed to it.

Business people handcuffed together

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All for Nothin’

I know someone who calls herself “Nothin’”. Actually, I only know her in passing. I wish I knew her better. I’d love to set her straight.

How do I know Nothin’? (Keep your smart aleck responses to that out of the comments section!) I’ve already confessed within the confines of this blog that I play Pokemon Go. Yeah, I know, it’s silly. But it’s also fun.

Many people are under the misapprehension that this is a game just for little kids, and that it’s about catching and killing monsters and fighting. First of all, no monsters are killed during the course of this game. No blood is shed. And while there are indeed battles, they’re more like jovial sports competitions. They barely raise your heart rate.

What I like most about the game, aside from collecting the unique monsters, is that you can make friends from all around the world, and exchange virtual postcards with them that you collect during your Pokemon travels. It’s fun to see pictures of graffiti in Spain or architecture in Indonesia or parks in Colombia. It’s fun to imagine what has brought these people to these places, and picture myself visiting these locations as well. I like to imagine what things people consider routine that I would find exotic.

When you play Pokemon Go, the first thing you do is get an avatar and choose a unique name. People can get very creative with these names. You also get to choose your gender and how your avatar dresses. But you don’t get to chat with other players.

Over time, though, you learn a little something about the person based on the superficial choices he or she makes. Nothin’ could be an adult or a child. She has chosen a female avatar, and she dresses that avatar very stylishly and conservatively. Her avatar is white, with blonde hair. She sends me postcards from Central Canada. She only plays maybe once or twice a week.

That’s all I know about her, other than the fact that of all the words she could have chosen to identify herself, she chose Nothin’. That breaks my heart. Man, I wish I could talk to her!

I hope she’s not severely depressed and crying out for help in such a way that none of us can ever respond. I hope she isn’t surrounded by people who are chipping away at her self-esteem. I hope she doesn’t feel inferior because she is female. Maybe I’m overthinking this, but the frustrating part is that I’ll never know what motivates Nothin’.

I wish I could write on the virtual postcards that I send to her. I would tell her that she is, in fact, something. I would tell her that I’m glad she exists. I would tell her that I like her style. I would tell her that I see her, and that she has value in this world. I would ask her to seek help and hold on.

Because nobody is nothin’.

you are awesome.

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The Oldest Bridge in the World

It is very unusual for me to direct my readers to blog posts by other authors, but this one really spoke to me. It’s about the oldest known bridge in the world, located in Iraq. As a bridgetender, I have an obvious interest in bridges, but this story also appeals to me as a history lover and a feminist.

Archeologists are working to preserve this 4000 year old bridge in Tello, Iraq. Not only are they learning about the rich history of the area through the many artifacts that are being uncovered, but they are also training several female archeologists in a region that had all but been destroyed by ISIS until quite recently.

Once the preservation is complete, the plan is to create a visitor’s center to encourage tourism and education in the area. This bridge is also a symbol of pride for the Iraqi people, as further evidence of their rich architectural heritage. Even though the waterway that this bridge used to span is long gone, this structure is still bridging a gap, and I find that impressive.

I encourage you to check out this blog post, along with its attached video which was produced by the British Museum. It’s really quite fascinating, in a geeky, historical, bridge-loving kind of way.

oldest bridge

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Photoshopping Yourself

I’m proud to say that I have never worn a girdle in my life. If I had grown up in a certain era, I wouldn’t have worn a corset or a bullet bra either. To me, these things are just about as bad as foot binding.

Oh, but they don’t call them girdles anymore, do they? That would be so unacceptable. Now it’s shapewear. Or booty lifters. Or body suits. Or sculpting waist cinchers, tummy controllers, thigh slimmers, waist trainers, control tops, body briefers, high-waisted shaper shorts.

Do you really need high-waisted shaper shorts? Why is this important in life? Isn’t it already easy enough to feel freakish in this world without shoving yourself into a glorified sausage casing?

The Macy’s website crows, “This genre of miracle garments has become the Photoshop for your real life, three-dimensional body.”

JC Penney’s says, “Shapewear for Women Will Keep Everyone Guessing. Every occasion calls for a totally unique outfit, so it’s important to stock up on all the essentials you’ll need for anything life might throw your way.”

SPANX says, “SPANX shapewear is your secret weapon to help you conquer whatever is on your agenda – day or night.”

I can’t begin to tell you how appalling this is to hear when you are someone who refuses to even wear an underwire bra.

Ladies, the message these things are sending to you is that you aren’t good enough as is. You have to force yourself into an unnatural shape to be acceptable. They’re trying to tell you that you need help.

These companies are definitely not trying to make you feel better about yourself. If they were, you’d only buy one of their garments, and no more. That would be bad for business. They benefit and profit from you feeling inadequate. But they can’t have your money unless you give it to them.

These messages that they perpetuate are toxic and unfair and untrue. It’s a rare man who feels the need to lift his booty. If you can’t get through life without Photoshopping your body, there’s something seriously warped about the circles in which you travel.

Ask yourself this: Why do women have to shrink themselves to fit into a man’s world? Are we really that intimidating? Do we really need to be so tightly controlled?

Throw out your SPANX and let your body freakin’ breathe. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for the next generation of girls. I promise that the world won’t come to an end.

Perma-lift

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Freedom of Movement

There is an excellent yardstick for measuring liberty and quality of life. Simply consider how much freedom of movement you have. From that basic indicator, you can determine if you live in a police state and/or a cult, you will know how much information and education you have access to, and you will have a good sense of the level of prejudice you are being exposed to.

Your ability to travel goes hand in hand with your freedom. If you live in a country where the women cannot travel without the permission of their husbands or fathers, you live in a misogynistic police state. If you are in a religion that does not allow you to interact with outsiders or learn about opposing points of view, or worse yet, cuts you off from family, then you are in a cult. If you can’t go anywhere without having your papers constantly checked by authority figures, then you are a slave.

Inhibiting your ability to go where you wish is an effective way of controlling the information that you have access to. If you can’t even move about the internet, then someone else is controlling your narrative, and they have an agenda that is not in your best interest. If someone wants to leave and you don’t let them, then you have just reduced them to a mere object.

Also, preventing women or minorities from having access to education is a self-defeating power play. One should be able to travel in mind as well as body. If your opportunity to learn is hindered, you should wonder what the powers that be don’t want you to discover.

People who put up walls to restrict movement are the worst kind of racists. They are either attempting to keep a group out or keep a group in. Either way, they are restricting the flow of information, and preventing the masses from becoming unified. Divide and conquer.

The only things that should prevent you from being able to travel are your own priorities and your own budgetary constraints. And even that is a can of worms, because income inequality is another great way to keep us all ignorant and close to home.

The more you travel, the more you learn. The more you travel, the less you hate. The more you travel in mind, body, and spirit, the more you know what it is to be free.

Freedom

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Children as Commodities

I’m always perversely drawn to stories about exploited children, in the same way I tend to slow down to look at traffic accidents. I have this need to learn how something that terrible could have happened. I want to figure out how to prevent it from happening in the future, even as I know I’ll be all but powerless to do so.

I just finished reading an article entitled “The Dionne quintuplets: The exploitation of five girls raised in a ‘baby zoo’”.

It’s a heartbreaking story. It started in depression-era rural Canada, before most people knew that these types of mega-multiple births were even possible. And in no time flat these girls were taken away from their parents and raised in a facility where the general public could observe their play times. For a while there, they drew more tourists than Niagara Falls. Souvenir shops and food stands were built. They were also used to endorse products.

They were not the first children used as commodities, and they won’t be the last. It’s horrifying how often people are willing to rob children of their childhood. The lifelong damage by adults, especially professionals who ought to know better, boggles the mind.

This abuse comes in many forms. Wild children who are then raised by scientists. Child brides. Indigenous children ripped from their families and sent off to schools that are designed to rob them of their culture. Sex trafficking and child pornography. Abductions. Girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Child soldiers in Africa. Those kids who are subject to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse of any kind. Children who don’t know any better who participate in family reality shows in America. Baby beauty pageants. Child actors and singers who never see their own money. Children ripped from the arms of their parents at the US border to prove a political point. Young athletes who are raised by their coaches. Children born of slavery. Children kept by the worst kind of foster parents who are only in it for the money. Children forced to beg, steal, or sell things in the streets instead of going to school. Children used as pawns in nasty divorces.

The fact that so many of us survive to adulthood with even a modicum of sanity is a miracle. We’d like to think we are above the animals in this world, but good luck finding any other animals that would treat their offspring the way many humans do. It’s sickening.

If you are one of the parents who are doing your best to provide a safe, loving, and functional childhood for your child, or one of the people, like me, who chose to be child free, then thank you.

exploited children

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