women's rights Archives - The Jose Vilson

women’s rights

NJ Governor Chris Christie Yelling At Teacher

NJ Governor Chris Christie Yelling At Teacher

Normally, I write my short notes, but I’d like to dedicate some time to this issue with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s othering of a teacher this past weekend at a political rally of his. Most of the coverage around this event has centered on the tenor politicians have set in their quest to reform education. As Christie wags a finger at this woman, the crowd cheers, signaling a societal acknowledgment that politicians can lay waste to any courtesy towards anyone, and that democracy is overrated. Surely, dissenters get jeers at any rally, but this particular type of jeer further solidified the idea that teachers’ rights are aligned with women’s rights.

For those unaware, teaching has had the perception of “woman’s work” for the better part of the last century. Without workers’ rights and collective bargaining, some of the rights teachers have these days wouldn’t exist. Yet, it seems clear that teaching as a woman-dominated profession would get accosted by a patriarchal government. The facts are clear: 85% of K-12 teachers are women and 80% of our government officials are men. Even with a margin of error of 5% (give or take), Christie’s finger-waging of this teacher is not just symbolic of the attitudes against teachers, but women as a whole.

How the East Coast Governator gets away with this speaks volumes for why everyone needs to speak louder for women’s rights as a whole.

I don’t consider myself a feminist, per se. I’m still learning, and continue to learn as I grow. I just see how even my colleagues who say, “It’s not about her being a woman but a teacher” won’t acknowledge that police officers, firefighters, doctors, or any other male-dominated profession wouldn’t get similarly accosted in the public. Yes, the cuts abound, and to this day, even local hawks like Mayor Mike Bloomberg have suspended contract negotiations with his own battalions. Even he’s smart enough to speak around that subject without mentioning police directly.

When it comes to teachers, though, he, along with Christie and a host of others, proudly jump on the podium in the name of education reform. None of this counts for teacher appreciation, keeping the best teachers, attracting the best talent, racing to the top, or any of that malarkey. More importantly, none of this othering happens without society’s consent. Aside from Christie’s ego, gender plays a huge role here, and if you can’t see that, then perhaps you’re part of the problem, too.

Jose

*** photo c/o http://twitter.com/daveweigel ***

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Mona Eltahawy and me, Aspen Ideas Festival 2013

Mona Eltahawy and me, Aspen Ideas Festival 2013

I have tons of stories from Aspen, but only one I’d like to share in this space.

After former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, US diplomat Richard Haass, and Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy went at it onstage (verbally), everyone started to clutter around their favorite. While I didn’t see too many people around Haass, the room was evenly divided between Albright and Eltahawy. After her vagina monologue, I jumped onto the Eltahawy line.

While a couple of my colleagues wanted to build a friendship with this sparkplug, I just wanted to thank her for speaking up and out in this predominantly male setting.

So I’m in line when this short White lady looks up at me and says, “So, are you here to talk about women’s issues?”

OK, OK, OK, what? I said whatchu mean am I here to talk about womens issues you trying to make me feel like I don’t belong here that I shouldn’t care that what you have to say matters more than what I do because you have some inferiority complex that says let me get this Black guy away because I can’t tell why he’s really here like omg you’re so the reason why I don’t give one ounce of …

Then, after a small breath, I said, “What do you mean? I’m here to hear women talk about women. That’s an important thing.”

Sure enough, she smiled and turned back around. I doubt others saw my twitch of disgust. At first, I didn’t get why she brought her prejudices to this event. My second thought was, “Maybe she too is tired of men trying to tell women about what they should do, how they should feel, and what they should think about the regulations of their own bodies.” My third thought was, “Can we assume a bit of intellect and compassion here?”

It’s disheartening, but I get it. One of my passions happens to center around teacher voice, and, as of now, the teaching profession has mostly a female voice. I’m not saying men can’t contribute their voices. I’m simply arguing that the fate of women is inherently tied to the fate of teachers. Thus, in my male privilege (yes, there is such a thing as Black / Latino male privilege), I want to come into these situations as someone’s equal, not above or below based on my gender.

When I got to meet Mona, it was obviously all love. I thanked her, took a picture for my friend, then posed for a picture of my own. She might have stood shoulder-height, but her personality is really where her stature lies. I came to hear women speak on women’s issues. Tucking in my privilege made me a better man, not lesser.

Jose

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Malala Yousafzai

Have you ever felt like the things you do in the classroom connect to some other, higher purpose?

Sometimes.

When I read about stories like Malala Yousafzai’s, it puts everything I do in the classroom in its proper perspective. For those of you who are unaware, Malala’s shown up in the news recently after Taliban rebels tried to assassinate her by shooting her in the head and neck for speaking out about education and women’s rights in Pakistan. The world has already seen a fair share of Muslim women, but what stood out for me is that she’s already posed a threat to such a nefarious group … at the age of 15.

Holy cow.

It makes me wonder how teachers can empower students to take ownership and advocate for themselves. It has scary implications for the adults who want all of the control all of the time, who prefer children to be seen and not heard, who won’t take the time to see what their students bring to the table rather than assume they know nothing, or, quite frankly, the adults who don’t care whether the students learned anything so long as they achieved on the test. This spans our entire school system, teachers included.

Yet, in Malala, we have another icon for students’ potential.

The more scaredy-cat nervous reader will say, “Well, I don’t want my students to get shot in the head and neck. They’re more effective alive and well.”

True. However, if you believe this, you’re missing the point. We can’t simultaneously believe that students these days don’t want to do anything AND we want them to become more informed. We as teachers have a responsibility to see ourselves as a primary interpreter for what children can see and do outside of their world view. Plus, coming where I come from, the alternative for getting shot for speaking out about injustice is getting shot for nonsense. I’ll take the former.

Malala, currently recovering in a hospital somewhere, has the courage of a person twice her age. Someone took it upon themselves to instill the virtues of learning more about what the world has to offer … and the obstacles she has to overcome in order to achieve true parity with her male counterparts. People with even a modicum of empathy cheer her on. But if the movement for students (girls in particular) to become more socially conscious citizens engaging in the problems and solutions for the world starts with her, then we have to prompt others to take that on.

This seems like a large task, but sometimes, it comes down to just having students reason it out, telling them, “I can’t tell you the answer. You say it.”

Jose, who is participating in Blog Action Day …

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On Rape [Where An Educator Stands]

August 23, 2012 Jose
prevent-rape

I will confirm first and foremost that I do know women who have been raped, momentarily dispossessed from their bodies by a sexually deviant aggressor. As a listener, I can’t sit there and try to empathize because “I understand” is completely false. I don’t. I’ve never had that happen to me. While the act of […]

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