The Hart of the Matter: Women in athletics deserve better representation

The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games recently began, and my eyes have been glued to the television ever since. I wanted to ignore the politics and just “ooh” and “aah” at every perfectly executed triple axel, but the reality of the way the international competition is run cannot be hidden.

I grew up seeing the Olympic season as a time of wonder and amazement, marvelling at the most talented athletes in the world.

The Olympics were also a time whenI saw people like me. Throughout the rest of the year, screens around me were always showing men’s football, men’s basketball and men’s baseball. During the Olympics, I got to see women taking center stage, inspiring me to pursue athletics.

My wonderment towards the Olympics made it hard to recognize its fundamental issues. There is a real gender disparity within the international competition, and it breeds a hostile environment towards women.

Women make up almost half of the athletes in the Olympics. This fact is touted as a success as a representation of sexism within sports disappearing as we progress towards equality.

While the gender ratio among  athletes is close to equal, the Olympics as an organization is not. Women only make up a fifth of the members of the National Olympic Committee Executive Board, a fourth of the International Olympic Committee Executive Board and 15 percent of the International Federation Executive Board in 2015, according to the official Olympics website.

The fact that a group of only 20 percent is representing a group of almost 50 percent is a red flag in itself, and the the issue manifests into situations such as the Larry Nassar scandal.

Nassar was a doctor for the U.S.A. gymnastics team who was recently sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison on criminal sexual assault charges, according to TIME magazine. He was accused of the offenses by over 100 athletes, most of whom were underaged. His abuse was brought to light by high-profile Olympian gymnasts from the U.S., such as Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, whose testimonies dated back through years of abuse.

Assuits were taken out against Nassar himself by his victims, those who endured his abuse also filed lawsuits against USA Gymnastics, for lack of sufficient action in regards to the reports of sexual assault.

After the Nassar trial, the chairman, vice chairman and secretary of the board of USA Gymnastics resigned, according to the New York Times. Kerry Perry is the new CEO and president.

“New board leadership is necessary because the current leaders have been focused on establishing that they did nothing wrong,” the United States Olympic Committee’s chief executive Scott Blackmun said in a statement. “The Olympic family failed these athletes and we must continue to take every step necessary to ensure this never happens again.”

Larry Nassar’s years of inflicting abuse are a product of what happens when female athletes are represented by a board of men. USA Gymnastics and the Olympic committee made the correct decision in  replacing  these complacent men with a Perry, woman who understands the issues that women face.

However,  Larry Nassar is not alone, and his years of molesting are not an isolated event. Until the Olympic Committee Boards are equal, the Olympics are not equal.  

The Hart of the Matter: Marching towards progress

It has been almost 365 days into the Trump presidency, and it would be a fair statement to summarize the previous year as absurd and disheartening.

However, it is also almost the one-year anniversary for the Women’s March.

As the second Women’s March nears, its value has come into question. The gathering of people to chant with signs is not necessarily the peak of modern reform, but there is an importance to the march.

Last year, the march took place on the first full day of Trump’s presidency to create a statement that not everyone in the United States aligns with the values in the White House. It was likely the largest organized protest in United States history, according to the Washington Post.

One of the most damaging aspects of Trump’s presidency is that his disrespectful, unprofessional and impulsive and behavior is normalized, paving the way for the same behavior to continue in politics. Take the example of the Greg Ginaforte, a Republican who ran for a congressional seat in Montana. According to the Washington Post, Ginaforte grabbed a reporter from The Guardian by the neck, slammed him to the ground and punched him repeatedly. Ginaforte won the election the next day.

The Women’s March is the anti-Trump; it is a march for everything he is against, a reminder that not everyone accepts his bigotry.

When I attended the protest last year, there was an air of community. I met hundreds of people throughout the march, coming up with chants and discussing politics and the weather along the way. Every single person I talked to was holding a different sign for a different cause, but each person was friendly and positive. It was a breath of fresh air after the general hostility that followed the 2016 election.

The march was integral in building positivity and community, showing the world that Trump was not America. And, sure, it’s one thing to say that something is supportive and encouraging, and another to suggest it actually makes a difference.

The Women’s March organization did make a difference, by channeling the energy created by the five million people across the world who attended a march into legitimate change.

The organization gained a significant following after the marches across the world occurred, and used this influence to promote a campaign called “10 Actions for the First 100 Days.” This campaign encouraged people to send postcards to their representatives about issues that they care about, introducing the concept of contacting representatives to many unaware of such an act.

Since the “10 Actions” campaign , groups with the focus of helping the average citizen send their representatives messages have become more and more popular. There are numbers to text and websites to use to make the process as easy as possible, such as ResistBot or contactingcongress.org.

The Women’s March organization also created initiatives like Empower, which is dedicated to offering resources in order for youth to build groups that benefit their communities. They also started Power to the Polls, a voter registration tour. These initiatives have gained momentum through the popularity of the march.

The Women’s March is a collection of people across the country coming together for a day to juxtapose the bigotry in the White House and inspire everyday people to participate in government. It may not have an obvious major impact, but it is an accessible action to take, with many positive effects.

The Hart of the Matter: Gender disparity in ADHD diagnosis and treatment

About 6 million children in America are diagnosed with ADHD, according the Center of Disease Control in 2015. Yet as diagnoses, awareness and research grow, an entire group of affected individuals is neglected girls.  

Boys are almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. This isn’t because three times as many boys have ADHD than girls; it is an issue of male-dominated research and stereotyping affecting a diagnosis.

Girls and boys present symptoms of ADHD in different ways. Boys tend to act within the stereotype of how a child with ADHD functions; they are very hyperactive, impulsive, lacking focus and show those issues with physical signs such as restless movement. Girls typically have more accentuated symptoms regarding the attention-deficit part of the disorder, seeming withdrawn and inattentive, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). When girls do show hyperactivity, it is not usually a physical manifestation, but instead verbal.

These differences in behavioral tendencies can play a part in creating the gap in diagnoses because the typical behavior of a boy with ADHD ties into the more publicized idea of ADHD is, a fault that comes from the fact that majority of research regarding ADHD is focused on males. In studies that do include females, girls are compared to boys, with male data acting as a baseline, according to the APA.

In addition, gender stereotypes heighten the barriers keeping girls from proper recognition of their ADHD. The way girls tend to present symptoms are simply dismissed as traits of being female. When a girl cannot hold focus and is inattentive, she is seen as spacey and unintelligent. When a girl has verbal hyperactivity, she is merely a chatterbox. These stereotypes of girls being talkative airheads furthers the gender disparity found in the amount of diagnosed children.

The lack of diagnoses for girls is a significant issue because without a diagnosis, a child cannot get help. When ADHD is left untreated in a girl, she is at a higher risk for anxiety, depression, chronic low-self esteem, teen pregnancy, early drug use and underachievement in school, according to the APA. As an adult, lack of treatment can lead to substance abuse, unemployment, eating disorders and severe stress.

Currently, more research focusing on girls with ADHD is being generated as awareness to the issue increases. With more inclusive research and less stereotyping of young women, more females will be able to receive diagnoses for ADHD instead of being dismissed, as society so often does to women and girls.

The Hart of the Matter: The Boyfriend Loophole

With a mass shooting occurring almost every day in America, it’s not a reach to say that gun control in this country is a hole-ridden disaster. One such pitfall has been coined the “Boyfriend Loophole,” a defect that has managed to increase the already paramount danger that comes with being a woman in the U.S.

The “Boyfriend Loophole” regards the fact that Congress defines domestic abuse in terms of marriage, cohabitation, or having children. This excludes boyfriends, leaving a gap for men to more easily abuse women without penalty from the law. This loophole has been around for roughly 20 years, dating back to 1996, when Congress decided to limit access to guns for those who have committed acts of domestic abuse.

This makes sense, considering that the presence of a gun in a domestic dispute increases the chance of homicide by 500 percent, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

When Congress tried to take action on these issues, there was concern that innocent people’s gun rights would be taken away under false claims of domestic abuse. The definition of domestic violence was shifted to focus on couples that have married, lived together or had children.

Thus, the “Boyfriend Loophole” was created. Congress’s definition forwent the fact that domestic abusers really have no regard for their marital or living situation when they begin beating their partner.

Not to mention, the law still allows known abusers to keep the weapons they already have and does nothing to prevent abusers from skipping background checks by purchasing guns from private sellers.

The giant holes in the 1996 law render it almost completely useless. The issue of domestic abusers having access to guns is still rampant today.

In a study from 2009-2014 by Everytown, a nonprofit organization which focuses on issues of gun control, it was found that 54 percent of mass shootings were committed by domestic abusers. For instance, in the case of the 2016 shooting at Pulse nightclub, shooter Omar Mateen had a history of beating his wife.

Not only is fixing the law important to protect victims of domestic violence, it also may slow the daily increase of mass shootings in the United States.

The themes of domestic abuse and mass shootings are eerily connected, and the law in place as a means to thwart this connection is a dated, flimsy piece of legislation with gaping holes. These holes must be fixed through new, solid lawmaking. It is already dangerous enough to be a woman in America, and the government has a duty to limit this peril.

The Hart of the Matter: A woman’s word versus a man’s word

Thanks to victim blaming, rape culture and our society’s general distrust of women, taking down a man who has sexually abused someone is a nearly impossible feat. That is, if you’re a woman.

Society values the word of a man significantly more than the word of a woman, an issue indicative of the sexist tendencies of our culture as a whole.

It took over 50 women to take down Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and over 60 female accusers to bring Bill Cosby to trial. At least 16 women spoken out about President Trump sexually harassing them during the 2016 presidential race, yet he still won the election.

Even abusers who are not famous can easily get away with acts of sexual assault or harassment. According to a mass study by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), which collected data from the Department of Justice and the FBI, 99.4 percent of perpetrators of rape go without convictions. This is because only 31 percent of such crimes are reported, only 5.7 percent of cases lead to arrest and only 0.6 percent of cases lead to incarceration.

Essentially, if you are a woman and a victim of sexual assault or harassment, there is a very low chance anything will be done about such an atrocity unless you have a couple dozen fellow victims by your side.

However, women are not the only victims of sexual assault. According to the Department of Justice, roughly one in ten rape victims are male. The U.S. Department of Justice predicts that only 20 percent of male rape victims report their abuse, and that only included male victims of ages 12 or above. The reason even fewer males victims come out about sexual assault is due to the social stigma regarding men and rape, tied into notions of toxic masculinity and homophobia.

However, should a male overcome such social barriers and come out publicly with an accusation, especially against a male abuser, they are much more likely to be believed.

Take the case of Kevin Spacey, a large public figure with a similar scale of fame to Cosby and Weinstein. One male came out against Spacey, actor Anthony Rapp, about attempted sexual assault. Instantly Spacey’s hugely successful career, came under fire. Since then, more actors have spoken to Spacey’s aggressive advances towards them, but it took the word one of person to bring Spacey’s empire crumbling down.

Spacey absolutely deserved every criticism and punishment he has recieved since the allegations of Rapp, and then some. However, it should be noted the differences in Spacey’s case as compared to cases such as Weinstein or Cosby.

Where it takes upwards of 40 women to bring a male perpetrator under fire, it only takes one man’s word. This indicates the massive disparity of how society values the word of a man to the word of a woman.

Of course, the Spacey scandal is not exactly the same as the Weinstein or Cosby scandals. While all revolve around rich, famous male perpetrators, Spacey was accused of assaulting children, as Rapp said that Spacey attempted to assault him when he was 14 years old. Perhaps the age of the victim is the determinant here, instead of gender.

In that case, an accusation of sexual assault on a young girl should lead to similar instant outrage and the death of the aggressor’s career. However, if we look at past cases of the sexual abuse against girls, this is not the case.

Take R&B singer R Kelly for example. Kelly was accused by Jerhonda Pace for statutory rape and physical abuse when she was 16 years old. Previously, Kelly had gone to court regarding the creation of child pornography, a case in which he was acquitted. This should only have helped Pace, as Kelly was not only accused of sexually assaulting a minor, but had a history of being accused of pedophillia.

Yet, Kelly’s career has remained relatively unscathed. Very little public coverage of the accusations was shown, especially in comparison to the media blowout in the wake of Weinstein’s scandal.

Age is not the deciding difference between the Weinstein, Cosby and countless other cases of sexual assault in Hollywood and beyond compared to the Spacey scandal. Instead, the prime difference is gender, highlighting the huge bias society has towards the word of a man versus the word of a woman.

The Hart of the Matter: Complacency encourages bigotry

Living in the bubble of the Silicon Valley, most people will say they are against the ideologies of racism, sexism, homophobia or any other form of bigotry.

Yet somehow, even in this bubble, every single minority I know has been harassed because of their gender, sexuality or race.

Such bigotry continues today, even in the Bay Area bubble, largely due to a neutrality that condones the behavior of prejudiced people.

After the Weinstein scandal was uncovered, in which Hollywood figure Harvey Weinstein was reported to have sexually harassed and assaulted countless women over a huge period of time, the social media campaign “#MeToo” began. In the campaign, women who had been sexually harassed or assaulted posted the status “me too” in order to show how significant a  problem sexual abuse is today.

My social media feeds were flooded. Almost every woman I knew posted those powerful two words. Even in this wonderful bubble, it was apparent that every single woman, and even those who are not women, feel the crushing weight of sexism.

This brings up the question: If we are so open and accepting around here, how is bigotry still an issue?

Asking this to myself, I began to look more closely at the “me too” posts. Many of the people liking, sharing or commenting on them were people I had seen, in different contexts, condoning the behavior of their misogynistic peers.

Herein lies the problem. People in the Bay Area are so comfortable in the way we are open and liberal that few actually examine the issues. On the surface, sexism, racism and homophobia are deemed intolerable. But underneath, they go unchecked.

The only way to truly decrease instances of bigotry — for example, the sexism that leads to the acts of sexual harassment and assault seen in the Weinstein case — is to stop excusing people who encourage such behavior.

Yes, one person may not be sexist. However, if they are constantly surrounded by people who bolster sexist ideologies, and do nothing to challenge those people, they are complicit in the sexism. And as history has shown countless times, indifference to an issue is as harmful as the perpetuation itself.

Look at any of the countless wars throughout civilization, and one can see three parties: the aggressors, the victim, and the indifferent. It is the presence of the indifferent that allows the aggressor to thrive, and dooms the victim.

An extreme example, the Holocaust highlights this concept well. Hitler was able to seize control of Germany by counting on the fact that most people would simply not do anything to stop him. Many people were against what he stood for, but not enough actively fought his rise.

In the famed words of Holocaust survivor and political activist Elie Wiesel, “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

In order to keep moving forward towards a more tolerant and accepting society, we must actively hold each other accountable for bigotry, instead of simply believing in human rights. Complacency has no place in a community that does not accept bigotry.

The Hart of the Matter: Women being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia is not enough

An official announcement was made on Sept. 26, by Saudi Arabia that women in the kingdom would be permitted to drive, prompting a wave of praise for the notoriously conservative country. The change will take effect in June 2018, granting women a tiny fraction of freedom in the face of a system of sexism.

Frankly, the headlines almost seemed mocking. Learning that women were permitted to drive in the year 2017 was like when hamburger places advertise that they now only use cow meat in their new and improved burger — they simply make one wonder how this change was not already in effect.

Still, the announcement was met with worldwide approval, as many people applauded the highly patriarchal kingdom’s decision. The change was viewed as a step in the right direction for the advancement of women’s rights in a place where females have little freedom.

These assessments are not inherently wrong, but the kingdom of Saudi Arabia should not necessarily be applauded for this decision. The lifting of the ban was not implemented for the sake of championing women’s rights, but simply a move to try and salvage a poor world reputation.

Still, change is change, no matter the motivations for the adjustment. Unfortunately, the lift of the ban may not have the full impact implied, because Saudi Arabia is heavily influenced by “guardian laws,” which give men control over their female relatives.

These laws allow fathers, husbands and sons to have power over a woman’s decisions such as medical procedures, travel destinations, places of employment and the like. These rights include getting a driver’s license.

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia gave women a possibility, a taste of what freedom may be like, yet still allow men full control over women. Hurrah for change!

Furthermore, while the lifting of ban had the intention to grow the economy via female engagement in the workforce, little progress can actually occur when men have the power to dictate whether or not women can actually engage in the labor pool.

Despite the presence of guardian laws, Prince Khalid bin Salman, the ambassador for Saudi Arabia, made a statement that women would be able to obtain a driver’s license without requesting permission from a male relative, according to the New York Times.

The statement holds promise, but offers no genuine action in restricting the patriarchal guardian laws. Whether or not women truly have the freedom the drive is still up in the air, and this fact is left behind in the worldwide applause for the lift on the ban.

Women may be technically be allowed to drive now, but the decision to do so can still be denied. Saudi Arabia offered a possibility to women, an abstract idea that may only apply to a few women in the kingdom. This is not true change, but a pathetic excuse painted as a massive step.

Instead of praise towards a kingdom based in sexism, the public must urge more action to be taken, genuine movement towards a more equal future. Women should not only have the right to drive, they themselves should have the right to choose.

The Hart of the Matter: Feminism as a trend

Feminism is becoming a trend. Walk into any fast-fashion store and one can easily find a shirt with some vague feminist slogan printed on the front or a fun quote about being a “boss lady” to put in an Instagram caption.

This mainstream movement of feminism has created some issues. Many say these empty slogans and Beyoncé quotes are detrimental to the women’s rights movements, as they distract from real, hard hitting issues.

It is true that the fresh availability of graphic T-shirts that say “Powerful Woman” on it are not exactly ending the prevalence of rape culture or closing gender disparities in certain workforces, but this does not mean that this shift in public acceptance isn’t making significant change.

Large scale change must come from the public. Yes, government plays a significant role in forming and fixing the woes of today’s society, but this can only come from a shift in public perception catalyzing a legislative response.

The craze version of feminism is watered down. It is an easy to package, easy to swallow form of women’s rights that is made specifically to be non-offensive. This has spread rapidly, exactly as a trend does. Easily packed trendy feminism will not draft any legislation to solve the wage gap or sexual assault, but it will deliver the idea of women’s rights right to your doorstep.

Allowing feminism to become part of the mainstream is a gateway for a real, meaningful dialogue to occur. Without the taboo, more and more people are able to learn about women’s rights or be able to speak out on their experiences. This is where change begins.

I didn’t learn what feminism was until I was in middle school. When I started to use the term, I was met with disgusted remarks about how all feminists hate men. I couldn’t talk about the issues I faced as a girl without hearing the term “feminazi,” or other comments about how over dramatic I was being. Today, children have the opportunity to learn about feminism sooner, with less of a social stigma around discussing women’s rights, thanks to a “fad.”

The current state of trendy feminism is not causing harm to the women’s rights movement, and it is allowing a foundation for more and more citizens to identify as feminists. A jacket with the word “Feminist” in a fun font on the back may not be significant, but the little girl who proudly wears the jacket around is. She will learn the word’s meaning and change the world one day.

The Hart of the Matter: White women must be held accountable for racism

F
rom the spike in hate crimes following the election to the bloody rally in Charlottesville, the United States is facing a severe internal threat in the form of white supremacy.

The blame largely goes to white men. Look at any picture of a supremacy rally or a KKK meeting and you will see a crowd of white males. However, this has created a picture of racism that is not fully accurate.

The supremacists behind the wall of safety created by false public perception are white women. It is unacceptable for white women to be able to hide behind a false image of what a racist looks like, free from accountability. White women must also be culpable for their racism.

In truth, white women have a large impact on the white supremacy movement. While it is hard to pinpoint actual numbers, expert George Hawley, professor of political science and author of Making Sense of the Alt-Right, estimates about 20 percent of white nationalists are women. Going back into history, about half a million women were members of the KKK during the segregation era.

Look at some of the most important moments in the civil rights movement, such as the Little Rock Nine or Emmett Till, and you will see the role of female racists: Emmett Till was brutally murdered for supposedly whistling at a white woman, who later admitted she lied, and one of the most iconic photos in history depicts Elizabeth Eckford marching into Little Rock Central High School with a group of livid white women screaming behind her.

These historical events are relevant because they exemplify the contributions of white women to a system of racism that white supremacists are aiming to restore and uphold. White women are not absent from the past of racism in our country, and are certainly not removed from the future of the matter.

In the recent election, 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump, a well-known and still shocking fact. Many would assume the misogynistic comments from Trump would have deterred most women from casting their vote to him, outweighing their racial ties.

This may be due to the fact that Trump built his campaign on racial resentment and fear.  White women may suffer under misogyny, but they certainly benefit from white privilege.

Today’s headlines show white nationalist after white nationalist being fired from their jobs or losing their families for their heinous beliefs, a hopeful sign that society is no longer tolerating the racist ideals of the past. However, white women are largely free from this dialogue.

It is imperative that as our culture moves towards tolerance and against bigotry, we do not allow for anyone to slip through the cracks. Society needs to hold white women accountable for their racism as much as men, or America will continue to be a breeding ground for racial bigotry.