In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Quick Hit: Bill Cosby’s finally going to jail — but for how long?

Bill Cosby is guilty. (Not that we didn’t know that already.)

Yesterday, a jury found Cosby guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault against his accuser, Andrea Constand. While it isn’t a ruling on the other 59 women who have accused him of assault, there is a degree of vindication: We told you he’s a rapist, motherfuckers.

The convictions could result in a prison sentence of up to 30 years, as handed down during his as-yet-unscheduled sentencing hearing. That said, because of course, his sentence could end up being much shorter — or nonexistent. Cosby’s team is already preparing an appeal of the verdict.

Based on his conviction this week on three assault charges, comedian and TV star Bill Cosby could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.

But legal experts said the 80-year-old certainly will spend less time than that behind bars, and there’s a very real possibility that he may not ever be incarcerated.

Why? Well, it’s mostly to do with his defense team’s plan to appeal the guilty verdict — likely on the grounds that the decision to allow five other accusers to testify in the trial unfairly prejudiced the jury.
Cosby’s attorney, Tom Mesereau, will probably ask the court that his client be given home confinement during the appeal, which could take months or even years, CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson said.

Even if he does end up in prison, there’s no telling how long he’ll stay there.

Though Cosby faces a maximum of 30 years in prison, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele indicated he would not press for that sentence.

“He was convicted of three counts of (indecent assault), so technically that would be up to 30 years. However, we have to look at a merger of those counts to determine what the final maximum will be,” Steele said.

Legal analyst Areva Martin said the judge’s rulings so far suggest he will give Cosby a much reduced sentence.

“I think the fact that the judge yesterday allowed him to walk out of that courtroom, did not remand him immediately to jail, gives us a sense about what this judge is likely to do when he gets to the sentencing hearing,” she said.

“He will be able to take into consideration Cosby’s age, the status of his health, the philanthropic work that he’s done over the last several decades, the fact that this is his first criminal conviction — all of those will be factors that the judge can take into consideration when sentencing him.”
A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

He’s been a very good boy, y’all. And even when you drug and sexually assault a woman (or, potentially, 60 women), that’s what matters.

Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s reproductive rights

A female doctor in a lab coat sits with a female patient, looking at a clipboard
“I’m required by state law not to tell you that all of this is complete horseshit.”

Women aren’t stupid.

(I mean, on average.)

Over time, we’ve begun to vote, work, sign for our own credit cards, and helm blockbuster movies and society hasn’t collapsed under the weight of our unfettered ignorance. Certainly, given accurate information to work with, we’re capable of making decisions about our own bodies. We’re capable of deciding if we want to have kids, when we want to have kids, and how many kids we want to have.

And that is precisely why so many groups lie their little asses off when the subject of reproductive health arises: because they want to be the ones making the decisions. They don’t like the choices we’re making for ourselves — particularly when it comes to our reproductive health — and because we can no longer legally be leg-shackled to the fridge making horrible things out of Jell-O, they have to resort to manipulation.

If that sounds a little hyperbolic, that’s… because it’s my writing style. But it’s also real. When women are given accurate information about their health and are allowed to use it, they make good decisions and life gets better. But if you have a different agenda, manipulating that information is the way to go.

Straight-up lies

Crisis pregnancy centers’ business model hinges on lying to women. Many pretend to be medical facilities, even going so far as to dress their staff in lab coats to lure in pregnant women who are in need of actual medical advice. And the “medical advice” is usually more lies, falsely linking abortion to depression, breast cancer, and infertility. They frequently set up shop close to actual, legitimate reproductive health centers to intercept women — one CPC in New York is located across the street from a Planned Parenthood clinic and has a banner saying, “Plan Your Parenthood.”

If your services really are beneficial to women — the best choice they can make during a really difficult time in their life — you should be able to sell them on their merits. If the success of your business relies wholly on actively deceiving women in crisis, you are the worst kind of scum.

Of course, the big winner in the “liar” category has to be our own government. In 26 states, doctors are legally required to recite a litany of misinformation to their patients in the name of informed consent. A lot of it echoes the lies told by CPCs (breast cancer, infertility, depression) with some new classics like PTSD, “post-abortion syndrome,” and fetal pain.(The newest hit? Four states have passed a law requiring doctors to tell women about an untested and scientifically unsound procedure that purports to reverse medical abortions.) Usually, the lies are told at the beginning of a 24- or 48-hour waiting period to give pregnant women time to stew over the bullshit provided by their trusted doctor, in the hope that they’ll be scared away from the procedure.

Some doctors do their best to mislead their patients as little as possible, peppering their monologues with “the state requires me to tell you” and “there’s no scientific evidence” and “the thing I have the most problem having to tell you.” But some states are determined to deliver nothing but unvarnished lies to pregnant women — a Planned Parenthood clinic in South Dakota, for instance, was found in violation of informed consent laws for providing too much information. How much is too much? The clinic prefaced the mandated lies with the phrase “Politicians in the state of South Dakota require us to tell you.”

Physicians, to whom we’re supposed to be able to go for medical guidance, and who promise to first do no harm, are required to lie to their trusting patients or risk legal action.

Lies by omission

When it’s not outright lying, it’s withholding information. In the U.S., 26 states mandate abstinence-only or abstinence-plus sex education. (“Abstinence plus” means that contraception can be mentioned, but the curriculum is mostly passing an unwrapped candy bar around the classroom and telling girls not to be sluts.) Eleven states require abstinence-only sex ed (which really calls for scare quotes at that point — “sex ed”). Only 13 states give teenagers the comprehensive information they need — and deserve — about their own bodies.

Abstinence-only education doesn’t reduce the rates of teen pregnancies or STIs. It doesn’t even reduce the number of teenagers prematurely gettin’ down. All it does is make sure that when said kids eventually start doin’ it, they don’t know how to do it safely.

The next part gets even more depressing, so I’m going to warm you up with this video of a Mississippi teacher teaching students the safest way to put on a… sock.

Don’t forget to pinch the air out of the tip of the… sock before rolling it on.

Arguably the most pernicious example of this is the Global Gag Rule (also known as the Mexico City Policy). The Global Gag Rule prevents the U.S. from providing global health assistance to any NGO that so much as mentions abortion to patients. Not just providing abortions — acknowledging them at all. If, for instance, a teenage girl comes in with pregnancy complications (the second leading cause of death for adolescents 15 to 19 worldwide), her doctor can’t even acknowledge that terminating her pregnancy is something that exists.

Under previous incarnations of the rule, clinics have had to reduce staff, reduce services, or close altogether. So if the girl doesn’t die from her complications, she’ll die because all the local healthcare providers shut down for lack of funding. But at least she didn’t get an abortion, right?

Actual, true things that aren’t lies

Here are some actual facts that people are omitting and flat-out lying about:

If you can’t sell your message by its merits and have to resort to misleading, equivocating, misdirecting, omitting, and flat-out lying, your message is shit. If you are comfortable misleading, equivocating, misdirecting, omitting, and flat-out lying to women — and teenagers, and people of all genders and ages in developing countries — you are shit. If you’re willing to leave teenagers in the dark so they can go off and do risky stuff because no one told them the truth, you’re shit. If you’re an elected official and you’re comfortable lying to your constituents because that’s the best way to control their bodies, you’re shit.

Be honest. Show integrity. Have a spine. Be a marginally decent human being. Tell the truth.

Her blog post throbbed with the disdain of a woman who’d never contemplated her own breasts

A dark-haired woman in a black dress looking at herself in a full-length mirror
“Boy, do I have some perky breasts that any man would love to motorboat.”

I walked into the room with a confidence that would have been alluring on a more attractive woman but, unrelentingly average as I am, could only be read as arrogance. My oversized tank top skimmed over breast-shaped breasts, hiding feminine curves that still have to be mentioned even though you couldn’t even see them. I wore tight pants that said “workout,” stretched over a generous ass that said “work me out,” and he might have been tempted to take me up on my unmistakable offer had I not been, tragically, in my late thirties. Above my neck, there were other body parts.

Young adult writer Gwen C. Katz has presented us with a tale that can be appreciated by readers of all ages: a male author claiming that men can write female protagonists just as well as any woman, meaning that diversity in publishing is hardly necessary. His evidence? His own writing, of course. Katz generously provides a sample of said prose, demonstrating his undeniable skill at writing from a woman’s perspective. Because women spend so much time walking around and waxing poetic about the shape of their own ass and the extreme tightness of their pants.

The actual copy from the book, for those who need it:

I sauntered over, certain he noticed me. I’m hard to miss, I’d like to think — a little tall (but not too tall), a nice set of curves if I do say so myself, pants so impossibly tight that if I had had a credit card in my back pocket you could read the expiration date. The rest of my outfit wasn’t that remarkable, just a few old things I had lying around. You know how it is.

Oh, I know how it is.

(Said protagonist later noted that she had “red lips like [she] had just devoured a cherry popsicle covered in gloss,” and seriously, who would do that? Why would someone cover a popsicle in gloss in the first place, and who would then look at it and want to eat it? Dude can’t even write human protagonists.)

While assuring us that men truly are capable of writing realistic female protagonists, Katz also provides a series of cringeworthy excerpts, courtesy of our self-proclaimed expert author, that are all from chapter one.

On Twitter, Whit Reynolds put out a challenge: Describe yourself like a male author would. And the responses were way better than the original author’s attempt.

And let’s not ignore the fact that even when the author is supposedly writing a female protagonist, he still centers the male gaze — all “I could imagine what he saw in me” and “I could only imagine the thoughts that were running through his head.” It doesn’t count if you just write down all the stuff gross men say when a woman walks into a bar and then add “I knew what he saw.” It would be like if I wrote, “I knew what she saw. Ripped biceps (but not too ripped). Junk cupped by my boxer briefs into an enticing bulge that would make any woman want to take a closer look.”

You know how it is.

[h/t Electric Literature]

Quick Hit: Nontoxic masculinity

Much like markers, masculinity comes in the toxic and the nontoxic variety. Pointing out that fact is enough to enrage some guys into a lather — the idea that toxic masculinity exists as a contrast to the regular kind, that the adjective “toxic” designates a specific kind of masculinity and isn’t a descriptor for masculinity in general, completely passes them by. It could be that, like many users of nontoxic markers, they haven’t yet mastered reading for comprehension and the distinction is beyond them. Or it could be that they’re being willfully obtuse because it’s a free country and they can lick the laundry markers if they want (#notallmarkers) and feminists are man-hating poopyheads.

At KatyKatiKate, Katie (does that qualify as eponymous?) explains the concept, symptoms, and dangers of toxic masculinity. And she provides real-life and fictional examples of the non-toxic variety, ranging from the strong and physically imposing (Terry Crews, Captain America) to the artistic and less imposing (Lin-Manuel Miranda, three out of the five Queer Eye guys, the other two of whom are also artistic but relatively more imposing*).

Nontoxic Masculinity:

Toxic masculinity feels like it’s everywhere – on the bus, on your Twitter, on the news, in your kids’ cartoons, at the dinner table, at the g-d climbing gym for rockin’ tots.

We spend a lot of time trying to identify toxic masculinity out loud, because we’re praying that awareness will make a difference. We hope that awareness is the problem. We hope that all you need is a heads-up.

That you could be aware and willfully poisoning the air we breathe is not an alternative that we want to consider, not when you’re our fathers, friends, and sons.

So we say, sometimes gently, sometimes furiously, “LOOK! Right there! There it is! The thing that we keep talking about that hurts everyone and is the root of so many devastating wounds!”

We spend a lot of time identifying what toxic masculinity looks, sounds, and feels like. And let me tell you, it’s SUPER rewarding and SO MUCH FUN!

As another Terry Crews example, I present his love for clutch purses, which was inspired by his wife and his own desire for accoutrement-carrying independence.

Confidence In His Masculinity Level: Expert.

*It’s hardly an either/or thing. Just ask The Boy, who’s a solidly built 6’2″ and was a ballet major in college. And who, a few days ago, wouldn’t get out of his chair for a good half-hour because our rat terrier was asleep on his chest.

Stop scapegoating and alienating vulnerable people

Movie still from "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," set in a high school, with a young man in the foreground looking off into the distance as two young women stand in the near background, talking about him
“Psst. What is he doing?”
“I don’t know. I think he’s… thinking?”
“… Weird.”
(Photo credit Summit Entertainment, LLC)

People on all sides of the issue seem to be looking for some kind of solution to school shootings and mass shootings in general. Which is good. They’re doing that at the expense of innocent, vulnerable people. That’s bad. Pro-gun control, pro-WalkingUpNotOut, everyone is pinning this violence on people who had nothing to do with it, are already dealing with enough on their own, and are actively harmed by being saddled with that blame.

It’s not that people on one side or the other don’t care — no one seems to care. Whether it’s the quiet/lonely/weird kids in school or the people with mental illnesses out in the world, no one really seems to care much about them anyway (except, of course, after mass shootings), so it’s natural that they should disappear when bullets start flying and the public gets scared. It’s unsurprising that no one really thinks about their well being when things are scary and confusing. It is not even slightly a shock that they should be dismissed as acceptable collateral damage during the course of debate.

That’s not okay. I don’t fucking care how scared you are.

Before I get into this, I do have to point out that…

Teenagers are not licensed therapists.

Because this point must be made: No, teenagers cannot be held responsible for their classmates’ emotional health. They aren’t mental health professionals. They literally haven’t fully developed their prefrontal cortex yet. They are not equipped for that responsibility.

Imagine this fun exchange:

Popular Kid. Hey, Quiet Kid I’ve Never Talked To Before! Want to sit with us at lunch?
Quiet Kid. I’m actually okay, thanks. I was just writing some stuff.
Popular Kid. What are you writing?
Quiet Kid. Stuff.
Popular Kid. … Bad stuff?
Quiet Kid. If you must know, my mom died last year, and I’m still kind of working through that, and that’s what I’m writing.
Popular Kid. … Okay.
Quiet Kid. All right?
Popular Kid. …. Want to talk about it? I guess?
Quiet Kid. You know what, 17-Year-Old Dance Captain Who’s Never Made Eye Contact with Me Before? I think I’m good.
Popular Kid. … I remember when my… grandfather died…
Quiet Kid. Seriously, I’m good.
Popular Kid. Please don’t shoot me.

If a teenager really is having emotional issues, the 17-year-old dance captain who’s never made eye contact with them before is not the person who needs to be dealing with that. How about Florida takes some of that $400 million and dedicates it to reducing class sizes and adding guidance counselors, instead of throwing more guns at the problem?

That said:

Stop fucking scapegoating vulnerable people.

I mentioned that last part because it bears mentioning, but that’s not the thing that worries me the most. I really hate to mention it at all, honestly, because it reinforces the idea that the quiet/lonely/weird kids at school are all ticking time bombs who need professional help. And they fucking aren’t.

I’ve said it before: #WalkUpNotOut isn’t just awful because it puts the burden on teenagers to prevent mass shootings. And it isn’t just awful because said teenagers might be trying to establish relationships with kids who are dangerous. It’s also — not instead, but also — and not just also, but primarily — awful because the vast majority of kids these students are being told to Walk Up to aren’t dangerous. They aren’t threats. Yes, asking a kid to Walk Up to Nikolas Cruz and heal him with the power of friendship would have been a horrible plan at every level — but every other student at Stoneman Douglas High School, even the weird ones, wasn’t Nikolas Cruz. You know who was? Him. Just the one guy.

The vast majority of kids who are weird, lonely, quiet, who don’t fit in, aren’t threats. But their classmates are being told to view them as threats and treat them as threats. It doesn’t do anything to prevent gun violence in schools, but it does serve to alienate the quiet kids — the targets of Walk Up — when frequently, their lives are hard enough as it is.

And you know who else is viewing and treating them that way? Us. The adults who have already failed them plenty in this area, thanks much. The teachers the kids should be able to go to for help and support, and who instead are a) slapping a “future school shooter” label on them and b) pawning them off on other students to take care of. The parents who already didn’t understand their kids and are now more scared of them than ever. It’s bad enough that people had to propagate this shit inside schools — they had to make a fucking hashtag out of it and take it national. They had to put the focus on the quiet kids so everyone can demonize them and discuss them as future shooters just waiting for their time.

Not every quiet kid has emotional issues. And even the ones who do are very rarely violent — to others, at least. Suicide is the second most common cause of death among teens 15-19. And while homicide is the third, less than two percent of those are related to school shootings. Increasing their alienation and isolation, telling them that they’re violent and dangerous, that they need to be carefully handled (per the Walk Up crowd) or that they must be avoided at all cost (per the anti-Walk Uppers) will only make that worse. That won’t do anything to keep kids from turning guns on their classmates, but it could make it far more likely that they’ll turn the guns on themselves. But no one seems to worry about those particular dead children. We’re just worried about protecting the normies from the weirdos.

These kids aren’t the future shooters. They’re the future shot.

Fucking stop fucking scapegoating vulnerable people.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold? The Columbine outcasts-turned-killers? Weren’t outcasts. They had friends. They went to prom. They went to prom in a limo packed with friends. They didn’t target the cool kids. Harris was friendly, well-spoken, and seething with inner rage. Their stated goal wasn’t to punish bullies but to become infamous for the biggest terrorist attack in U.S. history. They weren’t the sad, lonely, isolated kids who could be friendshipped into happiness if only someone would ask to be their lab partner.

The Columbine killers weren’t the shy, introverted teens who spent all their time writing poetry. Those kids were getting shot up in the library and the courtyard along with their classmates.

And outside of schools, the people with mental illnesses whom we love to blame for mass violence aren’t the violent threats, they’re the victims — far more likely to be the target of violence than the perpetrator. But every time a mass shooting occurs, they’re the focus of debate (to the point that I’m so fucking tired of discussing it). And that’s because they’re an easy target and a handy distraction.

And let’s not kid ourselves that we’ve suddenly developed a big, swelling heart for these people. Nobody gave two shits about the lonely high school students back before they were deemed a threat to public safety. No was suggesting Walking Up or being welcoming and compassionate on February 13th. Mental illness wasn’t a big deal back when Congress was doing their best to gut the ACA. It only becomes a big deal when people are scared, and when people are scared, they don’t care who gets hurt while they do whatever they can to not be scared anymore.

Don’t make vulnerable people collateral damage.

I’ve said before that life is complicated and difficult, and nothing is simple and easy. And if anything ever looks simple and easy, that’s because you aren’t looking hard enough.

#WalkUpNotOut is a simple, easy message. “Protect our kids from school shooters” is a simple, easy message. “Keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” simple and easy. That’s how you know those messages are minefields.

We can’t say it’s acceptable to make life worse for quiet kids in school and people with mental illnesses out in the world as long as we end up with gun control. Moreover, we can’t pretend that isn’t happening. We can’t say we’re too busy, or the issue is too complicated, to keep their well being — their actual, physical lives — in mind.

We’re seeing a lot of commonalities among the growing number of mass shooters. A history of domestic violence is a big one. Involvement with white supremacist and other far-right groups is another. (And, of course, that’s not to mention ownership of semiautomatic rifles.) Absent from the list 78 percent of the time is mental illness. Also generally absent from the list: sitting alone at lunchtime in high school. But we continue to ignore the people who legitimately show signs of being a threat so we can focus on the people with mental illnesses and the quiet kids in school.

These people aren’t threats. They aren’t ticking time bombs. They are human beings. They deserve compassion and attention not because they might kill us all — which, again, isn’t the case — but because they’re human beings. We can’t allow them to be further victimized just to advance our (admittedly important) agendas, because they’re human beings.

These kids are already standing in front of bullets along with the rest of their classmates. It’s not acceptable to throw them under the bus as well.

Quick Hit: Vogue op-ed calls out ableist tributes to Stephen Hawking and his legacy

In the wake of Stephen Hawking’s passing on Wednesday, many tributes have followed a common theme: that in death, Hawking has been “freed” from his disability. A much-shared image shows his electric wheelchair empty in the foreground as he walks, unaided, into the stars. In an op-ed for Vogue, Keah Brown points out the ableism inherent in those sentiments — pointing out that his disability was a part of who he was and what he accomplished, that he was a hero to many people with disabilities because of it, and that people with disabilities should hate their disabled bodies and long to be “free” of them.

Saying Stephen Hawking Is “Free” From His Wheelchair Is Ableist

You might be wondering what is wrong with that. Everything. Stephen himself said, “My disabilities have not been a significant handicap in my field, which is theoretical physics. Indeed, they have helped me in a way by shielding me from lecturing and administrative work that I would otherwise have been involved in.” So why is everyone so eager to erase his disability in discussions of his life’s work? Odds are, it’s because disability makes our society uncomfortable, so much so that instead of embracing him for all that he was to able-bodied and disabled people alike, upon his death, people on social media are focusing on how “good” he must feel outside of his body.

Why walking out is good, walking up is insufficient, reaching out is important, and nothing is ever, ever simple or easy

Students rally in front of the White House on March 14, 2018
Adults, it’s time for you to walk up to the plate. (Photo credit Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Today, thousands of students across the country walked out of their schools to protest gun violence and demand legislation that will protect them from such. At some schools, the walkout lasted 17 minutes — one minute for each person who was killed in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting exactly one month ago. Other walkouts lasted longer — for instance, the crowd of students gathering in front of the White House to call for action.

But some students are being discouraged from marching. The Walk Up Not Out movement tells kids that instead of walking out to protest gun violence, they should walk up to a lonely kid and be nice to them to “possibly prevent the unjustifiable heartache of hundreds of lives in the future.” According to one of the people who inspired the movement, “Don’t trust that walking out of school will bring an answer. Gun control or more laws is not, and will not, be the answer. You are the answer.”

The idea that abruptly being nice to the lonely kid in P.E. is the answer, and the only answer, to gun violence in schools is ridiculous — and the kids who currently fear for their lives in a place they should feel safe don’t deserve to be burdened with that kind of pressure. Here’s why.

Before we start:

Things I’m not saying

– I’m not saying that the emotional health of mass shooters is more important than the lives of their victims.
– I’m not saying that we should focus on this more than gun control.
– I’m not saying that we should focus on this as much as gun control.
– I’m definitely not saying that we should focus on this instead of gun control, or that if we can only get kids to be nicer to each other, the country can have hot and cold running assault rifles and there will never be a school shooting ever again.
– I’m not saying that I sympathize with mass shooters.
– I’m not saying that mass shooters are actually victims themselves, or that they’re all just sad and misunderstood.
– I’m not saying that the man who killed 17 people with a semiautomatic rifle last month was just a sad boy with a sad story and we should feel sorry for him.

The thing I am saying

– This is life, and nothing about life is simple and easy, and pretending that it is because complicated-and-difficult is scary will only make the worst possible situations even worse.

With that in mind…

Walk out.

Yes. Do that. Kids all over the country did that today — some of them risking punishment from their schools for doing it — to make a point and and advocate for their own lives, and that is awesome.

“Walk Up Not Out” is bullshit. Kids can be kind and speak out in favor of life-saving legislation. The idea of making it an “instead” is just a way to get the kids to shut up about something that makes the adults uncomfortable, and that’s bullshit. Shutting up and being polite about uncomfortable subjects has never led to change. Not in the 1770s, not in the 1910s, not in the 1960s, and not now.

Don’t just “walk up.”

It’s not fair to put the responsibility to prevent school shootings on the shoulders of kids, and that’s what most discussion around “Walk Up Not Out” is doing. It is not okay for us to send a message to these teenagers that if only they’d talked to the loner kid, their friends might not be dead right now. Sophomore comes in and sprays the cafeteria with rifle fire? Man, you should have invited him to sit with you at lunch. Next time, you’ll know. We can encourage kids to be kind and generous and self-aware without attaching it to “so you and your classmates won’t get shot by the kid you ignored.”

And come on, it’s not like the kid won’t know that people are only being nice to him because they view him as a potential threat (especially now that it’s a damn hashtag). Singling out a kid as an unstable, dangerous freak from whom you must protect yourself — or, to quote Mr. Inspiration up there, “could likely be our next shooter” — can be just alienating as ignoring him in the first place.

Reach out.

The freak-singling-out is actually something that’s coming from both sides. On the “walk up” side, you have people saying, “We must placate the dangerous freaks so they won’t shoot up our schools!” And on the “don’t walk up” side, you have people saying, “Don’t tell my kid to endanger herself by walking up to the dangerous freak!” And all the while, you have some very lonely, unhappy kids who were having a hard enough time of it already before people started demonizing them and using them for political ping pong.

Getting extremely personal here: I know what it’s like to be one of the lonely kids at school. I know what it’s like to have no friends because you’re new in town and all the kids literally have all the friends they want at the moment. I can’t say I know what it’s like to contemplate violence against myself or others, because thankfully, I never got to that point. But to be perfectly honest (and this is the point at which people accuse me of sympathizing with mass shooters, so stop, I don’t, I already said that) I can see how a kid might. It doesn’t even take mental illness. Despair, loneliness, fear, and self-hatred can drive a person to the point where nothing seems to matter anymore, even human life, and kids haven’t yet developed the coping strategies that might help them deal with that.

Actual research bears out that the feelings that drive a teenager to suicide are practically the same as the ones that drive them to commit violence against others — it’s just a matter of whether they direct their feelings inward or outward. And both of those outcomes are tragically and undeniably horrible.

This isn’t “Hey, nice backpack”-level stuff. We can’t put the burden — it is unacceptable to put the burden — on the teenagers to walk up to the kid sitting by himself in the cafeteria and say, “Hey, weirdo, want to sit with us so you won’t shoot up the school someday?” They have things to do, like studying and soccer practice and imploring our legislators to pass sensible gun control laws and not feeling guilty that they are wholly at fault for school shootings because they didn’t invite the quiet kid to Chad’s house party.

Do the freaking work for once, grownups. Instead of encouraging kids to stay put and be quiet and maybe, from time to time, throw a bone to the alt-looking kid in the corner of the lunchroom, listen to them, and help them become conscious of the shit that goes on with kids — all kids, too, not just the alt-looking quiet ones. Help them figure out how to deal with their shit. And encourage them to recognize that shit in each other and to be kind, because everyone’s dealing with shit and it’s usually easier to deal with together.

And then encourage them to stand up for their own rights and to be loud and walk out and make their voices heard, because this is their life and they deserve to be heard and “polite” is for black-tie orgies and dinner parties.

Student who smeared bodily fluids on her roommate’s belongings gets special probation. Not included: Any other meaningful penalty.

Brianna Brochu appears in court to answer charges that she contaminated her then-roommate's belongings with bodily fluids
Watch your toothbrush, is all I’m saying.

Brianna Brochu, who was expelled from the University of Hartford after contaminating her roommate’s belongings with bodily fluids, has had her day in court. The verdict? Guilty of breach of peace and criminal mischief. The sentence? Two hundred hours of community service, and if she’s a good girl, her charges will be thrown out and she won’t have a criminal record for rubbing used tampons on her roommate’s backpack and (as she claimed on social media but later denied to police) sticking her roommate’s toothbrush up her ass.

Brochu’s offenses, as admitted to, included licking Rowe’s eating utensils and rubbing used tampons on her backpack. In an Instagram post, she also gave claim to spitting in her coconut oil, putting moldy clam dip in her lotion, shoving her toothbrush up Brochu’s ass, “and so much more,” although she told police that she was lying to “appear funny.” And while those bodily fluids could, and ostensibly did, cause her victim illness, apparently the worst thing about it was how mischievous and unpeaceful it was.

Brochu’s victim, former roommate Chennell “Jazzy” Rowe, who is black, generously didn’t object to the request for “accelerated rehabilitation,” although she would have been fully within her rights to demand that Brochu, who is white, carry around that record forever and have to explain her disgusting actions to every employer ever to interview her ever. Despite there being no reason that she should be expected to take anything even resembling a high road, Rowe said, “By giving her this second chance, I hope she will change her ways and finds love for all mankind no matter what race.”

On Facebook, Rowe described, in detail, how she became persistently sick as her roommate systematically contaminated her belongings with bodily fluids.

“While I’ve been here, I’ve been getting sick. Not knowing why I’ve been getting sick. It started with throat pain. I thought maybe because it’s colder up here, I’m just probably catching a cold,” Rowe revealed in a Facebook video detailing the ordeal. “The sore throat pain got worse and it was just throat pain. And this was happening for about a month. It got to the point where I had extreme throat pain where I couldn’t sleep, to the point where I couldn’t speak. Like, I’d try to whisper and I could barely whisper.”

Brochu’s lawyer, Thomas Stevens, assured us that Brochu was totally kicking herself for… communicating poorly and getting angry.

Stevens said Brochu is angry with herself for letting communication with Rowe break down and for reacting in anger to a perceived slight.

Not included: Brochu is angry with herself for rubbing used tampons on her roommate’s belongings.

He also said that she totally wouldn’t have smeared Rowe’s belongings with biological contaminants if she had known… she’d get death threats.

“With the consequences she has endured … death threats .. she knows she made a mistake,” Steven said.

Not included: It didn’t take death threats for Brochu to realize that rubbing the lining of her uterus on her roommate’s backpack was fucking wrong.

While Brochu did refer to Rowe in her Instagram post as “Jamaican Barbie,” State’s Attorney Gail Hardy said that the authorities thoroughly investigated witness statements and Brochu’s social media and didn’t find any evidence of racism. So any charges or penalties beyond the ones applied would be “personal,” “political,” and “vindictive.”

“We don’t bring charges for personal purposes, we don’t bring charges for political purposes .. vindictiveness, or to respond to demands from the public,” Hardy said.

Not included: But we do take seriously the physical and emotional well-being of a woman who became significantly and unrelentingly ill after her belongings were contaminated with biohazardous substances.

For her part, Brochu swears she isn’t racist.

Brochu recently told The Republican-American newspaper that she had acted foolishly but isn’t racist.

Stevens said Brochu regrets her actions.

“I think that when it’s all said and done, what you’re going to see is that there was nothing racist that motivated this,” he said outside the courthouse. “These were two students who were placed together … who didn’t like each other … and it escalated.”

But hey, this is going to live forever on the Internet. And in the end, isn’t that the worst punishment of all?

And the price Brochu pays for her conduct will last long after her court case ends, Williams said. Friends, potential employers and even potential romantic partners will learn of Brochu’s conduct with a simple internet search, the judge said. Even her own children might one day learn about their mother’s misconduct.

Life will be way hard because people might not want to hang out with her once they find out she assailed a woman with spit and blood and, by her own original claims, rancid clams and ass bacteria. Poor, poor, foul, disgusting Brianna Brochu. My heart breaks for her. Or maybe that’s just the E. coli.

Resources for students who choose to march

Stoneman Douglas High School senior Emma Gonzalez, surrounded by classmates and supporters, stands at a podium at a press conference to speak out against gun violence and claims that it can't be prevented
Emm Gonzalez and her fellow survivors call B.S. on the idea that nothing could have prevented the death of their friends.

(I’ll update as more information becomes available.)

In the wake of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, survivors from Stoneman Douglas High School and students across the country are planning a mass walk-out — the March for Our Lives — for Saturday, March 24, to call on legislators to prioritize their lives and safety when they’re passing laws to prevent gun violence. Two other national marches mark one month after the Parkland shooting and the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High massacre.

A lot of students are worried about what might happen to them if they participate in walk-outs and other forms of protest against being murdered in class by people carrying semiautomatic weapons that have no purpose other than to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. And it’s a valid concern — several schools have made it clear that they plan to penalize students who take part in such demonstrations. Curtis Rhodes, the superintendent of Needville ISD in Needville, Texas, has threatened a three-days suspension for any student who walks out to protest.

The Resources

The ACLU reminds us that, while schools do have the power to penalize students for walking out to protest, they don’t have the power to punish the students any more harshly than they would for any other type of nonattendance. (So what Curtis Rhodes is threatening is illegal.) It also offers more information about free speech and student protests.

For students who do suffer disciplinary action for walking out, the V21 Collective has offered to help turn those accounts into badass college admissions essays.

Others have made similar statements. Grace Gibson</a. is a writing tutor, doctoral student, and survivor of gun violence who offers her services. Writing teacher and former college application coach Samuel Ashworth extends his offer to students penalized for Black Lives Matters protests. I have no doubt that there are others out there who I’ve missed and that the list will grow over time.

NACAC, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, is maintaining an ever-updated list of colleges and universities that have made statements about the impact of disciplinary action on college admission. Spoiler alert: All of the statements I’ve seen support the students and assure them that they won’t be penalized for participating in the protest — even if results in disciplinary action. The general tenor is that determined, impassioned students willing to take action in defense of their rights is something to be encouraged and celebrated (and rightly so).

If you plan to march, you can register to march, and if you can’t make it to Washington for the march there, there’s a list of other marches around the country (and, in fact, the world), so you can probably find one near you. You can also register to vote — anyone who will be 18 by the time of the election can register, and some states allow preregistration for future voters as young as 16. And if you can’t march, consider donating.

Let me know in comments if you find more resources that can support students as they stand up for their own lives.

Quick Hit: Florida legislates thoughts about prayers

Sheryl Acquarola, 16, a junior from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is overcome while watching the Florida state legislature decline to debate laws about assault rifles
Stoneman Douglas High School students react to their legislators’ complete refusal to help protect them from gun violence. (Photo credit Mark Wallheiser/AP)

After declining debate on assault rifles after last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida — but supporting a bill to protect kids from the life-threatening evils of porn — Florida lawmakers have decided to do something even more useless: require every public school in Florida to display the state motto, “In God We Trust,” in a “conspicuous place.”

Yeah, that’ll learn those mass shooters. Put ’em right in their place.

The bill’s sponsor in the House, Rep. Kimberly Daniels, a Democrat from Jacksonville who also runs a ministry, said the bill is “so simple, just saying put a poster up to remind our children of the foundation of this country.”

“In God We Trust” is also the national motto.

On Wednesday, in a speech from the House floor, Daniels indirectly referred to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week that left 17 students and educators dead.

“It is not a secret that we have some gun issues that need to be addressed, but the real thing that needs to be addressed are issues of the heart,” she said.

Daniels said she had a vision earlier in the week, “I believe it was God, and I heard a voice say, ‘Do not politicize what has happened in Florida and do not make this a thing of division.'”

And whatever you do, the voice continued, for the love of Me, don’t do anything that might be actually effective in preventing gun violence. We’re in full-on thoughts-and-prayers mode now.