Miley Come Back

So I was off of email and twitter for a few days, out of town, when I received a direct message text via twitter from someone I didn’t even know. It read: sign the twitition to get Miley back on twitter! Thus was I introduced to the hooplah surrounding the sudden deletion of Miley Cyrus’ Twitter account.

I certainly am not going to go out on the crazy limb that her father did, somehow trying to convince the 16-year-old starlet that her tweets are the shining light in the world (other than the last one that has been posted on every gossip rag on the internet, I have never seen a Miley tweet myself). Unlike her fans and her father, I really don’t care if she never tweets again, and if her somewhat amusing fake rap song (see above) is true, good for her for recognizing that she was obsessing about twitter instead of enjoying her life.

The only reason I care about the status of Miley Cyrus’ Twitter account is what it says to the millions of her female fans that read a tweet about her rumored boyfriend not liking her twitter, and then a half an hour later saw their Miley signal go dark. According to many sites, including the Wall Street Journal (yes, I said the Wall Street Journal), Miley’s last known tweet was:

“FYI Liam doesn’t have a Twitter and he wants ME to delete mine with good reason.”

Then, poof, no more Miley tweets, apparently because her rumored love interest and co-star doesn’t like that she’s spending time tweeting. For anyone who’s ever had a loved one involved in an abusive relationship, this type of controlling behavior, and adherence to controlling behavior, is an early sign. I am not, I repeat am not, saying that Miley Cyrus is in an abusive relationship. I am saying that if my little sister was a prolific twitterer and then suddenly deleted her account because her new boyfriend didn’t like it, I would start keeping a very close eye on other aspects of their relationship. That a 19 year-old boy would even ask a new love interest to stop doing something that she enjoys is a sign of controlling behavior to come.

Obviously, I don’t know either of these two young people, and so I cannot say that there is anything unhealthy about their relationship. I can’t know if he even actually did tell her to delete her account, or if her tweet wasn’t about some joking conversation that she had. What I do know though, is that some 9 months ago another young starlet was beaten by her boyfriend to the point of hospitalization and we’re in the midst of an epidemic of domestic violence murders nationwide. We need to be teaching young women to be empowered, and young men to be partners. If the most famous 16 year-old girl in the country is being told what to do by her boyfriend, what does that say to the rest of them, or even their younger sisters?


Red Scare 2009

For good analysis of the Glenn Beck vs. Barack Obama situation check out Jack and Jill Politics, Rosa Clemente, and Racewire. I’m honestly too exhausted to say what I think beyond this video. Tell Obama to stop catering to people who will never vote for him, and support Color of Change’s campaign against Glenn Beck.

Welcome Home

Cross posted from Not My Mother’s Blog:

Written in response to the Worcester City Council meeting held last night – read the Worcester city live blog at Worceteria for a quick overview of the night and why this letter was written. It has been sent to every member of the Worcester City Council. For the record, Kate Toomey emailed me back immediately and then spoke to me on the phone for twenty minutes about my concerns.

I recently moved back to Worcester with my new husband, excited to jump into the civic life of a city that I spent my first 22 years in, before moving to Lowell and Boston to help start small social entrepreneurships and support the development of city youth. Now 26 and armed with nearly 8 years small business management experience, a Masters degree and a doctorate on the way, I am excited to support growth of youth in THIS city, to give them the same opportunities that allowed me to complete two degrees, help build three successful youth programs and publish my first book.

I grew up in Main South in a time when many communities like ours were considered the problem, and not a source of solutions. During the early to mid 1990s I grew up around things that no one should ever have to see. In second grade, a classmate died in a housefire later ruled an arson. When I was 10 a 2-year-old neighbor was shot and killed. We played in a vacant lot filled with crack pipes, hidden weapons, and the remnants of buildings that once stood there. But when my mother organized kids in the neighborhood to help clean up the lot, and plant a garden, our City Councilor, Janice Nadeau, had the DPW out the next day to cart away discarded furniture and trash. The kids in the neighborhood planted gardens, and maintained that property, an abandoned lot, the community was involved and engaged. And out of that engagement grew a network of neighbors that held community meetings, helped each other in need, met with city officials, carpooled to parks, pools and beaches, and felt the sense of community that I believe made me who I am today.

I don’t know how young people growing up in this city today could feel the same. We were taught to be civically engaged because if we were, our elected officials would be able to partner with us to make our city great. This City Council seems to thrive on a lack of civic participation. Attending tonight’s City Council meeting I was shocked, appalled and ashamed that you are our elected officials. I’m not surprised when I overhear public servants excitedly predicting a low voter turnout, given how little the majority of you do to win votes that should be hard earned. I saw such disrespect, and even contempt for the public at tonight’s City Council meeting. It is no wonder that Worcester lacks the respect that the second largest city in New England should have in the region.

I watched a Mayor insist that we cannot sustain multiple neighborhood pools because the City has failed in the past to do so. She says this as though she is not the Mayor, as though she has not been a City Councilor for TWENTY years. If someone is responsible for failing the people of Worcester, is she not at least near the front of the line? Madam Mayor, you are quick to gavel silent a public that has waded through 7 community hearings, only to be displaced by a couple of well payed consultants. The respect you demand for “this body” of the City Council needs to be taken more seriously by its members. If you want the community to respect your representation, than perhaps you should learn to represent. I would like to thank Councilor Palmieri, Councilor Toomey, and especially Councilor Rushton, not for standing up for neighborhood pools, but for standing up for democratic values and due process that all of our policies deserve.

I know that you are all used to not having to do much to defend your place in the Council chambers, but I hope to appeal to your sense of duty, if you still have any, and ask you to step up to the call of your office. If you are going to sit and hear the will of the people, at least have the gumption to carry that will out to the City Manager who should, for all intents and purposes, report to you. I am ashamed at the pandering, corruption, and politicking that I witnessed this evening, and if you hope to keep your seats beyond November, perhaps you should be too. Because I pledge to do everything in my power to see that representatives that are incapable of representing will not have that awesome opportunity again.

Most sincerely,

Cara Lisa Berg Powers

Animals More Entitled to Humanity Than Women

peta-save-the-whalesYes, that’s right. Women are less entitled to rights than animals. At least to PETA. Though I’ve long found PETA sort of obnoxious, I’ve mostly considered it innocuous. But with their recent Fat-shaming “Save the Whales” campaign, I finally stopped ignoring their sexist and harmful tactics. For those, who missed it, check out Jessica Valenti’s post at Feministing:

I know I shouldn’t be surprised by PETA’s latest billboard campaign in Florida – after all, their brand of activism has proven to be sexist and racist time and time again – why not fat-shaming to boot? (Part of me hates posting this at all because it does just give PETA the attention that they want. But I just had to.)

I was pretty aggravated around the Superbowl when the “Veggie Love” ad popped up around the internet, after being banned by NBC.  Just some of the offensive footage that was objectional included: (via email sent to PETA)

:21- rubbing pelvic region with pumpkin
:22- screwing herself with broccoli (fuzzy)
:23- asparagus on her lap appearing as if it is ready to be inserted into vagina
:26- licking eggplant
:26- rubbing asparagus on breast

peta grossPETA proudly touts this letter as an example of their supposed edginess and the prudishness of the powers that be, that would be happier if we all were meat eating zombies. But what PETA can’t possibly comprehend is that maybe we’re all a little disgusted at the dehumanizing behavior that the woman in these ads are portraying. It’s not just because of the faux sexuality pictured, but because it is objectifying and damaging to women. Not to mention the lies that PETA continues to spread about vegetarianism automatically leading to a more svelte, sexy body. It’s condescending to think that women couldn’t flock to vegetarianism for the obvious environmental and health benefits and that we need to be tempted by the same shallow promise made to us by Jenny Craig and Metabolife. Or, further that men couldn’t possibly be interested in vegetarianism if it’s not packaged in lingerie.

It almost reminds me of… what is it? Oh yes, this insulting and ridiculous campaign run last year by Ecko Manufacturing.


So how is “Veggie Love” different than “Hot Girls Make Great Clothes.” Well, there’s something even more bitter about degrading sexism when it comes from an organization masquerading as being committed for justice.  As Bishop Desmond Tutu said, “We must not allow ourselves to become like the system we oppose.” Congratulations PETA, you have chosen to value the justice of some over others. Now, I’m not against shutting down factory farming, nor am I against being vegetarian, I have been for about 10 years. What I am against is tactics that try to sell vegetarianism at the expense of women’s sexual autonomy or self-esteem.

nia-long-peta-adIn one of PETA’s most recent “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” ads, actress Nia Long is pictured on a subway naked and wrapped around a subway pole. At the bottom of the page is a claim that we should “be comfortable in your own skin.” This is of course, unless you are fat. Then you should’s be ashamed and vegetarian, because all vegetarians are skinny. Maybe that’s too simplified, but that’s apparently all the complexity that PETA thinks that people are capable of. Because you know, we’re not animals. They also apparently think we’re idiots. Because I don’t think even Nia Long is “comfortable in her own skin” otherwise why would she be so severely photoshopped. I think the question of why there’s an ad for an oil company in the background may be a question for another day. All in all, my reccomendation is ignore PETA and be a vegetarian, because it’s good for you, it’s good for animals, and it’s good for the planet. If you need help, check out some books from the library or do an internet search.

Reflect & Strengthen- my home away from home

l_d8d496ef13cced9783ec01eb9e1829e7Anyone who has known me in the last 3 years, know that I can’t do anything Wednesday nights, that’s because I spend my Wednesdays with a powerful group of young political women from and living in Boston’s urban communities. We’re all between the ages of 14-30, we’re all working class, and we work together to heal from trauma, build community, and build in ourselves and one another the capacity to lead real change. In addition to being a space that has given me real tools to grow as an organizer and an educator, R&S has been a space that has given me the emotional and spiritual support that I need to continue doing the important work I do with young people, media and action.

From Reflect & Strengthen:

Reflect and Strengthen is in a financial crisis. Though we have continued to run the organization at full capacity throughout the summer, R&S staff has not been paid since June and there is no money to start the fall session. To respond to this emergency situation, we have been forced to shut down programming until we figure out a plan for a sustainable future. R&S staff, members, and board members will be focusing solely on fundraising and financial planning during this time.

l_4740ebb39ee2d9aa70bfdbe53846879aFundraising has always been a challenge for a small, social justice grassroots group like us. This year is different. We have been denied critical funding from foundations that have supported us for years. We have been denied money from new foundations due to the recession. We have received less money from foundations whose endowments were hit hard. While we have exceeded our grassroots fundraising goal for the fiscal year and coordinated many in-kind donations, it’s not enough.

The community has identified R&S as a vital resource for young people and an organization with the power to transform Boston and beyond. For many of us, joining R&S was the first time in our lives we experienced feeling safe and uplifted by other women, the first time that we were empowered to take leadership, and the first time the trauma we went through as working class people was addressed with healing, analysis, and organizing tools. Our members aren’t getting our unique needs met in school or in other groups we may be a part of. If R&S were to close, there would be no place in our city for young women like us to go.

Now, we need our people to step up in solidarity with our membership so that R&S can survive. We are asking for your support in raising $52,421. Without this amount, we cannot re-launch programming. R&S needs you to: donate, throw a house party, reach out to your networks, hold an event, and do whatever is in your heart to raise money. No amount is too small. We have grants pending in September and are hopeful such funding will help us reach our goal. R&S is grateful for your ongoing support and loving action. We are walking in faith we will emerge from this crisis a stronger and more permanent force for personal and social transformation. We are only as strong as the community that lifts us up.

 $10 – transportation for teen members to group

 $25 – materials for workshop with women involved with DYS

 $50 – one 2-hour political education workshop

 $80 – food for core programming meeting

 $250 – 1/3 rent for a NEW programming and office space!

 $500 – printing costs for organizing campaign

 $1000 – a counselor’s fee for our peer-led support groups

I don’t care what Miley’s parents think…

But if you have “tween” daughters, you probably should.
Not only did Monday night’s Teen Choice Awards feature Miley Cyrus atop an ice-cream cart in booty shorts and high heeled boots, but she was perched alongside what can only be described as a stripper pole. It is difficult enough for women in today’s society to have control over their own sexuality without corporate male fantasies making their way into performances by teenagers at awards shows created specifically FOR teenagers. As if that weren’t enough, early Tuesday, pictures and video of Miley’s 9-year-old little sister Noah playing with, dancing around, and posing astride her own stripper pole backstage at the awards surfaced on many websites.miley stripper pole

One commenter defended the little Cyrus, saying that her pole dance was no less innocent than any 9 year old circling a support beam in their parent’s basement. There are, of course, two critical differences- (1) a support beam has not been constructed socially to symbolize the male fantasy of stripteases, and (2) no one that I have ever heard of has ever posed proudly with a support beam in pictures that then turned up on the internet.

And here’s where the rubber meets the road- the complete apparent lack of understanding on the part of the entire Cyrus clan on the affects that their parenting decisions have on the social norms constructed for 5-16 year olds all over this country. While Miley Cyrus is getting scattered internet and ET coverage for dating a 20-year-old (who reportedly lived with the Cyrus family), and sending him suggestive cell-phone shots of herself, teenagers all over the country are getting criminal records for similar behavior. While Noah Cyrus’ parents think it’s cute for her 9-year-old to pose alongside a stripper pole in a dance costume, my parents and many others have had to find out that their 9-year-old and younger daughters have been forced or coerced into taking even more sexual pictures by predatory adults.
How many of us have heard- “I don’t care what your friend’s parents say, I am your mother and I have a good reason for doing what I am doing.”
Not the case with the young Miley Cyrus. I do, in fact, care what Tish and Billy Ray Cyrus think, because ultimately, it sets a social standard for parents all over the country, who, Spike TV’s website speculates, will have their tween children begging them for stripper poles this Christmas. I defended similar acts in their ’20snoah-cyrus-miley-cyrus-little-sister-and-a-stripper-pole- (like an older Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera), noting that while I thought that they should understand their role of influence on young girls, as young women in their ’20s they should also have the right to express their sexuality. However, in the case of Miley Cyrus, as in the younger Ms. Spears (think the “Baby One More Time” sexed-up-schoolgirl-in pigtails-video or the 1998 Rolling Stone cover), we are talking about a minor participating in disturbingly sexual behavior at the behest of adult handlers.

Britney Spears turned 18 within a year of releasing her first album. In contrast, Miley Cyrus’ first run-in with the morality police came over a year ago pictures from a Vanity Fair shoot showed the then 15-year-old wrapped in a sheet, lipstick smeared and hair tossled, with her father on set. Since then, pictures intended for her 20-year-old boyfriend have popped up on the internet almost every other month, mostly taken herself (like much of the so-called MySpace generation) and featuring her in wet clothes, exposed bra, and even in her underwear, as well as half naked strewn across the lap of (hopefully) a boyfriend. But, according Vanity Fair, noting that her Disney handlers probably don’t want her name anywhere near the word “sex,”  the tabloids follow her around “praying for her to pull a Britney.”
Well wait no longer, tabloids. While the ice-cream cart antics of the Teen Choice Awards may have reminded some in the TRL generation more of Mariah Carey, the sexy showmanship was all Britney. From here on out, any comparisons to the fallen Ms. Spears are warranted. Most of all, “Where are this girl’s parents?” The sad answer, in both cases- cheering them on from the sidelines with younger sister in tow. I hate to make anyone’s life into a cautionary tale, but if the breakdown of Britney Spears isn’t enough to make showbiz parents want to shield their kids from the harmful pressure, then maybe the teen motherhood of her younger sister Jamie-Lynn would make a parent think twice about exposing a nine-year old to the same too-sexy too-soon culture, but no on both counts for the Cyrus parents.

Sexual abuse, stranger rape, date rape, and domestic violence are some of the very real consequences of this sort of distorted sexualization of your girls (see: Journal of Social Sciences). It is hard enough to build healthy relationships as adults in such an oversexualized media culture that consistently undervalues women AND men as whole people. We, as a society need to push back on dangerous sexual images of young girls and boys, but especially in cases like this we need to ask the parents to consider the very real consequences of their actions, not just on their children, but on all of our youth.

Metro hides false facts behind “Voices” moniker

I’m sorry, but I don’t care what you call a column printed in the paper, if you state something as a fact, you best be able to back up your claims. I, for one, try very hard (and get called out sometimes for failing) to make sure I don’t claim anything disprovable to be a fact. But apparently the Boston Metro does not have the same journalistic standards as my editor-less blog. I stumbled across the rag again yesterday when my colleague tossed it on to my desk and said “there isn’t even anything in here anymore.”

CrizazyFor some reason I felt compelled to explore and found that there was indeed something in there that morning- racism, elitism and bigoted hate for at-risk young people, blanketing them all as lacking a “basic skill” (From Michele McPhee: I’m wondering if they can brush their teeth or comb their hair.). The best part is, the Metro has sometime in the last few months ceased to even pretend to be a balanced an accountable news source by taking out their letters to the editor section (they do still invite 400 word responses though to

McPhee’s hate riddled diatribe, titled “Good Kids Get the Shaft” is today’s republican talking points at their most hateful: illegal immigrants and welfare queens are coming to take all of your hard earned monies. If you’re in the middle class or a blue collar work (read: white working class), the Blacks and Latinos want your first born as a sacrifice to their drug lords. Seriously, she almost goes there. The article is supposed to be about the Summer Jobs Program that is a partnership between The Mayor’s Office of Jobs and Community Services, ABCD, the Private Industry Council, Boston Youth Fund, and Boston Centers for Youth & Families. The ACTUAL criteria for the jobs is as follows. In addition to being a CITIZEN or LEGAL RESIDENT, you must be low-income, live in Boston, comply with Selective Service regulations, and be between the ages of 14-24. In addition:

A youth must be one or more of the following:
• A youth who is low in basic literacy skills.
• A youth who is a school dropout.
• A youth who is homeless, a runaway, or a foster child.
• A youth who is pregnant or a parent.
• A youth who is an offender.
• A youth who failed the MCAS in the last round
• A youth who has a disability
• A youth who is truant or has a significant attendance problem in school
• A youth who requires English as a Second Language instruction
• A youth who resides in a single parent household
• A youth whose parents were employed for less than 6 months total in the last year
• An older youth with a secondary credential who has been actively seeking employment unsuccessfully for at least 15 weeks in the past year

So apparently if you have a hard-working under-employed single parent, are 18-24 and have been looking for a job for 3 months with no luck, or your parents lost their job last year, you’re a bad kid. In fact, if you have a disability and your parents struggle to pay for your medical expenses, you’re a “teen thug.”

McPhee would have you believe that only students with criminal records, babies, or heavy drug habits are eligible for the summer work. The selfishness with which she forces her bigotry on working people is beyond words. It is shameful that newspapers and television networks use their power to convince people with little media literacy and even less time to research the lies that the so called journalists spew to convince every day people to go against their own self-interest. Several of the young people that I work with believed before investigating for themselves that they did in fact qualify for these jobs that bad kids were taking their summer jobs. That is of course until they found out that those bad kids were them. This is the insidiousness of hate mongers like McPhee. When she says middle class, she is not talking about a level of income, when she says blue-collar she is not talking about a line of work. She is using codes that trick people who identify with these things into thinking that she is on your side. She is not on your side. If she was, she wouldn’t claim that your children are “teenager illegal immigrants” if they happen to speak English as a Second language or have “skills — like being good at having unprotected sex” if they’re a teenage mother (and how would they learn to use protection without comprehensive sex education, I wonder?). The fact is she is talking about any young person of color, any low-income youth, and many students in our public schools.

But perhaps most insidious of all is the claim that she doesn’t “have a problem with helping wayward teens get a leg up in life” while also claiming all of the above and also that “court-involved” is liberal code for “teen thugs.” She closes,

“The problem is that every cent of the $1.3 million in taxpayer stimulus monies aimed at helping teens is only helping the teenage children of people who don’t pay taxes. Once again the blue collar and middle class family is screwed.”

Just like every other claim that she makes here, which may be defended as “opinion,” this is an outright lie. Not only that, it shows a basic misunderstanding of what a stimulus is supposed to do. Sure, the hate mongering republicans are happy to keep an underclass until their problems come to rest on their stoop, but they don’t care who gets hurt along the way in fiercely protecting their broken ideology. The fact is, the middle class and blue collar families she claims to protect will benefit greatly from this stimulus program, either as beneficiaries directly (how many blue collar employees have been laid off in the last 9 months) or through a restrengthening of our economy, which was broken down by the blind greed and deregulation of the corporations that McPhee would no doubt support in a heartbeat. The biggest problem with this article is the disgusting way in which it parades as an opinion while dressing up in certainties that happen to be untrue (undocumented immigrants are not eligible, for example).

Opinions can be disagreed with, but they cannot be wrong. If McPhee relied on opinion in this piece, I would no doubt disagree with her, but I could not say that she was wrong, only that we have greatly differing opinions. I believe it was the great conservative hero, Ronald Reagan who said, “You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” Michele McPhee would do well to study her republican forefathers a bit more closely.