About Objectifying Women & Girls

TrekNorth Administration & Board,

Have YOU been shopping for Teen Girl’s clothing lately? In Bemidji? Unless you want every girl to wear the same outfit of a t-shirt and a pair of the same type of jeans you will find it difficult to find anything that isn’t going to unintentionally affect someone’s morals.

Actually, these days the PC Police are getting out of control. You can’t blink without unintentionally making someone angry with your joke, your hair, your clothes, your music, your choice in food or even furniture! Let’s get back to clothing though, heck I’m 46 and people judge what I wear. It’s no one’s business what I wear, what you wear, or what our kids wear. It’s no one’s business what I think about what I wear, what you THINK about what someone wears, or what they THINK about what they wear. It ONLY matters about what someone is wearing when someone ACTS on what they are thinking. Then it becomes an act of bullying, or even a crime such as a hate crime or even rape.

Trek North’s original Dress Policy that is in the Student Handbook just should have been tweaked a little bit. However, it is a subjective explanation of opinions of what might be respectful of self and others and what might promote an academic environment. It does go on to state the TrekNorth community will not discriminate nor judge students based upon their appearance, yet that too is subjective and based on WHO’s opinions? Did you take an opinion poll of the parents? Of the Students?

A list was given of clothing considered inappropriate for the learning program at TrekNorth:

Clothing with sexual innuendo-this could mean just wearing a shirt with a picture of chocolate on it, if you ask today’s youth. So, how do you police this? They (youth) have such subtle, unknown words to adults that we don’t even know about.

Clothing with messages or logos that promote or advertise drugs, alcohol, or violence – that is clear, precise, and can not be argued with about what it means. It is fact, not opinion. The kids can’t mess with this one.

Clothing that exposes cleavage, buttocks, or midriffs – how much cleavage is too much according to whom? My definition of what shirt is too low will be different from Joe Shmoe’s.  Hello, have you met low-rise jeans anyone? That’s practically all they sell for teen girls, and it IS very difficult to find any other kind. Girls can’t wear cropped shirts, but if we had a football team, the boys could? You have seen the boy’s cropped sports jerseys like Zac Efron wore, right?

Clothing intentionally designed or intentionally sized to expose undergarments – again, back to the low-rise jeans. Unless you plan to go shopping with the families and help them TRY to find teen girl jeans that aren’t low-rise, have fun policing the undies. However, I DO agree with telling the boys to pull up their jeans and NOT purposefully wear their jeans belted at their knees as if they were in prison. Then, tell them how and where that look originated: in prison, as a way to let other prisoners know you are sexually available.

Clothing that promotes or represents gang activity or gangs – sometimes the kids don’t even know that what they are doing/wearing is a gang symbol. We need to educate. We have the gang task force come in to talk to our parents about what are gang symbols, but the kids need to know, too. Many of our parents don’t even know what the kids are wearing when they leave for school. Some are simply ignorant, and some WANT to flaunt the symbols to feel cool. Plus, there is an exorbitant amount of drug activity at TrekNorth that might be related to gang activity, I’m not sure. I was told that almost every incoming freshman this year was a dealer, and many of the more affluent students at Trek are dealing or know dealers.

Anyway, today the dress code went further to say girls, and ONLY girls, couldn’t expose their shoulders or wear shirts that show their chest. This is simply going too far. Really, no spaghetti straps? What, are we back in the Victorian Era? The kids are having SOOO much fun with this on social media now. Videos of guys showing off their shoulders to girls and the girls going crazy. Videos of girls showing their shoulders and guys writhing on the ground screaming, “oh no! I’ll never be able to study ever again! What WILL I ever do?!!!!!” My son is a self-proclaimed “leg” man. I asked him if he is getting a D in his class because the girl’s wear skirts? He said, “No, I’m getting a D because the work is hard and I don’t get it. I don’t give a crap what the girls wear.” NONE OF THE KIDS CARE WHAT ANYONE IS WEARING! Only the adults are pointing things out and making a big deal out of nothing.

It is the adults that are perpetuating the rape culture that THEY have grown up with, that the media and social culture molded for them and told them that if you dress in a certain way it is the clothing that will make you a sexual object. WRONG! It is thoughts that make someone into an object, and today TrekNorth made our girls into sexual objects. Today TrekNorth used Male Privilege to objectify the female body. Instead of having a conversation with the kids about respect for our human bodies, or having a teachable moment where we could have tried to change the future of rape culture by not buying into the mass media telling us that what we wear defines our sexuality, TrekNorth told girls that by what they wear they become an objectified thing and they distract males. But males aren’t an object only girls are. The boys don’t need to learn to respect the girls.  We told them Men are entitled to leer and it’s OK, cuz women have to change and men can do whatever they want to. Is THIS really what TrekNorth wants to teach?

TrekNorth has much bigger problems than what the kids are wearing that they should be worrying about instead. A kid gets his ears pierced in the middle of class while he is stoned out of his mind in front of a paraprofessional and all she says is, “it’s none of my business.” The front desk worker hangs up the phone on parents she doesn’t want to speak to. She just happens to be rude to parents and students often, and is rarely found smiling when approached at her desk.  The School Social Worker forgets which kids are in which grades and forgets to send out pertinent information to parents about the ACT test. TrekNorth often touts being proud of being a small school, so the staff should be able to keep track of their duties. As a LSW myself and knowing many of the local public school personnel, if, by example, the ISD 31 School Nurse can keep track of over 500 students needing medical care out of an average of 5,000 I’m sure TrekNorth’s staff should be able to handle 240.

If TrekNorth really wants to be a better school than the surrounding local public schools and deserve the awards and attention it’s being given, maybe it should fix some of its current issues before it tries to grow into a K-12 school. Maybe, just maybe, it should listen to its own students when they say THEY don’t want TrekNorth to grow into a K-12 school and they want the school to stay small. I’ve always been an advocate for those who don’t have a voice, that’s why I’ve always worked with youth and nonprofits.When passions run high, it is easy to perceive those with whom you disagree as the enemy. But remember, you are only fighting with each other because you all care so much. In a year, two years, ten years, what you fought over will not matter. If your anger overcomes you, walk away. When adults fight, children get wounded. Right now it’s the adults up-roaring about clothing, and children who are getting the wrong messages.

How we respect each other, how we deal with differing ideas, how we argue, disagree, and resolve differences – will shape the culture of this school. Right now the students don’t respect the staff/administration very much. I’ve been told by students that they feel they are being left out of many decisions; dress code, K-12 idea, curriculum and that TrekNorth is just becoming like every other school and it isn’t like it was any more. A successful charter school results not from people being of common mind so much as from people of complementary skills trusting each other to make decisions. Where there is expertise, defer to it, even if it runs contrary to your own opinions on a matter. Students at TrekNorth really CAN be part of that expertise, because WE,parents & staff, have taught them to be, however now we are pushing them into the background and stifling their voice. The founders of TrekNorth didn’t create the school just for their child, they created a school for all children and didn’t vote or design from their child’s desk but right now TrekNorth is leaving the kids right out of the decision making processes. This school was created to hopefully educate empowered effective community leaders, so; let them lead without stifling their individuality, yet finding these teachable moments to change social mores and rape culture that are hundreds of years old.

Thank you for listening,

LSW Karen A. Kimbrough

 

(This was a letter I sent to the School Board of my son’s school. MANY letters were sent in from angry parents, but the dress code was not changed.) Grrrrr.

Featured Content

Letter to the Editor, Bemidji Pioneer:

Misconceptions of Homelessness

Let’s set the issue straight for the ignorant and those who refuse to do their own research. Homelessness is a complex issue. There is NOT simply one or two simple reasons to suddenly become homeless and being lazy or violent are NOT part of them.

One such reason CAN be mental illness or some type of physical impairment that is permanent or increasingly regressive or chronic. In fact, until recently, a large percentage of the homeless were veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or a severe physical injury. Over the years, victims of domestic violence and other forms of trauma or abuse also have constituted a large percentage of our nation’s homeless. One of every three homeless women in Minnesota is homeless at least in part due to domestic violence. 5% are unaccompanied youth, up to 40% identify as LGBT. 39% are youth under the age of 18 (either in a family or unaccompanied.) 27% of homeless clients surveyed had lived in foster care, a group home or other institutional setting for part of their childhood, 25% reported childhood physical or sexual abuse. I could type more stats.

It is said that the homeless choose to be homeless. The challenges that have put these people on the streets are complex and convoluted, and they are difficult to unravel. So it is unwise for the rest of us to draw hasty conclusions about those living on the streets. Because mental illness is prevalent among the most long term homeless, we must remember that a chronically homeless person can sometimes see the world through the distorted lens of their disease. Choices made because of mental illness are therefore not choices that are based on reality at all. But we do know this; circumstances put people on the streets. It is not simply a choice.

The biggest myth about homeless people is that Homeless people are different than I am. I could never become homeless. It is easy to separate yourself from a population if you don’t see them. If they are invisible, the homeless are easy to ignore. The fact is that one bad circumstance or series of unlucky or unfortunate events can lead to homelessness. When you listen to the stories of the homeless, you soon realize that any one of us could become homeless in this society. Moreover, homelessness affects every area of the population. Many of the homeless are still working, but without a living wage they can’t afford rent. Even being educated is not a guarantee against becoming homeless. People with graduate degrees can and have become homeless. Homelessness does not discriminate. To learn more, go to http://invisiblepeople.tv/blog/ for some interviews with homeless individuals and hear their stories.- See more at: http://www.preblestreet.org/news/Myths-about-the-homeless/232/#sthash.dBQhJ7i8.dpuf

To answer Fulton Gallagher’s fears about Bemidji’s homeless committing crimes against people: For every homeless person who commits an act of violence there are many peaceful homeless individuals just trying to survive and protect themselves from being harmed. For example, a study done by Johns Hopkins University found in reviewing arrest records in Baltimore that although homeless people were more likely to commit non-violent and nondestructive crimes, they were actually less likely to commit crimes against person or property. They found that for persons who were not homeless, 35 percent of crimes were crimes against property or person. For homeless individuals, on the other hand, only 25 percent of crimes committed were against person or property. – See more at: http://www.preblestreet.org/news/Myths-about-the-homeless/232/#sthash.dBQhJ7i8.dpuf However: In the past 15 years (1999-2013), the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) has documented 1,437 acts of violence against homeless individuals by housed perpetrators. These crimes are believed to have been motivated by the perpetrators’ biases against homeless individuals or by their ability to target homeless people with relative ease.

Lack of affordable housing is cited as the number 1 cause of homelessness, along with low-paying jobs, unemployment, domestic violence and others I’ve listed. Hmmm, since these are factors that describe Bemidji it’s no wonder we are having this debate about our homeless.  When we use wisdom instead of prejudice and compassion instead of criticism, we can truly make a difference in the lives of those who are walking through the terrible plight of this common social issue.

For more information on homelessness, here are a few websites that are helpful:

100,000 homes campaign: http://100khomes.org/

Invisible People: http://invisiblepeople.tv/blog/

Pathways to housing: http://www.pathwaystohousing.org/

Information on the Vulnerability Index: http://www.commonground.org/?page_id=789

National Coalition to end homelessness: http://www.endhomelessness.org/

– See more at: http://www.preblestreet.org/news/Myths-about-the-homeless/232/#sthash.dBQhJ7i8.dpuf

 

HOMELESS BILL OF RIGHTS

Years of research and advocacy around the criminalization of homelessness and increasing violence commit-ted against people experiencing homelessness has shown that added protections are needed to preserve the civil rights of people who are homeless. NCH staff work to educate public officials and local advocates about the importance of passing protections for those without housing in the United States.

National Coalition for the Homeless

Vulnerable to Hate: Hate Crimes against the Homeless

We support the efforts of local advocates to pass Homeless Bill of Rights measures that include:

  • Homeless hate crimes provisions as spelled out in the Model Language for All Legislation and

Resolutions of this report

  • Protections against segregation, laws targeting homeless people for their lack of housing and not

their behavior, and restrictions on the use of public space.

  • Privacy protections for those experiencing homelessness, and the ability to vote or feel safe in the

community.

  • Providing broad access to shelter, social services, legal counsel and a quality education for the

children of homeless families.

 

 

Karen A. Kimbrough

2902 Bixby Ave. NE.

Bemidji, MN 56601

751-2289

karenaid@midco.net

(This was a Letter to the Editor of my local newspaper I wrote in reply to someone else’s letter. It was not printed in the paper. I imagine due to my letter being too long.)

 

 

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Featured Content/Who Created This Monster?

A narcissistic, negative, and always cranky monster lives in my basement. He’s been down there for about a year and a half now sulking with his anger issues. His problems with himself, the outside world, and me have been boiling for a while. I know it’s not all due to the ADD since he’s doing well in school. Well except for the rudeness to his teachers. I swear he has not always been ill-mannered, though.

 

When this little bundle of joy came into the world I had to fight so hard for his rights, for his little body to be treated more gentle. Although I was certain I’d transmitted our genetic rare disabling bone disease the nurses wouldn’t listen to me. It was amazing how rough and brutish they treated the newborns when they changed diapers in the nursery. I was screaming at them. “Let go of my son now! You will break his hips, ankles, or his legs!” I stumbled to my child on wobbling legs to take him away and would not let go. The on-call doctor ultimately came in and asked me, “How do you have knowledge of your child having this Osteogenesis Imperfecta? Genetically it’s a 50% chance.” I told him I wanted him to call MY doctor or even the doctor who had delivered my precious child because THEY were acquainted with my story.

 

It took those two phone calls plus a visit from my Early Head Start Teacher before anyone would listen to me, but I finally got a “Handle With Care” poster placed on my son’s nursery bed. This is what happens when you live in a rural area and have to deal with medical staff with God Complex syndromes. Osteogenesis Imperfecta is extremely rare. Living in rural Northern MN where no one has ever heard of it, even medical doctors, had always been a problem for my family. In my family OI has been traced back 300 years, and for this disease which is rare, such is even rarer. The 50% genetics have gone wonky for us, and the mutated collagen genes which carry the OI are dominant. THAT is how I knew my son had it.

 

At 10 ½ months he sustained his first broken leg. He tried to pull himself up to stand. At least I’d thought that was his first fracture. Terrified of being accused of abusing my son, as many parents of OI kids are, I brought him into the E.R. I called the Early Head Start Teacher to come with me, since she was helping me to get my son tested for OI at the MN State University Hospital of Genetics and the Gillette Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, MN. Sure enough, the X-rays showed my son attained a broken femur, but also showed past healing fractures in his toes and feet. OH MY GOD! When I was putting his shoes on, his toes and feet were breaking! He didn’t walk yet, so he didn’t cry about it. He had just fussed, and I thought he hated shoes! Nothing in my life ever made me feel more guilty than that moment.

 

Within a month after getting that cast off my son was standing! What a tough little guy. Then he tripped on a towel on the floor and got a spiral fracture a week later. Most spiral fractures are the hallmark of physical abuse. For families of a loved one with OI this is normal. We live as normal a life as we can until the next break. For my son and I it has been a long road. It’s just the two of us. I stopped counting his fractures at 80. That’s a LOT of E.R. visits, which don’t even count the visits for sprains and strains, twists, and what-ifs. We go to the Shriner’s Hospital For Children in St, Paul, MN once a year to observe his level of scoliosis, fractures in his growth plates, and his spinal fractures. When he broke his back, OK taking a big deep breath, I almost lost him. THAT’s another story.

 

As you might imagine, functioning with all this turmoil is difficult on both of us. There are support groups, but the nearest one to us is 4 hours away. I follow Facebook groups, and comment on those sometimes, but I don’t get much support locally. We realized right away in Kindergarten he had ADHD, too. Having a child with OI who runs around a lot. Not good. The more he broke, the more things he couldn’t do – the angrier he got. The more times he had to be forcibly held down by me and doctors to put bones back into place, to be in pain so many times – the angrier he got. Angry at me. Angry at all adults or people of authority. Angry at the disease. Just angry.

 

Despite all the anger, everyone loved him though. Teachers, nurses, my friends; everyone always told me how cute he was. He always cracked jokes, had good manners everywhere but at home, and was so whip smart. Yes, he landed problems at school, with the ADD. It had more to do with being mouthy with authority, not wanting to be told what to do and when to do it. He wanted control of his life somewhere. The schools couldn’t understand that it was all the medical stuff to blame and not the child. They would put him in In-School Suspension and then my son would have anxiety attacks. So, they wanted him medicated. I wanted understanding. I finally found a different charter school where my son went from flunking to getting A’s! They took time to understand us and work with us. OK, I cried and begged.

 

So, my teen has problems taking responsibility for anything he does. He’s remarkably mouthy. He yells and swears at me. He doesn’t help with anything around the house. He’s addicted to the XBox. I’m aware that he could do clubs at school, but he’s antisocial from years of being in casts, not being able to join activities, being left out, being teased, and feeling embarrassed.
Is it my fault he’s so angry and negative? Should I have pushed him into clubs and activities even when he was teased? Did I baby him too much every time he fractured? I never let him not finish homework or anything, but I advocated and fought for his rights. When he yells and swears I don’t let him get away with it. We have a very loving relationship. We appreciate all we’ve got is each other in this world right now. We are a great team. Is this teen-aged monster going to be ready for the real world? Have I done enough? Will he be tough enough to handle it on his own living with OI? Is a mother ever not terrified for her children? Did I create this boy and mold him, or did the disease create this monster?

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