September Media Companion

Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools | By: Monique Morris

I wanted to find a really great book to read this month. I managed to find Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools on Amazon, and it is one of the most heartbreaking books that I have ever read. There is so much to say about this issue, about education, taking care of the children in society who don't get paid enough attention, and appreciation for the teachers and mentors who do such a great job making sure that children feel heard and seen. Those are just a few of the thoughts I had while reading. I also felt compelled to reach out to some of the teachers and mentors in my life and sincerely thank them. I never took what they did for granted, but hearing about the experiences of girls living harder lives with fewer options made me appreciate what they do even more. I wanted them to know that I see them, and that I appreciate their commitment to education.  

This book is filled with thousands of facts. Some are hopeful, some are hard to swallow, and all of them are need to know. When I read fact heavy books like this, the easiest way to relay their information is to pass along the things that jumped out at me. I hope that you find this knowledge enlightening, and that you find some way to use it. I'll let you know how I decide to use it myself. 

  • "To be ignored is traumatic."
  • "Chicago Public Schools eliminated recess for its elementary and middle school students in 1991. In 1998 the district implemented a policy that granted school administrators the discretion to choose whether or not to allow recess. This resulted in two-thirds of Chicago schools opting for a 'closed campus,' which means that for nearly twenty-five years, there have been children attending Chicago public schools who have never experienced school recess. This practice was condemned by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education, the Alliance for Children, and many others. Still, the decision has been left to the discretion of the schools in the country's third-largest school district, and many administrators have opted out, perceiving recess as a 'waste of time'."
  • "In 1933, there were 1,803 Black girls whose delinquency cases were disposed in sixty-seven courts and eight Black girls whose cases were "handled by federal authorities". However, these girls were still expected to rehabilitate in separate and inferior environments that failed to support their educational development. For example, in 1936, at the New York Training School for Girls in Hudson, New York, Black girls - who were 19 percent of the girls in the facility at the time - were segregated from White female residents and forced to reside in two of the most 'crowded and dilapidated of the reformatory's cottages'. Jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald was once assigned to this facility for being an 'ungovernable' teen. Here she was quarantined, tortured, and excluded from participating in the choir, as it was reserved for White girls only."
  • "Nationwide, 81 percent of girls in the juvenile justice system suffer from a mental health disorder. In California, the percentage of youth with a mental health disorder ranges between 40 and 70 percent."
  • "Remember: hurt people hurt other people."
  • "Though these girls are in confinement, their minds are alive. They are interested in and capable of more than mindless busy work. They all can learn, many of them want to do so, and like anyone whose life has veered off track, they are eager for a second chance.
  • "From the lessons, patterns, and insight gathered through speaking with Black girls from coast to coast, six themes emerged as crucial for cultivating quality learning environments for Black girls: (1) the protection of girls from violence and victimization in school; (2) proactive discussions in schools about healthy intimate relationships; (3) strong student-teacher relationships; (4) school-based wraparound services; (5) an increased focus on student learning coupled with a reduced emphasis on discipline and surveillance; (6) consistent school credit recovery processes between alternative schools and traditional district or community schools."
  • "...Black girls' educational lives are dynamic and complex, and too often follow a school-to-confinement pathway. The are affected by school-based decisions and practices that reinforce negative stereotypes about Black femininity and facilitate pushout, and their vulnerabilities increase once their connection with school has been harmed or severed. But pathways to criminalization are clear, often eminently clearer than any other pathway. The failure to fully understand or make space for the wide-ranging gender identities that many of our girls embrace sets up a criminalizing pathway for girls. The absence of culturally competent and gender-responsive methods of teaching - approaches that respond to girls who stand at the crossroads of racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, and poverty - sets up a criminalizing pathway for girls. Blanket discrimination against detained or formerly incarcerated people, or those suspected of being involved with the criminal legal system in some way, sets up pathways that further criminalize girls who have made mistakes and want to recover from them. Alongside these criminalizing pathways, external forces - the kinds of influences educators and systems have little control over - all but ensure that Black girls with the deck stacked against them will indeed take these paths, ill-equipped as they are to see and create better ones."

Science... for Her! | Written by: Megan Amram

On the toilet I find it comforting to read books. I think the reading helps my poop concentrate more. My body becomes relaxed. My toilet read has been Science... For Her! which is a nonfiction, satirical science book tailor made to the woman's brain. In this book, author Megan Amram takes basic issues, concerns, insecurities, biological things that women go through and she gives "advice" for achieving or relieving such issue. Instead of critiquing this, I would like to share an excerpt and a video to give everyone a feel for the read. Easier to show than to explain. 

Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape | Written by: Peggy Orenstein

I’m an avid reader. There’s books I’ve finished in a day because the plot propelled forward at such alarming speeds I was afraid to put it down, books that I’ve loved so much that I’ve spent months reading them slowly and intently, books that I read while crying tears on the pages, but not until now had I experienced what I’m going to call “rage reading”. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that has made me so angry and sad. Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein (who also wrote Cinderella Ate My Daughter) should be required reading for all girls, and boys, to be honest. Please go read it right now, if you have younger sisters or nieces, please lend them your copy and tell them to tell their friends to read it too. I wish that I had read this book in high school, that it had been around, and someone had been asking these questions or interested in having this kind of conversation with me.

I mentioned earlier in this Media Companion that I liked to relay passages from data heavy books. I will add some stuff at the end, but first I need to let out all the feelings I “caught” (that’s hook-up culture lingo that the kids are using). To start, I have never been in a situation where I have been the victim of unwanted sexual advances. It was remarkable, both the amount of girls and women, and the amount of information that they wanted to share with a stranger that they just met. These girls just wanted to talk to someone who was willing to answer their questions, and have an honest dialogue about the sexual lives. There were girls that Orenstein talked to who had been raped and had reported it to authorities, who thought that they may have been raped and told friends but no authorities, and girls who had been assaulted in a multitude of ways and never told anyone. The experiences that they shared were heartbreaking, and I was immediately thankful that I didn’t have similar ones when I was in college. It also instilled a chilling fear in me that made me want to put tracking devices in all of my nieces and the younger girls that I know. Girls and Sex spends a lot of time talking about how girls spend their entire lives being taught and encouraged not to be “rude”. They extend that to every facet of their lives, and it can lead to them not feeling comfortable enough to stand up for themselves. The reason that I referred to this book as a “rage read” is because I read as furiously as possible, begging for there to be some semblance of hope in the final pages. You could say that there was (see below), it wasn’t a ray of sunshine though. You could maybe call it a silver lining. The culture surrounding young girls and sex, how we communicate with them, and how they learn to take care of themselves and their relationships with others is completely fucked up. The silver lining is that more and more people, people like Peggy Orenstein are starting to point this out. Books like Girls and Sex, media coverage and representation of victims of sexual assault are bringing to light the obstacles that girls face when trying to live healthy, sexual lives. We’re nowhere close to a method of communication that is doing more help than harm, but people like Charis Denison are a great example of where to start. (Check out her TED Talk.)

  • "That's the challenge to both parents and girls themselves; whether you're discussing dress codes, social media, or the influence of pop culture, there is rarely a clear-cut truth."
  • "If the script handed down by our hypersexualized culture expanded the version of 'sexy' to include a broad range of physical size and ability, skin shade, gender identity, sexual preference, age; if it taught girls that how their bodies feel to them is more important than how they look to others; if it reminds them that neither value nor 'empowerment' are contingent on the size of their boobs, belly, or ass; if it emphasized that they are entitled to ethical, reciprocal, mutually pleasurable sexual encounters; then maybe, maybe I'd embrace it."
  • "Listening to stories of obligatory, sometimes coerced, usually one-sided oral sex, I began to wonder: What if, rather than blow jobs, guys were expecting girls to, say, fetch them lattes from Starbucks? Would the girls be so compliant? ... Sam laughed when I asked her that. 'Well, a latte costs money...' ... 'Okay,' I said. 'Pretend it was free. Let's say guys expected you to keep getting them cups of water from the kitchen whenever you were alone. Would you be so willing? And would you mind that they never offered to bring you one in return?'... Sam laughed again. 'Well, I guess when you put it that way...'"
  • "When my daughter was a baby I read somewhere that, while labeling their infants' body parts ('here's your nose,' 'here are your toes'), parents typically include a boy's genitals (at the very least, 'here's your pee-pee') but not a girl's. Leaving something unnamed makes it quite literally unspeakable: a void, an absence, a taboo."
  • "Activists are correct in saying that the only thing that 100 percent of rapes have in common is a rapist."
  • "After studying the Dutch, Amy Schalet whipped up a four-part 'ABCD' model for raising sexually healthy kids. First off we want them to be autonomous (that's A), to understand desire and pleasure, to be able to assert sexual wishes and set limits, and to prepare responsibly for sexual encounters. ... Frankly, if American parents didn't get any further than A, we'd be ahead of the game. Nonetheless, there are three more letters. B, for building egalitarian, supportive relationships that value shared interest, respect, care, and trust; C for maintaining and nurturing connection with your child; and D for recognizing the diversity and range of sexual orientation, cultural beliefs, and development among their peers."
  • "After talking to so many girls, I now know what to hope for - for my own daughter and for them. I want sexuality to be a source of self-knowledge and creativity and communication despite its potential risks. I want them to revel in their bodies' sensuality without being reduced to it.I want them to be able to ask for what they want in bed, and to get it. I want them to be safe from disease, unwanted pregnancy, cruelty, dehumanization, and violence. If they are assaulted, I want them to have recourse from their school administrators, employers, the courts. It's a lot to ask for, but it's not too much. We've raised a generation of girls to have a voice, to expect egalitarian treatment in the home, in the classroom, in the workplace. Now it's time to demand that 'intimate justice' in their personal lives as well." 

Pink Think: Becoming a Woman in Many Uneasy Lessons | Written by: Lynn Peril

The begin of Think Pink, written by Lynn Peril, starts off the discussion with the famous 1960s board game Mystery Date. She talks about the different types of men that could be your potential mystery date: the formal dance date, the skiing date, the beach date, the bowling date, and the dud. All of these dates are supposed to show the different sides of "dating" and that these dream boats are completely obtainable if you play your cards right (literally). "The dud" is the slob-like, no job type, or that's what they want you to think. In actuality, the dud is probably the most accurate depiction of high school boys. He's actually adorable, funny enough. He has messy hair, an untucked shirt, baggy pants, and an unconventionally sweet smile. He's not bad at all and little girls were told that he was a slob; the dud was a bad date. My generation had a similar type board game called "Dream Phone". The basic premise of the game was to get a cute boy's phone number, call him, and wait for a good response. If you hear "SORRY WRONG NUMBER" that boy wasn't interested. My sisters and I were obsessed. The phone from dream phone was completely pink. Everything that made the "boy like you" had to be feminine. You could be the best dressed or the cheer leader or a great dancer. He could have a cool car or be a football player or have a funny personality. That's what the game considered masculine. I don't think the game rubbed off on us too much but it is reiterating this think pink mentality: women should look and act in a feminine way in order to be successful. Peril goes on to talk about why we consider things feminine and why it's been shoved down our throats. I am not going to lie, in elementary school and even through high school, I felt this need to break away from my true self and keep to feminine code. I thought that the more eye liner I wore the more attractive I would be to boys. I thought that wearing a thong would be sexy and make me cool. I didn't like to be silly or crack too many jokes with certain boyfriends because I didn't want to over shadow them (and I would because I was much funnier than they were). I was always a little bit embarrassed that I played softball because I thought boys wouldn't find that attractive. Deep down though, I wasn't solid pink. I was so many different shades of color. Such a weird mix of tomboy, beauty queen, dirt ball, comedian. How could I only like just pink?

My Mad Fat Diary | Based on, My Mad Fat Teenage Diary by: Rae Earl

My Mad Fat Diary sounded familiar when it was recommended (very enthusiastically) on one of the podcasts I listen to. I did a little research, but if anyone suggests something even remotely up my alley and it’s got a total episode count of less than twenty, I’m probably going to watch it. And boy did I watch this show. I finished all sixteen episodes in a span of twenty-four hours. (It's streaming on Hulu.) I stayed up until like six in the morning because I couldn’t turn the TV off. Based on the book My Mad Fat Teenage Diary by Rae Earl, the show follows Rae, a 16-year-old Brit navigating life in the 1990s. (I fucking love the 90s.) The show opens with Rae coming home from a summer spent in a mental hospital after a suicide attempt. Did I mention how hilarious the show is? It’s really, heartbreakingly funny. Rae falls back in with her best friend Chloe, and Chloe’s group of friends, who think she spent the summer in France. She has trouble being a human being, and trouble learning how to have friends. She doesn’t know what to tell them, how much to reveal about herself and her past. She’s trying to navigate her feelings about the boys in the group, because Archie is a total babe, and the girls definitely want to have swiped their V card before they go to university. Rae thinks that since she’s been released from hospital that she’s ready to live uninhibited, but her mom disagrees. There’s plenty of fights, make ups, and break ups; horrible things are said, some that can’t be unsaid, and some things are left unsaid until it’s too late.

The show’s title comes from the diary that Rae’s therapist, Kester, makes her keep. (Her therapist is played by Ian Hart, the one and only Professor Quirrell, and he is one of the best things about the show.) Rae is a music enthusiast, and the show’s soundtrack is awesome. (You can find each season’s playlist on Spotify.) The images on screen are always being interrupted by drawings and scribbles, along with Rae’s voice over, so she knows you guys are on the same page. The show gives one the most honest and profound portrayals of mental illness that I’ve ever seen on television. Rae’s insistence that since she’s left the hospital, she is ready to participate in her life again is brave. However, her pride gets the best of her when she often gets overwhelmed after overindulging. She drinks at the pub with her friends, knowing that it will interfere with her medication. She goes to a rave even after Kester and her mom tell her that it’s probably not the best idea. She tries to move too fast, too quickly with a guy, which results in her falling even further behind in her mental recovery process. In one of, if not the most, inspiring (although surreal) sequences on the show, Rae parts her hair in the back to reveal a zipper. She then proceeds to unzip herself out of her skin, admire her now perfect body in the mirror, and drag her old self outside where she lights a match and burns it. I’ve never seen anything like that on TV, and it’s just one of the many things on this show that hit way too close to home. I hope that you’ll give it a shot. Even if it’s not for you, I guarantee you’ll know at least one person who would benefit from the recommendation.

Degrassi: The Next Generation | Created by: Linda Schuyler and Yan Moore

I'm a grown woman who binge-watched 14 seasons of Degrassi for five months straight. That's a lot of teenage Canadian drama, and I was game. I began this epic saga without knowing what I was getting myself into. My tv wasn't working, I had just moved into my own apartment, and the entire series was available on YouTube. My 12 year-old self was cheering in the background as I witnessed the entire Emma/Sean romance while pairing Chinese food with white wine on my couch. 

The first few seasons brought back a string of memories and iconic moments, from Manny's thong, to Craig's abusive father, to Jimmy's paralyzation. And as I cataloged the series with live tweets using #startedfromDegrassinowwehere, I became more and more impressed with the writers. I have vivid memories of learning things from Degrassi. Like being proud of your period (Emma: Season 1, Episode 9), or finding ways to cope with pain you can't control (Ellie: Season 3, Episode 8), or learning about how dangerous homophobia really is (Marco: Season 3, Episode 5). 

But as the show progressed, and the characters graduated, I thought there was no way they could keep this show going; there wasn't that much drama in this Toronto suburb. The writers had to find themselves repeating storylines. And they did. But they offered a different experience for those repeats. Which I think is important for young people watching the show to learn. That although Craig and Eli were both diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, they had different stories to tell with their experience. They've offered characters and stories spanning the spectrum of gender and sexuality, proving the importance of representation. There have been at least four teen pregnancies on the show (let's be real, it's probably closer to ten at this point) and the writers offer a different point of view/reception/outcome for each. 

So while my grandmother prayed the Rosary while I watched an episode about condoms, I  was actually learning about safe sex and consent and the fluidity of sexuality. The show has continued to evolve with its audience, tackling issues like gang violence and sexting in more recent seasons. And although I'll never forgive them for changing the opening sequence from the jeans with Degrassi's logo on the ass, I'm always impressed with the writing that has been educating teenagers for 15 years and offering up instant classics like, "New year, new look, new Paige!"

Lindsey obviously lives alone in Los Angeles and often finds herself binge watching shows from the early 2000s.