Weekly Roundup

Abbott signs House Bill 3859 into law

Governor Abbott recently signed a House bill that allows religious adoption agencies to reject applications from same-sex couples. Proponents of the bill argue that it will help to keep adoption agencies from leaving the state, but opponents believe this will make the foster care crisis even worse by excluding not only same-sex couples but also members of certain non-Christian religions. Sarah Kate Ellis, the president of GLAAD, said, “As a mother, it saddens me that a child can now be denied the chance to live with a loving family in Texas.” This law means that children in Texas now have fewer options for getting adopted, and these organizations have more opportunities to discriminate against the LGBTQIA community. Read more here.

Michelle Carter found guilty in texting assisted-suicide case

Michelle Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on June 16, 2017 after sending numerous text messages to her boyfriend encouraging his death by suicide back in 2014. Massachusetts, the state where Carter lives, does not have a law on the books against assisted suicide. Yet, Carter now faces up to 20 years in prison. This verdict potentially sets a dangerous precedent for words alone constituting murder charges. “This is a killing in which the murder weapon was words, and that is an incredibly broad view of causation and an incredibly broad view of the manslaughter laws in Massachusetts and creates serious concerns about expanding criminal law without doing so through the legislature,” ACLU Massachusetts’ legal director Matthew Segal told Newsweek Friday. This could have dangerous implications for children and teens, as they primarily use text messaging for communication. Read more here.

Children dying in hot cars and not all states have laws to protect them

An average of 37 kids die in the United States each year from vehicular heat stroke. According to NoHeatStroke.org, Texas had the most such deaths from 1998 to 2015, with 100. Florida had 72 deaths, California had 44, Arizona had 30 and North Carolina had 24. 12 children have died so far this year alone, including a 5-year-old boy in Arkansas who passed away after being left in a day-care van (Read about it here). Only 19 states have active laws that make it illegal to leave a child alone in a vehicle. Given that children are especially at risk to vehicular heat stroke due to their biology, it is puzzling that not every state has laws protecting them in place. Read more here. An especially bright 10-year-old boy has an invention on GoFundMe to protect children from car related deaths, click here to read about his product and donate.

Weekly Roundup

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is linked to delayed brain development, The Washington Post

For the first time, scientists can point to substantial empirical evidence that people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder have brain structures that differ from those of people without ADHD. The common disorder, they conclude, should be considered a problem of delayed brain maturation and not, as it is often portrayed, a problem of motivation or parenting. Read more.

Depression Strikes Today’s Teen Girls Especially Hard, NPR

It’s tough to be a teenager. Hormones kick in, peer pressures escalate and academic expectations loom large. Kids become more aware of their environment in the teen years — down the block and online. The whole mix of changes can increase stress, anxiety and the risk of depression among all teens, research has long shown.

But a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests many more teenage girls in the U.S. may be experiencing major depressive episodes at this age than boys. And the numbers of teens affected took a particularly big jump after 2011, the scientists note, suggesting that the increasing dependence on social media by this age group may be exacerbating the problem. Read more.

School district chiefs: Proposed Medicaid changes would hurt poor children and students with disabilities, The Washington Post

A new survey of school district leaders across the country finds that they are deeply worried that Republican proposals to refinance Medicaid, if they become law, would hurt students who live in poverty and those with disabilities and in special education. Read more.

Student Discipline in Schools: Part of the Problem or the Solution?, Campus Safety

More and more school districts and local officials around the country are considering revising their student disciplinary policies.

The efforts reflect a change in the approach to fostering a positive school climate that has gained support as additional research has come out on the impact on certain punishments on children.

An increasing number of organizations have begun supporting alternatives to long-used methods of student punishment like expulsion, suspension, restraint and seclusion.

Most notably, the Department of Education has begun actively promoting school environments that are safe, supportive and conductive to learning. Read more.

Study: Listening to youths could improve justice system, TribLive

Allegheny County could improve its juvenile justice system — along with the lives of the region’s poorest and most vulnerable children — by doing more to listen to juvenile offenders, identify disruptions in their home lives and incorporate their input into policymaking, a report published Monday found.

The Pittsburgh Foundation announced the completion of an eight-month study that involved partnering with community-based nonprofits to interview 53 youths and young adults with former or active cases in the county’s juvenile justice system. Foundation officials expect the 31-page report’s findings to spur grantmaking opportunities and community partnerships. Read more.

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The Double Standards of Slut-Shaming

So, imagine you’re a teenage boy. You’re at a concert. A really drunk girl has been flirting with you for a few minutes. All of a sudden, she offers to perform oral sex on you. Right there. In the middle of the concert. You happily accept. While she is pleasuring you, you put your hands up in the air, cheering for your lucky, lucky self. You are the epitome of “cool.” 

Now – imagine you’re a 17-year-old girl. You are at your favorite singer’s concert. You have had way too much to drink and you’re incredible intoxicated. You see a really cute guy standing nearby. You approach him and begin flirting with him. You really want him to like you, so in your drunken stupor, you offer oral sex to him. He enthusiastically says, “YES!” and so, you kneel down, unbutton his pants, and begin. You are a total slut. 

My question is – why is there such a discrepancy in the way society views both people in this scenario? Both teenagers are engaged in explicit sexual activity in public, but somehow, most people would view the girl in a more negative light than they would the boy. This picture I have painted is basically exactly what happened at an Eminem concert at Slane Castle in Ireland last month. The photographs went viral and were all over social media. Needless to say, the story got a lot of people talking. Some people were rightfully upset about the fact that these pictures were similar to (if not exactly) child pornography. More importantly to this discussion, however, is the multitude of comments made about the young girl. One tweet said, “Lesson to be learnt from #slanegirl dont give head in public ..twice ..with 80,000 people watching” [sic]. While I agree – that is great advice – my problem is the lack of similar commentary concerning the boy’s behavior. How about, “Lesson I learned from #slaneboy: Don’t take advantage of an obviously drunk girl”?

The problem is that this type of hypocrisy isn’t rare. Remember Miley’s twerking incident a few weeks ago? The entire world is upset about Miley setting a bad example to young girls (which, don’t get me wrong – I agree, she did), but what about Robin Thicke sending a terrible example to males of all generations? He’s married and yet, he finds it somehow appropriate to allow a young woman to grind on him (which he admitted that he had prior knowledge of) and sing a song that has rape-y lyrics about “blurred lines.” While Robin Thicke did, admittedly, get criticized for his performance, I think most would agree that his reputation is not permanently destroyed the way Miley Cyrus’ is.

All of this relates to a concept in feminist philosophy called, “slut-shaming.” Basically, this term refers to making women feel guilty or inferior for certain sexual behaviors or desires that deviate from traditional gender expectations. Slut-shaming is the phenomenon that exists when women are “sluts” when they dress provocatively, request birth control, or have premarital sex – but men are not judged in the same manner for behaving in a way that indicates they desire sex, or when they buy condoms or have premarital sex.

I’d like to know what the readers think – why is there this discrepancy in the way we view sexuality in women and men? And what can we do to fix this problem?