Gay Fresno - Opinion


In defense of jerks - only a little bit tho

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Tuesday, 19 December 2017 15:41
  • Written by Sheila Suess Kennedy

The public reaction to allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K. and so many others is welcome and long overdue. The public revulsion to the disclosures, the almost daily revelations about other prominent figures, and especially the #metoo movement that encouraged women to add their own experiences of harassment to the public discourse have caused a lot of men to review their past behaviors, and to consider whether and when they may have gone over the line.

That said, if this particular moment in time is going to usher in a lasting, positive change to both private behaviors and public reactions to those behaviors, it is important that we recognize that a line exists and agree about where it should be drawn. As Ruth Marcus cautioned, in a column for the Washington Post, having under-reacted for so long, we need to take care not to over-react now.

It isn’t really over-reaction that is the danger; we clearly need to act-firmly and punitively-when we are faced with evidence of sexual harassment or worse. The danger lies in neglecting to make important distinctions. We are really dealing with three categories of (mostly male) conduct: people who are engaging in criminal behaviors, people who are abusing positions of power, and still others who are simply behaving like jerks.

Some of the allegations against Roy Moore fall in the first category. His reported encounter with the 14-year-old is textbook molestation. His other behaviors probably rose to the level of stalking. Those actions aren’t simply wrong, they’re illegal. Similarly, the unwelcome touching Donald Trump bragged about on that notorious tape are sexual assault, not "locker room talk.” (Unfortunately, when you’re a "star”-excuse me while I puke-”letting you” do it means they don’t bring charges.)

Sexual harassment occurs when a person in a position of power or authority abuses that power in order to get some sort of sexual satisfaction. The satisfaction may “just” be bullying- creating what lawyers call a hostile workplace, and taking some sort of sick enjoyment from making a subordinate uncomfortable. (I recall a case where several male employees constantly posted raunchy posters and told foul jokes in order to torment the lone embarrassed female employee.) More often, harassment is a demand for a sexual quid pro quo-if you want that raise, that promotion, that film role, here’s what you need to do... The key to sexual harassment is disparity of power. If the person acting inappropriately is in a position to help or harm the object of his advances, the line is definitely crossed.

That leaves us with “jerk" behavior. This is the category where changing cultural norms really do play a part. When I was the sole female partner in a small law firm in the early 1980s, two of my male partners occasionally engaged in "joking around” that would undoubtedly be considered offensive today. But we were peers, we exercised equal authority and I’m confident that had I been offended, they would have apologized and stopped. The culture at the time encouraged verbal banter that would be frowned upon today. (Emphasis on verbal.)

Today, in most places, the culture has changed. As women have participated in the workforce and civic life in greater numbers, we’ve stopped making excuses for jerk behaviors-verbal or physical- that “gross out” or diminish the women who experience them. This post is certainly not intended to defend jerks who engage in boorish, sexist conduct.

What I am defending is the importance of distinguishing between categories of transgression.

There are reasons to be careful before equating jerk behavior with rape, or with Harvey Weinstein masturbating in front of unwilling women. There is a significant difference between Roy Moore asking a 14-year-old to touch his erect penis, or our reality "star” President grabbing a woman’s private parts, and an unwanted pat on the butt from someone you can call out loudly and publicly without fear of repercussion.

I repeat: none of these behaviors are acceptable. A "good old boy” culture that permits or encourages any of these kinds of conduct needs to be changed-and it is, finally, being changed. But if we fail to distinguish between the boorish and the unforgivable, if we fail to calibrate the sanctions to the gravity of the offense, we risk trivializing the meaning of inexcusable.

Joy to the World

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Thursday, 07 December 2017 15:35
  • Written by Brian Ross

brian xmasBehold!  Congratulations to all of you that not only survived Thanksgiving, but also the legendary Black Friday!  Here, at home, Lil B (my husband) and I spent it with my sister and her family. Mom was here as well, but reeling from a cold, so she was a little quiet.  Never the less, the house was full, messy, and loud the entire weekend!

Lil B and Liz (our niece) commanded the kitchen, pumping out a dinner that was layered in love. To watch them together in the kitchen is like watching a cooking show on TV. They are extremely entertaining to listen to. There is never a dull moment and it’s always a hot mess in the kitchen with dirty dishes and pots and pans everywhere in the end.

But, onward Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, and that other one up front with the big red nose. . .  Um,  Rudolph.  We have Christmas to prepare for!   Since we are traditionalists, we waited until December 1st to erect the tree and cover every square inch of the entire house with Christmas trinkets. I learned a long time ago that this is my husband’s favorite holiday. It is the one holiday that he is an active participant in, enthusiastically preparing the house for the holiday. His enthusiasm is so great, that the house resembles the Christmas aisle in Target when he is done.!  It is way over done and at times I just wished someone would come buy it all and take it away!

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Women usually clean up the big messes

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Wednesday, 29 November 2017 13:13
  • Written by Sheila Suess Kennedy

The revelations about Harvey Weinstein-not to mention Bill Cosby, Donald Trump and a growing cast of other characters-have seemingly opened floodgates of pent-up female anger. The #metoo hashtag on social media, and the daily reports of confessions and accusations have been accompanied by a veritable tsunami of rage and recrimination.The revelations about Harvey Weinstein-not to mention Bill Cosby, Donald Trump and a growing cast of other characters-have seemingly opened floodgates of pent-up female anger. The #metoo hashtag on social media, and the daily reports of confessions and accusations have been accompanied by a veritable tsunami of rage and recrimination.
Sex sells newspapers (or as we say these days, motivates clicks). But the attention paid to the problem isn’t just a way to sell media; the revelations are clearly newsworthy, and the anger is justifiable. Most women-especially those of us who entered the workforce as so-called "pioneers”- can relate. We all have our stories, and I’m not exempt. On the other hand, we’ll be making a big mistake if our focus on sexual predators and harassment stories distracts from the emergence of another important wave of bipartisan feminine activism.I think it is fair to say that a huge number of American women saw the 2016 election results as an existential threat to women’s equality and the well-being of our children and grandchildren.
The Women’s March was the first signal that- like Howard Beale in “Network” we were "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” It was just the beginning. Last weekend, I moderated a couple of panels in a day-and-a-half training event called “Ready to Run." It was geared to women interested in running for public office at any level, and sessions explored the basics of a political campaignrresearch. fundraising, messaging. A couple hundred women from all over filled the ballroom: they were Republicans and Democrats and Independents, white and black and brown. Muslim, Christian and Jewish. Most had never run for or held political office or thought they ever would.But they were thinking about it now. Seriously. What struck me about the attendees and their interactions and questions was a repeated emphasis on what they wanted to accomplish: a government characterized by civility and integrity-two words I heard over and over.
There’s an old saying in political circles to the effect that men run for office because they want to be someone, and women run because they want to do something.That’s obviously an unfair generalization, but the women I met at Ready to Run (like those working through Women4Change. one of the day’s sponsors) clearly want to make government work again. They understand government's importance; they also understand that makinggovernmentwork properly will require research and knowledge-a familiarity with the operations of the agency or branch they propose to join, certainly, but also an understanding of the "big picture.” They are willing to study, to do the work necessary to acquire what I’ve sometimes called “constitutional competence"-a genuine understanding of our American approach to self- government.Right now in Indiana, women have announced their candidacies for several Congressional seats and a number of legislative ones. Others are considering running for local school boards and city councils. If even a third of the attendees at "Ready to Run” follow through and win offices, we will see some pretty profound changes in Indiana. Even those who lose, however, will elevate the conversation and hold incumbents accountable.

Right now. a lot of women have just had it-both with the sexual predators who make it hard to do our jobs, and with the preening and power-hungry politicians who are more invested in their own importance than in making government work for its citizens And when women have had it, things change.
It’s like that refrigerator magnet says: When momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

The 2020s Belong to Millennials

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Thursday, 07 December 2017 14:30
  • Written by Micah Escobedo

One of the things that keeps me sane during the Trump Regime is imagining America’s political landscape in the 2020s. Think about it. Millennials, defined by most demographers as those born between the early 1980s and the mid to late-’90s, are now the single-largest generation in the United States, a generation whose influence is overshadowing America’s second-largest generation, the Baby Boomers (born between the mid-1940s and the early ’60s).

The 2020 Election likely be the first in U.S. history where mostly liberal Millennial voters outnumber mostly conservative Boomer voters (as well as the remaining members of the Silent and Greatest Generations). The razor-thin margins of President Trump’s win in a number of states, largely on demographic lines, help support this idea. In 2022, 2024, 2026, and 2028, Millennials will continue to reshape both government and culture.

In other words: Trumpism may have won the battle, but we’re – Millennials – going to win the political war. Here’s why…

First, Millennials have remained consistently liberal over time. Since 2004, the percentage of self-identified Republicans and those who lean Republican has never risen above 38 percent. In fact, Millennials have become more liberal since the 2000s. In 2016, Democrats/Democratic leaners outnumbered Republicans/Republican leaners 57 to 36 percent. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all members of both parties voted for their respective candidates, but it does show the outsized impact of the Democratic Party on my generation. Interestingly, even Gen X is trending bluer, which goes against the idea that voters become more conservative as they age.

Second, Trump and the GOP are extremely unpopular among Millennials. A recent survey from NBC News and GenForward revealed that 64 percent of Millennials disapprove of Trump. While white Millennials tended to view him more favorably than other groups, a clear majority (53 percent) disapprove. The second and third largest groups of Millennials, Latinos and African-Americans, had the highest disapproval rates: 77 and 79 percent respectively. Respondents to this survey also disapproved of the Republican Party by nearly 60 percent (only 23 percent approved). Roughly equal numbers approved and disapproved of the Democratic Party (43 and 42 percent), which supports another Millennial trend: political independence.

Lastly, the historic backlash to this presidency and its agenda is only growing stronger as we near 2018. For one, it’s a rarely broken rule that the president’s party loses ground in Congress during his first midterm. When you add a president whose approval has hovered around the mid-30s throughout his first year in office – a historic first – the odds of a blue tidal wave only grow.

Democratic turnout in special elections across the country has surged this year, from Oklahoma to Georgia. The most recent and notable example: Old Dominion. Millennials helped make purple Virginia a deeper shade of blue, re-electing Democrats to the state’s top offices and the country’s first openly transgender state legislator to the House of Delegates (which was nearly flipped; The deeply red, gerrymandered House may yet turn blue as recounts of select races continue).

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Superintendent Nelson neglects to add agenda item for November meeting

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Monday, 06 November 2017 10:02
  • Written by Jason Scott


Superintendent Bob Nelson has failed to add our community's agenda item, again. We're asking that all who see the discrimination by the current school board president, the lack of progress on LGBT protections for our students and the silence by the board president and district to the attack suffered by an LGBT student just days ago, will turn out this Wednesday. The superintendent needs to see us and HEAR from us. Emails are great and we encourage them, but seeing our faces and demanding answers is what is needed at this time. The only way to allow the board to vote for a censure or a reorganization of the board is by the superintendent approving our request for a vote.

We encourage you to attend this upcoming school board meeting on Wednesday, November 8th at 5:30pm and voice your concern about this.

During the conversation, we were also informed that the LGBT community would be standing with Brooke Ashjian and the matter is behind us, this is incorrect. No agreement has been reached to back Mr Ashjian, but we are always willing to do whatever it takes to keep children and our community members safe. It is our desire to continue dialog between the LGBT community and Fresno Unified School District.

During the Oct 11th meeting a discussion item was added regarding President Ashjian's remarks and actions towards the LGBT community. Due to board policy we now need an "action" item for the board to take action on the community's request for a censure or reassignment of Brooke Ashjian to no longer be board president. Please join us in emailing Superintendant Nelson and attending the November 8th meeting where we hope to have this item on the agenda, finally. 

A group of more than 10 faith leaders requested it be added. Your support in attending would be greatly appreciated. We were appalled to hear the comments made by board president Brooke Ashjian equating the LGBT community to the horrendous actions by the Ottoman empire against Armenians.

We invite you all to show up on November 8, 2017 at 5:30 pm (earlier if you can) for the Fresno Unified School District board meeting at 2309 Tulare St., Fresno, CA 93721.

You may also call, email or write (details below) Fresno Unified School District board trustees and request they join us in adding this agenda item to the upcoming meeting. Brooke Ashjian should be removed from the Fresno Unified School Board, as president. He is toxic to our youth, both gay and straight. Between his obvious contention for the gay community (of which some of his students belong) and his inability to take either ownership for his words OR to learn from them, he has shown himself to be incapable of leading our youth towards the kind of world we all need: an honest, inclusive, and fair one.

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