Calling a Woman a “Skank”: The Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2 No. 16

The_Spectacular_Spider-Man_Vol_2_16In The Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2 No. 16, the Insect Queen wears revealing clothing: a low-cut black dress that exposes more than half of her breasts.1 In response, Spider-Man calls her a “skank.”2 Urban Dictionary defines skanky as “looking cheap, dirty and nasty. Also acting slutty.”3 An important theme in the story is that if a woman wears clothing that violates public standards of modesty, people have the right to call her a stigmatizing name.

For Christians, dressing modesty in public is a virtue. 1 Timothy 2:9 says, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety…”4 It is also a virtue for Muslims. The Quran 24:31 says, “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms…”5

For Christians and Muslims, dressing immodestly in public is a sin because whether the woman intended it or not, it can cause men to experience greater sexual temptation, e.g., to commit adultery or have pre-marital sex. Men, having free will, are responsible for how they choose to respond to their sexual desires. Nonetheless, a woman who wears revealing clothing is responsible for increasing men’s sexual attraction to her.

Throughout history, women who dress immodestly have been called stigmatizing names, e.g., a slut or whore. Calling someone a stigmatizing name is a form of social pressure, so they will conform to society’s standards of right and wrong. The resulting feelings of guilt and/or shame become a deterrent against committing the stigmatized behavior again. Thus, for good or ill, the stigmatization of women who wear immodest clothing is a means of social control, reinforcing traditional values on modesty.

In The Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2 No. 16, the Insect Queen does not dress modestly. Spider-Man stigmatizes her for how she dresses, and also for kissing him against his will. He says, “You have the right to remain skanky. Anything skanky you do will be held against you by the court of public opinion.”6 Spider-Man is saying that when a woman dresses or behaves like the Insect Queen, she has the right to do so, but people also have the right to form a negative judgment of her. However, the comic was published in 2004; it is now 2017, and times have changed.

In making fun of the Insect Queen for her clothing and behavior, Spider-Man is politically incorrect. In the “court of public opinion”, he would be accused of slut shaming.7 In America today, it is considered offensive to call a woman a skank, even if in reality, she dresses like one. Furthermore, with decreased public shaming of women for what they wear, it has become more common for women to wear extremely risqué clothing, especially among celebrities.8 Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on your moral viewpoint on modesty.

Notes

  1. Paul Jenkins, The Spectacular Spider-Man No. 16 (Marvel Comics: August, 2004), 2, 4, 18.
  2. Jenkins, Spectacular Spider-Man, 5.
  3. Urban Dictionary, s.v. “skanky,” accessed June 23, 2017, http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=skanky
  4. 1 Timothy 2:9 (New International Version).
  5. Quran 24:31 (Yusuf Ali). https://quran.com/24/31
  6. Jenkins, Spectacular Spider-Man, 15.
  7. JR Thorpe, “The Long-Term Effects Of Slut-Shaming,” Bustle, June 22, 2017, https://www.bustle.com/p/the-long-term-effects-of-slut-shaming-64302
  8. Natalie Matthews, “See the Evolution of the Naked Dress in 36 Photos,” Elle, July 26, 2015, http://www.elle.com/fashion/celebrity-style/news/g26/naked-dress-celebs-red-carpet

Why Cultural Appropriation Should Be Encouraged

cultural-appropriationOne popular social justice cause today is the movement to stop cultural appropriation: “the adoption of elements or practices of one cultural group by members of another.”1 However, cultural appropriation should be encouraged, not discouraged, because the blending and merging of cultures can improve an existing culture and bring unity to a nation. The movement against cultural appropriation is rooted in envy. It is an unjustified grievance, an attempt to control another person’s actions and restrict their right to freedom of expression.

Except in instances where a minority culture is being mocked or misrepresented, cultural appropriation is a demonstration of respect and admiration for a minority culture. Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, merged “the sounds of gospel, country and what was then called “race music — music by Southern blacks — to make something new.”2 Elvis showed his respect and admiration for black people by writing and performing songs that were directly influenced by their music. When musicians are influenced by other cultures, they can create new forms of music. Cultural appropriation is one way to make an existing culture more vibrant.

In a nation with the right to freedom of speech, the argument against cultural appropriation has no legal standing. Stopping someone from creating works influenced by another culture is a direct violation of their right to freedom of expression. Another reason cultural appropriation cannot be stopped legally is no individual has legal ownership of their culture. Culture appropriation is not copyright infringement because culture is part of the public domain. Because no single individual created their culture, it belongs to everyone, including those who are from a different ethnic group.

Unfortunately, despite having no legal standing, people have been punished for supporting cultural appropriation. In 2017, Hal Niedzviecki, editor of Write, resigned from his job after complaints about an editorial he wrote in favor of cultural appropriation.3 His right to freedom of speech was not tolerated or respected by the readers of the magazine, and he could not continue in his position. Punishing someone for supporting or practicing cultural appropriation is bully behavior. In a tolerant society, citizens should be free to speak and act according to their own beliefs.

Indignation against cultural appropriation is rooted in envy: “a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.”4 When members of a minority culture see that someone has created a product that is influenced by their culture, it gives them cause for complaint. They believe they are victims who have been robbed. In reality, such complaints have nothing to do with social justice. It is envy: resenting another person’s financial success, and wanting it to be taken away from them.

The social justice movement against cultural appropriation is based on a double standard: “a rule or principle which is unfairly applied in different ways to different people.”5 Anyone is free to borrow from white culture, while minority cultures are considered “proprietary.”6 One of the unintended consequences of stopping cultural appropriation is white culture remains the dominant culture on the planet. The more that artists and creators are publicly shamed for appropriating minority cultures, the more likely white culture will continue to be dominant because it is the only culture that remains “open source.”7

The movement to stop cultural appropriation is regressive. Its goal is cultural segregation, to prevent the different cultures in a nation from influencing each other. In previous generations, there were people who wanted to maintain racial purity, to stop inter-racial marriages, which invariably result in the merging and blending of two different cultures. Today, social justice warriors want to maintain cultural purity, to stop cultures from merging and blending through appropriation. Fortunately, cultural appropriation is unstoppable. As people marry and make friends from different cultures, they will naturally adopt some of each other’s beliefs and practices.

Every culture on Earth has something valuable to teach us. Throughout history, nations have appropriated elements of foreign cultures, which often resulted in the advancement of civilization. Culture has the power to unite a nation, to bring people together though a shared enjoyment of books, music, film, theater, art, etc. Culture appropriation can unite people because creative works influenced by two cultures are more likely to appeal to people from both cultures. As long as cultural values or practices are not forced upon someone, the cross-pollination of cultures can be a positive thing. When people adopt the “best practices” of another culture, they improve their lives.

Notes

  1. Sebastian Leck, “Magazine editor quits after outrage over column saying he doesn’t believe in cultural appropriation,” National Post, May 11, 2017, http://news.nationalpost.com/arts/magazine-editor-quits-after-writing-that-he-doesnt-believe-in-cultural-appropriation
  2. George F. Will, “The left’s misguided obsession with cultural appropriation,” Washington Post, May 12, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-lefts-misguided-obsession-with-cultural-appropriation/2017/05/12/59e518bc-3672-11e7-b4ee-434b6d506b37_story.html
  3. Leck, “Magazine editor quits,” http://news.nationalpost.com/arts/magazine-editor-quits-after-writing-that-he-doesnt-believe-in-cultural-appropriation
  4. Oxford Living Dictionaries, s.v. “envy,” accessed June 8, 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/envy
  5. Oxford Living Dictionaries, s.v. “double standard,” accessed June 14, 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/double_standard
  6. David Marcus, “All Cultures Are Mine,” The Federalist, October 26, 2015, http://thefederalist.com/2015/10/26/all-cultures-are-mine/
  7. Ibid.

The Troll Who Went To War: A Fable

Theodor_Kittelsen_-_Skogtroll,_1906_(Forest_Troll)Long ago, there was a troll who lived in a cave on a mountain. He had a head shaped like a pumpkin, a nose like a banana, skin as hard as a rock, and he was ten feet tall. His name was Thug, and he loved one thing more than anything else: He loved trees.

After the sun went down, Thug came out of his cave and talked to the trees. He ate the acorns on the oak trees and said, “You make me feel smart.”

He touched the soft bark of the birch trees and said, “You make me feel gentle,” and he smelled the needles of the pine trees and said, “You make me feel calm.”

Thug didn’t have a friend in the world, but he treated the trees on his mountain like friends.

If a tree had any dead branches, he pruned them by biting the branches off with his teeth. If a tree looked unhealthy, he peed on it to give it nutrients to grow. And if he felt lonely, he hugged a tree and didn’t let go until sunrise, when he went back to sleep in his cave.

Many miles from Thug’s mountain there was a kingdom ruled by a king named Greybeard. The king had long grey hair, a long grey beard, and he wore a grey robe and a silver crown. When he needed to think, he sat on his throne and pulled on his beard.

King Greybeard felt sad because his people were poor. His land was a barren land, and the people barely grew enough crops to survive. But one day, King Greybeard was sitting on his throne when he had an idea.

He summoned Simon, his Right Hand, who carried out his orders and gave him counsel. Simon was a bald man, 20 years younger than him.

Greybeard said to Simon: “Send men to Troll Mountain, and cut down the trees. Pay the men well, so they can provide for their families. We will trade the wood with other kingdoms, and increase our store of gold. I will make my kingdom great again.”

But Simon said, “Many men have gone to cut down the trees, but none have returned. It is said a troll lives on the mountain, and he eats men.”

“The troll is a legend,” King Greybeard said. “Do as I have commanded.”

And so, Simon sent 50 men to Troll Mountain, and after they arrived, they worked until sunset, cutting down many tall trees: oak, birch, and pine.

When Thug woke up, he came down the mountain, and to his horror, dozens of his beloved trees had been cut down.

He fell to his knees and wept. Then he said, “Men kill my trees. I will make them pay for what they have done.”

Thug returned to his cave and picked up his hammer. His hammer was huge, twice the size of his head. He waited until midnight; then he came down the mountain and smashed all the tents of the loggers while they were sleeping. However, one logger escaped.

The following morning, the logger appeared before King Greybeard, and told him what troll had done. The king was shocked and greatly dismayed.

Soon after, the families of the dead loggers gathered outside the castle, and demanded that the king kill the troll.

King Greybeard summoned Simon to his throne room, and asked him: “What should I do?”

“You must attack the troll and destroy him,” Simon said.

“I do not want war,” King Greybeard replied. “If we attack him, many more men will die.”

“If you do not attack the troll,” Simon said, “he will surely attack us. It is better that we fight him on the mountain before he comes here.”

King Greybeard thought it over, and pulled on his long grey beard. Finally, he said, “No, we provoked him by cutting down his trees. He killed the loggers to deter us from coming back. If we leave him be, he will leave us alone.”

A year went by, and the troll did not attack as Simon predicted. However, there was a drought, and the people became even more poor.

Every day, hundreds gathered outside the castle and demanded bread to eat.

King Greybeard summoned Simon to his throne room and asked him: “What should I do?”

“Buy the people bread,” Simon said. “You have plenty of gold.”

“No,” King Greybeard said. “If I give them bread, they will become dependent on it. The people must create their own wealth. I only spend my gold for the defense of the kingdom, and to build roads and bridges.”

Simon thought for a moment, and then he said, “Troll Mountain has the best trees in the land. “They are by right your trees, for you are a king and can take whatever you want. Put men to work cutting down the trees, but also send your army to protect them. The troll will not attack an entire army.”

King Greybeard said, “It is a good plan. Carry it out.”

And so, Simon sent 50 more loggers to cut down the trees on Troll Mountain, and he also sent the king’s army of 100 men to protect them.

When Thug woke up, he came down the mountain, and to his horror, he saw that dozens more of his beloved trees had been cut down.

He fell to his knees and pounded his fists on the ground. Then he said, “Men have no respect for my trees. I will make them pay, so they will never cut down my trees again.”

Thug returned to his cave and got his battle axe. It was a massive axe, twice as big as his torso, and sharper than any sword. He waited until midnight; then he attacked the king’s army. The soldiers fired arrows, but the troll’s rock-like skin was too hard, and the arrows fell to the ground. Thug killed every man with his axe, chopping off their heads or cutting them in two.

As the loggers came out of their tents, Thug stomped on them and snapped their necks, but half of them escaped.

The next morning, when word reached King Greybeard that half of the loggers and all the men in his army were dead, he was filled with great sorrow.

Soon after, the families of the dead gathered outside the castle and demanded that the king kill the troll.

King Greybeard summoned Simon to his throne room and asked him: “What should I do?”

“You must raise another army. And you must destroy the troll.”

King Greybeard thought for a while, and tugged on his long grey beard. Finally, he said, “Raise an army. But do not attack the troll. He slaughtered our army to deter us from cutting down his trees. If we leave him be, he will leave us alone.”

But Simon did not agree: “If you do nothing, the troll will see it as weakness. You must kill him before he attacks us. You must protect your people.”

“These are my orders,” King Greybeard said. “Follow them.”

Simon did as the king commanded. He raised a new army to defend the kingdom, but he didn’t attack the troll.

Another year went by, and there was another drought. The people became even more poor. Hundreds gathered outside the castle and demanded bread. They demanded justice for the dead loggers and soldiers. Finally, they demanded that if the king could not give them what they wanted, he should abdicate the throne.

King Greybeard summoned Simon to his throne room and asked him: “What should I do?”

“If you do nothing,” Simon said, “you will lose your throne. Therefore, you must send your army to destroy the troll. When the troll is dead, you can cut down the trees, and make your kingdom great again.”

King Greybeard sighed, “Many men will die, but I see no other choice. Send the army.”

Simon sent the army to Troll Mountain, but Thug was ready for them. After the sun went down, he ran down the mountain with his battle axe in one hand, and his hammer in the other, and he smashed half of the soldiers with his hammer, and the rest he beheaded with his axe.

After slaughtering the entire army, Thug went to the king’s castle and stood outside the defensive wall.

“I demand your king come out!” he thundered.

King Greybeard and Simon came to the balcony and saw the troll standing beyond the wall.

Thug raised his hammer and yelled, “I am Thug! You cut down many of my trees, but you will not cut down any more!”

Thug struck the wall over and over again until he made a hole in it. And then he stepped through the hole, walked to the castle, and stood below the balcony.

King Greybeard was trembling. He put his hands together and pleaded, “Great and mighty Thug! Have mercy on my people. It was I who ordered men to cut down your trees. Do not punish them because of me.”

Thug said, “You killed many of my friends.”

“Friends?” King Greybeard asked. “We killed no one.”

“The trees are my friends. You destroyed them!”

King Greybeard said, “I promise you, I will never send any men to your mountain again.”

Thug stared at the king, and scratched his head. And then he said, “I will make sure of that.”

Thug smashed his hammer against the castle, cracking the foundation, and then he smashed it again, and again.

King Greybeard said to Simon: “Evacuate the castle.”

Simon left and did as King Greybeard commanded. Then Greybeard tried to reason with the troll.

“Great and mighty Thug,” he pleaded. “Do what you will to my castle. Do what you will with me, but do not harm my people.”

“Never again!” Thug yelled. “You will never attack my trees again!”

The troll went on smashing and cracking the castle until the foundation was destroyed, and when the balcony fell, King Greybeard was buried in the rubble.

Victorious, Thug raised his hammer in the air and roared. Then he turned and trudged back to his mountain.

After the troll was gone, the people gathered outside the ruined castle, and mourned for King Greybeard. He had saved their lives by sacrificing himself.

The king, who had no sons or daughters, had named Simon his heir, and he was crowned king.

With Greybeard’s store of gold, he bought the people bread. And Simon was loved by all the people.

He also raised a new army to defend the city. But he didn’t send any soldiers to attack the troll. And he didn’t send any loggers to cut down the trees. He knew what would happen if he did.

The troll would destroy them all. And because of that, there was no more war.

Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=225211

Illegal Immigration and the Risk to Public Health: Panic in the Streets (1950)

Panic in the StreetsIn Elia Kazan’s Panic in the Streets (1950), Kochak (Lewis Charles), an illegal immigrant, is patient zero in a potential outbreak of pneumonic plague, a deadly disease that can kill a person “within four days.” An important issue in the film is illegal immigration and the risk to public health. Because illegal immigrants do not have the same access to health care as American citizens, if they are carrying a communicable disease, the disease can spread more quickly throughout the general population. The film also shows how American citizens without health insurance are equally at risk for contracting and spreading a communicable disease.

One difficulty in stopping the outbreak of a communicable disease is finding everyone who is already infected. The individual who is sick may not go to a doctor or a hospital, believing they will get better without treatment. After Kochak’s body is cremated, Dr. Clint Reed (Richard Widmark) and the police try to find Vince Poldi (Tommy Cook), the second person to be infected with the plague. The longer Poldi moves freely among the general population, the more likely the plague will spread. Whether American citizen or illegal immigrant, an individual who has a communicable disease needs to be treated and/or isolated.

In 2016, there were an estimated 11.3 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.1 Illegal immigrants face a greater risk of contracting and spreading a communicable disease because they don’t have the same access to health care as American citizens. In the U.S., under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), illegal immigrants “are either explicitly barred from accessing federal benefits or face significant restrictions on Medicaid and other programs for the poor.”2 Health care options are limited, and vary widely from state to state.3 Even when health care options are available, illegal immigrants may not access services because of “fear of deportation.”4

When access to health care is a privilege, and not a right, it is not only illegal immigrants who are at risk for carrying a communicable disease. In 1950, the year Panic in the Streets was released, the United States did not have Medicaid for low-income earners.5 It is almost certain that Poldi, who is poor and unemployed, doesn’t have health insurance. His only likely option is “charity care”6, which is why a nurse is “sent for” when he is sick in bed. Blackie (Jack Palance) later pays for a doctor to examine him, but there is nothing the doctor can do. Poldi needs to go to a hospital.

In Panic in the Streets an illegal immigrant is infected with pneumonic plague, and, tragically, two more people contract the disease and die. If there were a possible pandemic in the U.S., it is likely measures would be taken to inoculate illegal immigrants, if the disease were treatable. However, this does not change the reality that illegal immigrants are in a precarious position when it comes to accessing health care. Add to this the fact that over 28 million Americans do not have health insurance,7 and the entire population is at risk if there is an outbreak of a deadly disease.

Notes

  1. Jens Manuel Krogstad, Jeffrey S. Passel, and D’Vera Cohn, “5 facts about illegal immigration in the U.S.,” Pew Research Center, April 27, 2017, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/27/5-facts-about-illegal-immigration-in-the-u-s/
  2. Keegan Hamilston, “Obamacare Bars Illegal Immigrants—and Sticks Hospitals With the Bill,” The Atlantic, December 18, 2013, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/12/obamacare-bars-illegal-immigrants-and-sticks-hospitals-with-the-bill/282444/
  3. Lisa Zamosky, “Healthcare options for undocumented immigrants,” Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2014, http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-healthcare-watch-20140420-story.html
  4. Ibid.
  5. Josh Hicks, “Ron Paul’s claims about life without Medicare and Medicaid,” Washington Post, February 1, 2012, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/ron-pauls-claims-about-life-without-medicare-and-medicaid/2012/01/31/gIQAedy5hQ_blog.html
  6. Virgil Dickson, “Medicaid a lifeline for the poor and disabled,” Modern Healthcare, May 23, 2015, http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20150523/MAGAZINE/305239941
  7. Dan Mangan, “The rate of uninsured Americans hits a record low as Obamacare’s future remains a question mark,” CNBC, February 14, 2017, http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/14/the-rate-of-uninsured-americans-hits-a-record-low-as-obamacares-future-remains-a-question-mark.html