Posts Tagged ‘awareness’

In New York City, there was a boy whose “father was a strict disciplinarian with a harsh temper, and [he] was often the focus of his father’s rage…” The boy grew up, and after many circumstances in which most of the outcome was failure, “He took an apartment on Fourteenth Street in Manhattan, near Sixth Avenue, on a stretch of city block that was then heavy with homelessness and drug dealing. One of the doormen in the building, with whom [he] was close, was beaten badly by muggers… [and] in 1981, [he, himself] was mugged by three black youths as he entered the Canal Street station one afternoon” (147-148). Are you beginning to think this man is bound to hit rock bottom or explode with repressed rage? His name was Bernhard Goetz, and in 1984 he got on a train, in one of the most awful transit systems in the nation, and shot four young black men who were tormenting him. Many people, including psychologists and most of the general public would say it was bound to happen because of Goetz’s life history and a lot of psychological problems. Would you agree that “Crime, isn’t a single discrete thing, but a word used to describe an almost impossibly varied and complicated set of behaviors [?]…To say someone is a criminal is to say that he or she is evil or violent or dangerous or dishonest or unstable or any combination of any those things” (138). What is to be proven in this paper is that Goetz committed those crimes because of the environment that he lived in; the crime was inevitable because the environment he was surrounded by was closer to hell than any other in the nation. To prove this, one must look into the meaning of the Broken Windows theory and the Power of Context; which are both crucial parts to the epidemic theory of crime.

     No one hears of epidemics these days, when we think if it, what first comes to mind is something like the plague or a sickness, but no one thinks of the larger epidemics that have been occurring in society for twenty to thirty years at a time. According to history, the crime epidemic has fluctuated tremendously, and the time period we’re focusing on, 1980s-1990s, was a heat wave no one could forget; especially if you lived in New York. What is an epidemic? What triggers them, and what is the tipping point that allows it to devour society?

Gladwell, in explaining how the Broken Window theory applies to this epidemic theory of crime, says, “[The Broken Window theory] says that crime is contagious—just as a fashion trend is contagious—that it can start with a broken window and spread to an entire community. The Tipping Point in this epidemic, though, isn’t a particular kind of person…It’s something physical like graffiti. The impetus to engage in a certain kind of behavior is… from a feature of the environment” (141-142). In this particular instance, the New York transit systems’ conditions were so appalling, a key figure William Bratton, said “it was like going into the transit version of Dante’s Inferno” (137). Graffiti covered the trains from top to bottom, so much garbage it was hard to see the floor, and “fare-beating was so common it was costing the Transit Authority millions of lost revenue annually.” The epidemic of crime was at its peak because the environment people lived in gave them the assurance that it was acceptable to commit crime and trash the city because no one cared and no one was going to do anything about it. The message the streets of New York, as well as elsewhere throughout the nation, was giving off during the 1980s was the reason for such misconduct.

As criminologists James Q. Wilson and George Kelling wanted to put the Broken Windows theory into action, they hired David Gunn as the new subway director for New York to oversee the rebuilding of the subway system. Gunn turned the transit system into something that was such a turn around to what it had been, it could of passed as ‘Pleasantville’s’ regular means for transportation. By not allowing for garbage and graffiti, subconsciously the citizens of New York reacted in a ‘treat others the way you would want to be treated’ sort of way. While this project lasted from 1984-1990, William Bratton, the new police chief, was the next ‘disciple of the Broken Windows theory’ to step in and finish off the second part of this new epidemic to clean up the city. Focusing on the fare-beaters in the transit system, Bratton said, “The idea was to signal, as publicly as possible, that the transit police were now serious about cracking down on the fare-beaters” (pg.145). Bratton’s creativity in outfitting an old city bus into a rolling station house was the brink of the tipping point that brought on such a stifling drop in crime by the mid- 1990s; “the idea was to send an unambiguous message to the vandals themselves” (143). By centering their plan on the small things that were the root cause of the major problems society allowed, was just what the doctor ordered to bring an end to this relentless crime fever.

If the source of crime is in the small things within what our environment provides, how do we determine what they are? To introduce the Power of Context one must know it as an environmental argument. “It says that behavior is a function of social context… [and] you don’t have to solve the big problems to solve crime” (150). The Power of Context suggests that the psychological make-up of a criminal has little to do with why he commits crime; however, it has everything to do with the message that is being sent by the state of his community. “The essence of the Power of Context is that the same thing is true for certain kinds of environments—that in ways that we don’t necessarily appreciate, our inner states are the result of our outer circumstances” (152).

Of course one would question this radical idea because we have always been told that the reasons for why someone becomes a criminal lies in the individual himself. Common ideas of this concept include: 1) “Psychiatrists talk about criminals as people with stunted psychological development;” 2) individuals who grew up without good role models and have had bad relationships with their parents; and 3) the genetic composition of the person. There are more familiar concepts such as 4) “crime [being] a consequence of moral failure;” 5) having a distinguished personality type; 6) people who are not properly taught what is right from wrong; and lastly, 7) individuals “who grow up poor, fatherless, and buffeted by racism and don’t have the same commitment to social norms as those from healthy middle-class homes” (149-150). “What [psychologists] are suggesting is that this is a mistake, that when we think only in terms of inherent traits and forget the role of situations, we’re deceiving ourselves about the real causes of human behavior.” (158) The truth is yes, thousands of people have psychological, emotional, and psychical problems, and they will always be there; they don’t die off or magically recover when the crime wave goes up and down, but it’s the atmosphere that surrounds those people, and the tipping points that compel them to be criminals.

Many scholastic and psychologically driven tests have been done to prove whether these theories are in fact true, or just another opinion. Some have been outrageous, some have caused the most average people to become evil or insane, and some have tested the mere innocence of children. Although these concepts are extremely controversial, “we need to remember that small changes in context can be just as important in tipping epidemics, even though that fact appears to violate some of our most deeply held assumptions about human nature.” (166) It seems that if the theories remain in practice within current community systems, we could see more and more change throughout our nation in the years to come.

Reference: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell


In this world, women and men have fought for centuries to understand one another. Our societies and governments will always have issues and will always foster different views of what is valued. However, we are all people above everything else. We all deserve the right to live the life we were given without forcefulness toward action and violence to which there is no choice to deny participation. The act of Female Genital Mutilation is an act in which women of our world have no choice but to be subjected to the trauma of having their own bodies violated. The act of female genital mutilation is a violation of human rights and is discrimination against women. Actively working to bring awareness of this issue and taking steps to end this violation is the highly advocated purpose of this research.

            Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is carrying out a procedure in which health care providers intentionally alter or permanently injure a female’s genital organs. The procedure is always performed on girls between the ages of infancy and fifteen years old. It is estimated that one hundred to one hundred and forty million women and young girls throughout the world are currently living with these devastating consequences and approximately two million undergo FGM each year. In Africa alone, it is estimated that ninety-two million girls from age ten are subjected to FGM. Female Genital Mutilation is classified into four major types of procedures which include clitoridectomy, excision, infibulations and other harmful methods like scraping and cauterizing the female genital area. This practice has been constantly persisted for years in more than twenty-five African countries, parts of Asia and the Middle East, and in numerous African immigrant communities living in industrialized nations. Many international organizations have been at work to research and prevent FGM and “change against FGM has already been underway for more than a century in some areas of the world, a clear challenge to any deterministic view of culture.”

Socio-cultural dynamics and justifications for performing these torturous surgeries are based upon societal tradition, religion, and notions of women’s sexuality. Efforts to promote change in female genital mutilation practices originated in the late nineteenth century, among the indigenous women’s organizations, religious leaders, and missionaries in Africa. Sociological researchers say that when understanding the cultural meaning of FMG, symbolic vitality and social consequences for marriagability were two major ideals.  In other studies, it was found that in several cultures female circumcision is a gender identity marker, “making a woman more fully female by cutting off her ‘male parts.’” Furthermore, examination of these cultures’ thoughts and values on gender identity and femininity point to the main ideals of what being female means and the different meanings of beauty and sensuality. Female Genital Mutilation is believed to make one fully female and fulfill their femininity.

“Femininity ideals are reinforced by aesthetic values. Tissue removal often eliminates what are thought of as masculine parts, or in the case of infibulation achieves smoothness considered beautiful. Where infibulation is the established practice, the uninfibulated state can seem repulsive to women themselves and/or to their sex partners. The infibulated state also is reinforced by symbolic values, such as ‘enclosure’ of body, to be ready for future socially-approved reproduction.”

Cultures that perform mostly infibulation have the main justification that it is an act in preserving a woman’s virginity. Virginity before marriage is a highly respected goal among the people of these countries and especially Muslims. Being a virgin symbolizes that the woman has obeyed the code of Judeo-Christian-Islamic teachings and that her moral strictures are intact. Therefore, these men and women believe that infibulation is necessary and respectable because by creating a barrier to penetration or by reducing sensitivity, this reduces a girl’s interest in sex. With this reputation the woman is also believed to be protecting her morality and preserving her family honor. Although the beliefs of these people and their societies should be respected, we must continue to stress that mutilation practices are aimed at depriving women of their sexuality and that these issues are due to male dominance over these women.

The alarming part of this argument from a scientific and medical perspective is that there are absolutely no health benefits to these women. There is no reason for these surgical procedures other than the traditional beliefs of how women should act, and the women have no choice in the matter. Most importantly, the procedure is extremely painful and traumatic, it is removal of healthy, normal genital tissue, which therefore interferes with natural functioning of the female’s body and it causes several immediate and long term health consequences. These women suffer a wide range of damaging consequences which include: psychological trauma, hemorrhage, HIV infection, complications during child birth and death. Furthermore, “babies born to women who have undergone female genital mutilation suffer a higher rate of neonatal death compared with babies born to women who have not undergone the procedure. In stillbirth or spontaneous abortion and in a further twenty-five percent the newborn has a low birth weight or serious infection, both of which are associated with an increased risk of prenatal death” (W.H.O).

In looking at this practice as a whole, including all the cultural reasoning, it is still an infringement upon human rights. Women’s health and human rights advocates have broadened the debate over female genital mutilation to include considerations of power and women’s subordination- considerations that preclude women and children from knowing and exercising their rights to health, bodily integrity, and freedom from violence. It reinforces inequality and discrimination that has become a united issue paralleled through several countries. These women do not know the severity of the larger issues at hand because they have always been socialized and raised to believe that their place in this world, in their society, is at the expense of a man. More urgent attention should be paid to women’s inequality of opportunity and power, as well as the conditions of war, famine, high rates of disease and infant and child mortality, and lack of educational opportunities. Violence against women in these countries and around the world has become commonplace, murder masked as “honor killings” in the Middle East, human trafficking run like a business between governments, and female genital mutilation masked as a coming-of-age ritual to become a woman; this silent war is outrageous. We must work to create more awareness of these issues and come to an agreement that our brothers and sisters in every country, and every society deserve the same rights that allow them human dignity and preservation of life.

If there has been constant research and studies of this issue for hundreds of years, what is being done right now? How much progress has been made regarding the issue since investigation was started? Since an international women’s rights movement has gained strength in recent years, support for efforts to stop violence against women has made enormous progress. There has been more effort to pressure governments and law-makers to pass protective laws in their countries. “In addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations has adopted several conventions aimed specifically at protecting women and children. Last year, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was set up and for the first time in history legally designated rape as a war crime” (Stencel 356). The conviction that female genital mutilation is a violation of human rights and discrimination has made substantial progress in raising awareness. Research efforts says the main challenge is to determine how to get governmental and nongovernmental organizations to determine how the declaration of human right and human dignity can be agreed upon and applied in the local context of these countries. Community participation, strength and understanding are the basic theories needed to start more severe prevention. Collaboration of governments and world leaders like the United Nations must come to an understanding and theory about how human life is fostered and treated in all communities, because we must keep moving forward from where we are now. Human rights activism and women’s rights movements and awareness have conquered success, but there is much more work that needs to be done.

            All people of the world have different values, thoughts and opinions. We all live within separate societies and our socialization from birth varies from household to household. Yet, the one thing we have in common is that we are women and we are men above everything else. Personhood comes first, and extreme measures must be taken to preserve the rights we all deserve without turmoil, trauma, war or despair. Female Genital Mutilation is but one issue in this world, but that does not mean we can push it aside and wait to get around to it. Once people become aware of this issue they must be obligated to move forward and search for agreements and disagreements to call for awareness and a resolution to stop violence against women, discrimination, subordination, and powerlessness of a person.

How you can help:

Please sign the petition!

A Peace of My Mind Project


  • To produce a traveling exhibit for “A Peace of My Mind”
  • To engage communities in dialog about issues related to peace
  • Vote for this idea right now! A Peace of Mind

    For more information on the project and how you can get involved go to..A Peace of My Mind