An Inclusive Litany


In the case of Robinson v. Jacksonville Shipyards, Judge Howell Melton ruled that leaving open on one's desk a newspaper displaying an advertisement featuring a woman modeling a bra or panties, or of a picture of one's wife wearing a bathing suit of any outfit "not suited to or ordinarily accepted for the accomplishment of routine work," constitutes sexual harassment.

Critics have long found fault with Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories, but never quite like this. Alexander Cockburn, a writer for the Nation, writes that "Perhaps one day Lee Harvey Oswald will be properly recognized as a leftist who came to the conclusion that the only way to relieve the pressure on Cuba and obstruct the attempts to murder Castro was by killing President Kennedy.... In this calculation he was correct. A year and a half after the killing in Dallas, L.B.J. suspended the CIA's assassination bids. He privately denounced the 'Murder Inc.' that the Kennedys had been running in the Caribbean." Warming to his topic, Cockburn explained that "Oswald's ambush was one of the few effective assassinations in the history of such enterprises. Too bad that this radical exponent of the propaganda of the deed should now be traduced by assassination buffs as a creature of the right, the pawn and tool of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."

The Ocala Star-Banner, Ocala, Florida, August 23, 1993:
Instead of sitting in long staff meetings and organizing their classrooms all day Tuesday, Fort McCoy School's 70 teachers spent their first day at school... in exercises that are supposed to build communication and problem-solving abilities.

Don Cox, the school's new principal, hopes the exercises will help his teachers to work together and solve problems that come up during the school year...

[One] exercise has about 15 teachers standing on a blanket that was supposed to be a boat surrounded by hungry sharks. The teachers all had to get on the boat, and every time they succeeded, the blanket would be folded over again until it was about half its original size.

The teachers adapted and ended up clenching each other and standing on each other's feet so they could all fit on the blanket.

The University of California Davis Law Review, Winter 1993:
The U.C. Davis Law Review follows the convention of using female pronouns. This article follows that convention except when referring to a criminal defendant, where male pronouns are used. Federal criminal defendants are overwhelmingly male.

From a flier distributed at Vassar College:
Are you down on menstruation? The Women's Center warmly welcomes you to the first all-campus BLEED IN October 16, 1993, 8:00 P.M. in the Women's Center.

In Cobasset, Massachusetts, Linda Gallagher asked city officials for a "Slow Children" sign for the residential street on which she lives with her two toddlers. City officials want to grant her wish, but state law forbids the signs for fear they will offend the mentally retarded. Cobasset officials are now awaiting delivery of signs that read simply "Children," which cost $100 apiece.

The Chicago office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers because it required its switchboard operators to greet callers with a cheerful "happy holidays" from Thanksgiving until New Year's Day. Operator Ninette Smith claimed this constituted a breach of her religious freedom, and the EEOC agreed.

"'Happy holidays' is generally considered a generic term in our business," said Ellen Butler, spokeswoman for the hotel. "We use it because it doesn't mention any holidays specifically by name."

Nonplussed by Smith's complaint, the hotel management nevertheless tried to accommodate her. "We told her she could just say, 'Greetings,' " says Butler. When asked how this impinged on Smith's religious freedom, EEOC regional attorney John Hendrickson told the Chicago Tribune, "They only wanted her to say it during the Christmas season, so it is a violation."

The Office of Contracting Services of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation awarded a $315 contract to mow the lawn of a house the FDIC had foreclosed, considerably more than the $15 it previously cost to get a neighborhood teenager to do it.


Variety, July 6, 1993:
The self-proclaimed "most violent man in rock 'n' roll," Kevin Michael (G.G.) Allin, died June 28 in New York City at age 36, apparently of a heroin overdose. Allin, whose antics included hurling his feces at audiences, punching out crowd members, and holding women at knife-point (to bring back "the danger of rock 'n' roll, which is dead," he said), had always claimed his death was destined to come on stage, preferably on a Halloween and after he'd "taken a bunch of you (expletive) out with me."

The singer/performance artist's brother and bassist, Merle Allin, said G.G. had been "partying all day, doing coke" prior to a show at Manhattan's Gas Station, an art gallery on the Lower East Side. As was typical of Allin's gigs, the actual set lasted about 10 minutes. But, in Merle's words, "You could sense it was kind of a grand finale."

The Gas Station's particularly violent crowd spilled onto the street and commenced a bottle-hurling battle with police while G.G. made his escape to an Avenue B apartment. There, according to his brother, G.G. copped one too many bags of heroin in an attempt to cool out.

He was found dead the next morning at 9 a.m., but "had clearly been dead for about five hours," according to his brother. "He was totally blue, and rigor mortis had set in to the point where I couldn't get the rings off his fingers."

Allin will be buried in New Hampshire. At his request, he will be laid to rest in his favorite outfit: a dog collar, a leather jock-strap and boots.

The University of California, Riverside, suspended a fraternity for distributing T-shirts advertising a "south of the border" party that depicted a man in a serape and sombrero who was sitting on a beach with a bottle of tequila. This was judged an offensive stereotype.

The fraternity successfully challenged the suspension, citing the First Amendment and a new California statute protecting free speech on campuses. Under the terms of the ensuing settlement, administrators who suspended the fraternity were sentenced to undergo five hours of sensitivity training about the First Amendment at the hands of constitutional law professors.

When Earth First! wanted to hold a "Round River Rendezvous" on national forest land near Durango, Colorado, the Stone Forest Industry logging company filed a protest against the meeting, claiming that an environmental impact study would be needed before the group could have its campout. The group went ahead and held their rally, but they were fined $8,505, the cost of extinguishing a six-acre forest fire started by their camp fires.

Becky Kroll, director of the University of Minnesota Women's Center, and Patricia Mullen, director of the university's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, recommended the addition of "classroom climate adviser" as a new faculty position. Mullen said they conceived the idea after she took a call "from a student who was unhappy about a classroom discussion of a cultural diversity 'hot topic'—in this case, Columbus. The student felt the discussion got out of hand and that a fellow student's crude comments were not adequately handled by the instructor." To avoid situations that are "disruptive to the learning process," specially trained graduate students and staff members would be available to deal with such grievances, or as an aid to any instructor who "feels some students are having trouble distinguishing between theories I have to teach and my personal beliefs about controversial matters in the area of diversity."

Congress declared the week of October 3-9 Mental Awareness Week, and October 6 was dubbed German-American Day. Previous commemorations include Tap Dance Day, School Breakfast Week, Country Music Month, and Decade of the Brain.

In a letter to parents, the Equity Affirmative Action Advisory Committee of the Iowa City, Iowa, school district recommended caution in choosing children's Halloween costumes. It said witches, devils and hobo costumes (among others) may offend certain sensibilities and create "unpleasant and hurtful situations."


Reporter Nina Totenberg, in an exchange with Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun about capital punishment cases on ABC's "Nightline," November 18, 1993:
"Have you ever cried over these cases?"
"Have I ever what?"
"Have you ever cried over them?"


New York Times editorial page editor and former Washington bureau chief Howell Raines in an interview discussing his book Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis, on the PBS talk show "Charlie Rose," November 17, 1993:
I don't shield my politics in this book, as I do in much of my journalism, as I've been disciplined to do. The Reagan years oppressed me because of the callousness and the greed and the hard-hearted attitude toward people who have very little in this society, so all of that came together at around age 40 for me.


Actress Kathy Najimy had some reservations about doing the recently released Bette Midler film Hocus Pocus because she didn't want to help perpetuate the myth of the evil, ugly witch. Before agreeing to take the part, Najimy says she consulted with Gloria Steinem "because she's the goddess of the world and knows everything."

The Wall Street Journal, August 13, 1993:
When the city of Miami hired a team of consultants to determine whether it discriminated against minority-owned businesses in contracting work, the researchers reported what arguably would be good news: They didn't find a clear pattern of discrimination to justify the city's decade-old policy of directing a percentage of its work to minorities.

But angry city commissioners refused to accept that conclusion.

An incredulous Vice Mayor Miller Dawkins, the group's only black member, railed at the stunned consultants: "The whole purpose of this study was for you to prove that there was a disparity in minority hiring."

After Michael Jordan suddenly retired from the National Basketball Association, the public has been bombarded with many theories as to why he decided to quit at the peak of his career: the death of his father, an increasing lack of privacy, a desire to spend more time with his family, etc. But the Village Voice came up with its own special slant on the situation—to wit, the most popular athlete in the world, a man who made $30 million a year in endorsements, was a victim of racism.

The article, titled "Race Man," states that "the tide turned" with Gatorade's campaign that centered on the slogan "If I could be like Mike." All of a sudden, "Little white kids in little white towns were dreaming about the bald-headed brotha in baggy hoops shorts." Not only that, but "they were dreaming about being black."

As Voice writer Scott Poulson-Bryant sees it, this caused some unnamed white authority figure or group to begin the persecution of Jordan, focusing on his gambling. "If white kids wanted to be like you, you had to show them the way, you had to come clean, you had to meet standards," said Poulson-Bryant.

The piece insinuates that another powerful white authority figure or group—or perhaps the same one—wasn't pleased that Jordan's Chicago Bulls had won three consecutive NBA titles. "White folks get nervous when you start winning too much (unless, of course, you're winning for them)," it said.

Poulson-Bryant, of course, neglects to mention that many white athletes, such as Don Drysdale and Bjorn Borg, also retired at the top of their games, and that white players have also gotten into trouble because of gambling, such as Pete Rose and Denny McClain.

Denied a diploma because she flunked a course in clinical nursing, Eve Tenser sued her school and professor.

In the lawsuit, which was put before the Pennsylvania Board of Claims, Tenser said she put "time, effort, dedication and money" into her studies at Edinboro University in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, in exchange for a degree from the college. But the school "rescinded and repudiated said agreement... by issuing... a grade of 'F' in clinical nursing without justification, cause or merit."

Tenser is unemployable in her field without the degree, said her attorney, Rebecca DeSimone. So the plaintiff sought up to $20,000 or "reevaluation" of her clinical abilities and a nursing degree.

Bill Reed, a spokesman for Edinboro University, says that after having failed the test, Tenser was offered a chance to take the course again. But DeSimone says that because Tenser is a single mother of two children, that is not feasible.

In a Boston Globe editorial, Deborah Prothow-Stith, assistant dean for government and community affairs at the Harvard School of Public Health, criticized Steven Spielberg's blockbuster Jurassic Park for perpetuating stereotypes about various groups.

"A black worker is eaten in the first five minutes of the movie—an occurrence that is incidental and overlooked.

"Other people eaten include another black man who smokes, a fat man who is trying to steal the dinosaur embryos and sell them for a profit—expendable people about whom the audience is made to care very little. Children learn not to value the lives of these characters."

But they do learn to value blonds, which also bothers Prothow-Stith. "All the blond characters—and only the blond ones—are lucky or smart enough to survive without injury. The one dark-haired scientist who lived was hurt badly...

"This stereotype—the valued blonds and less valued and incidental others—is an outrageous insult."

When a majority of the New York City Board of Education voted to boot out Chancellor Joseph Fernandez following public outrage over the sexually explicit "Rainbow Curriculum," they didn't win over their colleague Victor Gotbaum. It seems that Gotbaum, an appointee of Mayor David Dinkins, feels the board members and parents have a hang-up. "The majority members [of the board] are enamored of middle-class, two-parent families with children who don't have sex," Gotbaum told the New York Daily News. "Their values are not representative of what's in the school system."


Letter to the editor, San Francisco Bay Guardian, June 23, 1993:
Is there an unwritten whites-only rule at nude beaches? [See "Bare Facts," 6/16/93] After having sampled several in the Bay Area I'm left with the impression that even golf and country clubs are more multicultural. Same goes for the often-photographed nudist crowd at Berkeley. Unfortunately, your article tends to reinforce this perception, with only one (apparently) non-white-person-photo out of at least 10 (not to mention the "mud people"). Will someone explain?

The deep political concerns of various Hollywood celebrities:

Harry Hamlin:
One of the issues that I am currently involved with is the Greenpeace issue, to save the world.

Raquel Welch, on "Larry King Live":
I was asked to come to Chicago because Chicago is one of our 52 states, and the mandate we've now been given on the pro-choice issue is that we have to pick up the pieces... In 52 states across the nation, we have to bail water out of the boat.

Louis Gossett Jr.:
Half of the middle class is unemployed and homeless. It's touching more people than we think, and if we don't stop, everybody's gonna be homeless or something-less.

John Cusack:
Given the things I said about Reagan—that he's a criminal who used the Constitution as toilet paper—it wouldn't surprise me if my phone was tapped.

River Phoenix:
I regret being born a white male. If I could have been born anything, I'd be a Native American.

Rae Dawn Chong:
[The movie Amazon] takes place in the Amazon, and what you realize is that this man has to make major choices, and he makes major mistakes instead of the right things, and through his mistakes he learns a lot of soulful things, and he actually corrects his inner life, which, of course, helps enhance his outer life, and through the whole process we learn about how sad it is that we have something called the Amazon forest and we're destroying it, and yet I say as an American-Canadian actress, it's sad what we're doing to [forests] in America.

Alexandra Paul, of Dragnet and 8 Million Ways to Die:
We have to tell these kids what a condom tastes like.
After 27 years of shining shoes around the Bergen County Courthouse in New Jersey, county officials informed Robert Taylor that he needed a contract to continue his business, which, until then, he had operated under an informal agreement. In order to get the contract, he was told that he had to go through a competitive bidding process; meet 18 pages of specifications, including requirements that he wear a regulation smock and run a cash register; and have a $1 million liability insurance policy, in case an injury occurs when a customer climbs into or out of Taylor's elevated chair. But Taylor told The New York Times that an accident would be impossible. "For 27 years, not even a woman has gotten a run in her stocking here," he said.

Thanks to a book titled Hell's Gate: The Terror at Bobby Mackey's Music World, which documents ghost sightings at Mackey's, the Newport, Kentucky nightclub has gained notoriety among thrill seekers. Intrigued, J.R. Costigen went to Mackey's on Halloween night, 1991, and, in the words of his complaint, "walked through different rooms of the nightclub daring and mocking the supposed ghost/ghosts to appear to him." Costigen claims he was subsequently attacked by a "dark man" who punched him in the face and kicked him as he lay on the ground. Then, Costigen says, the attacker "dissolved into the air."

Seeking $1,000 in damages, Costigen states that the nightclub is responsible for his injury because it failed to make the building safe from ghosts. Mackey realizes that "any publicity is good publicity," but he wishes the suit had never been filed. "I'm trying to run a respectable country music establishment here," he says. His attorney, Robert Lotz, says the case poses interesting legal challenges. "For one thing, there is no precedent for this kind of complaint," he says. Lotz asked for a motion to dismiss the case, based on a one-year statute of limitations. The actual motion, in keeping with what Lotz calls the "kooky" nature of the whole business, was delivered in verse:

But souls departed eschewing repose
Prove difficult for us lawyers to depose
And the sheriff will greet with rude demeanor
My request to serve a spook's subpoena
So to counter Petitioner's claim phantasmal
I turn to the law for relief substantial
The one year statute of limitations
Applies to injuries by permutations

Three Wyoming artists, Sue Thornton, Pip Brant and Duane Brant, got a $4,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for an exhibit that employs 70 cows painted with words from the writings of early 20th century feminist Phyllis Luman Metal, who was raised on a ranch near Pinedale.

According to Thornton, cows and feminism make a natural pair. "Cows are great and so are women," she explained to the Associated Press. "Both of their lives are about self-sacrifice and about motherhood."

The artists paint two large words, one on each side of the cow. Because the herd will meander in a field, the message will inevitably become garbled. Thornton said that was part of the point. "To put it all together," she said, "you have to be savvy."

After being voted out of office, a former North Carolina labor commissioner filed for unemployment benefits.


The Associated Press:
The University of Colorado at Boulder offered a summer-school course called "Studies in Gender & Performance: Madonna Undressed."

The instructor, Polly McLean, said she would "single Madonna out and profile her like we profile Shakespeare in English."

In New York City, schools special investigator Edward Stancik revealed that the Board of Education was aware that teacher Peter Melzer was a self-avowed pedophile for over ten years before questioning his predilection. Melzer is a member of the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) and editor of its newsletter, which calls for the repeal of age-of-consent laws and dispenses advice such as, "Don't keep photos of your partner where police might find them." Although Melzer was not accused of molesting any New York City schoolchildren, the investigation determined that Melzer took time off during an educational conference in the Philippines to pursue at least one boy. Stancik recommended that Melzer be fired or removed from the classroom, saying he could not be trusted to fulfill responsibilities such as reporting child abuse.

George Mason University law professor Michael Krauss wanted to illustrate for students in his first-year torts class how certain hurtful words might prompt legal action. Mission accomplished. Mr. Krauss spun before his class a hypothetical example of the KKK carrying signs reading "Kill the Niggers" in a predominantly black neighborhood. Soon, students were circulating a petition deploring Mr. Krauss's insensitivity and demanding that the N-word be banned from classrooms.

According to the inspector general of the Resolution Trust Corporation, which is charged with overseeing the Savings & Loan bailout for which taxpayers have already spent $100 billion, the RTC has been paying temporary employees $35 an hour to make photocopies that, at 67 cents per copy, cost far more than the going rate. Luckily, the workers were often left idle. "At times, 50 to 150 temporaries were observed playing poker during office hours... [They] would brag about sleeping on the job, taking two-hour lunches, reading the newspaper... One shift did nothing for eight hours."

Laura Tyson, head of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, explaining why the Clinton administration reduced its 1993 growth projection from 3.1 percent to 2 percent:
We are now looking at a future from here, and the future we were looking in February now includes some of our past, and we can incorporate the past into our forecast. 1993, the first half, which is now the past and was the future when we issued our first forecast, is now over.

The following letter was received by Anne Ruggles Gere, Chair of the Conference on College Composition and Communication Executive Committee, and reprinted in the September 1993 newsletter of the National Council of Teachers of English:
My request, I believe, is a small but important one. I respectfully ask that the CCCC Executive Committee replace the phallologocentric term "dissemination," which appears in "Basic Rules for the Handling of Resolutions at the Annual Business Meeting," found on page 147 of the program for the CCCC meeting.

I realize that the term may not be that offensive to some people. However, my reading and my discussions with people make me know that some do find the use of "dissemination" offensive.

I make this request because I feel that CCCC should take a strong leadership on such matters. Because language is our field of study, we should be extremely sensitive to the perceptions of people who feel that certain kinds of language exclude them.

I will suggest "distribution" as a substitute term, but you may have other preferences.

—Duane H. Roen
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona

[Ed.: While we're at it, what about the word 'nurture,' which is also gender-specific?]