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Erykah Badu missed the mark on some recent tweets. Here's what we can all learn.

Here's why Badu's comments blame the victim, not the assaulter.

Erykah Badu missed the mark on some recent tweets. Here's what we can all learn.

Erykah Badu is known for being an amazing performer and outspoken artist.

Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for All Def Digital.


However, the singer recently shared a series of concerning tweets about sexual assault in response to a story about school uniforms.

Badu’s discussion of male and female sexuality was sparked by an Auckland school instructing female students to lengthen their skirts so male teachers wouldn’t be distracted. Many were understandably outraged.

In a disappointing series of tweets, Badu told more than 17,000 Twitter followers why she supports lengthening school uniform skirts to make young girls less distracting to their male peers.





To which the internet was like:

GIF from "How to Get Away with Murder."

Badu's words reinforce a dangerous line of thinking, particularly for black women.

A 1998 study found that 7% of girls surveyed in grades 5-8 and 12% of girls in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused. Another study from Black Women's Blueprint found that 60% of black girls reported having experienced sexual assault before reaching the age of 18. According to the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (WCSAP) for every black woman who reports her rape, at least 15 remain silent.

Those numbers are disturbing, and those facts only become worse when women are told they are responsible for preventing their own assaults, rapes, and even murders.


"[U] have yet to explain how longer skirts would protect and not subject young women to the sexism of society," one person tweeted at her. To which Badu did acknowledge that men should be held accountable for managing their own reactions and behavior.



However, even with Badu’s acknowledgement of men's responsibility here, her tacit approval of a plan that asks girls to take equal responsibility for preventing themselves from being preyed on by men — adult men — is still problematic.

Her words reinforce the idea that girls are responsible for whether or not a man preys on them.

Protesters demand change on perceptions of rape and sexual assault. Image via iStock.

Like so many other women — and especially black women — I grew up with warnings to "be careful around men" and "not to wear certain things" as early on as childhood. These men that we were supposed to be wary of could be any men — from a man we encountered in the waiting room at the doctor's office or on the street waiting for a bus to even men in our own families.

The idea that revealing clothing makes a person more likely to be sexually assaulted is a myth that has been repeatedly debunked. While these points of caution are certainly well-intentioned, cautionary tales from parents trying to protect their children, telling girls to cover up so men aren’t tempted only serves to assert power to the claim that adult men are uncontrollable humans.

We validate the idea that a male desire for young girls is just a fact of nature, and by doing so, we don't just put girls in danger — we reduce boys and men to thoughtless, unrestrained beings with no free will.

When Badu tweets that it is “in his nature” for a heterosexual man to be attracted to a young woman in a short skirt, she gives power to dangerous men.

She justifies the actions of people like accused killer James Dixon, who admitted to brutally and fatally beating Islan Nettles earlier this year because of what she was wearing and the fact that she was transgender.

She implies that María José Coni and Marina Menegazzo, two young women traveling in South America who were murdered by two men who gave them a place to stay, asked for their deaths.

It implies that Anita Hill, who was sexually harassed by her boss, then-SCOTUS nominee Clarence Thomas, must have been at fault somehow, not the other way around — and that her account of what happened was invalid.

Actress Kerry Washington and professor of law at Brandeis University Anita Hill. Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images.

It suggests that the 11-year-old Texas child who was gang raped by 18 men is to blame because she was wearing makeup, not because those young men targeted her.

It implies that these women and girls would be better off taking precautions to ensure they do not become victims — as if their attackers wouldn't find other victims instead — rather than teaching men and boys they are responsible for their own behavior.

This line of thinking tells women around the world who have been assaulted in bars and clubs, churches and businesses, schools and homes, places of danger and places of comfort, that their rapes may be justified if the conditions are right to tempt a man. We invalidate and mock their experiences when we assert that their lives and their ability to say "no" really don't matter when a man’s “natural instincts” are involved.

In the past, Badu has used her artistic platform to call out misogyny in the hip-hop industry, which makes these tweets all the more confounding.

She has also spoken out many times about the unfair criminal justice system. To use her same voice and platform to blame young girls — school-age girls — for being distracting to their male classmates and adult male teachers who supposedly are incapable of retraining themselves against such temptation is dangerous.

Seeing these tweets from her — tweets that reinforce a misogynistic culture — is extremely disappointing and completely uncharacteristic of the typically badass, woke, and talented artist.

So, no, Ms. Badu. Let’s stop telling girls to dress differently. Instead, the next time a school decides to ask all female students to dress a certain way so as not to distract their adult male teachers (who, surely, are capable of exerting self-control) or male classmates, let’s remember why treating female bodies like they’re to blame for the actions of men is a slippery slope no one wants to fall down. Doing that is much more effective in the long run.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Price, who founded Gravity with his brother in 2004, was out hiking in the Cascade Mountains with his friend, Valerie. She told him her landlord had raised her rent by $200 and she was struggling to get by on her $40,000 a year income. Price, who was making $1.1 million a year as CEO of Gravity, was struck by her story. Not only did he feel for Valerie—a military veteran working two jobs and barely making ends meet—realized that some of his own employees might be facing similar struggles.

And they were. One employee frankly told him his entry-level salary was a rip-off. Another employee had secretly been working at McDonald's outside of work hours to make ends meet. So Price decided to make a drastic change by investing in his employees.

He researched how much money the average person would need in order to live comfortably and settled on $70,000 a year. In one fell swoop, he dropped his own salary to that amount, while also making it the minimum salary for anyone who worked at Gravity.

The move drew media coverage—and dire predictions from pundits. On Fox News and other conservative outlets he was called "foolish," a "socialist" and a "lunatic of lunatics." Rush Limbaugh called the company policy "pure unadulterated socialism" that was "going to fail" and should be a case study in MBA programs on how socialism doesn't work. Talking heads predicted that his employees would end up in the welfare line.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less