Why would any state pass an invasive bill like South Dakota did?

Dear South Dakota,

I heard you recently passed a bill to help ensure students have their privacy respected, and I wanted to say "thanks!"


I do, however, have a few concerns I hope you can help me with. I was reading through the bill, appropriately titled, "An Act to restrict access to certain restrooms and locker rooms in public schools," and while it’s not the sexiest title (you can’t even make an acronym out of it — I mean … AATRATCRALRIPS?), that’s not really the focus. The important thing is that it ensures student privacy and, as Republican state Sen. David Omdahl said, "to preserve the innocence of our young people."

Photos via iStock.

I, too, think it’s important that we preserve the innocence of our young people, which is why I wanted to ask a few things about the bill before the governor decides whether he'll sign or veto. Let’s start with the obvious questions.

If you define "biological sex" as "the physical condition of being male or female as determined by a person’s chromosomes and anatomy as identified at birth," I have to ask what category you place people who either haven’t had their chromosomes tested (which, I don’t know about you, but I certainly haven’t; that’s not something they do to newborns) or people with "anatomy" (very vague) that falls somewhere outside the male/female binary (as much as 1% of the population)?

Here's that section from your bill:

"BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:

Section 1. That chapter 13–24 be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The term, biological sex, as used in this Act, means the physical condition of being male or female as determined by a person’s chromosomes and anatomy as identified at birth."



This next part came to my attention because, well, I’m just curious what this has to do with "preserving innocence" or privacy? Do kids still take showers in schools? That don’t have private stalls? It’s been a while since I was in school, but I can’t remember a single time anybody in my grade school or high school used the showers after gym class. Most people just showered at home, I think.

I decided to run a very informal poll, and yep, it seems as though open showers are a thing of the past.


And when it comes to restrooms, I’ve never seen anybody’s genitals (nor had the opportunity to test their DNA) while using the bathroom. I’m a firm believer that if you’re seeing others’ genitals while you use the bathroom, then you’re, well, bathrooming wrong.

And I’m curious how you plan to test students’ anatomy and/or chromosomes. That is, how will you enforce this new law? Will there be genital checks upon entering locker rooms? Do students need to give a blood sample? Surely you have some system in place. I’m sure you wouldn’t pass a law without  —  well, who knows?

But again, from your bill:

"Section 2. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

Every restroom, locker room, and shower room located in a public elementary or secondary school that is designated for student use and is accessible by multiple students at the same time shall be designated for and used only by students of the same biological sex. In addition, any public school student participating in a school sponsored activity off school premises which includes being in a state of undress in the presence of other students shall use those rooms designated for and used only by students of the same biological sex."

Actually, the more I think about it, the more it seems like this bill actively wipes away innocence. I mean, I wouldn’t want a teacher looking at my junk. I wouldn’t feel as though my privacy is protected any better if a public school (which is essentially the government) had access to my DNA. That’d actually make me feel a whole lot less protected. I’d feel violated, even.

It seems to me that this bill wasn’t properly thought through. It sounds expensive (if you’re going to ensure people are in the "right" restroom and locker room, this’ll be pricey!), and it sounds like — well, I’m no lawyer, but — it sounds to me like this invites lawsuits. I could be wrong.

But can you tell me how knowing what students’ genitals look like helps ensure their privacy? It seems to me like this bill is a solution in search of a problem; sadly, that "solution" will only cause more problems.

Best,

Parker

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by Adelin Preda on Unsplash

A multinational study found that bystanders intervene in 9 out of 10 public conflicts.

The recent news report of a woman on a Philadelphia train being raped while onlookers did nothing to stop it was shocking and horrible, without question. It also got people discussing the infamous "bystander effect," which has led people to believe—somewhat erroneously, as it turns out—that people aren't likely to intervene when they see someone being attacked in public. Stories like this uninterrupted train assault combined with a belief that bystanders rarely step in can easily lead people to feel like everything and everyone is horrible.

But according to the most recent research on the subject, the Philadelphia incident appears to be the exception, not the rule. A 2019 multinational study found that at least one bystander (but usually more) will actually intervene in 9 out of 10 public conflicts.

The idea that people in groups aren't likely to intervene stems largely from research on the 1964 story of Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old woman who was stabbed to death outside her apartment in New York, while dozens of onlookers in surrounding apartment buildings allegedly did nothing. However, further research has called the number of witnesses into question, and it appears that several did, in fact, call the police. Someone reportedly shouted out their window and scared the attacker away for a few minutes, and someone did rush to Genovese's aid after the second attack.

Keep Reading Show less