Antoinette Tuff Stops School Shooting, Chelsea Manning, and Dr. Phil: That Happened


ColumnAntoinette Tuff stops a school shooting, Chelsea Manning becomes a new voice in transgender rights, and Dr. Phil is still a moron.

Maybe the Bravest Woman Ever
While minding her own business working at a school near Atlanta, Antoinette Tuff encountered a guy with an AK-47 assault rifle. My assumption is that if I were in her shoes I would have done one of the following: tried to scream and been unable to make a sound, ran, or peed in my pants. But Tuff, a school clerk, engaged the man, talked him down and stopped a school shooting.

She connected with him on a personal level and, as she told Diane Sawyer, reminded him that, “life will still bring about turns, but we can learn from it.”

This might not be a typical outcome, but there’s a lesson here that sometimes violence and hate can be stopped with compassion and understanding. She wasn’t armed—and if she had been there certainly would have been at least one casualty in this situation.

A New Voice in Transgender Rights
Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison this week for leaking government and military documents. According to Think Progress, the documents Manning leaked included, “videos showing the U.S. military opening fire on a crowd of mostly unarmed Iraqi civilians and information showcasing the failing war effort in Afghanistan and a flailing U.S. attempt to keep the country together during a time when the U.S. focus was on Iraq.”

Thursday, Manning announced intentions to live as a woman and requested that she be referred to as Chelsea Manning. The media is having a tough time with this one. The Today show reporters struggled with pronouns and focused on whether she will have surgery—which isn’t anyone’s business—and reaction to this news shows just how much discrimination the trans community faces.

She has requested the right to receive hormone therapy while incarcerated, which will be an uphill battle. Hopefully, her request will open up a conversation (beyond what’s happening with Sophia on “Orange Is the New Black”—which for many of us is the first glimpse into life for a trans woman in prison) about prisoners’ rights and transgender rights.

That Rape-y Dr. Phil Tweet 
Dr. Phil and his team veered into “legitimate rape” territory over on Twitter this week with this: “If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her? Text yes or no to @DrPhil. #TeenAccused.” At first glance (and second and third) there are big problems here, some of which are: this phrasing assumes that the answer might be yes, it implies that the girl is a girl—meaning legally unable to consent to sex drunk or sober—and assumes that men, or boys, don’t get raped or that they always want to have sex, drunk or not.

This tweet supports the idea of blurred lines when it comes to sexual assault, thus perpetuating rape culture.

In a statement, producers said: “This was a research post in preparation for a show, not a personal post and Dr. Phil deleted it the second he saw it. It was clearly ill-advised. We sincerely apologize that it suggested anything other than what was intended, data gathering.” I have to assume the show in question is related to situations like the Steubenville rape, and I do believe that the intention was to start a conversation, not to advocate raping drunk girls. But it was still super stupid.

People are so unaware of how language influences culture that no one on the tough-talking doctor’s media team read this tweet, paused and thought: “What am I really saying?” I love Tracy Clark-Flory‘s Salon piece about the tweet. Her point is that we all agree the tweet sucked, but we are long overdue for an honest conversation. It’s time to ask terribly hard questions about drinking and sex—and these questions should never be posed in 140 characters.

Related on EcoSalon:

Wendy Davis, Another Brave Woman

Smith College Rejects a Transgender Student

Blurred Lines and Rape Culture

Orange Is the New Black