the world through rainbow eyes


7 Things About Pictures of Kids Online

I have a lot of friends who are photographers. I don’t mean the kind of people who take a bunch of pictures. I mean, honest to goodness, saved up bunches of money for the good equipment, spend lots of time on it, these are actually beautiful, photographers.

I also have a lot of friends who are parents. Some are both. Most parents end up dabbling in photography to one degree or another. It’s part of the territory.

You take pictures of your kids. You take them for you, and you take them in trust for your children when they are adults and want to see pictures of their childhood. You take them for family spread far and wide. You take them for friends. You take them because when you look at your kids, you overfill with pride, joy, and love. You want to give that to everyone. To share a bit of what you see when you look at your child. If you happen to fall into the first category also, your pictures also happen to generally be enjoyable for everyone.

Most people enjoy pictures of kids, though. There’s no real artistry needed. We were all kids once. If our childhoods weren’t ideal, then we generally are happy to see pictures of kids where that isn’t true. It’s a sort of reset on hope, you know? If our childhoods were good, then it’s a reminder of that.

Because we live in the FUTURE! we’re lucky enough that we can share the heck out of these pictures in a way that isn’t too onerous. There’s no more slideshows of the family vacation that you don’t care about. There’s an album online, and you can skip it or not. For the family and friends that are scattered far and wide, though, it means staying connected to each other and each other’s families in a way that only neighbors were able to do in the past.

Which is wonderful and awful all at once. I’ve already said some of the ways that it’s wonderful, and lots has been said about the different ways it’s awful, but one of the ways it’s awful really needs to be addressed.

See, I’ve had several friends now that have had their Facebook accounts flagged and their pictures flagged because somebody deemed that their pictures that they took of their lovely children were in some way inappropriate. By and large we are talking about pictures where you can’t see anything other than the fact that the child is probably naked. Maybe. Under the censored bits. Or the bits that aren’t actually in frame.

So the pictures and accounts are flagged, because hey, we don’t want pedophiles to see the pictures and target our children. Which, hey, is such a mixed bag of myth that I don’t even know where to start with it. But I’m going to.

Before I start though, I am going to say that yes. There are some very bad parents out there. Some parents who do, in actuality, want to pimp their children out. We’ve all read the news, and we know that it happens. It’s baffling, and horrific, and goes against every basic instinct of loving and protecting children, of basic human decency, that the vast majority of us operate with, but it does happen. I’m not talking about that today. I don’t know that I ever will. You go somewhere else for that, okay? That’s beyond the scope of my ability to talk about in a sane and rational way.

I’m going to give a list of reasons why you shouldn’t worry so hard about innocent pictures of innocent children.

1. This is not the child pornography that you’ve heard about online. 

This makes me sad to say, but your innocent bath picture of your kid with a washcloth on, or blurred  bits, or heck, even without it is not the child pornography that the pedophiles are looking for. This kind of wanders into the area of things I didn’t want to talk about because it makes my head break open and all the tears fall forever, but there are horrific photos of children online. Lots of them. Whole awful, pustulent  corners of the internet dedicated to just that. The pedophiles want those pictures.

2. The vast majority of sexual molestation is done by people you know, who are actually in your everyday life.

It’s stepparents, and grandparents, and parents, and the parents’ boyfriends or girlfriends. It’s friends of the family that you have over for dinner regularly. It’s uncles and aunts and cousins. It’s your children’s friends’ parents. It’s counselors and priests and neighbors. It’s not strangers from the internet who happened upon your child’s pictures. That is so rare that it is beyond statistical ability to enumerate.

3. You can not make someone suddenly have a sexual interest in children. 

This is something in them. This is not something you do. This is not something that your children do. This is a wrongness in that person. You can dress a child up in the sexiest of clothes, and give them the most dazzling make-up job, and there is not a single right-headed individual that is going to have a sexual thought about that child. Because it’s a child. Because you have to be wrong-headed to look at a child and find them sexual.

4. The people who look at children and find them sexually enticing do not need the children to be naked.

This is just another form of blaming the victim. It’s likely born of the same “I can keep me and mine safe” thoughts, too. People who abuse others sexually are not enticed into it. This is a wrongness in them. It’s not something that the victim can make happen. Pedophiles find children sexually arousing, clothed or not, because of the defilement. Because of the abuse of power. Because they can. Fully clothed, or genitals actually showing, it’s all the same because what the abuser is looking to do is hurt the child. Children could go through their entire childhoods fully clothed even for baths and there would still be sexual molestation, sad to say.

5. You keep your child as safe as you can from sexual molestation by teaching them that saying no and getting help is always okay. Always.

There’s been a lot of talk about this in the mommyblog world for a while. All the different ways that adults undermine children’s bodily integrity and right to say no. We tell them that they have to kiss grandma or give us a hug, or tickle them beyond when they say no. We tell them that they’re wrong when they say they feel a certain way about something or that their feelings do not matter (and yes, I know that their teeth need to be brushed even if they don’t feel like it, but that doesn’t mean their their feelings about it don’t matter). Whenever we tell them that they have to do what grown ups tell them to do, or that what they think is immaterial, we are undermining our children’s basic safety system.

6. The vast majority of sexual molestation is done by people you know, who are actually in your everyday life. 

Can I just mention this again? Because yeah.

7. There used to be a lot of pictures of kids naked and we didn’t think anything of it.

A lot of us who are in our 30’s or older come from a time when just about everyone had pictures of themselves as children or babies naked in a bath, or on a rug, or any of a number of other regular everyday kid things that nobody thought was somehow enticing to pedophiles. Heck, in my day, it wasn’t all that unusual for a little kid to run around in the neighborhood naked. It was discouraged, sure, but nobody thought the pedophiles were waiting with baited breath on the doorstep for some naked kid to snatch up.

These weren’t the good old days. Don’t get me wrong. Nobody also thought the pedophiles were in their family. Or at their church. They thought it mostly didn’t happen, and if it did it was strangers snatching kids up. Which we mostly know better of nowadays. Right? Right.

Now, I can’t tell you if the incidence of childhood sexual abuse has truly gone up or down in the last 50 years. The facts are that it has historically been an under reported crime because it is a crime that is perpetrated on those who are the most voiceless in our communities.

I can tell you that the incidences of strangers kidnapping children to do harm to them has not gone up (and you’ll notice in there that the most statistically dangerous people in children’s lives are actually the parents, which is sad and horrible, but there it is). So there it is. Please stop worrying about pictures of kids online that are normal pictures.

Change your focus to teaching children that they have the right to say what happens to their bodies, and that if someone tries to do something to them sexually, they can safely get help. You can (and should) teach them that it isn’t their fault if something does happen, and that consent is always necessary. You can teach them to speak up if they see others being abused. You can get involved in helping to stop childhood sex trafficking. You can do any number of things that actually help reduce the problem. But you can stop worrying about pictures that you or your friends post of their kids that are perfectly innocent. If it really riles you up, teach them about privacy settings. Or talk to them directly about it (that’s part of that whole reducing the issue, right? Right). Hey, maybe they didn’t notice that a little bit more is showing in that picture than they thought.

And finally you can do what everybody else does with the thousand and one other pictures of pets, food, or kids that shows up in their feed.

Skip it.


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I’m Outraged That You Give A Damn

So this recently happened.  I could have linked more things. I linked four, separate horrible things, but it would have been just as easy to link four hundred. Four thousand. Those are just the first four that spring up when I open the news. The first four things that are actually news, that is.

A friend recently asked how [things like this are happening in today’s world]? My only answer is exhaustion. Information exhaustion. Outrage fatigue.

How in the world would a song like Blurred Lines become one of the two big pop hits of the Summer in the US after a year that included the Steubenville trial? That included story after story of girls committing suicide after being raped and then shamed over “their responsibility” of the crime?

How could we, again, be on the edge of a war in the Middle East, possibly, after over a decade of this?

How Russia is raiding people’s homes over suspicion of them being gay, and we’re still, as a world, seemingly going forward with the Winter Olympics there?

Some of my other friends were completely ignited over the fact that Miley Cyrus’s performance at the VMAs was actually a topic of conversation all over their Facebook, but damn. Seriously, damn. With all that up there? A little light outrage is actually sort of a relief.

I get that from a lot of the people around me. I stay fairly plugged into the news, and a lot of people very close to me don’t. It’s not because they don’t care. They care. They just care too much, and it honestly takes too much out of them. It makes it impossible for them to do the things that need doing like going to work, taking care of their children, or doing much besides raving at the top of their lungs or crying in a corner.

I used to get really upset at that reaction. When people want to look away from the dead body, so to speak. Then I realized that the very mechanism that allows me to look is what makes them not want to look.

I don’t feel like there’s much all I can do about these things. I’m pretty powerless to stop it. Awareness is about all I have going. I feel detached from power to change it, so I feel detached from anxiety over it. Those around me who get overwhelmed by these things so completely? That very feeling of powerlessness is what makes them hurt.

Despite the fact that the authors of this article mistake correlation for causation, I can’t say that they’re not onto something here. This is how most people seem to operate. Powerlessness tends to make most people feel anxious, depressed, or other negative emotions. I’m sort of the oddball out on this one. Facebook is a platform for news, rants, and the daily snippets of life. It’s a powerful tool, but it’s not necessarily making people happy.

It’s easy to get attached to, and interested in, fluffy news. That’s what it’s there for. It’s a distraction. There’s a lot to be distracted from, too. Bills, depression, chronic pain, debt, anxiety, employment, sickness: they mount up, along with all of that evening news stuff that is so ever present in our 24 hours news cycle that has now broken through to even being part of our social interactions. Is it any wonder that people turn to something else instead? Hobbies and crafts, religion and philosophy, entertainment.

That’s really okay, and not a thing to get upset about.

This is pretty fluffy, too. It’s just talking a little bit about the fact that when people are being social and chatting about stuff, there’s no reason to judge them on some social scale of how important what they’re talking about is. I’ve seen some version of this sort of outrage about what people use “their corner of the Internet” for going all the way back to the alt.net days. I’m sure it goes further, but that’s when I was getting my legs under me a coming of age adult, so that’s when I first noticed it.

The answer has pretty much always been the same, too. You don’t like it? Scroll on by. Try not to let the outrage overwhelm you that someone else isn’t doing it right, wherein, you’re the one decided what right is.

After all, there are so very many things to be outraged by.


Edit: God (on Facebook) gets it right. But that doesn’t really change that it’s actually really sort of okay to not want to feel powerless all the time.


I’m A Jerk On Facebook

Fucking Facebook. I’m going to blame you, Facebook. It’s probably not fair, but I’m going to blame you.

I’m going to blame you for taking reasoned discussion and turning it into heated anger. I’ve seen it happen again and again. Post something, and it’s fine if there’s a bunch of agreement, mostly, but the tenuous level of friendship between the people who are friends with the poster means that they don’t know each other’s quirks and writing styles. They don’t give the benefit of the doubt. So people get into it. It turns ugly.

What was it this time? Vaccinations. A friend posted a thing about vaccinations and one of her friends, whom I don’t know at all, disagreed with her about vaccinations. Because I am an asshole, I chose to step in and try to clear up what compromised immune system actually means. Which did absolutely nothing. Of course. Because it’s Facebook.

See, I think people hear “compromised immune system” and they think, “oh, the poor sick kids. That’s not my healthy kid! I’m sorry for the poor sick kids, but that’s not my problem.”

When, really, compromised immune systems are everyone’s problem. I mean, it’s not just herd immunity, but yeah, that’s part of it, too. See, the problem with measles (German measles, otherwise known as Rubella, that is) is that it’s super dangerous to pregnant women. Not in a horrible, it kills pregnant women kinda way. More like, over fifty percent of women who contract measles while pregnant end up with serious complications. That’s a good deal higher than that less than 1% of complications that happens with vaccines (a number so small as to be nearly statistically insignificant, by the way, and certainly the dangers of the diseases that you are immunizing your children against with these vaccines carry a much higher rate of complications). These complications range from miscarriages and stillbirth to blindness, deafness, and so on.
Measles are so serious that quarantine used to be the only actual answer, and it wasn’t a very effective one. It still spread.

So, again, to the compromised immune system. I don’t think that a lot of people realize how wide a term that is. Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. Eczema is an autoimmune disorder (to some degree).
Sure, it’s the kid with multiple sclerosis, but it’s also the kid with asthma.

And by the way, why are you so willing to throw the kid with multiple sclerosis under the bus?

What the hell, man? What the hell? Are you so lacking in empathy that you simply think “too bad, so sad, I can’t risk my kid getting Autism?” (which, hey, let’s be really, really clear now: YOU CAN’T GET AUTISM FROM VACCINATIONS. EVER. EVER. EVER.) Which, also, by the way, being pretty close to a lot of people on the Autism Spectrum, I’ve got some fingers up in the air for that fear, too. Trust me on this: your kid having Autism? It’s not something so freaking scary and world shattering that them being dead is preferable.

Are you scared of the list of ingredients on vaccines? Then go take a course in chemistry, because these words being big and polysyllabic does not actually equate to dangerous. It just doesn’t. Lacking a college nearby, or the time to take such a course, use Wikipedia. There’s fabulous pages on all these ingredients. There’s great pages on the chemical interactions, even.

Are you scared of the list of vaccines and how long it is compared to how long it was when we were children?

Great news! The active agents in vaccinations (the payload that makes the vaccines actually vaccines) is smaller than when we were kids. I don’t mean piece by piece either, where you put one MMR vaccine against the MMR from my childhood. I mean, than the whole damn list. That’s pretty much because of those big polysyllabic words. It’s kind of awesome, honestly.

There’s been some awesome doctors and epidemiologists that have gotten together to form the schedule, too. It’s optimized to hit kids when they most need them.

I’m so scattered on this issue that I don’t even know what all to tell you. I’ve mentioned the chemistry, I’ve mentioned the immune disorders. I’ve mentioned the active agents. Have I mentioned herd immunity?

Do you understand what herd immunity is? This one is pretty near and dear to me. See, even though my brother and sister both got chicken pox as children, they both got it twice. That’s not really supposed to be possible according to a lot of people. You get chicken pox once, and then you’re safe from ever getting it again, right? Nope. Doctors know that happens. See, herd immunity works in a couple ways.

The first way it works is awesome. You have a certain threshold of the population who have an immunity to a disease (either through vaccination or through other exposure), and suddenly the likelihood of the disease passing from one person to another and forming an epidemic becomes extremely difficult. The thresholds vary from disease to disease, some are as low as 80%, some as high 94%.  The high ones also, not surprisingly, have a high infectious rate, too. In susceptible populations, one index case creates as “few” as 12 more cases, and as high as 18. From one case. Then each of those, at least, 12 cases creates, at least, 12 more. Do you see the problem yet?

Okay, so that’s perfectly susceptible populations, but a whole Montessori school where everyone isn’t vaxxing? Or a whole church? Or all of your home schooling co-op? Guess what they are? Do any of the parents of the children who go to your school travel out of the US often? Do any of the people they regularly come into contact with? Like, oh, say the grocer at the store? Anybody at the church? The home schooling co-op? Do you live on a mountain and ward people off with pitchforks when they come near? I’m betting you don’t, no matter how homebody you might think you are.  So, you and your kid are part of this herd.

Which brings me to the second awesome way herd immunity works (the first by making it hard for epidemics to really get feet on them). It protects people from secondary infection. See, like I said, some people can look perfectly healthy, but for some reason, they aren’t immune to whatever the particular disease is. Sure, they kept up to date (and adults need to keep up to date on the DTaP, too, by the way, just in case you were confused. Make an appointment with your doc. Pertussis is nasty and has been hitting hard for the last few years). They had their vaccinations, or had the disease as a child, or whatever, and they still are susceptible to getting it a second time. 
Herd immunity protects these people, because the likelihood of coming into contact of the disease lowers so significantly as to become negligible.

Then there’s the best one, and the one that really brings the assholes to the table. The way herd immunity protects people who can’t be immunized. Now, I’m going to say can’t. I’m not going to say people who chose to not have their children immunized, because those are some of the assholes I was speaking of. And yeah, I feel pretty justified calling them assholes here, as they are actually endangering the lives of everybody else because of their unwillingness to vaccinate. I want to talk about the people who can’t. Some children have egg allergies (and egg albumen is an ingredient in many vaccines). Some children have very, very serious auto immune disorders, and their immune systems are so fubared that giving them the task of building immunities with a vaccine, and instead it will pretty much self destruct the kid. These are not the faces of slack jawed nobodies that some truly inhumane people have decided aren’t worth worrying about.

These are vibrant, beautiful, sweet, energetic, amazing kids. Some with big futures ahead of them, some with only the present (and why would you want to take away more of that present? What the hell?). For whatever reasons, they can’t have vaccines because it is a real physical danger to them. Not in a Jenny McCarthy told me it gave her kid Autism kind of way, either. But in a, go into a seizure, go into a coma, get put on a respirator, gonna die kind of way.

So, herd immunity protects that small percentage of people that really and truly can’t be vaccinated. People with cancer. Newborn infants. The elderly. People with egg allergies. People with all sorts of disorders that make it possible for them to be there in front of you and either know or not know that this part of their body doesn’t work.

So, I’ve told you about that part. Okay. You still don’t care. These diseases are just amorphous risks to you. They don’t feel real. I’ll tell you why they don’t feel real. It’s because vaccines work. If you’re pretty young, say, in your 20s or 30s, go talk to grandparents or greatgrandparents. Otherwise, if you’re in your 40s, like me, talk to your parents. Ask them about childhood diseases.

See, it used to be common to be in and out of the hospital constantly as a child. It used to be common for kids to go blind, deaf, be crippled. It used to be common to die of these things. It used to be that a cough was scary to everyone who heard it, and a spot meant run away. Not everyone your parents, grandparents, or greatgrandparents knew, not by far, but at least one or two people they knew as children, sometimes many more, died because of these diseases.

Now, these diseases are so uncommon that we’ve weighed the risks as we know them and we can’t really properly weigh the diseases themselves, because we simply aren’t familiar with them. We don’t know what it means to have polio, or rubella, or measles, or pertussis. We don’t know what an epidemic looks like. We don’t know, but we will. 

And I say we will because this is the most dangerous part of the herd immunity thing. We figure it’s safe for just a few of us. Everyone else is getting vaccinated. So, we can not. That’s not quite true any longer, though. Every year it all gets a little bit worse. So these little outbreaks keep happening. We’re getting under that threshold, and it’s pretty high threshold for some of them, a high threshold that requires a very large herd immunity. 92-94% for whooping cough (the “P” in the DTaP that you need to renew every few years, have you called your doctor yet?). Not really all that surprising that we heard so much about Pertussis last year when you think about that, is it?

I know this isn’t really a good post. It’s rambling. It’s all over the place. The thing is, I can’t really keep making these arguments. I certainly can’t keep making them on Facebook. It’s making me an asshole. I’m wanting to say horrible things that I shouldn’t say (some of them I guess I said here, sorry). That doesn’t really make me a happy camper. I need to let this all go and push it out there and take off the mantle of the idea that I can do shit all about the fact that some people have just… just decided differently than me. Than science. Than REASON.

Oooph. Breathe in. Breathe out. Gotta let it go.


You Have the Right

I got into it with someone on the intarwebs today. I posted a link to a $4 a day challenge. Here it is if you want to see it. It’s this thing where you attempt to eat on what the average SNAP recipient receives in benefits – USD$4 a day per family member.
It’s a fairly simple thing, and I thought it was interesting.

I posted a small update about that on Facebook. Pretty much immediately it got backlash. People love to talk about how anyone who is the recipient of Government funds is the lowest of the low and how they deserve nothing, let alone empathy.

It went back and forth. Everyone sort of turned on each other, and it got ugly in an occasionally civilized sort of manner.

Then there was wall fallout. The enigmatic updates that people make in outrage on their own wall after they’ve had it out with other people followed, as they do.

This one was special, and totally unremarkable in that it is something I have often heard directly or the echoes of:

I am getting tired of people saying I have no right to think as I do, to write what I write, or to say what I say. I have that right. It was given to me by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. You have the right to think that I am wrong, just as I have the right to think that you are wrong. But I still have the right to voice my thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions, as incorrect as anyone thinks they may be.

Not once in the entire exchange did anyone threaten this person with imprisonment. They did not get threatened with a fine. They were not threatened with any loss other than social status.

So, let’s get this straight. You have the right to be an asshole. You have the right to be disagreeable. You have the right to think that the world is flat, the Earth is the center of the Universe, and that sunshine and unicorns fly out of your flatulence. No one is going to imprison you for it.

People regularly stand on street corners with signs saying that the end is near and they are not arrested for it. At least once a year someone comes knocking on my door to ask me if I’ve heard about Jesus Christ (hint, I have). I say thank you, tell them to have a nice day and close the door. Never once have I had to call the police on them because their opinion differed from mine. It never even occurred to me to do so.

That’s what the First Amendment guarantees. It’s doing a pretty shitty job of being upheld lately, but I can quite honestly tell you that I am not the person fighting to get rid of it and remove you from your right to be an asshole. Nor do I know anyone that wants to.

You have the right to be an asshole. In the event that you should be an asshole, though, there are some consequences. First up is that I don’t have to agree with you. I don’t even have to be nice about it. If you say something absolutely ridiculous, misplaced and hateful like Rep. Todd Akin with his incredibly stupid quote about pregnancy not being able to happen with “real” rapes? I get to question your position as a representative of plain old reality. That is also my not so humble right. I also get to say that you’re misguided.

Reality is not an opinion survey. As Americans we seem to have become unstuck from reality, like Billy Pilgrim and his little problem with time. We pick and choose opinions and base our understandings on them. Opinions. Opinions, man. We go back and forth with opinions about race, science, socio-political understandings, and history like we’re choosing a drape to match our carpets. “Do you have anything in a nice just-world fallacy to match my religion? This poverty thing is really clashing hard with my bible.”

The problem isn’t that you don’t have a right to your opinions. You do. The problem is that you want your opinions to inform reality. When they don’t, you turn off the stream to that person and insulate yourself among the other true believers of your particular set of beliefs. You sit together in your Facebook cabals and rage over how “they” think you don’t have a right to your opinion. You vote with your opinions, and because of this, your opinions impact me. They impact people I love.

I wouldn’t take away your right to vote, nor would I say or think that you must vote as I vote. That First Amendment thing that you wanted to quote there? I believe in it.

I will, however, reserve the right to say you’re an asshole for it. I’ll usually not say that. I often won’t even think it. Mostly I will think that you’re misguided and cynical.You have a right to that, though.

Sometimes I won’t even think that. I’ll try to engage you in conversation and hope that we can come to some kind of consensus. That’s my hope. Like your cynicism, I have a right to it.