Tag Archives: gender equality

Who Cares

I had never unfriended anyone on Facebook for stating an opinion different from my own. Opinions provide the foundation of my country, and I’m a big fan of free expression in the marketplace of ideas. Until recently, the only folks I unfriended were using Facebook as a dating app, and I’m not interested in dating (happily married, thanks anyway). But around a month before the presidential election, I unfriended someone due to two words. His post stopped me in my tracks: “Who cares if women are being groped.”  He went on to state that other issues were more important. So he and I were gearing up to cast our votes in opposite directions. Although I truly believe his vote was a terrible mistake, that wasn’t my problem. My problem was the first two words: Who Cares.

I wish I understood. Does he not care if women (or men) are sexually assaulted? Does he not care if someone brags about sexually assaulting women, and then cheerfully (or obnoxiously) goes on to become the leader of the free world?  Does he not care about opinions that challenge his own convictions? I’d like to understand exactly what he doesn’t care about, and why. Most of all, I’d like to understand what it would take for him to care.

I’ve heard many people under many circumstances dismiss assaultive behavior with a Who Cares approach. “It happened so long ago.” ”We were only kids” (or teenagers or adults). “These things happen all the time.” “It only happened once” (or four or thirteen times). “It was just talk.” “It was just a text.” “It was just sex.” “It’s not a big deal.”

But actually, it is a big deal.

As I write this piece, the United States of America is anything but united.  In fact, we’re dangerously divided. I see neighbors, friends, families, communities turning against each other. I don’t know how the Un-United States will climb out of this mess, but perhaps my Facebook-ex-friend holds the key.  I don’t know whether care is enough to cement our country’s foundation. But I do know that as long as we don’t care if women are being groped, we don’t stand a chance.


Amy Kaufman Burk is an author and blogger. She has published two novels: Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school — Tightwire, which follows a fictional psychology intern through her first year of training. Both novels have a strong female protagonist, and include sexual assault and healing as a subplot. Amy blogs on a variety of subjects including gender equality, LGBTQ+ ally support, parenting and a Rolling Stones Concert. Click on the link below to visit Amy’s Author Page.


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Filed under gender equality, hate speech, resistance, sexual equality, Uncategorized

Raising Gender Equality

When my daughter was in second grade, the girls in her class became fascinated by the television show America’s Next Top Model (ANTM). Play-dates, sleepovers and birthday parties were scheduled around the show. Hallways were converted into faux runways, and party bags contained lipstick and eye-liner.

ANTM was created by Tyra Banks, a wildly successful supermodel who hosts a competition for aspiring models. When my daughter first told me about the show, I watched Top Model on my own, to check it out. I expected to hate it with 100% fervor, certain that every feminist fiber in my body would break out in hives. But as the episodes unfolded, my reaction was mixed.

Top Model contestants live together, in close quarters. As the competition progressed, personalities revealed themselves. Some stepped forward as fine people, but not all. A significant number reverted to school-yard bullying, shamelessly ganging up on each other. Some dropped homophobic and transphobic remarks. Several tossed out snarky comments about their competitors’ weight and appearance.

But Tyra Banks took me by surprise. She defended interesting, off-the-beaten-path features, including larger sized models. She encouraged viewers to broaden their definitions of beauty. She treated all racial heritages as equally attractive. She was outspoken, supporting the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Tyra Banks was articulate, lightning-intelligent, and a stunningly effective teacher when she coached her contestants in technique.

Although I respected Tyra Banks’ talent, I found many values of the modeling industry outright harmful. I have three children – two sons, and one daughter. As a mother of both male and female kids, I’ve experienced the cultural values regarding gender that continuously smack my kids in the face. It begins on Day One. When my boys were infants, strangers looked at my slumbering, 8-pound puppies, and pronounced them “strong and smart”; with my daughter, strangers called her “pretty”. Gender stereotypes are alive and well.

My husband and I talked through our choices, figuring out how to handle our ANTM dilemma.

Option #1: Our daughter could watch the show, with no guidance — which was the choice of many other parents, and which we rejected immediately.

Option #2: We could outlaw the show — but with the other girls entranced, we felt our daughter would become drawn to Top Model like forbidden fruit, sneaking behind our backs, and unable to turn to us for help with the values because she would have to blow her cover.

We decided on Option #3: Our daughter could watch ANTM, but one of us had to watch with her. As overt or covert messages emerged, we’d be there to offer alternative perspectives.

A few friends thought we were making a huge mistake, arguing that seven-years-old was too young, too impressionable. I agreed with the too-young-too-impressionable part, but not with the huge mistake part. Gender stereotypes crop up all over our culture. That’s the reality. Would I have preferred that my daughter didn’t encounter these values until much later (or not at all)? Of course. But that piece was out of my control. Her classroom was filled with ANTM acolytes, and we had to deal with it.

So we watched the show, as a family, with a running commentary. My sons and daughter learned to identify comments that reflected assumptions about females, about physical appearance, about bigotry. We talked about the pressure to be thin, a value already emerging in some second grade girls who worried about being “fat”. We discussed our culture’s hyper-emphasis on beauty. We also gave kudos to Tyra for her progressive approach to defining attractiveness, for her support of racial equality and LGBTQ+ rights, and for her “mad skills” (sic my oldest son) as a teacher.

Around her tenth birthday, my daughter lost interest in Top Model. But something had taken root in the course of watching that show: my daughter and her two older brothers — ages 10, 12 and 15 — all began calling themselves “feminists”. And they still do.


Amy Kaufman Burk is a novelist, blogger and mother of three grown children. Amy wrote her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. Her second novel, Tightwire, follows a rookie psychology intern through her first year of training. Amy blogs on a variety of subjects including parenting, LGBTQ+ ally support, gender equality and a Rolling Stones concert. Amy also collaborates with educators who include her books in their curriculum. 

Amy Kaufman Burk’s books are available on Amazon.

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Filed under gender equality, parenting, Uncategorized