About Kari Lucin

Kari Lucin is a staff writer for the Jamestown Sun of Jamestown, N.D., a regional news site at jamestownsun.com, where she writes, dabbles joyfully in multimedia, and updates social media content.

If purple becomes Minnesota’s state color, what should North Dakota’s be?

Enger Tower in Duluth was washed with purple light in remembrance of the rock star Prince who died Thursday, April 21, at the age of 57 at his Chanhassen home. Clint Austin / Forum News Service

Enger Tower in Duluth was washed with purple light in remembrance of the rock star Prince who died Thursday, April 21, at the age of 57 at his Chanhassen home. Clint Austin / Forum News Service

Minnesota lawmakers are considering honoring Prince by making the state color purple, which today prompted a colleague to ask what North Dakota’s state color should be.

My first instinct was to say it should be blue, even though North Dakota has states on either side that seem to be more into blue–Minnesota itself (the 10,000 lakes) and Montana (Big Sky). But we do still have a lot of sky here and more than a few lakes and marshes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown#/media/File:Color_icon_brown_v2.svg

Browns

Then I thought about what North Dakota is known for–farming, agriculture and soils. Maybe we could dig up some very typical North Dakota soil and use that as a color? There are some very lovely, rich brown colors out there.

Of course, there’s always green, but North Dakota isn’t particularly green, especially not compared to southwest Minnesota, where my parents live.

A lot of North Dakota’s crops are gold anyway.

Perhaps that’s the answer–North Dakota’s state color could be gold, the color of its small grain crop. It’s a warm color that denotes richness, but also ties into our agriculture nicely. Since North Dakota turns into a beautiful golden mosaic every fall, I think gold might be the best option for us.

What do you think?

Fat girls can’t have pockets; or, why women REALLY shop so much

As many of you likely already know, I started swimming again, made changes to my diet and got a personal trainer, all of which has resulted in the loss of quite a bit of fat, several dress sizes, quite a bit of girth and a tiny bit (not much) of weight.

So every month or two, I have to go and buy new pants, which I did again last night. No big deal, except that this time, I was hoping very much to drop from the “plus-size” section to the “normal” section.

PantsFor those of you who are men, prepare to have your minds blown with a graphic description of how women’s clothing actually, really, truly works, and no, you are probably not going to believe this.

And let me say as a caveat, this is a store that I like, a store that even has plus-sized clothes. This isn’t a store that hates fat women more than other places, and in fact, it’s actually quite a lot nicer for us in this particular store than most stores.

Other stores are much, much worse.

Men’s clothes are in one section of the store, and children’s clothing is in a separate section, which is simple enough. The thing you need to realize is that in a typical department store, women’s clothes are divided up into four or five separate sections. Completely separate. Like, on opposite ends of the store from each other, with shoes or housewares in between.

These sections are:

Petites: This is where short women go to shop. It’s not the largest section, but the clothes there are stylish and colorful.

Juniors: This is where young women go to shop. This is the trendiest section, where clothes are very colorful, tend to be a little more revealing and they are also a little smaller in size (but not length).

The nameless section: This is where average-sized and below-average-sized women shop. Average, remember, is a size 14 in America. This size does not correspond to a measurement of any kind; it’s an arbitrary number, and sizes in this section go up to either 16 or 18–either one or two sizes above average. In other words, a substantial number of women cannot shop in this section.

Women’s: This is where it’s easy to get fooled, because Women’s is not for all women like the men’s section is for all men. It’s for plus-sized women, and the clothes here usually start at 16-18 and then range up. This is a small section, and mostly contains clothing that is either meant for older women or clothes in sedate hues that blend in with the background. When I’m angry I call it the “whale” section, because the only pants you will find there are whale-colored–grey, black, brownish, drab–and because they seem to want to segregate people of all sizes above average in a different part of the store, away from others.

The point is, before women can even shop at all they have to figure out what section to goPants to, and for those of us in the 16-22 range it’s going to be a little tricky and may require bouncing around the store either cheerfully (because we’re smaller than we thought) or gloomily (because we’re bigger).

It’s even more complicated because the size numbers don’t mean anything, so at some stores you can fit into an 8 and at others you will need a 12. This is to be expected, but what isn’t, necessarily, is that even within a brand the sizes vary significantly, and in fact, even the identical pair of pants in two different colors can be two different sizes.

Every garment must be tried on.

Now, what I learned yesterday is that the women’s section, which I’ve been shopping in since college, because I am fat, has its own sizing system. While you might think that a size 18W in a given brand would be the same as a size 18 in the exact same brand, you would actually be completely, totally wrong. I’m sure there’s a reason for it, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, because the women’s section at this particular store goes all the way down to a size 14, which is well into the “nameless” section’s range.

So I dropped from a size 18W to a size 18, which was somehow very unsatisfying, even though it really is a meaningless number.

But I also learned something else. Within the “nameless” section, there were three different styles of pants: Modern, Skinny Style, and Curvy.

I did not try on any Skinny Style jeans, but I did give the size 18 Modern pants a shot. They were too small, even though the size 18W pants in the same brand and style are now barely clinging to my hips and dragging several inches on the floor. The Curvy pants fit a lot better, and I grabbed a pair of them. Then I looked for another pair, but they only had one pair in my size. Black.

I’m certain the store doesn’t mean anything negative by labeling them “Curvy,” but I couldn’t help feeling just a little bit bitter, so I texted a friend: Heaven forbid fat women should forget that they’re fat for 3 whole seconds! They might start thinking they’re people or something!

That’s when I realized that, unlike the Modern pants, the Curvy pants didn’t have pockets.

They won’t even let us have pockets, I thought.

I paid for my pants and escaped, hoping for and yet still dreading the next trip, when I’ll probably drop to a size 16. Or a size 14W, or hey, I know, maybe I’ll just give up and wear Jedi robes to work from now on.

These are not the pants you were looking for. Move along.

Daredevil’s Season 2 isn’t as good as Season 1. It’s better.

I hesitated a little bit when the second season of Daredevil was released on Friday, thinking it had to be worse than the first season. Some of the people involved behind the scenes have changed, after all, and there was no possible way they could continue zigging when every other show around them zagged, was there?

I’m going to put all my Season 2 spoilers in white print so you can highlight and read them,568ed60d3f633 but here are just a few things I loved about Season 2, many of which are a continuation of Season 1:

  • Foggy and Matt’s friendship is presented as being critical for both of them. In the first season, Matt was given a scene few if any men on TV are allowed: he cries, not because of physical pain or because of the death of some woman he’s close to, but
    because he’s afraid he’s losing Foggy’s friendship. He cries for himself, and it showed how high the stakes are and that Matt has an inner life.
  • Women are never presented as being mere adjuncts to men. Elektra turns up in season 2, but she has her own agenda, her own life and her own past. Karen continues with her streak of dogged independence and determination to pick at the truth until it shows itself fully. Even the antagonistic lawyer has her own fish to fry.
  • Women look like real women. Yes, they’re all thin and conventionally pretty, because it’s television, but they don’t all look like models. Look at Karen’s skin sometime–you can see flaws in it, because she hasn’t been airbrushed and photoshopped half to death.
  • The show returns to a single theme over and over again: that even if two people truly, truly love each other and have the best intentions, they can still be completely wrong for each other and hurt each other very, very badly. This isn’t just romantic love, either: people frequently deal devastating emotional blows to others they love (romantically, platonically or familially) during season 2. There are toxic relationships here that just can’t work no matter how both people try.
  • The heroism of little people is highlighted again and again. Matt may wear the Daredevil suit, but Foggy, Karen and others around him accomplish incredible feats of heroism with no superpowers and wearing ordinary clothes.
  • 56cba8ab98a28Gun violence isn’t glamorized. This show is incredibly violent, and while Matt’s fighting style is that of a dancer, the Punisher, and some of the bad guys, use guns. And it’s ugly. It’s bloody, it’s brutal, it’s very uncomfortable to watch. And it should be.
  • The Punisher is fantastic. This is a comic book character whose backstory is the most incredibly cliched one imaginable: Bad guys killed his wife and family and now he’s out for revenge. The Dead Wife trope needs a fork stuck in it very badly (seriously, guys, it’s done), but this show did the best possible job of working with the established story that it could have. Frank’s quest for revenge hasn’t made him happy or given him peace. Instead, he’s horribly broken and, for a significant part of the show he seems to be dead inside. It is very clear his vengeance isn’t helping him. And the actor is amazing, investing the character with an odd backwards charisma; he’s utterly charmless but the horror of his experiences has left him something other than an ordinary human.
  • Elektra was also great. She had a lot of presence, and the show allowed her to 56cdea4e6e74aavoid being a simple sex object. And I’m so glad they didn’t give her that ridiculous loincloth outfit, I mean come on, really?
  • Matt makes a lot of terrible decisions in this season that end up hurting him, and every single one is a natural one, coming from a well-established character trait. All of the characters make mistakes and those mistakes seem to be natural consequences of who they are, not imposed by an external plot requirement.
  • The show’s use of religion continues to be excellent. The themes are there, and touched on frequently, with reference to Matt’s Catholicism and another appearance by his priest. This is one of the more accurate portrayals of a pastor I’ve seen, by the way–not hollow-worded piety, but practical advice and a devastating moral discernment.
  • People have lauded the way Jessica Jones used the color purple to thematically underscore the presence of the Purple Man. Pay attention to the way Daredevil uses red.

Reel Bad: Movies for the Strong of Stomach

Vikingdom-BadWigs2-1024x607Some movies are good. The best of them become legends, cult favorites or classics, and they have enough fans that people still talk about them decades later: “The Godfather,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “The Princess Bride,” “Casablanca.”

Some movies are terrible. The worst of these also become legends, cult favorites or classics, and if you don’t think this is true, you should probably look up “The Room,” “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” or “Reefer Madness.”

They’re not just bad. They’re Reel Bad.

I’ve started a new blog here on AreaVoices, exclusively for the purpose of reviewing and picking apart bad movies.

Take a look!

A Real Newsman Reaches –30–

I didn’t want to be a reporter, though I do love the work. I came to the newspaper business largely by accident, during college. At the time, I wrote mostly fiction, and although I found creative nonfiction interesting, I never did take a single journalism class. It’s left me with a somewhat unusual writing style (I like a lot of quotes) and a different perspective than most J-school graduates have.

A lot of people drop out of reporting and it’s very common for reporters to hear “I used to be a reporter” or “I wrote for a paper once” from a source. But then you have the “lifers,” the people who seem to be born with ink in their veins. When they bleed, they bleed CMYK.

rayI may or may not be a “lifer,” but Ray Crippen, former editor of the Daily Globe in Worthington, was just such a reporter. His first job was as a paperboy, and to give you a glimpse of how long he was involved with newspapers, that was during World War II. And he had a real reporting education at the University of Minnesota, where he majored in journalism and political science and worked at the Minnesota Daily. During the Korean War he wrote for the Stars and Stripes.

Stateside again, he started working at the Daily Globe in 1954. He worked in multiple departments, which you don’t see too often anymore in newspapers–advertising, circulation, composition and then yes, the newsroom. He eventually became city editor and managing editor. (I paraphrased the last two paragraphs from this fantastic biography written by Globe staffer Beth Rickers, but you should absolutely read it in its entirety.)

He left the Globe in 1989, and started writing books on local history. But like most true-blue newsers he didn’t stay away for long. (Does the ink seep into our hearts?) He started writing a column focusing on local history in the late 1990s and kept going until about two months ago.

While I never worked directly with Ray Crippen during my 6 years working at the Globe, I did meet him from time to time. He was always unfailingly kind, soft-spoken, and so, so much fun to talk to.

He knew me from Reprint, a feature I was responsible for that involved digging up and reprinting stories from the Daily Globe’s archives. Reprint exists mostly as a blog, but sometimes found its way into print as well, and Ray’s interest in history meant that he always had something fascinating to say about its content. Sometimes he’d written it.

Ray Crippen died Dec. 27. Worthington has lost a piece of its history, not just in Ray himself but in his encyclopedic knowledge of the city’s past. He truly was a local legend, as this letter to the editor says.

You can still find his work online. The most recent work, his columns, can be read here. They are conversational, warm and witty, much like the person who wrote them. A bit of his older work can still be found on Reprint, here.

It’s an infinitesimally tiny splinter of the vast forest of his work.

For those of us who live on deadlines, headlines and bylines, I’ll end this piece with an old reporting tradition, in honor of Ray Crippen, whose story drew to a conclusion in December:

 

–30–

Freedom of Speech vs. Hate Speech: Usama Dakdok in Grand Forks

Freedom of speech is a highly-valued tenet of American law and custom, but when hate speech pops up like an ugly weed, parting the thicket of thorny issues can be painful: Free speech, hate speech, censorship, private vs. public, sunshine laws and religious bigotry among others.

Usama Dakdok spoke in front of a crowd of about 125 people on Tuesday night at the National Guard Armory building in Bemidji.

Usama Dakdok spoke in front of a crowd of about 125 people on Tuesday night at the National Guard Armory building in Bemidji.

Anti-Islam speaker Usama Dakdok came to Grand Forks twice. Generally speaking, Dakdok believes that “Islam is a barbaric, savage cult,” that President Obama is a Muslim and that Democrats are dumb. The first time Dakdok spoke in Grand Forks, he was met with picket-signs and protests and the second time with a counter-event taking place elsewhere at the same time.

Unfortunately, Dakdok’s second visit also prompted a city council member to call a meeting to talk about “efforts to clearly express that this is an inclusive and welcoming community” — a meeting that the press was originally explicitly not invited to attend. Fortunately for everyone except the lawyers of the parties involved, the press was allowed in to the meeting after all, so we got to hear the solutions proposed to the hate speech problem.

Many people have expressed their opinions on this issue. My opinions expressed here are mine, not those of the Herald, whose editorial on the subject can be found here, and not those of the city council member calling the (initially) no-press meeting, which can be found here.

Short version: I don’t agree with anybody.0904DakDokWb

0. I don’t agree with Dakdok.

1. The city council member, who writes “This was not about free speech.” The press was specifically uninvited because he wanted people at the meeting to speak freely, and while this is understandable its legality is extremely questionable under North Dakota’s highly stringent sunshine laws. But there is a question, and that means it is about free speech.

2. The Herald’s editorial, which states that “there’s not a darn thing Grand Forks should do about it.” I don’t agree with that at all. I think the best remedy for bad speech, including Usama Dakdok’s, is good speech. I would support another counter-event planned at the same time as Dakdok’s. I would support one comparing his “translations” of the Koran to real ones, or an event comparing the Koran to the Bible, the Torah and the Upanishads, or any relevant texts. I would support local churches pointing out that Dakdok does not reflect their own Christian faith, or that his work is doctrinally unsound.

3. The city council member, who suggested throwing a block party near any future speech of Dakdok’s, in order to make it impossible to park for Dakdok’s speech. To me, that would be inhibiting the speech of others.

4. Letters claiming that Dakdok’s speech isn’t hate speech. It really is. Calling Christianity a “barbaric, savage cult” is hateful; calling Islam one isn’t magically different because the target has changed. That doesn’t mean saying either of those two things is illegal, though. The government can’t prevent him from saying that, and it shouldn’t even try. Of course, he isn’t allowed to go onto private property, such as homes or businesses, and say it there, if the property owner decides otherwise.

5. Letters claiming someone is being censored if Dakdok isn’t hosted by the Empire anymore. The Empire cannot be forced to provide a venue to anyone who asks, and people cannot be forced to attend Dakdok’s presentation, either. Here’s a pretty good webcomic explaining this. Criticism of Dakdok is not censorship of Dakdok; he is allowed to say what he likes, but he is still responsible for what he says and he is not immune from consequences.

6. Letters claiming there were no consequences for Dakdok’s speech because there were no riots, deaths or property destruction afterward. Most likely people, especially white people born in America, did not see any consequences of Dakdok’s speech because none of them were directed at them. It doesn’t follow that there weren’t any. I didn’t see many negative effects from bigotry against Native Americans or Hispanic people either, because I’m white, so negative effects aren’t going to be directed toward me. Were there more people using slurs against Somalians after Dakdok left? Were there more people who will tell others what they heard, who will be violent or destroy property in their own communities? Were there more people who will try to shut the gates to desperate refugees afterward? All these are consequences. Whether they occur, and whether they are bad enough to worry about if they do occur, are valid questions, but claiming there were no consequences seems shortsighted to me.

7. I would not support deliberately holding an event in a nearby location to Dakdok’s in order to make it hard to find parking for Dakdok’s event. That falls under the category of attempting to squelch him, which I do not support. That’s inhibiting speech, not creating more speech to counter bad speech.

8. I would support the city politely asking the Empire not to host him–with the proviso that the city should not attempt to impose any penalties if the Empire hosts him anyway. The city is perfectly within its rights to ask; the Empire is perfectly within its rights to decline if it desires. Asking the Empire to decline hosting him doesn’t impinge on Dakdok’s free speech; he will just find a different venue, and there are many here in Grand Forks to choose from. Places like the Empire are not obliged to provide a venue to anyone who wants one.

Posted in Uncategorized

North Dakota School’s Dress Code Is Rotten for So Many Reasons

A controversial change in the dress code at Dickinson High School, N.D., has sparked heated debate and outrage from students, parents and the public.

Parents of students, along with unrelated adults, wrote hundreds of comments arguing for and against an updated DHS policy concerning the wearing of leggings and yoga pants, both popular articles of clothing for girls and women.

According to the article, the school is claiming the dress code is intended to “help students feel comfortable in school.” But of course, what students have actually heard from adults is that those clothes are “distracting to the guys.”

Let’s take a look at what all this actually means, and why policies against leggings and yoga pants are such a bad idea.

  1. The fact that yoga pants and leggings aren’t allowed is itself a demonstration that the policy is very clearly not about student comfort at all, as leggings are in fact extremely comfortable for the wearer. So if the policy is about comfort, it’s certainly not about the comfort of the girls wearing the pants, but perhaps the comfort of those not wearing them. Right there you’re privileging some students’ “comfort” over that of other students.
  2. The policy is sexist, although probably not on purpose. Technically, the policy is likely gender-neutral, but in actuality, it disproportionately affects girls. Most people who wear yoga pants and leggings are female. Let’s look at another example: What if the school decided to limit bathroom breaks to 5 minutes for all students? This would technically be gender-neutral, but would disproportionately affect girls, who typically have to take a little bit longer for various biological reasons. Yes, some boys would also be hurt by this, and yes, the policy is technically gender neutral–but it would still be incredibly biased against girls. Another example a little closer to the situation might be banning hair ties for all students–sure, it would hit a few long-haired boys, but the vast majority of those affected would be girls, even though it is technically gender-neutral.
  3. It denigrates boys. Yes, you read that right. Boys aren’t rape monsters who will go berserk and start hurting women if they see a girl wearing tight pants. Boys are people. Yes, even hormone-crazed teen boys. Truly. Teen boys do great things all over the country every day! They win competitions, they work hard to excel in school, they hold down jobs, they help out at home. Boys aren’t bad people, and most of them have self-control that is just fine, thank you. Boys aren’t going to start fainting in the aisles at the sight of tight pants, and if they do do something untoward, or if they make inappropriate remarks about it, that’s what we call a teaching moment. That’s when the teacher has to show them why it’s wrong to do that. But seriously, most boys aren’t that fragile. They’ll be fine.
  4. It’s unrealistic. Boys are going to see women in tight pants everywhere else, because leggings and yoga pants are commonly worn in public virtually everywhere by adult women as well as girls. You are not going to stop women from wearing yoga pants in public. Maybe you should be teaching boys that this is okay and normal (because it is) and that they need to learn to deal with this. Although the vast majority of boys won’t need to be taught this because they already know it.
  5. Most people can’t even distinguish between yoga pants and normal pants. Yep, true fact. Yoga pants, like all other pants, come in varying levels of tightness. Many sets of yoga pants cannot be distinguished from ordinary pants by someone who is not wearing them. The policy may not actually specify yoga pants or leggings, to be totally fair–it might just say “tight pants.” In which case this argument isn’t really relevant.
  6. It denigrates girls, by teaching girls that their bodies are inherently sexual. Sometimes a butt is just a butt, folks. It’s not inherently sexual; we need it to sit on and eliminate waste and connect our torsos to our legs.
  7. Past generations have worn leggings and it was somehow not that distracting anyway. In fact, we were fine. That was the 80s and the 90s, when stirrup pants reigned and were later overthrown by leggings. We all wore leggings, guys. It was normal. Boys didn’t have seizures or start frothing in the aisles. They didn’t even notice, because it was normal and everyone wore them. And a few years later, they still didn’t collapse when we showed them our bra straps every day because spaghetti straps were in style. If they noticed or cared, they were polite enough to not mention it.
  8. It doesn’t make any sense paired with other school policies. According to its website, Dickinson High School has gymnastics and swimming, both of which tend to utilize tight or scanty clothing. Do students swim in bathrobes? Do the gymnasts wear loose jeans and blouses with jackets? Before you say “You need scanty clothing for those sports!” let me remind you that no, you actually don’t.

Dump the policy, folks. It’s not a good one.

Anger over Cecil the lion isn’t about Cecil the lion

People have already begun to question the anger over the killing of Cecil, a lion that lived quite happily in a Zimbabwe national park until Walter J. Palmer, a Minnesota dentist originally from North Dakota shot Cecil on a hunting trip.

Walter Palmer, left, a dentist in Bloomington, Minn., is pictured with a dead lion in 2008. (Photo Submitted by Trophy Hunt America)

Walter Palmer, left, a dentist in Bloomington, Minn., is pictured with a dead lion in 2008. (Photo Submitted by Trophy Hunt America)

Why do people care so much about a lion?

The answer is simple: mostly, they don’t. It’s not about lion. It’s never really been about the lion.

Instead, Cecil’s death was the result of a number of converging factors, and I would argue that these are issues that people should care about and discuss.

Conservation

A number of people were horrified to find out that lions are still hunted at all, given how few of them are left, and have taken a position against all lion hunting. Some have extended this to big game hunting in general. (I personally would have to study this issue a lot more before I would assent to that.)

However, the question is worth asking: What is the place of big game hunting in the modern world, particularly for endangered species?

Imperialism

A number of people are uneasy that an apparently wealthy, white American paid an enormous sum, significantly more than many people’s annual income, to visit a foreign country and shoot an animal beloved there.

Zimbabwe seems to need the income these foreign tourist-hunters provide, but in the long run is that what’s best for Zimbabwe? And merely asking that question is incredibly presumptuous as well, because Americans should not get to decide how Zimbabwe manages its wildlife, its money or its tourists.

Yet it can certainly be argued that this specific type of tourism is preying on a nation suffering endemic poverty.

However, the question is worth asking: What is the place of American tourists and foreign hunting tourism in Zimbabwe and other disadvantaged countries?

Hunting ethics

Quite a few people, including Gov. Dayton of Minnesota, have pointed out that the alleged behavior of the hunting party in question wasn’t very sporting. And indeed there are quite a few details of this particular hunt that seem to have not been in keeping with good hunting practices:

  • Deliberately luring an animal out of a park where it was protected. This is legal in Zimbabwe, but that does not mean it is ethical.
  • Shooting an animal wearing a scientific research collar. We don’t know how visible the collar was.
  • Illegally hunting. There was no quota for a lion on that land, meaning it was an illegal hunt under Zimbabwe law.
  • Wounding an animal and then waiting 40 hours to kill it. Perhaps it took that long to find the lion; I haven’t seen information on that.

However, the question is worth asking: What constitutes ethical hunting behavior, and is it appropriate to bait animals to get them off protected grounds?

Online threats

The dentist who shot Cecil has been violently threatened and his business was flooded with negative reviews after word got out about the hunt. How seriously should we take online threats, and what can be done to protect people under extreme forms of attack?

Laws abroad

Traveling hunters usually rely on local hunters to know rules and regulations, according to a recent Reuters story. It is not yet clear in this case who is responsible for breaking the rules. How can travelers ensure they properly follow local laws and avoid situations like these?

No bleeding heart required

Discussion of all these issues isn’t a waste of time. It’s not based on feeling pity for the poor lion that got suckered into becoming a trophy, or anger at hunting in general.

Instead, Cecil’s death has served as a touchstone of sorts for these issues, an event we can use to discuss and measure the values of various positions we take.

For example, we can weigh the ethical merits of spotlighting deer and baiting bears with reference to the way the hunting party in Cecil’s case used a carcass to draw him straight to the guns. Are these practices right? Whether legal or not, are they ethical? Where do we draw the line?

You don’t have to care about lions, or Cecil, to care about these issues. Good hunters already care. Responsible travelers already care.

It was never about the lion.

Boobs, boobs, boobs: Stop policing breastfeeding moms!

Breasts are for feeding babies.

For some reason, people sometimes need to be reminded of this; for example, a woman in Moorhead was asked to cover up when she began breastfeeding her 11-month-old baby at a public pool. It turned out okay, but it’s still a symptom of a weird cultural problem we have.

Breasts aren’t inherently sexual, and when you look at it, everyone already knows it. That’s why men are socially and legally allowed to be seen in public topless. Yes, those are also breasts, and no, it’s not size-dependent, either, because men with large breasts are allowed to go out topless and women with small ones are not. So it’s entirely dependent on gender, not size.

That’s creepy. Women’s bodies aren’t more sexual than men’s bodies.

And America is fairly odd in its sexualization of breasts. Historically they haven’t always been considered sexual; in many cultures women routinely go topless and topless/nude beaches can be found all over the place in the modern world. It’s a weird social quirk that Americans have that the rest of the world does not necessarily share; I remember being slightly surprised once when a woman changed her shirt in the public part of a Helsinki airport bathroom. No one else noticed or cared.

Breasts are for feeding babies. Nothing wrong with finding them sexy, of course; some people dig eyes, some people dig feet and probably there are people out there who dig noses.

But sexualizing breasts at all times and in all places isn’t good. One, it’s deeply creepy to sexualize women’s breasts, but not men’s, at all times and in all places. Two, it hurts breastfeeding moms. And three, it hurts their infants, too.

Incidents like these are why a breastfeeding mom I know had to cram herself into a restroom at Target with a baby, a baby-carrier and a diaper bag to try to feed the hungry baby amid nasty smells and constant flushing noises.

The science all points to breast milk being the best for babies. Plus, using formula will get you endless amounts of shame for being a bad mom from those Tina Fey called the “teat nazis.” And you can’t just hide in your home for a year or more and wait for your baby to be weaned, because babies need diapers and clothes and powder and lotion and shampoo and ointment and bottles and lots and lots of washcloths and all these things need to be bought and retrieved.

Would anyone seriously advocate putting moms under effective house arrest, anyway? They’re people, not cattle.

As Jurassic World showed, you don’t raise a dinosaur alone in captivity; do we want half-crazed isolated moms rampaging through town ripping down fences, attacking animals and picking fights with T-rexes?

All joking aside, half the population sees breasts any time they look in the mirror anyway. It shouldn’t be a big deal for them or the other half of the population to see a female breast in public occasionally, any more than it is to see a male breast.

And it should especially not be a big deal to see a breast used for its major purpose, which is feeding a baby.

Confederate Flags in Minnesota: WHAT WERE THEY THINKING.

Even if you somehow still believe the Confederate battle flag doesn’t symbolize racism and white supremacy (sorry, but to many, many people it does) and even if you think it should be legal for private individuals to fly on their own property as a form of free speech, there’s still absolutely no way anyone in the state of Minnesota should be flying that flag.

Depicts the First Minnesota. http://www.mnopedia.org/multimedia/battle-gettysburg-oil-painting-rufus-zogbaum

Depicts the First Minnesota. http://www.mnopedia.org/multimedia/battle-gettysburg-oil-painting-rufus-zogbaum

It is unquestionably profoundly cruel to black people and other minorities to fly that flag, but it’s also incredibly, incredibly disrespectful to Minnesota and its veterans.

You don’t have to be keen on Minnesota history to know that Minnesota was the first state to offer troops to President Lincoln to fight with the Union in the Civil War. All you have to do is graduate from sixth grade in Minnesota, since this is a fact taught in the standard Minnesota history class that year, along with information about the voyageurs, the wild rice trade, logging, and Pig’s Eye. (That’s the former name of St. Paul. No, seriously.)

The first group, the appropriately named First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, among many others, fought in the Battle of Gettysburg.

What they don’t tell 12-year-olds is that on the second day of the battle of Gettysburg, the First Minnesota held the line against the Confederates, despite having the highest casualty rate in the entire Union army– 83%. They charged into a situation where they were outnumbered four-to-one.

They went anyway, and most of them died fighting against everything the Confederate battle flag stands for.

First Minnesota is legendary for its heroism at Gettysburg.

Minnesota helped elect Lincoln. Minnesota, barely even a state at the time, sent 11 infantry regiments, 2 companies of sharpshooters, units of artillery and cavalry and sailors too, plus the men who served in the African American units.

More than 2,500 Minnesotans died in that war, fighting against the Confederates. Flying the Confederate flag in this state is disgusting, and not only is it a declaration of hostility to minorities, it’s a slap in the face to the First Volunteer Volunteer Infantry Regiment and to the entire state of Minnesota and all its heritage.