Reasons to Support Belle Knox (Even if You Don’t Agree With Her)

For weeks, the media has been in an uproar over Belle Knox, the freshman at Duke University who works as a porn star to pay for tuition.

Well, maybe uproar is the wrong word. The media has been downright civil compared to the mudslinging from everyone else—people who have done everything from revealing her real name to threatening to throw garbage on her.

You don’t have to agree with Knox’s choices to side with her, though. We all have our demons, and Knox must bear the consequences of her actions like anyone else. Regardless of how others feel about her decision to work in porn, Knox’s approach to the scandal is still admirable for many reasons:

  • She exposed Duke’s rape culture, a phenomenon in which privileged students think they can get anything they want—including nonconsensual sex. Rape pervades college campuses around the country, so kudos to Knox for discussing how victims, particularly women, are subject to scrutiny and objectification from those who are in no position to judge.
  • She stood up for herself, and shows no signs of stopping. Knox wrote a response to the Duke Chronicle’s first article about her, interviewed with the Huffington Post (among others—she has an upcoming media tour as well), and has already posted multiple articles for xoJane. You have to respect Knox’s determination to stand by her beliefs—and she articulates them well for a college freshman.
  • She’s starting a conversation. Knox raises questions about how our culture should approach sexuality, and has brought further attention to the rising cost of college education. If a student feels driven to work in porn because she can’t afford tuition, what does the choice say about the value of a college degree?

Knox claims to feel empowered working as a porn star, but those feelings don’t apply to everyone in the industry. Too often, sex is used as a pawn to assign or remove power; consider the porn stars who feel powerless at work, or the plight of sex slaves who never had the freedom to choose and suffer constant degradation. People who judge Knox for her choices use their own sexual morality as a way to establish power over her—no different than people in these adult industries who corrupt human sexuality for personal gains.

Marginalizing people does not change their actions, though; it just reinforces Knox’s view that entitlement places stigmas on outsiders, even though everyone is broken in some way. It reduces righteousness to cruelty.

So let’s treat Knox like this: instead of writing murder and rape threats from behind the safety of our computer screens, let’s see her as a real person—a person with dignity who makes choices and has to live with them like the rest of us.

Do you feel like Knox has been treated unfairly? Leave us a comment.

-Amanda

Amanda Suazo, editor, joined BSB in 2010 as the writing guru for the organization’s website, official documents, and documentary before focusing a bit on philanthropy. Now a graduate of Gonzaga University, she is currently an MBA student and freelance writer. Between Zumba classes and downing espresso, you might catch her attempting to be a vegetarian. Find her on Twitter.

5 Reasons Why Supporting Local Arts is Awesome

graffiti1. A vibrant art scene makes for a vibrant city.

Be honest: how many times have you complained to your friends that there was nothing to do where you live? Next time try attending a local concert or visiting a neighborhood art gallery. You’d be surprised how much fun you can have (usually for free)!

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Painting a butterfly2. You may find yourself a new interest or hobby.

Maybe a trip to the local repertory theater encourages you to try your hand at playwriting. Maybe attending an art show inspires you to take a painting class. Maybe you find that the arts are definitely not your thing and go on to discover that you’re an Einstein-level math genius. You never know.

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NHarts3. It’s a great way to get to know your community.

While you’re familiarizing yourself with the up-and-coming local artists, don’t be surprised if you also meet a ton of new people along the way. Getting more involved in your community inevitably leads to making friends with your fellow city dwellers and learning more about local organizations.

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promisekids4. The arts give back.

Studies have shown the potential benefits of an arts education, especially for at-risk youth.  Students with arts involvement tended to have better academic outcomes and higher career goals. Many nonprofit organizations capitalize on this potential by introducing and encouraging the presence of art in schools.

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NHarts5. It’s a chance to relish in the diversity of your own backyard.

I love dropping by New Haven’s annual International Festival of Arts & Ideas. There is always a performance to watch, from classical quartets to modern dance troupes. Better yet, there is never a shortage of people to talk to. Festivals like this attract crowds from all walks of life and provide a golden opportunity to interact with people of different backgrounds and cultures.

-Serena

Serena Yin graduated with a degree in English from Johns Hopkins University in 2013. She is joining the Washington Reading Corps to promote literacy in local schools. A New England native, she loves ballet, beaches, and hamburgers. When she’s not on the hunt for the nearest Starbucks, she’s working on realizing her lifelong dream of meeting J.K. Rowling.

How to Organize a Global Protest

The pace of change is picking up.

Last week I wrote about the power of youth and social media in shaping protest and instigating change. It seems today as though the move to protest is gathering steam. In Brazil, Chile, and Bulgaria, long-running protests have continued (and in some instances escalated); and in Egypt these past weeks, mass protests eventually led to a military imposition and the removal of Mohamed Morsi from power.

In all cases, different events and different grievances led to the protests. The Brazilian demonstrations began as a protest against increased bus fares, in Bulgaria it was government corruption, and in Chile demands for improved education. What they all have in common is that the protests expand and become general calls to action, a grocery list of changes and demands for a better world.

Trouble is, nobody quite knows how to satiate those generalized demands. Occupy Wall Street died with a whimper at some point in the last year (do you remember exactly when?) because an undefined call for change was never followed up with an actual procedure for it. And in 2011, protestors in Egypt began the Arab Spring and called for the removal of Hosni Mubarak from power—two years later, an eerie scene of déjà-vu plays out on the streets of Cairo.

Protest

It’s easier than ever to organize mass rallies. I mean, the protests in Chile are being largely coordinated by teenagers! Thank Facebook and more than that, Twitter, the great faceless equalizer. We can be anybody we want to be in 140 characters or less. Wanna motivate the masses? Pick a hashtag, any hashtag. And simultaneously a wave of discontentment seems to be sweeping the world. We were promised great things but they have yet to arrive. Mid-twenties crises are tough.

This isn’t me condemning or praising these ongoing global protests—just musing on a continuing theme. What I do know, though, is that change is the one constant we can all cling to. And given the choice, I’ll take the better half of change: the positive one.

-David

David Wilson graduated from the University of Texas in 2006. Since then he has gone wherever the wind blows him, living in Europe, China, and the States, and traveling extensively throughout the rest of the world. When he’s not on the move, you can find him obsessing over latte art, playing piano, or trying to bleach his hair in the sunshine. Follow him on Twitter.

Spotlight: Jumpstart

This summer I’ve spent quite a bit of time visiting with my family in Connecticut. These kinds of trips to my hometown inevitably make me nostalgic; side effects include stuffing myself with home-cooked meals and watching more Disney movies than I care to admit. I was even inspired to do a throwback-drive-through of my old high school.

However, if I kept driving a bit farther into a neighboring district, what I encounter would be vastly different. Compared to the state high school graduation rate of over 90%, school districts in Connecticut’s poorest cities face graduation rates hovering just above 50% – a pretty stark contrast for a twenty-minute drive. This example is only one part of a larger national pattern, most often termed the achievement gap.

Jumpstart, a national supplemental preschool program, believes that part of the solution is to tackle this gap early on. Research agrees, as studies have shown that preschool can have long-term effects on learning. By the time they start kindergarten, children in low-income neighborhoods may already be behind their peers, a gap that widens over time.

Jumpstart

The Jumpstart model combines volunteers, largely consisting of college students, and preschool classrooms to create an optimal learning environment. With activities like reading and “circle time,” the program aims to not only promote development in children but also to encourage a sense of community.

Just following its 20th anniversary, Jumpstart has come a long way since its New Haven origins in 1993. Today, the organization also heads numerous national campaigns to celebrate a love of reading and to advocate the importance of early education.

The achievement gap in the U.S. is one of the most prominent issues in education today. Although research indicators often focus on later statistics, such as high school graduation rates or SAT scores, the fight to close the gap can start much earlier. And so far, Jumpstart has been at the front lines of this battle.

 

-Serena

Serena Yin graduated with a degree in English from Johns Hopkins University in 2013. She is joining the Washington Reading Corps to promote literacy in local schools. A New England native, she loves ballet, beaches, and hamburgers. When she’s not on the hunt for the nearest Starbucks, she’s working on realizing her lifelong dream of meeting J.K. Rowling.