Read This!

August 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Things have been busy lately and there’s still no time to write, but until I find time here is another amazing post over at The Rumpus by Anne Valente about running, sexism, and navigating femininity. Check it out!

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Olympics!

July 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

I watched a lot of Olympic events over the weekend. A lot of events. Even when I went out, the Olympics were there. (Who knew karaoke and men’s floor exercises went together so well?) And I was going to write a post about all the tiny things that bothered me about the coverage – the different products male and female athletes are used to sell (guess who models shampoo and who test drives sports cars?), or the fact that I know way more about how Kerri Walsh Jennings has been changed by motherhood than I do about the family life of any male USA volleyball player – but I got tired of that just thinking about it.

The thing is, the athletes are beyond awesome, and I don’t want all that other crap to get in the way of constant amazement at their awesomeness. Awesome-osity. Awesome-ing. And they’re not the ones who are making the conversation about a female swimmer’s weight, or what physical appearance has to do with how much the funding a female weightlifter receives. They just want to do their thing and compete.

So here are some heartwarming pictures of athletes! Because in spite of differing social norms for expressing emotion and friendship, these men and women are just as open in supporting each other right now in London. And that’s pretty awesome too.

Photo by Daniel Ochoa De Olza — AP Photo, found at http://www.kentucky.com/2012/07/30/2276569/kentuckians-in-the-games-july.html

Photo by Richard Mackson-USA TODAY, found at http://btn.com/2012/07/30/nus-grevers-wins-swimming-gold/

Photo by MARK J. TERRILL / The Associated Press, found at http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2012/07/30/olympic-highlights/

Photo by Vernon Bryant/Dallas Morning News/MCT, found at http://www.nj.com/olympics/index.ssf/2012/07/london_olympics_misty_may-trea.html

Subtle Shifts

July 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

A little while ago, The Rumpus published an incredibly powerful piece by Dylan Nice called Truth In Nonfiction: A Testimonial about the impact Orwell’s essay “Shooting an Elephant” had on Nice”s perspective. Here is just a taste:

I’d been raised in a culture that believed the world would be much simpler if the elite left quit trying to make it complicated. But here was an essay written by a troop on the ground in a seventy-year old occupation, who acknowledged the systems of control were far too complicated to remain wise, let alone noble…I was a hunter and familiar with being a poor shot. I could see the elephant in the distance, feel the crowd behind me, watch myself load the shell in the chamber, my hands shaking. I understood Orwell was a man who did not want to act rashly, who considered each party involved, knew there was no real urgency in killing the elephant, but killed it anyway because the inherent inadequacy of the individual in a world of larger, wealthier, more powerful forces…What happened while I read Orwell’s essay eight years ago was small…In the span of a few thousand words over a half-century old, the world got bigger for me in a quiet way.

This is basically a road map for overcoming stereotyping. Nice starts his essay by describing his background and how he was raised to think about the world and Democrats (socialists), Al Gore (“baby killer”), and people who belittled the Bush administration and the war on terror (cowards and fools). And stereotyping can go both ways – it is beyond easy to assume that everyone who thinks differently than you is the same in some unforgivable way. Generalizations become fixed identities become the basis for discrimination, and the process needs to be consciously interrupted if anything is going to change.

I interact with veterans as part of my job, and I also volunteer as a rape crisis counselor, and going into both positions I had a lot of preconceived ideas about what kind of people I would be working with in both roles. Some of them were true – most of the veterans I see are men – and some of them weren’t – I have yet to advocate in person for someone under 25 – but even so, at the start all I had were stereotypical expectations. When did that change? When I met actual individuals and started working with them.

That’s exactly what happened for Nice: his stereotyping about the “elite left” changed when he got to know Orwell through his essay. Nice could empathize with Orwell (and use his common background in hunting) to imagine what it was like for Orwell to face a crowd of people and an impossible task of controlling an elephant, knowing the crowd’s presence would force him to act but feeling hopeless about the situation and his power to control things in a world that leaves the individual “inherent[ly] inadequate.” Damn that’s powerful. All it took was figuratively walking a bit in Orwell’s mud-sticking shoes.

So. Human interaction. Let’s get on that.

P.S. There’s also an awesome sketch of the definition of fem-i-nist by MariNaomi over at The Rumpus.

The Right to Choose All of Life’s Roles

July 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

My local radio station airs a series called Perspectives that features members of the community and their thoughts on whatever strikes their fancy. This morning I listened to Jeremy Sherman share his perspective on talking politics with a libertarian friend he often disagrees with, and it boiled down to this: people don’t like talking about things they find boring, so details that don’t interest them – in his friend’s case, the complicated balance between necessary constraints and individual freedoms in society – are ignored and so strongly held beliefs are justified only with ideal-based rationalizations. Which makes sense to me – when two people are exclusively focused on separate aspects of an issue, it’s easy to wind up arguing over ideals without realizing you’re actually talking about completely different things. Getting into specifics can help you find common ground in shared beliefs.

So let’s talk details. The title of this post comes from one of my favorite chapters of (recently retired) Judge Nancy Gertner’s book, In Defense of Women, and here are some specific roles I think we should all be able to choose for ourselves free from social criticism or judgment:

  • Stay-at-home mother/father
  • Unmarried adult, whether or not you have children
  • Primary family provider, regardless of sex/gender
  • A romantically involved person, regardless of each person’s sex/gender
  • A sexually-active person who has no intention of having children

Not an exhaustive list by any means, but that’s the beauty of details: we can always add more.

The Magic of the Interwebs!

July 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

Sometimes people use it to do really shitty things. Luckily it can also remind us that not all people are like that. And it creates adorable distractions…

It’s not holding a purse, but it’s pretty close! What would we do without Buzzfeed?

For Your Viewing Pleasure

July 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Because there hasn’t been a really good picture of a goat here lately

And look! A hermit with an octopus on his head!

Yes, that is an octopus. On his head. Hermits be crazy.

Reviews: In Defense of Women

July 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

I got completely sucked into Nancy Gertner’s memoirs, In Defense of Women, which cover her career as a lawyer and some of the major cases she worked on until becoming a Federal District Judge. Her cases spanned first-degree murder charges, sexual harassment and discrimination, and many civil rights violations of disadvantaged people.

Throughout the book, Gertner talks about what it was like for her to work in a highly male-dominated profession from the 1970’s onward, career ambitions and other life balances, and her determination not to just play it safe to get through difficult situations. (I’ll leave out the “having it all” reference that has gotten so much online attention lately, but she goes into those issues in the book too). Sometimes that involved wearing red suits in court, other times advising a client not to plead guilty for lesser charges when the situation didn’t call for it. Always it involved being awesome.

Click here to continue to the full post.