RIP Howard Zinn

28 01 2010

I don’t normally do memorial posts, but I have to type a brief note on Howard Zinn due to the impact he had on my life and my academic path. I was never a big fan of history, see. I kind of hated it, which now is hard to believe, but the history you learn in grade school is pretty narrow. In 11th grade, though, we read a chapter of A People’s History of the United States and it blew my mind. This guy was for real. Since then, I went on to get a degree in history, and I think the exposure to Zinn was a big part of the turning of the tide. So hats off to you, Sir, for daring to tell a fuller version of the story. And if you haven’t read A People’s History, pick up your copy today.

Thoughts on Gender from a Telemarketer

10 01 2010

At the moment, I’m working in the subscriptions office of a major symphony orchestra, and I’ve found some trends emerging in the past four months or so when it comes to the spin callers and patrons place on gender (and sexuality).  This is just a list, maybe intelligent thoughts will follow:

  • Husband: “You’ll have to talk to my wife.  She’s my secretary/social secretary/the family secretary.”
  • Callers assuming that the wife might be home during the day but the husband will only be home at night.
  • Callers saying “is your wife home?” or “is your husband home?” without any evidence that the relationship between the male and female member of a household is indeed husband/wife.
  • Callers assuming that “partner” means opposite sex.
  • Callers suggesting that a patron bring a date to the symphony, as opposed to a friend or family member.
  • Wife: “My husband’s in charge/has all the control/etc.”
  • Husband: “No, she doesn’t want that” or “Honey, you don’t want that.”

How the Internets Shape My Day-to-Day Life (as a Feminist)

16 09 2009

One thing that was really interesting for me about the Women + Power Conference was all the discussion about blogging and other Internet technology and how it shapes our activism, our news-reading habits, etc.  From the stage, there were some really interesting stories about, for example, how a woman in rural Africa was able to connect to other women in a way she never would have been able to pre-Internet through the site Pulse Wire.  In our intergenerational lunch conversation, we talked more about how the Internet affects us generally, in terms of relating and developing friendships, both positive and negative.

When I got home, I started thinking about just how I do use the Internet both for information gathering and for community building.  Of course, I’m very conscious of things that the Internet helps me with in terms of getting information about the weather, restaurant menus, contact info, all that stuff that I find myself without when I’m away from the computer.  But what I don’t pay as much attention to is the social element.  I also wonder how my Internet use differs from others my generation and a little bit older, or a little bit younger.  So I’ll describe a typical day of Internet usage for me, and I’d be interested to hear how this differs from your experience in the comments.  Also, coincidentally I came across a blog post today that discusses relationships and Facebook.  Though Facebook isn’t a big social medium for me, I thought you might be interested to check out what this blogger has to say.

A Day in the Online Life of Me

Keep in mind, of course, that I’m not working right now, so I can spend a lot more time online.

Right after waking up:  Read through Twitter Feed and Tweet once.  Check e-mail.  Read my Google Reader (a few traditional newspapers, feminist websites and blogs, queer blogs, sexuality blogs, law and other academic blogs, foodblogs, Daily Beast, friends’ blogs, NPR, the New Yorker).

During the day: Watch a few TV shows online (Rachel Maddow Show, Daily Show, Colbert Report).  Post to one or two of my blogs.  Spend a good 4-6 hours intermittently chatting with friends online.  I met many of my closest friends online initially, and some I have never met in person, which was a particular surprise to the older women at the intergenerational lunch.

Night: Settle into a chat room with a group of my friends.  Chat till around 11 pm – 1 am until my eyes absolutely won’t stay open.  Rinse and repeat.

Some observations: One thing I don’t use a lot is Facebook, though it’s a great tool for invitations and organizing contact information.  I don’t read Twitter more than once a day, which means that I miss a lot.  I was surprised to hear presenters this weekend talk about meeting people on Twitter.  Meet?  But it’s 140 characters!  I met most of my friends through blog and online journal comments, communities specific to a particular interest, or OKCupid, an online dating site that I use to meet other queer friends and sometimes make dates.  After making a connection, our primary contact is through IM.  I also don’t use Skype or videochat, so my contacts are almost all textual.  Sometimes when I do meet someone in person I’m surprised by how their personality is different, how they look, how they interact.  I don’t know if it’s good or bad – just different.

An interesting model for womanhood

15 09 2009

I’ve been thinking a lot about “masculine” and “feminine” since the Women + Power conference, and about “aggressive” versus “emotional.” I’m just reading Vanessa Veselka’s essay, “The Collapsible Woman,” and she offers an interesting alternative to the strong/weak dichotomy in discussing what society expects of rape survivors. “We need to articulate a new vision that equates feminine strength not with repression and bravado, but with compassion and grit.”

Compassion and grit.

I love that. I think it’s a good workaround for my own insecurities about just how “emotional” I want to be, and what it might represent. I want a way to be a generous and loving friend, someone who cares about people, sometimes has a lover or two, can act as a mentor, sometimes needs to cry, likes doing “girly” stuff from time to time, but at the same time is proudly queer, child-free, and entirely career-oriented. I’m someone who thrives on relationships with friends and lovers, but doesn’t want a life revolving around “family,” with the implicit meaning of husband or wife + brood of children. I am happy to lead a life directed by ambition, but sometimes suffer from depression when I use that purpose to isolate myself or make being alone my cry of pride. Oh, the little white lies we tell ourselves. But I’m not prepared to say that what I truly need is the opposite of what I’ve been preaching, to “confess,” because it isn’t. I do need to be alone. I need to pursue projects, and I need to forge my path through life independently. At the same time, I need the support and love of others, holding my hands but not holding me up.

Compassion and grit. Amen, sister.

Moving Shop

21 07 2009

Internet goes bye-bye tomorrow and I’m on the road Wednesday and Thursday moving to Baltimore, then in New York Friday-Sunday, so Tati Tuesdays links will be posted as a 2-in-1 next week.  Also, perhaps, some thoughts on Quiverfull, which I just finished.  Keep me in your thoughts and wish for no breakdowns, accidents, or speeding tickets!

Iowans are good folks

6 04 2009

I’m surprised and encouraged by the positive response I received when phone banking for One Iowa today.  Along with those supportive of same sex marriage, I also got a number of people opposed or unsure, but who were opposed to changing the constitution and willing to call their representatives to tell them that.  I also talked to several people who actually wanted to discuss the issue and know my opinion.  And as a bonus, I learned that we have an awesome LGBT resource center I knew nothing about.  I’m going to a potluck tomorrow and an art show on Friday there.

In other news, please remember that some of us have to pay for each and every text message we send or receive.  I get so tired of people who text me four or five times in quick succession either in response to my dialing a wrong # or when they have the wrong #.  If someone texts you something that doesn’t require a response, remember that sending “ok” in reply may be costing them money!

Some thoughts on obsession

21 03 2009

There are so many things I’ve wanted to blog about – so many! – and regrettably just no time. My last semester of law school is proving no easier than the earlier ones, but fortunately I’ll be done at the end of June and back into the regular-blogging swing. I will try to provide a report on the symposia and conferences I’ve been to recently, as well as other thoughts, soon.

However, on my walk home today I was thinking about obsessions, and it raises an interesting question. Do adolescent obsessions disappear when we grow up? Or do they just fade into something more “mature?”

In my late childhood/early pre-teen years, I was obsessed with that paragon of literary merit known as the Babysitters’ Club. Then around the age of twelve I moved on to the Backstreet Boys, followed by NSync and lesser known boybands. Around fifteen, I shifted out of that (and started liking girls – coincidence?) I had a dearth of obsessions for a little while, which perhaps had something to do with getting better in school, and then at the start of college became obsessed with a local band, some of whose members became friends. They broke up a few years later, and my obsession became Lord of the Rings for a year or two. All of those obsessions came with corresponding friends, and sadly I lost touch with a lot of them as the obsessions themselves faded. However, I do note that the older I get, the more friends seem to stick around.

On my walk, I was trying to see if I could think of any current obsessions. I think you could say that early in law school, food was an obsession, considering how important it was to check my favourite blogs, stay current on recipe-copying, etc. I now have a database of thousands and thousands of recipes thanks to that obsession. Now, though, that’s dwindled a bit. I suppose you could say that I’m obsessed with law school itself, or at least my GPA, which is a little depressing (but would kind of make sense if you consider the lack of obsessions in the part of high school where I was more engaged with learning). You could say that I’m obsessed with feminism or LGBT issues, but that’s also depressing in that I certainly hope those things are lifelong interests, seeing as how I’m planning to make a career out of them. Or maybe it’s reading – I’ve become almost compulsive about trying to finish books, keep track of what I want to read (kind of like the recipes), and read more and more and more.

I’m curious what others’ experiences are, especially those my age (24) and older. Do you still have the kind of obsessions you did when you were a teenager, just more “mature” ones? Do you become obsessed with things like work, school, or family instead? Or do those obsessive tendencies fade over time?

Valentine’s Day

14 02 2009

Anyone have any amusing Valentine’s stories to tell?

I’m fairly indifferent towards the holiday.  When I was 17, my girlfriend’s parents didn’t know she was gay and so when she was supposed to be coming over they decided to have family night instead and I ended up eating tasty desserts and watching Amélie with my mom, which was nonetheless fun.  When I was 19 and 20, I had a boyfriend, but he stunk at romance.  I find that my best Valentine’s Days are often happily single ones, when I can have a Self-Love day.  I’ll be quitting my productive activities tonight at six, making my favorite mushroom stroganoff, opening a bottle of wine, and watching Paris Je T’aime.

If you’re unhappily single, though, I recommend a particular song by a brilliant songwriter (Amanda Palmer), called “Leeds United.”  My favorite line:

Who needs love when there’s Law & Order?

Who needs love when there’s Southern Comfort?

Who needs love when the sandwiches are wicked and they know you at the Mac store?

Why My Public Library is Better Than Your Public Library

15 01 2009

We already have a copy of Jessica’s (of Feministing) Yes Means Yes on the shelves.  When I leave, can I take my library with me?

The Terror of Reading Deprivation

10 01 2009

In my life, I tend to take on a lot of projects.  I’m a very project-oriented person, though my projects tend to be large and not necessarily focused on a certain end point but just on “working on” something.  A fair number of these projects involve reading.  I’m committed to reading the New Yorker each week, for example, to perusing Slate and Salon every day, to reading my RSS feed reader a few times a day, and to reading books as frequently as time allows.  Another one of my projects is a book called Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  This “artistic recovery” program has actually been opening a lot of doors for me in a very short time, and I’m optimistic about it, but this week is the biggest challenge yet.  One week of reading deprivation.

The idea is that depriving oneself of reading is liberating, because it frees up time to do other things.  I do agree to some extent, in that the daily pouring of news into my brain takes up a lot of time.  On the other hand – and she said to expect resistance, so I’m not alone – not reading for a week is SCARY.  She suggests that we blow off work or school assignments (just for a week!) and I admittedly can’t quite bring myself to do that.  I’m going to do my class reading after this morning’s exam and then my reading deprivation will start.  Maybe that’s cheating, but it is after all the first week of school.  I also am not entirely sure that reading is an artistic block, especially to a writer.  Reading makes me feel great, it inspires me, it liberates me.  But I’ll give it a shot.  I’m not going to try not to read at all, to the extent that things like checking my e-mail and doing projects require reading.  My work assignments right now, for example, involve summarizing Congressional testimony (which requires skimming) and editing a briefing paper.  So I’m saying that writing projects with incidental reading don’t count, nor does e-mail or skimming the headings of articles to decide whether to save them (another on-going project is reading-for-later collection).  Working on shortening my paper so that I can submit it to an essay prize is okay.  But no Google Reader, no Slate, no Salon, none of the fourteen ticking-time-bomb checked out library books, no magazines, none of that.  I’ll let you know how it goes.