Archive for the 'Blog I Am Reading Today' category

Defining the Discourse and Words We Use: Who Gets To?

So, this is not the way I imagined breaking my writer's block. Or my refraining-from-writing-as-an-act-of-mourning. Or my mourning-induced aphasia. Or whatever is this is. I'm gonna just cross my fingers and hope I don't snap during the writing of this and say something that worsens everyone's depression (except mine) and destroys the universe (because of my omnipotent evil feminazi womanish powers)  which in any case should be ignored (really, the whole post should be ignored, on account of its having been written by a screeching harridan whining about no big deal).  Here we go.

First, I ask thee, gentle Zuskateers, to read Let Me Fix That For You, Nature at Red Ink. (Thanks, @rocza for that link via the twitters.)  Then please read I'm sorry...but you brought this on yourself honey by my dear friend Drugmonkey.

In the first post, Henry Gee's original letter is a discourse-controlling tour-de-force, and Red Ink does a marvelous job of deconstructing his blatherings. One just sits in one's chair, jaw agape at the hilariously depressingly superb job that is this pulling of the truth out of truthiness's ass. It both entertains and instructs. One gets a delightful dose of schadenfreude in the reading of it, whilst simultaneous schooled by the unmasking of rhetorical tricks Gee deploys .

Next up is Drugmonkey's blog piece, offering a detailed analysis of  Gee's nonpologetic discourse. Wait for it... comment #4 tells us how he is doing itt rong, and in an inflammatory manner, and how the rong is ineffective to boot. Trifecta of discourse control!

Commenter #4's knickers got bunched over all the rong because (a) Drugmonkey used an analogy - ineffective! and (b) Drugmonkey picked a bad analogy - inflammatory!  Drugmonkey might as well be talking to a brick wall. Or worse, trying to talk to someone on the other side of the brick wall but all his shouting for attention makes them climb up the wall and shove some bricks onto his head to shut him up.

I'm sorry. I know that was confusing and possibly inflammatory. The person atop the wall could have poured boiling oil on his head. Or shot him with flaming arrows.

Now, as Drugmonkey did, we pause here for a trigger warning regarding abuse, should you read further.

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12 responses so far

Pinkification: Robbing Girls of Self Worth

Sharon Astyk at Casaubon's Book has a post that is both a review of Peggy Orenstein's Cinderella Ate My Daughter and an insightful analysis of pinkification's effect on young girls, especially girls in the foster care system. You MUST read it. Here's an excerpt:

I have a theory about the pinkization myself.  Femininity used to be commodified by giving children the cultural markers of feminine WORK – little girls got toy kitchens, baby dolls, toy brooms, toy houses.  Domestic labor was what marked out womanhood.  This definitely sucked in some ways, if instead of the erector set you got a toy wash basin, and you really wanted the erector set, but the cool thing about it was that you told little girls that in some measure they were being defined by their competence.  Yes, it was a limited sphere.  No, the “you can’t have an erector set because you are a girl” is wrong.  But in trying to end the “the only work you can do is girl work” we replaced it with “girls don’t do anything different, so you have to define yourself in other measures – by how you look and what color you wear.”

Whoa.  I think she's on to something there. Remember that god-awful girls-n-pink-n-dazzle!-n-science video disaster?  The ladies in the video weren't doing any science.  But they were lookin' mighty good.

Read the post, the whole post, it is full of awesome.

4 responses so far

Humorless Feminazis Everywhere!

Regular Zuskateers know that I am a humorless, hairy-legged feminazi.  Day in, day out, my grim outlook never wavers. I devote myself to the serious pursuit of feminism, which is no joking matter.

Thus, you can imagine how my little feminazi heart beat just a little faster, how the hairs on my legs stood up all a-quiver from the tops of my thighs all the way down to my Doc Martens, when I read these two posts last weekend:  Scicurious on Are men really funnier than women? Who's asking? and Stephanie Zvan on Humor Study is Funny Peculiar.   Sci and Stephanie together were discussing Greengross & Miller's paper "Humor ability reveals intelligence, predicts mating success, and is higher in males" Intelligence, 2011.

I absolutely refuse to admit that anything is higher in males, not even cholesterol, and fortunately Sci and Stephanie were able to shoot this paper full of holes.  Feminazism is spreading all over the internets!  I do think, however, they could have been a little bit more serious and angry in their posts, maybe shouted a few revolutionary slogans and given some press to the Wimmin's Front of Scienceblogging, which, as you know, is vastly superior to the Scienceblogging Popular Wimmin's Front.

Also:  Congrats to Stephanie on moving Almost Diamonds to Freethought Blogs!!!!!

14 responses so far

What Function Does Denial Serve?

The incomparable Hermitage has compiled the responses to her She-Woman Baby-hating carnival extravaganza!  There are many fine questions, with many excellent answers from the esteemed panelists.  I have learned tons from reading the responses to the questions.

This question in particular caught my attention:

3. What can we do when other women deny there are problems being a woman in science?

What to do indeed. Micro Dr. O recommends staying out of the way of that bitchy female greyhair, and looking for allies elsewhere.  Dr. Sneetch sez women in her field are mean, meaner than the men have ever been! And crazy too.  So there's two votes for fighting misogyny fire with misogyny fire.

Professor in Training observes sagely

Remember that there are also those that deny that Doritos are good for you. There are idiots everywhere.

She recommends you go on your way and concentrate on being a role model for the next generation.  Good advice!

KJHaxton reminds us to be strategic: put away the soapbox, focus on solutions not complaints, and bide your time until you've amassed power and status...then set to work on that institutional transformation.

GeekMommyProf rephrases the question:

When I read this question, I asked myself when was the last time anyone in real life (except my husband and perhaps a close personal friend or relative) actually took my concern to heart when I complained that I suspected someone had slighted me professionally because I'm a woman. The answer is -- I cannot remember.

She discusses what leads people, men and women, to dismiss individual incidents of bias, and recommends surrounding one's self with "supportive people of both genders" and moving on.

NicoleandMaggie say blame the patriarchy!

I totally agree.

While the patriarchy is indeed to blame, and denial comes from all quarters,  it seems to sting more when it comes from other women in science. One expects them to express some solidarity, or at least to be somewhat cognizant of their own condition, or at the very very least not to be actively functioning as apologists for the oppressors. But if the U.S. Republican party is able to muster up enough gay members to create the Log Cabin Republicans, then it ought not to surprise any of us that some women in science will remain – even throughout their entire careers – stubbornly, actively, willfully ignorant of the real facts on the ground for all women in science.

The question for me has always been, in what way is that denial functioning for them? What purpose does it serve for them?

I can't speak for all of them, but when I was in denial about the situation for women in science, that denial helped me think of myself as really unique – one of just very few women able to do this d00dly science stuff! And since I was sooooo unique, why, you could hardly call me a woman at all – I was really more of what you’d call an AlmostD00d. Which was far preferable to being a woman. To maintain my unique and therefore AlmostD00d status, it was important that there not be too many other women doing what I was doing. This all made it nearly impossible for me to develop friendships with other women in my field, or even to see senior women scientists as competent and worthy role models.  The denial also helped me keep on loving and admiring ALL the science d00ds around me, since I identified so strongly with them.  (Note that a healthy relationship with other men as human beings does not involve worshiping them as d00ds, but does involve getting to know them as individuals and liking them or not as individuals.) I had my head ass-deep in the patriarchy, and was a real asshole to other women as a consequence.  Men could rain shit on me 24/7 and I would still sing their praises.  (See: The Parable of the Wise and the Foolish Engineers.)  As Muriel Barbery writes in the The Elegance of the Hedgehog, "if there is one thing that poor people despise, it's other poor people".

So, to sum up: denying there are problems for women in science facilitates d00d-worship and belief in the self as an AlmostD00d, both of which stem from disparagement of women and loathing of the self for being a woman.

What can you do when other women deny there are problems being a woman in science? Feel sorry for them. Teach the young.

And now I insert a small plea: let us put to rest the myth of vampiric senior female scientists feeding on the fresh blood of a junior woman's hopes and dreams. Let us close the book on the tall tale of  the snarling wowolf who wounds us as no mere man ever would or could.  You have been ill-treated by senior scientists; hurtful remarks have been flung in your direction by colleagues.  When these things are done by women, and we ascribe the doing of them to their gender,  we are engaging in misogyny.  Yes, women deny that sexism exists; yes, women are subject to sexist bias in making hiring, evaluation, and promotion decisions.  If a woman who is a scientist treats you poorly, it is either because she is having a bad day, is an asshole, or because she is in the thrall of the patriarchy that has taught her to despise women.  It is not, however, because she is a woman.

Do not expect women to be your allies because they are women; do not depend on the love and support of all women to maintain your ego and belief in yourself; do not ascribe either the giving or withholding of sisterly support to the fact of womanhood rather than worldviews and belief systems. Sisterhood is powerful, but so, alas, is the patriarchy.

19 responses so far

Autonomy Is A Luxury

A good day:  I arise at a time I chose.  Maybe I lie in bed for awhile listening to NPR, or maybe I get right up.  It was a cool night, so the window is open, and a fresh breeze blows through the room.  I go to the bathroom, the usual morning ablutions with toothbrush etc., and then I take a nice shower, wash my hair.  The soap is scented cucumber-melon - I got it at the farmer's market last week.  Out of the shower, I towel myself off and dry my hair.  Then I run down the stairs and out the front porch to scoop up the morning paper.  Back inside, make a pot of coffee - it smells so nice brewing.  What to have for breakfast today - do I want to spend the time it takes to make a fried egg or a small frittata, or just have some yogurt with nuts and berries?  Or maybe some oatmeal? I pour the coffee in my favorite mug, carry it with the paper and my breakfast to the dining room table.  The morning sun comes through the bay window, and the rhododendron bush moves a little in the breeze.  I like this table, an old oak beauty I found in an antique store and bought for far less than it was worth.  It reminds me of my mother's table, though no table can ever hold a candle to that one. I peruse the paper and have a second cup of coffee.  One of the cats is at my side, purring, begging for a spot on my lap, and I make room.  I start to think about what I might like to cook for dinner in the evening.

I'm aware that the autonomy I enjoy is a luxury that results from my living in the U.S., from not being poor, and from having had no trouble getting a "good" mortgage to purchase a nice house in a "good" neighborhood (e.g., intersection of race and class privilege).  But the type of luxurious autonomy I am thinking of today stems from another source, and that is the privilege of age and (relative) good health.

I try not to take mornings like this for granted, but of course I can't help it.  It's difficult to be constantly aware of how precious it is, to be able to walk into your own kitchen and pour yourself a cup of your favorite kind of coffee, in your favorite mug, whenever you want. Usually I try not to think about the time that may come, if I live long enough, when the cup of coffee will be poured for me, a weak brew in a plastic mug, and set down next to the breakfast I neither chose nor prepared, at a table without cats but with other people.  The breakfast will not have been preceded by a shower, but by a sponge bath from a pan of water in my room, brought to me after I was awakened by someone at the usual early hour.  (I will be efficiently showered in the evening while seated in a chair, twice a week.) I will walk slowly from that room to the communal dining room, with the aid of a walker, or perhaps be wheeled there in a chair if it is not a good day. The newspaper will have to wait for the mail delivery later on, and for someone to bring it to me, unless they forget and give it to another person by mistake. The window will not be open, because climate control is important.  If it is a nice day, and if someone has time, maybe they will take me outside to feel the breeze for an hour or so.

I will no longer be on my schedule, but on theirs.  I will be dependent upon their help, and I will have to ask for or be given nearly all the things I used to do for myself.  And all this will be only if I am fortunate enough to have the resources to pay for such assistance.

It is possible I will not live into old age.  Or, I will live into a robust old age and not require the services of assisted living or nursing homes.  But I cannot escape feeling much like Chuck Ross, whose blog Life With Father I just discovered via The New Old Age blog, when he says:

Maybe it’s a middle-age crisis, but, at almost 52, the 38-year age difference between Dad and me just doesn’t seem all that substantial anymore. And I find the possibility that he could just be me, aged Hollywood-style, simply terrifying. It makes me want to run, get away to that place of simple, oblivious living that is such a luxury to those who aren’t looking mortality in the face every day.

If I had kids, I might be wondering - will they come to see me?  Will they call?  Will they write?  How often?  If I must ask them to do something for me, if I need something - will they attend to my needs and wishes?  Or will they put me off, because their own lives are so busy, so much more interesting, so much less frightening?  What if I can't express myself to them as well as I used to - will they know how to listen to me?  Will they understand how my loss of autonomy makes me need them so much, but because I am Mommy, I am Daddy, it's so hard to ask, I don't want to be a burden?  Will my asking make me weak in their eyes, and will my need make them angry, resentful? Will they know how to help me, and help me hold on to as much of my autonomy as I can?

But I don't have kids.  So I  just wonder: what happens if my mother is just me, aged Hollywood-style? Because I'm pretty sure there won't be enough money.

6 responses so far

Cuisine, With Feminism: I'll Have The Large Plate, Please

A Kitchen of One's Own is a brand new blog, but I am already madly in love with it.  Blogger Ginny W is bringing the kick-ass. We thought STEM fields were tough places for women to make a living - and they are - but this post makes, say, your average physics department or engineering construction site look like a care bears tea party.

Women are also expected to take part in active misogyny: to refer to men and other women, and even themselves, as bitches; to deal yo mama insults; to deplore weakness, weeping, and other “girl” faults; to make and laugh at rag jokes, rape jokes, and a host of other jokes relying on the revilement of women. Not just tolerate it from the men, but actively take part in it.

The post on Disability and Restaurant Life is also highly recommended.  It gives me a new perspective on this Philadelphia Inquirer story from last July about Jennifer Carroll, pastry chef at 10 Arts Bistro & Lounge.  Hell, the whole damn blog, new as it is, is a real eye-opener for me in thinking about any of Philly's women chefs (and how precious few there are, given the restaurant renaissance the city has seen over the past few decades).

Zuska loves good food and good restaurants, and, of course, is a feminazi.  This new blog is a delight to her hairy-legged heart.

5 responses so far

Links for 8-25-2010

Aug 25 2010 Published by under Blog I Am Reading Today, What They're Saying

No new blog post today, but the desk is finally cleared of weeks of accumulated paper crap (I suffer from paper disease.  Paper just sticks, in piles, all over the place.) And the kitchen is sorta cleaned up a little, and we had a nice dinner (mega-veggie eggs!) And I did some reading, but no writing.

So let me direct your attention to other blogospheric goodness.

Kate has written a very thoughtful, and thought-provoking, letter to her menses.

FrauTech gives an engineer's perspective on how company culture and hierarchy affect what we might like to think should be pure engineering decision making, case study BP.

Historiann critiques the perennial media discovery of what's wrong with young kids these days.

Female Computer Scientists looks at mentorship versus sponsorship and its affect on your career.

Samia has the zomg grad school!!! 1 carnival.

Read and enjoy!

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Vacation, With Elder Care

I just added another blog to the blogroll - The New Old Age hosted at the New York Times.  (Many thanks to my friend PalMD who directed me to this blog some time ago.) A recent post offers advice on traveling with elderly parents.  That reminded me of the last real vacation I was able to take with my mother, in September of 2007, in which the beach wheelchair played such a significant role.  Beach wheelchairs are incredible.  Z-Mom loved the freedom hers gave her, and I think in many ways it did not feel stigmatizing to her the way a regular land wheelchair often does.  It felt sort of funky and crazy, the way everything designed for the beach does.   The foot rest was not the best, but we built our own at the beach.

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Beyond Freezing Blueberries and Beans

Earlier this summer the blueberries were bountiful at one of my favorite stands at the Saturday farm market.  But I knew they wouldn't last.  So I splurged, bought a flat of the delicious berries, brought them home, and froze them in single layers on jelly roll trays in my freezer compartment.  Once they were nicely frozen I packed them away in ziplock baggies and labeled the bags.  Mr. Z enjoyed eating the frozen berries.  I had to remind him that we had plenty of fresh ones available for him to nosh on and the frozen were meant for our delectation when the fresh were but a dim memory.

Similarly,  on stopping by my favorite garden center, which now features a farmer's market on Wednesdays, I discovered a mountain of gorgeous fresh-picked yellow wax beans and lovely flat Italian pole beans.  I could not say no.  These beans came from Maple Acres Farm - four generations of farming!  The wonderful woman who talked me into my personal mountain of beans gave me advice on how to prepare them for freezing - sort, chop off the ends, cut into smaller pieces, wash, parboil for a minute or two, plunge into icy water to stop the cooking, dry thoroughly before freezing in freezer bags.  The bit of parboiling deactivates some chemical that otherwise would cause a bitter taste in the beans, and my freezer bags of two-person portions can be taken out and prepared as any store-bought frozen beans.

I was inordinately pleased with these, my baby steps into food preservation.  Yes, on a visit back to my home town, I chatted with mom's cousin and got from him the recipe for the bread-and-butter pickles he makes that I love so much, but I've never watched him make them, and I am daunted by the complexity of the process he described.  I look at each jar he gave me and marvel that it ever came into existence.  In my little corner of the intertoobs, I could just hear Sharon Astyk clucking her tongue at me:  "Oh Zuska.  What you really need to do is sign up for my course on food preservation and storage.  Seriously."

So I did.  Even though it is asynchronous, I am not sure how well I will be able to keep up, given the migraines and the elder care issues which have gotten a little more complicated recently.  But I am going to do my best.  I think it is too late this year for me to watch mom's cousin make pickles.  I hope the fates will allow me another chance.  In the meantime, I aim to learn what I can from Sharon.

5 responses so far

Directing Your Attention to the Temple Disability Studies Blog

You all had a lot to say about my recent post on contemplating ability and disability at the vet, and I thank you for everything you shared. As usual, I learned a great deal from my wise commenters.

I wanted to draw your attention to a recent addition to the blogroll in light of the interest in that post - the Disability Studies, Temple U. blog.   The blog itself has an extensive blogroll that is a great resource.

A recent post on the Disability Studies blog announces  a call for proposals for a new book about the younger generation of people with disabilities - those born since the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed (signed into law by Congress on July 26, 1990).

Reading that post, I was struck this afternoon with how very little I know about disability studies, despite living with a disability, and this reminded me of my graduate school self - almost completely lacking in any knowledge or understanding of women's studies/feminism, yet daily negotiating a male-dominated educational environment that was often quite hostile to my presence.  It took me quite some time to overcome my ignorance and realize I needed to actually formally study the condition and meaning of being a woman in this world.

It is some seven years since I have given up living the ignorantly blissful life of 100% health and taken on this invisible disability as my companion.  (Though if you consider migraine per se to be a disabling medical condition, then I've been living with it most of my life, and it's just that it got a helluva lot worse seven years ago.)  During that time I have done next to nothing to educate myself formally in the area of disability studies.  Partly, in the beginning, I was too damn ill to do anything much.  Partly, I think, there was classification anxiety - do I truly count as disabled?  (by whose standards?)  Do I have a right to speak "as if" I am a person with a disability?  Well, of course, one need not be living with a disability in order to learn and speak about disability issues, right? But I think I fear reading the disability studies literature both because I am afraid I will find out I do not belong there - and because I am afraid I will find out I do.

The call for proposals on the Disability Studies blog post included these questions in the list posed as food for thought:

How do people with less visible disabilities choose whether or not to disclose?
How has the nature of “passing” changed or not changed?

I have chosen, since the early days of this blog, to talk about my migraines, and have talked more about my situation as time has gone on.  (I've also talked about dealing with elder care as a category of invisible disability.)  The fact remains that when I am not having a migraine, anyone looking at me would have no clue about my situation, and even people who suffer from migraines might not understand the extent to which my situation is different from theirs. I worried about these disclosures - I didn't want people to pity me, and I didn't want people to send me their favorite migraine cure, and I didn't want potential future employers (if ever I were able to work again) to read posts like this and use them as reasons to scratch me off a list of contenders.  In the end I am glad I have written what I've written, and have been amazed and humbled, time and again, by the willingness of readers to share advice, stories, comfort, kvetching, sympathy, and yes, migraine cures.

But I guess when I think about that second question, I think about "passing" in a sense that relates back to my grad school days again.  Back before I embarked upon any formal engagement with women's studies, another woman in my grad program came to me and suggested that the two of us study together.  She said we were women in a man's world and that we needed to stick together in order to survive.  I looked at her like she had bubonic plague and was offering to share it with me.  I am passing as a dude, lady, and I do not need your weak offers of "solidarity"!  Begone!

I can tell you there is some of that same defensiveness within me now.  Despite all the issues I have and the chronic pain and the bla bla I've done about living with an invisible disability, there is part of me that feels like I am passing nicely as an abled person!  It is scary to more consciously align myself with the disability studies community, because of the dual fears I described above - the fear I will not be welcomed/fit in, and the fear I will.  But as I have said more than once on this blog, if we are fortunate and live long enough, sooner or later all of us will find ourselves living with some sort of disability.  So I think there is really no way to go but forward.

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