Certainly spending time with people is preferable! Great post!
I promised, promised not to ever make this blog a journal type thing aka; a place to vent. But when I use my “sociological imagination” I can connect back almost every issue to something, so there’s that. As of late, I have been patiently observing, not researching, although always looking for issues that I can connect to something I am passionate about. To be fair, I have evolved quite a bit. It is fair to say I moved on from the more generic “terrorism” and “gender” to more specific aspects of the two. I have deleted terrorism almost entirely and inserted _____ “disaster response” and “disaster medicine”, and “disaster and gender”. Terrorism need not be involved, although it can and this should not be a surprising topic to chose since I began my studies at my Alma Mater in August, 2001. 9/11 happened and it had it’s effects, I have also moved past the idea that “fear-mongering” has anything to do with my research interests. When something quite novel happens to your country 3 weeks in to your University study, well “let’s figure this thing out” is an obvious reaction. I do have trouble finding this “common ground” with the “end of days/apocalypse crowd” although they seem to have some of the same concerns. The only separation here is that there is something rational underneath research and the rest is completely emotional outside of disaster studies.
Gender too is so generic as a research interest that one would be careful to jump right in without thinking this one through and without alienating 50% of the population or if your hypothesis is particularly controversial, 100% of well everyone. So two genders and two research interests; what is the most obvious common ground research word that pops up?- violence. Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) has been the topic of many research reports, studies, and activist campaigns. I, myself, even spent some time in a domestic violence shelter to see what kind of observations I could make. Five weeks later and I was convinced of two things (1) sometimes even the most well-meaning people can completely mess things up if they don’t know what they are doing and (2) it would be only fair to go to ANOTHER shelter to see if things were similar/different if so how? etc… I wasn’t getting paid for this and it was highly depressing and irritating.
I decided to stay with “violence” as a theme still and in doing so, hold off that second trip to another shelter, where my story was not imaginary or made up, it was almost 20 years old though. Reliving THAT was inflicting violence on my mind, really, so just- no- capital “N”. I decided to enter into the world of violent sport to see if I could find some sort of definition or pattern to violence that I had missed since I already had some working definition of what it was. Maybe I had to rethink it, maybe I had to see if American society was getting more violent or maybe (I know, I know many maybes here) – but perhaps 9/11 had some effect on making things seem more violent or it was possible that people were just quicker to throw up their hands and proclaim “everything is just so violent and senseless”.
How does one prove that? I have no idea really. But what I do know is that when I entered in to the world of MMA (the same world some researchers in my field get paid to do) I realized that when you acknowledge violence exists it changes everything in that physical pain does not equal violence…as in sometimes it is just a means to an end of winning or getting up a hill or something that involves enduring pain. It is so much more complicated than this, so working from a hypothesis with violence in the opener is worthless without defining it first. So that 45 seconds I spent in the ring getting punched and kicked and feeling somewhat humiliated, was worth it in that I learned that had all the ingredients of violence, but it wasn’t violent. I simply lost in a sporting competition. I also learned that I had given myself too much credit in the way of self-defense and I think every women should learn to protect herself and every guy too. This was exactly a year ago. I remember like it was yesterday though, the feeling that everyone was staring at my black eye and then later reading that MMA was easier for men outside the ring in that people didn’t make such a huge deal with men’s injuries than with women’s. Someone actually got paid to come to this conclusion. Really?
Much more can be polished from this so-called “violent subculture” courtesy of UC Berkley and if I had the time I would polish it. However, as with IPV, things are only important in the context of something else, there must be something to compare it to. I thought that possibly doing some participant observation of nurses (with the idea that I could put a bow on all of this) would be just the thing. My research angle would be that yes, more women than men abandon their work roles during and after a natural disaster AND with so many women in nursing this is literally dangerous. So I could conceptualize gender roles in MMA fighters (masculine) and in nurses (feminine) to see how to change this. I also could sprinkle a dash of men can handle “x” amount of stress where women’s threshholds were somewhere else generally. I can say that personally and apparently I have a high threshhold for pain, but very little desire for inflicting it. Maybe this is the opposite for men?
So I went on like this for awhile, acutely aware of the possibility of making either men or women or both mad with these claims. Then a wise professor at Indiana University pointed out that this problem of women leaving their nursing duties during a disaster had more to do with the collapse of “community” than gender. It just was not feasible to expect anyone else to care for family than the family unit, itself. I immediately had the fleeting thought that if we just taught our families martial arts than they could defend themselves, karate chop away debri, etc… then we, as women, could continue working. That thought came and went quickly.
But, I realized I had all the controversial ingredients of gender, concepts of violence, and something else “important” in my own home. This was something that has snowballed lately and I realize I have to tread more lightly and maybe solicit money this time; fighters have to pay for physicals, HIV and Hepatitis testing, women have pay to take pregnancy tests, and people like me that remain uninsured have to pay for medical care if they believe they ruptured an eardrum- I didn’t and that’s another story…none of my other participant observation research cost anything per se. For instance, my learning about the Hispanic Immigrant experience was more about not getting paranoid when others were speaking a different language than anything. It was also about learning how to remain detached in this kind of research, as you have to eventually walk away. You also are well served not to get involved with people’s problems in that you change the trajectory of the very thing that you are studying. I do chalk a lot of what I have done as “practice” and no one should get paid for that.
So after all this practice, I am trying to remain detached, well BECOME detached and it is not working so far. New hypothesis “The college attendance gap that shows a decline in male students is partly due to the “feminization” of education”. Sub out nurses, enter in teachers in elementary school and we still have something to work with, something with numbers to use (this always helps)… But being the mother of three boys makes this difficult, it also makes me vehemently believe it to be true. I will admit when I am wrong, but it is my new “m.o.” to pounce on a female teacher and cry “gender bias!” when my boys get in any sort of situation I see as gendered; music and art work well as examples for the most part. Physical Education, strangely enough has also been an area of concern before I even contemplated looking at widespread gender bias in schools and an ensuing distaste for the classroom by all boys who have experienced or witnessed it (as a hypothetical of course). Even though I am, again, convinced there is some validity to this…I have to watch myself in word and in e-mail. I am sure one female teacher, who may or may not secretly despise “normative boy behavior”-whatever that means- will not be the straw that proverbially breaks the camel’s back and pushes my boys or any other young man into the military rather than college. My oldest has already decided on the military and can conceivably go in 2 years, although his father can certainly afford to pay for his college. Therefore when I feel that the school environment for the younger two is becoming inhospitable and a female teacher is to blame; I see red. But I also see a pattern.
If I can somehow disentangle the two and just look at patterns (and my own students, even the female students almost 100% agree that teachers are all harder on male students when this comes up in class); something can come of this. Common ground can be found in that a teacher is studying other teachers, carrying the torch of “I treat everyone the same!” and “why don’t boys ever win awards in Choir?” and “you think that is violent? do you live in a bubble?” “zero tolerance?” that sort of thing. I just halfway wish I could take back the email to my 12 year old’s English teacher; the one standing between his straight A 9 weeks. He would have had straight A’s last 9 weeks also, barring the “B” he received and the semester before as well if not for her and her brother, the PE teacher. I didn’t tell her how Donnie and Marie Osmond strange that was, so I don’t really want to take back that last e-mail after all. That last e-mail from her by the way did not address his lack of doing good “English”, but instead implied his behavior was not that of an “A” student, since he was too “social”. Yes, I know there are some people that will simply say “the teacher doesn’t like your son ____ fill in the blank of which son we are discussing…and personality conflicts happen”. The REASON why they aren’t liked and made to “suffer” in some way is what is important. If it even comes close to gender as a factor and this affects young men’s college decisions, I am all over it. At least I would be doing this anyway, although any monetary donations would be appreciated! 🙂
As a Feminist, I am acutely attuned to the emotions or lack thereof when dealing with others. I have researched gender roles and am continuing this work, I may even begin a new blog on this topic, considering it is not about my more Civic Engagement type of work that I am planning to do. Point being Civic Engagement= nice, calm, sort of “girly” and Research= not pretty, sort of “masculine”, not calm in the least. Now I am not talking about research in the sense of circulating surveys and grinding out numbers and graphs, etc… I am talking about qualitative, on the “streets” work that led me to opening doors that many would prefer to keep closed and locked and preferably moved to Cuba. Now this is not the stuff of superheroes, it is the stuff of Sociologists. We are supposed to go to the “other side of the tracks”, to understand subcultures even the violent ones, we are just well…we should do it although not all us have taken this road.
So cue in the everyday life of someone (A Sociologist or other research person); we have an idea in our heads, but have realized we have no pen and paper to write down said ideas. In comes a jovial, bouncing neighbor or fellow parent or anyone who leaves their job at the job. I am sure we seem aloof and sometimes even rude when we are contemplating such things as terrorism or violent gangs and we are asked about a bake sale. Similarly confusing to “normal” people are the times I have claimed to be “too busy” to do X or Y and I am spotted in the bleachers watching one of my sons doing athletic training, practicing, game playing, etc… and going to games is important, sure but going to practices and other events, no not even necessary. To me it is however, as I watch their male coaches and trainers coach and train. Their lack of emotion (except sometimes anger), use of metaphors such as “you are athletes, not horses!” when they are stomping around, and all around command of respect and space is something to learn from if you have a penchant for sports, leadership, and gender in no particular order or possibly one but not all.
One may have an erroneous idea that coaching sports (especially ones considered more violent and less aesthetic such as football and martial arts) requires no intellectual work and that it is all yelling and throwing chairs and such. This is quite untrue as these sports are a science and an art, respectively and emotion is expected as a motivator; simply put it is a role and a necessary one. Enter in female teacher and the opposite is expected by most Feminists; intellectual work is supposed to be all that is on display while emotions are not supposed to be added at all. Now not all Feminist teachers believe this to be true, but they do (rightly so) realize that women are viewed as being “overly emotional” i.e. hysterical or teary-eyed or more concerned with making people “happy” rather than successful.
Stereotypes do nothing positive for either men or women. But it is quite possible to use emotion as a woman in intellectual work, as well. This emotion does not have to be of the “chair throwing” origin, but it is what I call “fake anger’…I see coaches using it quite a bit. Now sometimes they are legitimately angry, but in the “pre preseason” as it is now for football; I see that fake anger used for two objectives (1) expect some actual anger later in the preseason and (2) I am trying to motivate you and being nice is not a motivator when push-ups, running, and other not fun activities are involved. So yes this can be translated to women in teaching or any leadership role sans the actual angry which is always counterproductive. (A) fake anger is good in that it prepares students for the “real world” where people are not going to always be nice and (b) it motivates students to do some work that they may have to do to fulfill prereqs that they may have no interest in doing. Of course, you have to still “coach” by praising outstanding performance and have some fun here and there. But the point is when we think of women as emotional, the angry side is often looked at as a transient “she must have PMS this week” type of thing. Consistency is key and I will attest to this in my classes and in my parenting of 3 boys as a single parent.
I can and will be nice, step out of bounds and I won’t be, it really is that simple. When I feel legitimately angry, I pull out pen and paper and write, literally write “do not freak out on Jordan for being disruptive in class, count to 10…oh still mad at him? count to 20”, then I shoot “Jordan” a look and move on… same thing at home. Stay in the bounds of acceptable behavior and all will be well, step out and it will be a boot camp situation. In hindsight, dealing with all the myriad issues of having my oldest son start high school and the middle son start junior high, has been a trial. The oldest has went from being disruptive and failing to honor roll at this point, the middle one; well his angry outbursts ended when I got radical and took him to the ER, knowing the charge nurse was a fellow parent of kids his age. After getting a counseling referral and telling him in no uncertain terms “if you want to go to counseling to have people feel sorry for you, you will never be an adult that can function on your own- stop feeling sorry for yourself”. It has worked. He is also honor roll and doing great.
One final statement on this, Feminists stop, just STOP acting as if parenting is something that is taboo in your world. Yes, I get it believe me, it sets up back 50 years if all we talk about is our kids, and swap recipes, and read People magazine. But don’t deny the fact that if you can’t run a “tight ship” at home, don’t expect anyone to think you can run anything else. Also some might assume that your husband (even if you hyphenated your name or kept your maiden name and the rest of us are confused as to whether you even believe in having children) is doing all the discipline at home then. No, we can’t have it all, but we can do emotional and intellectual work simultaneously and be better people for it.
Being an informed citizen is important, knowing what is going on around us is essential to how we conduct our day to day activities. From knowing whether to grab the umbrella or understanding the genesis of tragedies that happen in our communities and others, knowing what is happening can be helpful. It can also be exhausting. It was a week when passive media consumers and active first responders were all collectively begging that no more tragedies would happen; enough was enough. While many of us were relieved to discover that the Boston bombing suspects had been taken dead and alive (respectively) either because we were obsessively following the story or we happened to come across it later on, tweets of an earthquake and of bird flu just kept rolling in. It’s enough to give a person “mean world syndrome” or even mild to severe symptoms of PTSD from constantly watching or reading about the events this past week and beyond.
1. Understand that a controversial label ; “media PTSD” has been suggested and children that watched footage of the 9/11 were found to have symptoms of the disorder. Children should be kept away from images, but not a healthy and age-appropriate dialogue of what is going on around them.
2. It is quite common for people to feel a sense of helplessness when so many things around us seem to be going wrong. We can’t control what others do, but we can control how much media we consume and know when enough is enough. We can also get our own family, work, and community affairs “in order” so that we don’t feel a domino effect of constant negatives.
3. We can be helpful to other people in small to large ways, depending on our skill set. Community Service is a win/win situation. However, jumping on an internet platform to criticize or stir up controversy just confuses people. Yes, Free Speech is a fundamental right, but who does that speech help? If it is just a way of “venting”- find another way; like journaling or talking to a trusted friend.
4. Don’t lose sleep. It is easier said than done if we believe a storm is going to hit in the middle of the night or if a story if developing and we are afraid we will miss something. Occasionally there are times when we need to take the family to the basement if a storm is impending, but if you find yourself awake late most nights you may be overly vigilant and that isn’t good. Talk to someone.
5. There is a difference between hypervigilance and having situational awareness. Situational awareness is what we employ when we are “defensive driving”; knowing where the cars around us are, the speed limit, road conditions, etc… It is helpful and it keeps us safe. Hypervigilance is irrational and keeps us on the “edge” when no real threat exists to us.
6. Take your own advice. If you are a parent or have a career that dictates you care for and/or lead others, it is second nature to give advice and be helpful. Sometimes those in the “helping professions” can feel better when they are leading and managing others, but we can’t lose sight of our own needs in the process. Setting a good, strong example is a positive, but we have to take care of our own needs and acknowledge when we are not doing just that.
Now go turn off the computer and relax!