How to Bring up Race within Feminism without being Attacked- (hint: you can’t)

Disclaimer* I am all for the great work of artists (including writers and limited to writers that avoid sensationalism and just freaking write) therefore I am just writing in the “stream of consciousness” style so to not appear to be any serious type of author…. though I would like to write a textbook one day or a book of poetry but NO MORE newspapers or magazines for me…ughh too much controversy and a totally negative “space”..

So I should be getting my syllabi together for the new semester in Sociology, however we must as Sociologists learn to follow the trend of social movements being part of social media and involve our students in “tracking” these fascinating ways to be heard and to be part of something.  However, this is not for the faint of heart, and I say this as someone who has been around deviant subcultures; and by deviant, I mean criminal and by criminal, I mean “look over your shoulder, I am scared I might get stabbed” type stuff.  I have learned so much by being “out there” in the field, being “in here” in the interwebs in many ways seems scarier.  This is not because I am older, but it’s because I can guess intent with body language and other nonverbal cues.  I can’t do this online.  We also may see a “herd mentality” or a “conformity of thought” and get distressed.  A very well-written article is attached here to illustrate the history of a specific social movement (Feminism) and a specific way that this was derailed as “white supremacy” (the author remains as “Unrepentant Jacobinism” so I would credit where credit is due, and that is what I have as far as an author credit). I have been “tracking” this particular issue since December when it was #solidarityisforwhitewomen and gained some momentum in the conversation of “intersectionality” and initiated by – Mikki Kendall.

Now when I say “tracking” these issues, I mean like we did in our Spring courses when we had a government teacher that asked us to pick a bill in the state house or senate (should I capitalize that? I’m going with a big fat NO here in Indiana, because our state government is too busy trying to ban same-sex marriage and GRRR).  Anyway, we would track a bill and see if it picked up co-sponsors and other interesting things that can happen with legislation….exciting stuff!  So to not “track” the trajectory of social movements seems wrong, so I use the same sort of methodology.  However I became a “cosponsor” of the Adele Wilde-Blavask “side” because I learned on Twitter there are frequent wars within the Feminist movement and this article prompted some criticism (ok I was  trying to be objective) but then it turned hateful and scary and with that I cannot be a bystander.  So by simply saying “stop bullying” or as it may be better stated “piling on and on and on and on with no sign of letting up until Adele GIVES some person who APPARENTLY knows more about INTERSECTIONALITY her job”.  So I didn’t see only bullying, I saw people who seemed to think they could do a better job of writing than Adele and wanted to take her down.  There seems to be a pattern with this.  I have also seen pretty thought-provoking pieces and some strange, yet artistic stuff on Feminism that has been summarily blasted, as well like Eve Ensler.  HURRY! You may be able to get a book deal too if you can be BETTER than Eve! I am just saying she is artistic and thought-provoking, so I like to be provoked in thought….? oh no

I discover that the Marxist in me rages over this idea that it isn’t about disagreement, it’s about capitalism. and WHY CAN’T YOU SEE THAT?- I need some tea-  Some Feminists think that only by eliminating Capitalism can we be equal and that is because race, class, and gender are all wrapped into one economic system.  So unless you want to have an “econ” conversation, I would like to point out that wealth reigns supreme and takes your “intersectionality argument” off the table, this is about the love of money, money, money FIRST then you deal with the rest (that is if you are a Marxist Feminist).  Me being white- sure it’s something I “check”, but I have an ethnicity too…one (or more to be clear) that I won’t throw down like a trump card to defend against “supporting white supremacy”.  Oh I have also studied this ideological hate group (white supremacists) and we can talk about it, I suppose, but I don’t generally write without getting paid and it’s usually very dry academic “stuff”.  I really don’t even know why I have a blog, because I am anti-Capitalism to the extent that I “get” there are people that blog to make money and do NPR and all sorts of things.  I just do research and try to stay out of the way.  But I will say, when I see someone’s job being threatened because women can’t see that Capitalism is the biggest “B” and instead claim racism is the culprit…I wonder, IS it? Just think about it, I guess.  As far as defending Adele, I am going to simply say, she makes GREAT discussion points and discussion, debate, Feminist discourse= great!  Harassment is not cool, it’s pretty sick that anyone thinks this is ok online or otherwise and seriously what might the Pope say?  Yeah because=Weber and “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” explains a great deal.  I saw Adele bring Buddhism into the debate and I was glad SOMEONE saw this as important.  I will continue to “track” this, and I will go ahead and say- stop accusing people of “defending white supremacy” – start looking at your love for the almighty dollar or whatever currency floats your boat first.  Also I see that Adele is continuing to look at a religious angle, which is lacking in this convo and it needs to be brought up and- out

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The Gender Wars Just Got Real: or Sociology is Not Social Work

So my youngest had the choice this week (well I had the choice this week) of having my son participate in a musical, for which FINALLY boys had actual speaking roles OR he could continue playing in a football tournament that he was asked to play in for a week.  I basically realized that either choice brought with it some “ism” that I was not happy with and made me look like someone who took issue with EVERYTHING.  It was either the musical with matriarchy and cronyism or football with patriarchy and cronyism.  Since I could no longer complain about the lack of opportunities for boys to have roles in the arts (last year it was Choir and solos I was angry about), I could and did complain, well I pointed out with video evidence that my 10 year old with a flair for the dramatic deserved the lead role.  He was given some token role with 5 lines… I have warned people that I am just as competitive in scholarly and artistic pursuits as athletics and I probably lean more toward athletics, because it seems more normal there.  Yelling at a spelling bee is frowned upon, I found out and challenging a ruling to see if UK English was actually more acceptable, since it was the “King’s English” was almost as embarrassing in hindsight as blaming Dan Quayle for spelling errors.  Although I would much rather dress up and stay inside a warm gymnasium Thursday evening, I am not going to participate in the matriarchy, whiny, cronyism that led to someone, who is a SOMEONE in this town to get the lead even though he can’t string together a coherent sentence.  Of course that is “mean” and someone might literally cry about it, that isn’t fair.  Telling me I hurt your feelings, when you support all that is wrong with America is a total cop-out and a testament to why we have such an “entitlement” problem…let the best man win (or woman or random person who isn’t related to a “somebody”).  I told my son he should he should be allowed to give his spot to a kid that never gets picked to do things, but of course the part went to the head of the PTA’s kid, who is also a doctor’s son….

Then there is football, which as a sport and a culture, has come under fire because of this Richie Incognito fiasco.  Ironically my son is also an offensive lineman and I have been formulating theories on how to coach the O-line lately on my spare time, because it is hard to do all the hard work and get none of the credit.  Enter in the “Incognito” joke, literally.  I think that O-lineman either fall into one of two camps; the protector types that will block to save their QB and running backs and then there are the Richie Incognitos, who are mean enough to play defense, but too slow, and well just mean.  My son isn’t mean and he doesn’t need to be, so enter in patriarchy and the idea that you have be a mean person to play football.  Yeah, ok only if you want to reinforce tired old stereotypes about “jocks” being unintelligent and all the other negative connotations.  On the other hand, if my son, who is a good actor, wanted to continue to be in musicals and such, he would be called something equally stereotypical…  This does actually make me cry and then I see the possibility that my son is likely going to be called a “mama’s boy” and I get angry, because what I am looking for is a meritocracy not a matriarchal society…because I haven’t even thought through what the latter might look like.  Although if there is excessive crying, I don’t want any part of it.  However I am not saying that emotion is bad, I am just saying that using emotion as a weapon can be bad- anger/yelling or sadness/crying… and I am more comfortable with constructive yelling than I am with crying about how I am being “unfair”- when you are being unreasonable, because I said YOU were being unfair… UGHHH this is exhausting.

I have always been for gender equity (equality is not the same as equity people)! I didn’t always know what it was called, but I have seen the effects of trying to force a tomboy to be girly (I have experienced that) or trying to force a boy of any type to be a “machine” without feelings or a working brain, because you know being smart and stuff is stoooopid!- There is an ism for that, but I don’t have the energy to get into it…. Caring about art, music, or (gasp) dance and you may get bullied by an Incognito type person.  Sadly you don’t even have to be a kid, so these campaigns of “it gets better” and so on, well- sorry kids, but the truth just came out.  Sometimes it is worse and it is worse BECAUSE you are an adult and you think to yourself “I am a grownup, what is really going on here?”  I for one am glad that this is coming out, because life should get better when you grow up and the prom queens from the 80’s can stop being so bitchy to everyone and I can (although I don’t want to) discontinue being the person that alternates from yelling at someone when I see an “ism”- to an Emo person that just sees that life is pointless and why not just listen to Nirvana and to heck with those prom queens and WHY is marijuana not legal- like DUDE!?! (to be clear here this is SARCASM and a flashback to my high school self).  Of course there is a race and class element to all of this first…but class is so much easier to understand and even dismiss…oh really?>> you may ask- yes…. I am going to buy my middle son, in the midst of teenage angst the new “Ghost” game that came out today…all his friends have it.  I am not going to be THAT parent that says oh, you don’t have to have everything your friends have, because you DO or they wouldn’t be your friends…they wouldn’t be your friends because you would have nothing in common NOT because they think they are better than you BUT because it is a “bummer” when little Johnny can’t play games with you because they are poor… Do we expect to deal with “bummer” situations all the time? I am not wealthy by any means, but my neighbor or some other person who has to have back surgery every month or so is a bummer to me, because we aren’t in a Back Surgery Support Group and I can probably one-up you with the back problems- because I am competitive and I DO NOT care if I am in my 30’s I can one-up your Dementia too… and this children is why Sociology is not Social Work…. well this is why those of us that are consumed with the Sociology of Sport, who love competition and can spot class/race/gender conflict a mile away because conflict is not a whole lot unlike competition act as we do… Well this is why I act as I do, but after all I am only one representation of my non-Waspy, female, working class, educated, type-A, MBTI ENTJ, and so on and so on- so I can only speak for myself.  Maybe we are all unique snowflakes… Palahniuk.

How Many Sub-Disciplines Again?

Ok so I decided to “brand” myself as a Sociologist and in doing so map out my remaining years of research and work (I am in my 30’s, so this feels like major commitment)- for those of you “pop culture” people and parents I am feeling like Squidward hearing SpongeBob’s shriek of “FOREVER!..” But that is alright, otherwise who knows where I might end up.

So this “branding” happened in a very public sphere and, yes, this is a public sphere, as well, but we are talking Twitter- which people may actually read…this blog? probably not so much.  So new Twitter “bio” =Sociology Instructor- Sociology of Sport, Social Construction of Competition, Disaster, Violence, and Terrorism, Art in Social Movements, and Gender Studies… So no, no, and no, this is not an excuse to watch sports.  Sports helps me understand competition in the Social Psychology “in-group and out-group dynamics” in collective narcissism, cronyism, and “good ole boys stuff”…thank you very much.  We can look at ethnocentrism and how it may lead to violence, of extreme nationalism and its role in terrorism.  Disaster…may be due to Terrorism or something else.  Sports is my building block, so wrap your mind around that.

Art in Social Movements…let’s see 60’s music, anti-globalization pop art, Communist theater, AIM’s music and dance, and on and on and on… so I can make art (or try) and also partake it.  I could do this for FOREVER…no problem.  Finally, gender studies and I am stuck with my sex and gender pretty much locked in, although (ironically) become more feminine and less “competitive”….still conceptualizing at this point.  I am also stuck with the 3 boys and a plethora of information on gender roles and masculinity.  I am somewhat fascinated by my youngest, who can play football like a pro and then in the next breath tell me about his audition for a musical.  He loves costumes and uniforms, I will give him that…what a case study, that one.  My oldest is absolutely obsessed with a healthy lifestyle and doesn’t play a sport, but he lifts weights every single day (even on Sundays when I am trying to watch football).  He criticizes what is in the refrigerator…regular yogurt and not low-fat?  He talks about carbs and buys nutritional supplements.  I am too busy trying to keep up with the B vitamins he is on to study him, but wow-

I may write some poetry, although I am currently reeling from the loss at the local poetry contest.  I feel the need to redeem myself…I may write in the style of the Dark Romantics…since they are my favorite this time of year.  Scarlet Letter? yes, yes…that is perfect.  Random, which isn’t a sub-discipline, but if it was, I would be the Chairperson of randomness although out of chaos comes something…. which is what I am trying to prove here.

Gender Bias- Enough!

Research confirms what many of us already knew, mothers have a much harder time getting promoted than single women and men with children.  There seems to be a strange correlation with single men having issues moving up, as well, although I could not find a reason for this specifically in the research.  From The Chronicle of Higher Education comes this:

“Take two equivalently qualified job candidates. One is known to be a parent. The other is not a parent.

With experimental scenarios like these, researchers have found substantial evidence of bias against mothers. In the studies of Shelley Correll, a professor of sociology at Stanford, childless women were roughly twice as likely to be called back or recommended for hire by an employer. And when childless women were recommended for a job, they were offered salaries approximately $11,000 higher”.

It is a scenario that plays out all too often and is perpetrated by people who are supposed to know that stereotyping and discriminating is just flat-out wrong, academia is mentioned and this is troubling.  This is a double-edged sword with women who happen to be mothers, yet it doesn’t define them and they may be (hypothesis) not exactly accepted by the more (how do I put this?)- maternal? mothers who have made a career out of parenting or portraying themselves as good parents or forgetting that it is their kids that are in high school or middle school not them…yes those women.  I have come to despise those women and it because, yes, they fit a stereotype and they help perpetuate it.  I know I am supposed to feel some solidarity here, but I hate them for it sometimes.  Just like a person who has fallen on “hard times” and is receiving assistance all the while hearing about what scum they are or whatever other people that FEAR the same fate call them, just like that feeling they get when they see a stereotype…or any ethnic group that has had to overcome hatred only to find themselves hating one another, because they HATE themselves and they are just destroying a mirror.  Yes Fear and Hate, capitalized, all-caps even, because these are the most powerful “forces” out there.  I say forces, because these aren’t feelings when they are permanent….they are states of mind.  What sort of progress can ever be made if I fear going outside this maternal box or toward a better future and I end up hating the women that appear content with themselves as a mom and a wife.  Sure everyone deserves to be happy…but my guess is that you are raising the self-entitled jerks that will be oblivious to anyone else, even you, yes you.  This is why some of us (this is for the non-parents)some of us decide to have children, because we are terrified, this is our fear, the fear of “cool women” anyway-this is hard to define but I’ll go on-OUR fear is that THOSE stereotypical and oblivious people will multiply…ever wonder why there is all this obsession with zombies in the popular culture?  Think about that for a second…

It’s a tightrope of being reminded when you go outside the norms of a social group with overt comments like “do you think you’re better than me?” “who do you think you are?” translation: know your place and most importantly do NOT EVER remind us that we may be oppressed in some way.  More covert forms of social control exist as well, being excluded for instance and no one wants that…if your family or peers won’t even talk to you because you are a reminder that MAYBE aspiring to be something different is not the worst goal, how confident can one possibly be with a group of more “superior” aka not oppressed and oblivious people with whom you have nothing in common with?  No wonder people scramble back to a dysfunctional life just to be accepted…being dysfunctional is better than being invisible.  Then you are pigeonholed back into a stereotype that ensures that your kids are stuck…if you have them and I understand why people don’t.  Moms can be as exclusive as any group I have ever met, I would probably have a better chance breaking down barriers with a motorcycle gang…I also have less of a chance of getting promoted and being taken seriously.  I talk about my kids (because they say the darndest things just like ADULT people sometimes) and I get the cold shoulder from the snobs who are above this, those who probably read Tolstoy’s later work and were influenced by the not having children thing and by that I mean the stuff he wrote when he was totally insane and also decided having kids was a bad idea after having 14.  I talk about Tolstoy with a group of mom’s and how the Kreutzer Sonata was also an actual Sonata and how Teddy Roosevelt considered Tolstoy a sexual moral pervert and…. if it doesn’t involve a story their kids wrote about their stuffed freaking dinosaur it is of no importance.  Really? Of course I said this is a tightrope, not every mother is self-absorbed and not every academic will freak out when you mention how your kid’s new hobby has something to do with campaigning for our street name to be changed because they didn’t like it for some forgettable reason, because they have moved on to campaigning for the driving age to be lowered to 10.

We are expected to act like two distinct people, both of these in the public sphere, three people if you act differently in private and gossip about people or whatever some people do… WEB DuBois talked about this idea of a “double consciousness” and as it pertains to race, it makes sense.  This is why Sociologists put gender with race and class….it makes us who we are, divides us, stereotypes us, and brings out fear and hate and strict social control in whatever group you are forced to be pigeonholed into…the illusion of choice is not an illusion if you realize this.  It doesn’t make me feel a deep seated (almost but not quite) hate for these mothers any less knowing this… I don’t think it makes me less of a Feminist for feeling this way either.  I understand the strategy of divide and conquer, but when there is nothing left to divide (if you are a mother with career aspirations and your budget literally leaves nothing TO divide)…all there is left is to conquer and if you aren’t with me, you are against me.  If you aren’t outraged by discrimination or outraged about anything at all, because it isn’t “ladylike” or if you are a snob who feels that outrage is SO low rent, you are an idiot,  Things don’t get conquered by peace, the etiology of the word does suggest a level of high emotion….peace is when the fight is done.  Read the comments on these ‘micro mechanisms” by the ASA. They seem to put this is a more “even” way…I’m still pissed about it.

5 rules for productive conflict

TED Blog

Margaret Heffernan speaks at TEDGlobal 2012

Rob Manning did everything in his power to screw up the Curiosity rover’s landing on Mars last night. Manning not only cut radio signals to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s control room, but also simulated a hole being poked in the rover’s fuel system and solar flares flying toward the spacecraft.

Why would he do this?

Because he is the chief engineer for the rover mission, and wanted his team to be able to handle any worst-case scenario.

“Being a gremlin allows me to soul-search and look at all the things that I missed,” Manning told the Chicago Tribune in the days before last night’s landing.

Manning’s mischief would certainly get a thumbs up from management expert Margaret Heffernan. In a thought-provoking talk given at TEDGlobal 2012, Heffernan shared a counterintuitive lesson learned in her years running businesses and organizations — that conflict and opposition are essential for good thinking.

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A Team Player? How Does THAT Happen?

Having a “team player” attitude is what most work organizations want and obviously what sports coaches want.  After doing this sports parenting thing for over a decade and deciding to grow up personally and actually have a career and not just a job has led me to the conclusion that I probably am not the best role model for a team player.  As a person who has always been drawn to Sociology and who teaches it, dealing with groups is difficult, because the idea is that we study them; obviously.  When we are part of them (whatever group) terms like “group-think” and “norms”, and “social control” are always there.  More disturbing is the reminder of Zimbardo’s study or the Milgram experiment; i.e. our human capability to just “go along” and become Nazis.  Absolute obedience is something to be feared, maybe not all Sociologists feel this way, but I do….
I remember my first Sociology course and the only college course, where there was a “bell curve”…actually there was no bell curve, because I kept getting 100% on tests  therefore taking away the curve and also giving the Professor an experiment to work with.  He told the entire class what grade they MIGHT have gotten had I not gotten that 100%, yes he used my name so everyone knew who was to blame.  He referenced the “prisoner’s dilemma” in this case and I understood I could either continue doing well or do less well for the good of the rest of the class.  I chose to continue acing tests, because I am competitive and what I found pointless to do in sports (after the time I broke a 3rd baseman’s leg sliding into the base and realizing that even though I did exactly what I was supposed to do to get on base, leg-breaking was not the best skill to hone unless I joined a mafia), I did however find the competitive spirit in getting better grades than others.  Actually, knowing how to run fast and slide did turn into a good skill set when I had to run from a certain classmate, who decided that I was the reason she would fail the Sociology “bell curve” class since I continued to get 100%.
The valuable lesson I learned too is that the class became split, between those who were passing and admired me and those who were failing and hated me.  I could deal with both those things.  Is it better to be loved or feared?- that question has never really been answered, but if you want to be a team-player, you better be loved instead.  You sometimes have to downplay your abilities and you can’t go around breaking your teammates legs (did I mention this was in a scrimmage game Varsity V. Reserves and not against a rival team?)- even if I used perfect form when I slid into base and did just what my dad told me and my brother to do in baseball/softball and obviously he knew what he was talking about since my brother’s picture hangs on the wall at the High School for being a superstar player.  My dad and his dad were also Letterman in sports and evidently so was my uncle until he ran away to New York and finally Florida where he currently lives under an overpass.  My cousin though from the same side of the family is also on the wall of fame for wrestling.  I have obviously surmised that genetics play a big part in this too.  It is split between wondering who will become homeless and live under a bridge in Tampa or who will be a superstar in life.
So having three boys is not some misguided Feminist attempt to allow myself to live vicariously through them in all the things I could not to (or at least play with teammates with sturdier legs) or to prove that a single mom can guide kids just as well as a father could do – well I am competitive, so I do want to prove I can at least teach them some things.  Teaching them to be team players has proven the hardest.  I made that mistake with my oldest, but granted I was still in Graduate School when he started sports and being a younger parent and being confused as my oldest son’s sister led me to begin randomly yelling things out, because no one’s sister actually cares enough to do so.  More education in Sociology and my fear that if my son just went along” with everything, he could become a Nazi, led me to even more sideline yelling and coach confrontations.  That fact that he is an “all about me” teen at this point, should be no surprise, but he should do alright, considering his father owns a business and business-owners don’t have to be team players anyway.
Enter in the middle kid and my sudden understanding that people with grown children, no children, or men did better in their careers, because they had the time to put into them…basically work was their life.  The “women can have it all” myth was shattered and I dealt with it by appointing myself the boss of absolutely everything I was doing, including “coaching” kid 2.  Unlike kid 1, who I put upon a pedestal (and he was a good athlete), kid 2 was not put upon the same pedestal, instead I became obsessed with things like his technique or even worse his coaches choices for plays.  There were times I flat-out told coaches that he would not do “x” play, because “x” play was not working and even hand out a PDF of what plays would work better.  Inadvertently he has become a team player, since his teammates and coaches were obviously more normal than I was at the time and they were an escape from my insanity.  It is also important to mention that this son is from a second and also short marriage and his father also ended up in Florida.  I once thought after not hearing from him in years that he was in the Witness Protection Program, but then he popped up on Facebook and I had to tell kids 2 and 3 that he was not in fact working to build homes for orphans in Africa, but he was in Florida and….changed the subject.  So kid 2 cares about his coaches even more because they are father figures and at least is no longer jealous of those imaginary orphans with new imaginary homes, which is ridiculous anyway.
Kid 3 came as a surprise from the second he was born, firstly I was advised that I was now the parent of a redhead (how is this genetically possible?), secondly the moment I held him, he had a deathgrip on my finger from which I had to literally peel his tiny fingers away to give him to the nurse thinking this one will be the football player and not ever changing my mind because thirdly, he was not a natural athlete at every sport he played (how is this genetically possible?), but the first time he ever got to tackle a kid, it looked like he had been doing it for years.  Therefore, kid 3 became about intensity.  I was at a point in my life where Recession and the knowledge that my CV just-sucked- made it easy to want to give up. I also realized that I was such a competitive student that I actually married “case studies” to have something to do outside of school, because just being married for the sake of being married never actually made any sense to me.  Of course, I can say that my kids are all legitimate and that was important, I suppose.  So, I watched motivational videos and began being a huge Ray Lewis fan (wondering what sorts of things I might have learned from him if I would have picked better case studies).  I didn’t try to overanalyze every thing with kid 3 or put him up on a pedestal, but instead saw that his lack of fear and genetically unexplainable toughness and the rest made him into a natural leader.  Every team needs one, but a leader is still a good team player…because they care enough about their teammates to bring out the best in them by example and from a parenting aspect; quite by accident.  I also realized that as long as they didn’t end up in Florida (which I always say with the same unsubtle distaste as I do when I say “Nazi” or “soccer”) then it can’t be THAT bad.

What I’ve learned: Life Hacks

American Vagabond

002564a5d684112547f34aI could easily write a list of awesome badass “Life Hacks”. A “Life Hack” is a time-saving, money-saving, productivity inducing, or just sanity giving “tip” to help you live your life better. These are usually tips that you already know but have no actual interest in implementing. For example, you already know that spending oodles of time on FaceBook is lame, useless, and bad for your soul – but you do it anyway. You already know that drinking pop (even diet) is bad for you, but you drink it anyway. You are well aware that you could save money (and time and your soul) buy not stopping at Starbucks for your morning latte-chino, but you do it anyway. And, you already know that television is shit, that cable companies gouge your pockets and rob you blind, but you still insist on keeping 1-4 T.V.’s in your home equipped with all…

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Common Ground: Gender Research

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! 🙂