jailbreaking the patriarchy

Someone on reddit recommended this chrome extension called, “Jailbreaking the Patriarchy.” Essentially, it flips the gender references on the webpages you’re looking at, so instead of,

“Like most guys, Tommy preferred riding motorcycle to baking cakes. He was more comfortable in a garage than a kitchen, and felt lost and confused when surrounded by a crowd of chattering women.”

it would say something like,

“Like most gals, Tommy preferred riding motorcycle to baking cakes. She was more comfortable in a garage than a kitchen, and felt lost and confused when surrounded by a crowd of chattering men.”

The idea of the extension is to highlight subtle generalizations and gender stereotypes. I’ve had it installed for a couple hours now, but noticed little difference. To be honest, I frequent a lot of feminist and liberal websites, and I tend to stay out of the nasty mainstream reddits, so I haven’t really given it a chance.The extension can be toggled on of off, so after a bit I just toggled it to off after a bit.

Well, I was clicking around on Salon, and saw some advertised content at the bottom of the page: 5 Things Wrecking Your Sex Life. That sounded like a pretty stereotypical GlamourCosmo/ Marie Claire-style sex advice headline, which almost guaranteed it would be packed with gender stereotypes. So I went ahead and turned the extension on before clicking on the article. This is my favorite part (quoted with gender’s flipped, as the extension had me reading it):

4. Being Embarrassed – What man hasn’t almost screamed in horror when looking at his thighs in the mirror, or had an absolute mental breakdown when passing gas in front of someone? When these things happen in the bedroom, it can feel like the end of the world. It’s important to realize that once women turn on their sex-brain, very little can turn it off.

That was pretty interesting/ enlightening. I mean, when reading the article in “normal” mode, it’s apparent that it’s directed toward women. The assumptions that women need help amping up their desire, that women need help being comfortable in the bedroom or becoming aroused or reaching orgasm is prevalent throughout the piece.

Equally prevalent are the assumptions that men are driven by sex/ always ready for sex/ never say no to sex. These social assumptions about men can be just as damaging — it puts a pressure on guys that makes them feel they are somehow un-masculine if they aren’t in the mood. The assumption that guys “always want it” can also damage relationships. For instance if a guy refuses sex because he’s tired/ has a headache/ doesn’t feel well, that doesn’t fit the gender script. To some women, it is so inconceivable that their guy could “not be in the mood” that it’s easier to say, “Oh, he thinks I’m fat/ ugly/ gross. He’s no longer attracted to me. He’s cheating on me. He doesn’t love me anymore,” than it is to just accept that he’s tired or not feeling well.

These sorts of assumptions (for both genders) have irritated me for years, but they’re also so very common that it’s easy to overlook them or let them slide. It’s funny how flipping the script the way this extension does just absolutely highlights how absurd and endemic these sorts of assumptions are. This is the closing paragraph of the above-linked article, genders flipped:

Talk to your partner. Most women aren’t mind readers, and if you’re struggling with a sexual issue, she may not notice until you tell her. Be open and honest about what you are feeling, what you want, what you dislike and how you can both work together to improve the situation.

I mean, it’s sound advice, no matter which gender it’s marketed to — but it’s telling that this closing paragraph reads so very oddly when it appears to directed at men rather then women.

Reading Response 3: Sacred Texts


On page 296 of Sacred Texts, we are told that Taoism embraces the best points of Confucianism and Maoism while combining the essentials of Legalists and Logicians. The problem with Confucianism is apparently that extensive learning meant the “essentials” were overlooked. Maoism emphasized thrift but was “difficult to follow,” while the legalists and logicians were considered too severe — they showed little kindness and destroyed humanity and righteousness.

The benefit Taoism has over all these things is an ability to change with the times and respond to transformations. Being simple to understand and easy to practice, it is easily adaptable to all cultures, lifestyles, and mindsets.

To me, that sounds too easy. Perhaps it’s the Protestant ethic rearing its ugly and societally engrained head, but it seems to me that a system of spiritual growth that is “easy” and “adaptable” is perhaps not so much about spiritual growth as it is about getting on. I tried to shake this uncomfortable feeling as I read the Tao Te Ching, but I can’t help but feel like this is taking religion and spirituality to the other extreme.

The extreme Westerners are most familiar with is action: Preaching and pressing and inflicting our personal beliefs into every aspect of life — politics, education, entertainment. The thing is, these extremes are not necessary to belief (or lack of belief). They’re the way we are taught to relate to belief and spirituality, but that does not mean it’s the only path to belief and spirituality.

When I read these Eastern mythologies and mindsets, they seem so peaceful, with words like, “Do not exalt the worthy, and the people will not compete… Do not display objects of desire, and the people’s minds will not be disturbed,” or, “Even the best weapon is an unhappy tool, hateful to living things. So the follower of the Way stays away from it.”

These are so different, so foreign from Western cries to action and victory. These are words of peacefulness and contemplation, words that reject strife and pain and fear. But then there are words like, “Therefore the ordering of the sage empties their minds, fills their bellies… and causes the wise ones not to dare to act. He does nothing, and there is nothing that is not brought to order.”

To me, these teachings seem to tip too easily and too far into the other direction — so far away from action that the most devout practitioners can become isolated and separate from any influence of or on the world. They can sit in a monastery meditating their days away and think they’ve done something worthwhile, but haven’t in reality added a drop to the struggle and joy of humanity.

I think there is a moderation that must be sought between the two. Both the Eastern and the Western religions touch on the necessity for balance, for a grace between action and inaction. For the necessity to find peace of mind before action; to understand oneself before taking action for good or ill. But I also think it’s far too easy to ignore the message of balance and seek after extremes. This is human nature, and when I read the Tao, I see the calls for balance — but I also see the calls for inaction, for removing oneself from strife. The calls to replace action with meditation. These bother me, because so often Eastern spirituality is posited as either the opposite of or an improvement on stereotypical Western spirituality. But thus far, they seem to be opposing extremes balanced on the same scale.

I do like Confucianism. The focus on education, knowledge, and (for lack of a better word) manners seems ordered and neat to me: A way of imposing order on a chaotic world. I have often found myself in a meditative state brought on by creativity or deep focus on a task, and Confucianism seems to me to be conductive to such a state.

strange times

I really like my job. Still. It’s six months down the line, and I still mostly love it. It’s challenging, interesting, and I get along with my coworkers and in-office boss. I have some minor concerns, but eh. That’s all jobs.

Anyway, today was the office party for my birthday. This is the first time I’ve ever worked in a place where they recognize the employees birthdays and make a thing of it. It was cool but also a little weird. They bought me a fruit tart (I friggin love fruit tarts).

They also gave me a card. The card had all these little quotes and inside jokes, and it was totally cute. And one of my co-workers knitted me a little sleeve for my Starbucks coffee cups (John comes by every day for lunch, and always drops off a 16 oz triple shot skinny caramel macchiato for me). It was cool, but also unusual for me when compared to my previous work experience. Still liking it.

Today for lunch John and I went out for pizza at this local little place called Vics. They had this insane/ awesome white sauce pizza with jalapenos and artichokes, and I swear I fell in love. What a great place. Tomorrow we’re going out for sushi at this place my coworker has highly recommended, so I’m stoked about that, and then the boys and I are going to Gameworks in Seattle. For Kidling’s birthday, we’re doing laser tag.

no words

Today one of my classmates said the following:

“I admire Martin Luther King and everything, but I just don’t think nonviolent resistance is the right thing. I mean, it’s still resistance. What about nonviolent love? What if instead of banging down your neighbors gate, you went and planted a garden for your neighbor, you know, just show love?”

There is so much to unpack in that, I don’t even know where to begin. Worse, he said it in like the last 10 minutes of seminar, and the teacher was all, “We don’t have time to look at the history and issues of nonviolent resistance, spirituality, and social justice right now, so we’ll get back to it later.”

Which, valid point — it was the end of class, and I wanted to get home just as much as anyone else — but still. What kind of fucking failure of an educational system did that kid go through to get to a space where he legitimately thinks love and gardens would have achieved the same results as the civil rights movement?

If Martin Luther King had tried to lovingly plant a garden in his oppressors’ homes, they would have fucking lynched him. Look at Emmett Till! Beaten and murdered for the alleged “crime” of flirting. Oh, yeah, “love” and “planting gardens” would have done a lot more than the civil rights movement.

According to Psychology Today, sarcasm is a sign of hostility. Yeah, I’m fucking hostile to the idea that rainbows and puppies and fucking gardens would have fixed centuries of repression, discrimination, and outright fucking hatred. A garden. A garden!

Gun advocates are right, we should compare guns to cars

This is a repost, and I disagree with it. I think this is a bit of a masked-man fallacy. It’s this idea that because it takes a human to actually kill, the tool is irrelevant. I disagree.

A human can kill with a car, yes. It’s generally not intentional (and in fact when someone is killed with a car, it’s referred to with terms like, “accident” or “fatality” or “vehicular manslaughter” because it’s not how the car is supposed to be used).

A human can also kill with a lamp or a baseball bat. But none of these things are tools intended to be used for murder, and that is what a gun is. A gun is a tool that was conceived and designed to kill. It is a tool that over the years has been honed to kill more effectively. That’s it’s point.

Yes, humans would kill with or without guns — but damn, do guns make it so much easier.

Dr. Jen Gunter

A common rebuttal to any discussion about of gun control is motor vehicleA common argument of gun advocates accident deaths. We don’t blame the car, we blame the driver. Regardless of the object’s intent (the car is for transportation and the gun is shoot people, targets, game, and skeet), neither a car nor a gun can kill or maim without human touch.

And I agree. Comparing guns and cars is fair, after all they kill about the same number of Americans every year: 33,687 motor vehicle deaths and 31,672 firearm deaths in 2010 (the latest year for which complete data is available). The death rates per 100,000 are almost identical: 10.9 for motor vehicles and 10.3 for firearms.

So let’s legislate guns just like we legislate motor vehicles:

  • Learners permit at age 15 and a formal test required for a license at 16. This kind of law would prevent deaths of young children who are…

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MLK week

At Kidling’s school on Wednesday, they had an assembly for MLK. I took lunch late and hurried over so I could watch it. It’s one of the few things I miss about being a SAHM. When I was a SAHM, I made it to everything: playdates, driving him to friends birthday parties, school plays and assemblies, parent-teacher conferences, etc. etc. Now I pick and choose and rush to be there on time.  But I digress.

Kidling had a line that he wrote himself, a precept. They came up with the idea of having the kids in his class quote precepts (that they either wrote themselves or found in a book) from one of MLK’s speeches. Kidling’s precept was,

You can shine no matter who you are, because you’re a firecracker.

Yes. He appears to have conflated Robots and some pop song lyrics. It was cute. I took video. Anyway, After Kidling’s class wrapped up their presentation, the next grade stepped up. Basically, the next few presentations were more focused on MLK — one class read one of his sermons, another class read a selection that included quotes from various children of the 1960’s who participated in the Montgomery bus boycott and other protest events of the time.

As so often happens with these sorts of recitals, there were a few main speaking parts, with the chosen speakers stepping forward to clearly enunciate their lines into a microphone. Most of the selection was read as a chorus, with all the children in the class chiming in together. I was slightly discomfited by the fact that even though this school is fairly diverse, the speaking parts were predominantly given to the white kids.

I say predominantly because I cannot specifically recall a minority speaking, but (to be fair) I only began really paying attention about halfway through the presentations. After my son did his bit, I started playing solitaire on my phone, and I only tuned back into the assembly when it occurred to me that it seemed like only white kids had the speaking parts.

Now, this school is military, so it’s pretty diverse– white, black, Asian, Hispanic, etc. etc. I just figured it would be a really even mix of white/ black/ Asian/ Hispanic for the speaking parts; not mostly just white kids, is all I’m saying. There were enough of children of all ethnicities that it felt like the speaking parts should have been more evenly dispersed.

Then again, maybe that was intentional– maybe the teachers were trying to help the white kids internalize the experience of discrimination by having them read the words of those long-ago children who boycotted the buses and marched in support of MLK, I dunno. Seems like a pretty generous reading of the circumstances, though. I mean, being passed over for speaking parts would also (presumably) teach that lesson.

Or maybe the teachers were afraid of being accused of favoritism/ “reverse racism” if they gave the speaking parts for this assembly to minorities. Or maybe the other kids were offered speaking parts and declined them for whatever reason. I don’t know, clearly. I didn’t direct this assembly.

I’m just saying the presentation kind of struck me as off. Seems like the voices of people of color should be the voices front and center when discussing this history, and the present impact of MLK’s civil rights movement. Kinda like you’d (presumably) center the voices of women on Women’s Day (not men), or Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day (not Nazi’s, or neo-nazis, or whatever), or returned soldiers on Veteran’s Day (not draft-dodging politicians)– that kinda thing.

Then in my Saturday class, we watched a film about the Memphis Sanitation workers strike and MLK’s assassination. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the class.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I learned a lot of things about MLK’s assassination that I hadn’t previously been aware of. I’ve never bothered to really delve into recent history, like with civil rights and stuff– I think on some level I’m extremely uncomfortable with the realization that people I know and love (like my parents) were alive during this era and more than likely perpetuating (even if through inaction) the racism and bigotry that resisted desegregation and equal rights. There’s something nauseating about knowing that your parents didn’t stand on the right side of history, and possibly didn’t “stand” at all during that time– that they may have just ducked their heads and tried to ignore it all.

Anyway, I learned MLK was in Memphis for the Sanitation Workers Strike, and that the Memphis Sanitation Workers went on strike two years after attempting to organize. They had gone on strike right after organizing, but were coaxed back to work with the promise that their working conditions would improve and their demands would be discussed once they went back to work. That didn’t happen.

Their wages were so low that even at full time hours, a Sanitation worker still qualified for welfare. Employees had no health insurance, sick leave, or vacation leave. They did not receive sick pay. If they were injured on the job, they were fired. The strike occurred specifically after a malfunctioning truck (which the employees repeatedly notified management about) was not repaired or decommissioned and ended up brutally crushing two employees. So 1,300 garbage men went on strike.

Striking sanitation workers.

At that time, due to the poor working conditions, the sanitation workers were a primarily black workforce. Although Memphis had peacefully desegregated, an informal segregation persisted and affirmative action wasn’t a thing yet. Black men were simply not considered or hired for the positions with higher pay and better working conditions, so they ended up in the low wage, no benefits, poor working conditions type of positions.

Anyway, so they went on strike. Following MLK’s advice, their protest was a peaceful one: Aside from simply not going to work, they and their supporters also would march peacefully through the streets of Memphis, wearing signs with statements such as, “I am a man.” (with the correlation that as a man with equal rights under the law, they should be treated accordingly).

So MLK came to Memphis to lead them in a march, but by the time he arrived various factions within and without the movement had the city tense and rumbling with the potential for riot. The white community was referring to MLK as a dangerous instigator and bemoaning how the striking sanitation workers were putting the health and welfare of their city at risk. Early on, the city council had agreed to recognize the Sanitation workers union and negotiate fair working conditions, but under pressure from the Mayor had backed away from that promise.

As the months had passed and conditions had grown more tense, Mayor Henry Loeb had pointed the finger continually at what he perceived as the intransigence and selfishness of the black community, both for going on strike and supporting the strike. He insisted that once the Sanitation workers returned to the job, he would be willing to talk with them — an assertion that was not at all supported by past experience.

Within the black community, there were several agitators who felt the tactic of nonviolence was not achieving the goals of the Civil Rights Movement quickly enough, and promoted change through violence and force. As the months went on and the simple demand for fair wages and safe working conditions were ignored, many supporters of the strikers (both white and black) began to be convinced toward this viewpoint.

The end result of all this tension was that when MLK went down to lead the march in Memphis, it broke out in a riot. MLK and the other non-violence advocates left the march. Police brutality was rampant, and ultimately the National Guard was called in to restore peace. Memphis was placed under temporary martial law.

The FBI already considered Martin Luther King to be “the most dangerous man in America,” and the events in Memphis helped in spreading that impression. The media said MLK couldn’t control “his” movement, much was made of how MLK had “fled” his own march, and the event was one more weapon in the toolbox of those arguing against civil rights. MLK determined he had to return to Memphis and lead successful peace march. So he returned to Memphis. He never led that second march — instead he was assassinated by James Earl Ray.

The contrasts between the two men are stunning: Martin Luther King was an educated man, a preacher, a family man, and clearly a leader. He was compassionate and nonviolent; he stood up for what he believed in. He was a benefit to everyone who knew him, to society, and indeed to the world at large.

James Earl Ray had dropped out of school at age 15 and joined the Army. After World War II ended, he returned to the U.S. and over the years was convicted of a series of crimes, including armed robbery, burglary, mail fraud, and various instances of theft. He escaped from prison and moved to Mexico, but returned to the U.S. when he was unlucky in love. In March of 1968, he bought the weapons to assassinate King. Ray believed that the governor of Alabama would eventually become President of the United States and Ray would be pardoned for the murder.

Essentially, the world was deprived of an amazing human being and left with criminal scum. According to the social mores still prevalent at the time, MLK was considered a dangerous threat to society because his skin was black and he spoke for equality; and James Earl Ray believed he was superior to MLK because of such a facile and superficial difference as skin color.

So that’s what I learned on Saturday: why MLK was in Memphis, that the FBI considered him a dangerous threat, and who his murderer was. In contrast to Kidling’s assembly, it really highlighted exactly how sanitized and cleaned up our chaotically messy history is for children. In my son’s assembly, there was no real discussion of racism or white male power, let alone the concepts of privilege and civil disobedience. There was no mention that a branch of the federal government considered this man of peace to be a dangerous threat, or that many local city and state governments were resisting desegregation and refusing to protect their black constituents.

That stuff is ugly and uncomfortable, and raises too many questions. So, like me with my edging around the civil rights movement in my historical research binges, we edge around the ugly spaces of our shared history. We say Martin Luther King was fighting against inequality, but we carefully don’t specify the ugly reality of that inequality. We explain that he was assassinated, but we don’t specify that the man who assassinated MLK believed the government would pardon him and he would be recognized as a hero.

Recent research has shown that discrimination is the default of the human race. It is not a learned trait, that by not discussing will simply be erased from our collective consciousness. It is, in fact, a means of differentiating “other”, of determining who is yours — your family/ tribe/ team. Who to defend, who to defend against. It is an evolutionary response that made sense in those long-ago days of caveman and Neanderthal interactions, but is unnecessary and in fact detrimental to a civilized society in these modern times. The study I referenced above had two especially notable excerpts in it:

  1. A preschool class of children was divided into two groups — not based on physical features, but instead by shirt color. One group was assigned blue shirts, the other assigned red shirts. No other lines were drawn. The red shirts and blue shirts still played, napped, ate, and studied together. The teachers did not differentiate between the groups. Still, the children began to self-segregate, and when researchers asked the children what they thought of the “red shirts” or the “blue shirts,” the children would feel that those who shared their shirt color were nicer/ smarter/ more fun to be around. This experiment showed researchers that in an attempt to understand the world around them, children categorize, and they do so by obvious markers of difference (like ability/ disability; male/ female; white/ non-white).
  2. The second bit of information that really hit me was that non-white parents speak to their children about race generally before the age of 5 because they have to. Because their child experiences racism — perhaps in school, perhaps while shopping with their parents, perhaps observing it in the media — and the parents need to explain this to their children. It is an unfortunate fact of life. White parents do not talk to their children about race, and in fact tend to shush or hush their children when the kids ask about race.

Picture it: A little white girl in a store, sees a black woman and tugs on her mom’s hand. Says, “Mommy, why is her skin so dirty?” The mom, blushing, shushes her daughter, perhaps promises to talk about it later. Later never comes, but a message has been sent nonetheless: This topic is off-limits. This topic is shameful. This topic is not to be discussed. Without parental guidance, the child must draw her own conclusions about race and what it means, all with the specter of her parent’s apparent disapproval hovering over the topic.

White parents need to start talking to their kids about race and racism, too. It’s an uncomfortable discussion, and one rife with minefields and perhaps unrecognized, discomfiting suppressed racism. But it’s a necessary discussion if we truly want to make a better future for our children — all our children.

no offense taken

Everyone gets offended. Everyone. Everyone has lines drawn, sacred cows that can’t be broached, issues that cannot (easily) be addressed.

Not everyone will admit this, and that’s the sticking point. I tend to believe people when they say things like, “It’s fine,” or, “I like a rousing argument, I think it’s fun!“, or, “Don’t worry about it; nothing offends me — I have my own opinions!“, or, “Oh, believe me — I will tell you if I have a problem with you! You will know!

These statements are usually accompanied by a loud and hearty laugh. Often they come during socially touchy conversations — the ones on religion or politics, and usually the statements are meant to reassure that one can speak their mind around these people; that these people are totally cool, accepting, and forthright. It’s a very attractive prospect to someone like me, who has a hard time reading social cues on the fly.

I spend an embarrassing amount of time carefully deconstructing conversations and reactions in my head for days, sometimes weeks or even months after the event. Often I realize a month or so after the interaction that what I thought was a good discussion or a fun and rousing debate was taken very personally by the other party and caused a rift.

The thing I have come to realize is that when people say these things, they are lying. Maybe not consciously or intentionally, but they totally are. I have noticed the two types of people I most commonly befriend (or attempt to befriend) falls loosely into two categories

  1. The type of friend who admits they have boundaries and sacred cows.
  2. The type of friend who refuses to acknowledge there is any topic so precious to them that they cannot handle it being challenged.

Both types of people believe themselves to be honest, and both think they are representing themselves honestly by letting their self-perceived conversational styles be known at the outset. But the first type of friend is the longevity-type, I have found. The second type of friend just quietly disappears.

With the first type of friend, when the sacred cow topic comes up, they will firmly but politely make it known that this topic is too important and/ or touchy for them to discuss, and they would prefer to move the conversation to another topic. This can range from the outright words, “Look, this is a really touchy topic for me, can we talk about something else?”, to a more subtle segue of the conversation into an area they can handle.

These friendships tend to last, because the people involved know that yeah, we may disagree on some topics, but we have enough respect and affection for each other to navigate those choppy conversational waters with dignity and compassion.

The other type of person, the ones who think they can handle anything, tend not to last. They rarely blow up in a big dramatic showdown — although that did happen with a conservative Catholic friend of mine from a few years back: We could handle our disagreeing viewpoints until he couldn’t, and then the friendship ended. My Narnia collection is still in his possession.

I miss it.

No, usually the type of person who believes they don’t take offense to anything is the type of person who generally seems to quietly fade out. They stop investing in the friendship– they stop texting or calling (both initiating or responding), stop coming over, stop inviting us over. They’re polite during unexpected interactions, but visits are no longer prolonged and there are always have other things that “need” to be done. Sometimes their sudden unavailability is blamed on the spouse, kids, or job they had all along, when they were previously able to find time to socialize.

This has happened three separate times, and its always with people who claimed they ‘don’t get offended’ and say, ‘oh, you’ll know if I get upset with you!’.

Well, they’re right. I do figure it out when they’re upset at me, because they ghost and refuse to talk to discuss the issue. And when I ask them– because I personally believe relationships (whether friendships, romantic relationships, or family relationships) cannot survive, let alone flourish, if people aren’t willing to communicate– each time, these individuals have fallen over themselves reassuring me there’s absolutely nothing wrong, they love me as much as ever, they enjoy our friendship, and they can’t wait to hang out again.

And then they go back to the ignoring thing.

It’s not just a busy schedule: I get the busy schedule. Believe me, I do. That’s why with all my other friends, the type who fall into Category 1 up there, we make sure to keep in touch. To respond when someone texts, to return the call within a few days when we miss their call, to plan early-morning coffee dates or lunches or the occasional evening together. There’s an unspoken acknowledgment: Yeah, we’re both super fucking busy, but you matter enough to me that I take time out of my week to make sure you know I’m thinking about you.

And this sort of thoughtful two-way street of maintaining the friendship is not limited to Category 1 friends — Category 2 friends do all this stuff, too, until they don’t. It would be a lot easier to write off Category 2 friends and not emotionally invest in the friendship if they were like that right off the bat. Instead, they’re just as awesome and as thoughtful and as invested as Category 1 friends at the outset.

Then one day they just quietly withdraw, and you can never quite pinpoint exactly what it was that caused the friendship to end because up until that point you were talking regularly. Was it the last conversation? Was it the one two weeks before, the one that almost seemed to turn into an argument but didn’t quite? Was it something you posted on Facebook? Was it that your personalities didn’t click and it took them months to realize it? Is it that their spouse/ kids/ other friends didn’t like you and they are (obviously) more invested in those relationships than a new friendship? Were they just using you all along?

It’s one of those things about being an adult that I hate. Sometimes you just have to accept that certain things will never have a satisfactory resolution; that certain endings will go silent and unexplained. It’s painful and frustrating — especially when, like me, you want to know so you can try and avoid that mistake in the future — but it’s also a reality of life. I don’t like that.

Now, to be fair, John and I have both cut people out of our lives, too. But I don’t think there’s any mystery as to why — we were pretty upfront with each situation as it occurred that, Hey, this behavior or attitude you’re exhibiting around us is extremely disrespectful and kind of a relationship-dealbreaker. Can you not when you’re with us?

People disagree, and we get that. The way to handle disagreements is not to cut all ties right off the bat, it’s to explain why this issue is a touchy subject and figure out what to do about it. Sometimes when a touchy topic or behavior has been determined, the only thing to do is to cut ties.

For instance, we used to be friends with someone who was extremely homophobic, particularly toward bisexuals. They would often make statements indicating they felt homosexuality was a sin, gay marriage was wrong/ a sign of social downfall, and bisexuals confused, gross, and perverted. Their language and actions clearly indicated they felt those in the LGBTQA community are unnatural and immoral. The individual abstained from making blatantly homophobic remarks, choosing to abide by “love your neighbor,” and “love the sinner, not the sin,” type logic, but it was clear they felt those who engaged in this particular lifestyle to be “sinners” and lesser. They would show quiet little expressions of support for other individuals who made more obvious and vitriolic homophobic statements.

Husband and I had also dealt with previous incidents of this person being disrespectful toward my husband, our relationship, and our lack of belief. Over time, we realized this person was less concerned with values of respect, compromise, shared common interests, and indeed, our overall relationship; and more concerned with expressing their disgust for my life values and chosen life partner. So after several chances and attempts to salvage the friendship, I finally admitted that any value gained from the relationship was more than lost by the offense/ recurring disagreement and emotional labor of maintaining such a draining relationship, and I cut ties with them. Sometimes I do wonder if that was the right choice, I admit. Its healthy to have people of varying perspectives in your life.

But while it’s true that most of my friends agree with me on many things, we also disagree on plenty of things. For instance, I have friends who believe in god or a form of spiritualism– Christians, Buddhist, new-age hippies, and I’m a pretty solid atheist. I have friends who are pro-gun/ 2nd amendment supporters, and I’m for stronger gun regulation. I have friends who think Disney films are inherently anti-feminist, and I’m like ehhhh maybe they’re problematic, but I love Beauty and the Beast and Mulan and you can’t take that away from me– I’ll critically critique the things I love, but I’m not gonna paint that with a broad brush of knee-jerk hate, sorry not sorry.

We can agree to disagree, is what I’m saying. We can recognize the validity of each other’s opinions, discuss things respectfully, and move on. I mean, I have some controversial ‘sacred-cow views,’ too, views that upset people and put them on edge. Feminist, pro-union, atheist. Pretty darn liberal. But like I said– people disagree, and that’s okay. I can have friends who disagree with me, as long as we focus on our commonalities and treat our differences with respect (and kid gloves!).

The gist of all this is that I’ve pretty much determined when someone says they don’t get offended by anything , they’re in fact waving a giant red flag regarding their inability to communicate as healthy adults. Everyone has a hot button or a red-line that cannot be crossed. The flip side of not being offended by anything is that you don’t stand for anything. Offense in and of itself is not a bad thing: It’s the inability to communicate that offense and how meaningful it is, as well as whether or not it’s a dealbreaker.

should be in bed, but . . .

I think at a certain point, you just get used to fucked up hours. Monday through Friday, I get up at 6:45 to get ready for work while Kidling gets ready for school. Most mornings John gets up, too, and makes breakfast, but lately he’s been down with the flu. I go to work (meet John for lunch), and get home at 5:30.

Then (ideally) I study until John gets home at 10:15. Sometimes I browse reddit until 9 or so, and study for an hour. Then John and I stay up until 11:30 or midnight, and rinse and repeat the next day.

On Tuesdays, I go straight from work to class, and get home at 10 pm to hang out with John until bedtime. On Saturdays, I go to class from 9 am to 7 pm, and John’s at work when Saturday’s lunch comes around, so I don’t see him until he gets off work at 8 pm.

So, on average, John and I see each other about 2-3 hours a day during the week. Tonight, one of my friends from the PTSA had a birthday party (and those only come once a year, lol), so I went to that. It was awesome, but I also feel bad because I didn’t get home until 11 pm, and John was already asleep.

I’m feeling stretched thin, like butter scraped over too much bread. I wonder if I’m stretching too high, taking on more than I can carry.

break time

I was going to post up more of my reading notes, but it’s late and I’m tired and the printer is being a butthead anyway, so I’m done with schoolwork for the moment.

I have to send my kid sister’s Christmas package out. I sent it to the wrong address and she was out of town anyway, so by the time she got to the post office to pick it up it was too late. They sent it back to me. Sirius smelled the foodstuffs inside and ate a corner off the package, so I had to repackage it, and I just haven’t had the chance to go to the post office. This makes me sadface.

On another note, after reading Overdressed I decided to stop wasting money on cheaply made chain-store clothing. For the last few months, John and I have only bought clothes from one of two sources:

  1. Second hand
  2. Union-supported stores/ made in America clothing.

The second one is in short supply, so we’ve mostly been purchasing second hand. I did get John some U.S. 100% wool socks, though. Anyway, I also (after reading that book) decided I wanted to invest in some clothing pieces — items of clothing that are well-constructed, made of durable fabric, and possess a timeless, classic fashion. Items of clothing that I can accessorize with belts, jackets, sweaters, scarves, tights, and jewelry to add variety to, but which remain a basic and necessary part of my wardrobe for decades. I invested in my first such item of clothing this weekend. It was $186 (tax included), but given the quality of the construction and fabric, as well as the fact that it is sweatshop free and I was supporting a local small business, that’s a pretty fair price. You have to be willing to pay a little more if you want workers to be paid living and fair wages, and this dress will last much, much longer than many of the cheap $20 ones I’ve gone through in the past. Also it was a birthday present to myself.

Oh, yeah, my birthday is coming up. LtB and dad bought me some used books on Amazon (she sent me an email explaining how this type of recycling is all the rage on the East Coast, which kind of made me grin because it’s all the rage here, too. It’s just, given how Amazon treats their employees, most people I know choose to purchase their used books through HalfPrice books, the Greener store, or Powells.) They also bought a NookBook for the Kidling, who’s birthday is about a week and a half after mine. LtB has been gleeful in her hints of what these books are, but is refusing to actually give titles, plot points, or author names.

I’m anticipatory and a little (a lot) nervous. Generally speaking, I don’t like other people to pick out books for me. With the exception of my brother and my husband, no-one has ever successfully picked out a book I like. The really frustrating part is that they’re often so very close to what I like — for instance, I like well-written YA paranormal with a romance plot that is not central to the book. So it’s completely understandable that someone would give me a paranormal romance. I like historical fiction and sci-fi, so it makes sense that someone would give me a steampunk book. I like dystopian fantasy, so it makes sense that someone would give me the Dark Tower series.

Unfortunately, all those gifts were off-base. I disliked them, and when I was asked my opinion on them I found myself in the uncomfortable position of having to lie politely to save their feelings, because they really were trying to do a nice thing. It is the thought that counts here. But I’m not a very good liar and I always feel so obvious when I try to lie about my reaction to a present. I just wish more people would give gift cards.

Anyway, doesn’t matter. I bought myself a pretty dress, we’re going out to dinner as a family next week, and we have an evening at Gameworks with friends planned. It’s shaping up to be a pleasant week.

reading response 1/16/13


Race, Gender, and Discrimination at Work, by Samuel Cohn. 

pg 3 para 2:

“Few things in the world are more boring than definitions. However, on controversial topics in which inflammatory language is common, developing a common agreed-upon language can take the sting and insult out of “buzzwords” and allow for calmer, more consensual discussion.”

This made me lol just a titch because John and I totally worked out some “buzzwords” with our marriage counselor a few years ago in order to better navigate disgreements. It was actually really helpful, and it’s one of those common-sense things that sound so pop-psychology that it’s almost embarrassing when it works. Anyway, I liked that they spelled out this out right at the outset. One of the definitions they use is:

Ascriptive Status is a feature that one is born with. Gender, race, and ethnicity — and in some cases, religion and sexual preference — are attributes one can be born with.

I like the term acriptive status instead of the clunkier, “traits determined by genetic lottery,” that I’ve been using. I think this is a somewhat limiting definition as it seems to conflate gender and sex when they are not necessarily the same, and it equivocates the inborn nature of sexual preference by putting it on the same level with religion (a “choice”). This book, however, was originally published in 2000, or over 10 years ago, so I guess the prevaricating is explainable in that context.

pg 3 para 5:

“Establishing racial or gender inequality in income or employment says nothing about the causes of this inequality. It also says nothing about the social desirability of this inequality. In a hypothetical society where French people earn all the money and Germans earn none, it could be that none of the Germans wants to work and everybody’s happy. The mere presence of inequality says nothing about sexism, racism, or any other underlying social property. What causes inequality in each case has to be assessed individually.”

In other words, correlation does not equal causation.

pg 4 para 2-4: I read these aloud to John because they were fascinating. The gist is that due to economic and societal pressures, very prejudiced people may not actually practice discrimination. The flip side, though, is that due to economic and societal pressures, very progressive people may in fact have very strong discriminatory practices. The example used is that if a small business owner who happens to be a KKK member lives in a predominantly black town, they will hire black people because they need to in order to run their business. They may be extremely prejudiced against black people, but if the economic situation requires them to hire black people, they will. In the same way, if someone is extremely sexist and believes all women should stay at home caring for the children advertises for a position and the only respondents are women, the sexist will hire a woman because that’s what the economic situation demands. Generally speaking, most discriminatory actions (racist, homophobic, and sexist) are the result of subconscious assumptions and market demands.

“Economic and social realities often prevent prejudiced people from acting in a prejudiced way, or encourage nonprejudiced people to engage in active discrimination.”

pg 6 para 1-3 has us looking at economic trends and employment/ unemployment of blacks. This section reminded me of the New York Times article outlining the benefits of a college degree during the recession, which says,

“Among those whose highest degree was a high school diploma, only 55 percent had jobs even before the downturn, and that fell to 47 percent after it. For young people with an associate’s degree, the employment rate fell from 64 percent to 57 percent. But those with a bachelor’s degree started off in the strongest position and weathered the downturn best, with employment slipping from 69 percent to 65 percent. (The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded a similar decline, about four percentage points, among all people over 20, at any education level.) Similarly, in all three groups of young adults, wages fell for those who had work, but the decline was spread unevenly. People with four-year college degrees saw a 5 percent drop in wages, compared with a 12 percent decrease for their peers with associate’s degrees, and a 10 percent decline for high school graduates.” — New York Times,  Richard Perez-Pena, pub. 1/9/13

To compare, the class reading  has tables tracking the employment and unemployment rates for the U.S Male Civilian Population over the age of 16 according to race. The tables show data from 1950 – 1997. The white employment rate stays fairly steady, ranging from 73.2% at the lowest (in 1990) to 79.4% at the highest (1960). The black male employment right varies widely depending on the economic situation at the time. Their highest employment rate is in 1960, when we were doing fairly well as a nation, economically speaking — 73.5% of black males were employed. The lowest employment rate is in 1980, during that recession. Only 60.4% of black males were employed during the 1980 recession. That’s an employment gap of 13% by race. The unemployment table shows a similar picture; in which white males average 4.48% unemployment, but black males average a rate of 9.43% unemployment. That’s pretty insane.

I like the quote that prefaces the data tables:

“The issue is not that quantitative data are all screwed up and that anybody can make anything look like anything by cooking numbers. Actually, the statistics are relatively consistent and hard to manipulate. The issue is that some aspects of American life show persistent discrimination and some show extraordinary reductions in discrimination. There has been progress on some fronts but not others.”


I wasted too much time typing up my reading notes from last night. If the reading instructions are correct, I’m supposed to read this whole 170 pg book by Saturday and choose specific statistics to update. My seminar paper, annoyingly, has to be printed off and brought to class, which is a pain in the ass because printers are all made of the devil and exist to thwart and tease us all. (translation: Our printer cannot maintain a connection with any computer it’s hooked up to because printers are made of the devil and exist solely to incite mankind into a homicidal war so machines can take over the earth.)