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September 23rd, 2015


11:50 pm - Spoons to Dollars
Ok, some of you still don't understand the "spoons" analogy, so let's try this.

You get $10 per day. For everything: the clothes you wear that day, the food you eat that day, the car you drive that day: EVERYTHING. You have a bank account, but it only holds up to $2. It will also lend you money, but you have to pay it all back plus interest within 1-3 days, depending on the size of the loan (bigger loans have to be paid back faster). EVERYTHING you have at the end of the day that isn't in the bank, a little sprite steals it while you sleep. Some days, the bank is closed & you can't make a deposit, but you still have to pay back any loans you have out. Other days, you get less money, but no explanation why.

That is what it's like. Some days, just getting out of bed to get food from the kitchen is a struggle. So, when you say "but you did it yesterday" or "well, I have pain and I manage it fine", that is a sign to me that you DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT. Please respect my understanding of what I can and can't handle on a particular day. Please respect the fact that I know my body better than you do. Please respect the fact that EVERYTHING I do costs spoons or dollars or whatever, and some days, I'm going to be in too much debt to do what I said I would. It's not laziness, it's not lying, it's not a reflection on how much I love you. It's a wall that is sometimes just too high and too steep to climb. I want to be able to jump it every moment of every day, but my body can't do it.
Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted
Current Music: Toby Keith - As Good As I Once Was

(Toss A Penny)

January 6th, 2015


10:58 am - Solving a Panic Attack with A.R.T.S.
When someone who trusts you is having a panic attack, you are in a powerful position to help (or hurt) them. You should A.R.T.S.:
Acknowledge (their fears),
Reassure (tell them that things will be okay),
Take charge (speak calmly but firmly, in short sentences), and
Solve the issue.

The last one is particularly important because, when someone is panicking, they are not thinking clearly. In most cases, they have blown the danger completely out of proportion and ignored easy solutions. They feel out of control. Ideally, you want to put them back in control. However, doing that often involves taking temporary control, but in a way that empowers them rather than demeans them. I find that using the word "we" (instead of me or you) is often the best way to do this. That way, they feel like they are contributing to the solution.

In some cases, solving the issue may mean removing them from the location. In others, such as someone who is panicking over feelings of guilt or responsibility, it may mean redirecting the problem.

Believe it or not, ARTS will generally calm them down significantly. You can end the panic attack in about 30-60 seconds, often before it really gets bad. This is particularly important when you're dealing with timing issues. I hear a lot that people with panic attacks have them at the worst times. Of course, this is completely true: time crunches cause anxiety. So any time crunch is more likely to involve some kind of panic than a calm setting.

For example, lets say your partner is panicking looking for airline tickets. You say it's time to go and they can only seem to respond with "I have to find my ticket before I can leave for the airport" in an increasingly panicky voice. ARTS the problem by saying:
A: "You did a great job arranging this trip." (wait a moment for them to digest that)
R: "People lose their tickets all the time." (wait a moment)
R: "It doesn't make you a bad person." (wait a moment)
T: "Breath." (wait a moment)
T: "I know what we can do." (wait a moment)
S: "We can get a new copy of the ticket at the counter." (wait a moment)
S: "Let's go now & get you a new ticket when we arrive." (smile reassuringly)
As you can see, there's some overlap going on (for example, you use short sentences and speak calmly throughout). But the elements are all there. By taking a minute to calm your partner, you have not only assured that you'll both make the flight but you've also strengthened your relationship.

That said, because your partner trusts you, you can also sabotage them and the relationship by responding to the panic inappropriately. It is absolutely essential, when someone is panicking, that you DO NOT INSULT THEM and DO NOT INTRODUCE ANY NEW CONFLICTS. These will only serve to exacerbate the situation. For example, in the situation above, you would NOT say:
"You're going to make us miss the flight!"
"Why did you lose the ticket?"
"Why are you freaking out?"
"You should have thought of this sooner!"
"I need to be finding my own stuff, I can't help you!"
"You're always doing this!"
"You're on your own!"
"Did you find your cell phone?"
"Have you seen my shorts?"
Congratulations: by using one of these, you've now not only missed the flight, but you've made your partner feel horrible, as well.

It's important to keep your voice and demeanor calm while you ARTS. This helps to reassure, and gives you more credence when you take charge. What a panicking person needs most of all is a calming influence. In many cases, people with anxiety disorder learn to be their own calming influence. But you can help them by working with them, so they feel less alone in their struggle. In this way, you can be their partner, rather than just another obstacle or enemy, in the midst of an attack.
Current Location: Home
Current Mood: disappointeddisappointed
Current Music: Linkin Park - Burn It Down

(3 pennies | Toss A Penny)

October 2nd, 2013


07:27 pm - Best History Textbook Ever
So, I'm taking a college-level history class, and I am really, really impressed by the textbook.

The book is: US: A Narrative History, Volume 2: Since 1865

It's amazing. It gives a lot of information, but it reads like a novel. I keep wanting to turn the page to see what's going to happen next. And I'm not the only person who feels this way. Some of the other students in my class said the same thing, and the reviews on Amazon are all 5-star reviews that say the same thing (the only lower reviews are misplaced seller reviews & have nothing to do with the book). There's even a history teacher on Amazon who says all her students love it, too.

Just in case you think I'm some history nerd, let me just say that I don't really like history. I mean, I grew up in the south, so I know my civil war & revolutionary war history just from living near landmarks. And I like historical movies. But I've never enjoyed history class. Even less have I ever enjoyed a history textbook. This book is the exception.

My point is: if you're studying U.S. history for an exam (AP history exam, the exam your college offers for meeting the history requirement, citizenship exam, etc), you should definitely seriously consider this book.

If you're teaching U.S. History, you should also definitely seriously consider this book.

Pretty much, if you're looking for a U.S. History textbook, I strongly urge you to check this one. It's hands-down the best history textbook I've ever read (or pretended to read).

(Toss A Penny)

September 24th, 2013


06:18 pm - SNAP and Priveledge
So, I got an email today from Care2 Action Alerts. This is nothing new. I get emails from them all the time. They are often posting things I care about (although, I admit, I sometimes disagree with them and end up working against whatever they are trying to accomplish). In any case, the email I got today was a little different. The title:
Could Your Member of Congress Eat on $4.50 a Day?

Okay, so maybe it's something about reducing congressional pay instead of cutting programs for poor people. I open it.

Inside, instead, is a challenge: eat on just $4.50/day for the month. The idea is that this is the average SNAP benefit.

I was rather shocked. I already eat on less than that. I spend $0.80-$1.20 for lunch, $1.00-$2.00 for dinner, and - on the rare occasions when I have it - around $0.50 for breakfast. That maxes out at less than $4/day. Granted, I eat out on occasion, which usually brings the total to right around $135/month (per person). I will also grant that I have been living above my means a little since I got to Florida (going out with the department too often), but that is because I'm trying to accomplish something for my future, not because I really have the money to spare.

I remember being on SNAP for a while. I loved it. I had been living on about $50-75/month for food. I suddenly didn't have to worry about every single penny I spent on food, and was able to actually eat (gasp!) vegetables without relying on the charity of friends or attending gallery openings to snag free food (see NOTE below, after the cut). I didn't stop snagging free vegetables, but my diet was a lot healthier. It was amazing. I'm actually spending slightly less on food now than I was when I was on SNAP. Which is not to say that the SNAP program should be cut, or that the people on it should be getting less. I absolutely feel that SNAP is essential to the health of the nation, and am appalled that they are cutting it. Even with SNAP, I couldn't afford the healthiest foods. But I could get some vitamins in my diet, at least. Given that we know that nutritional deficiencies cause all kinds of problems (difficulty concentrating and learning, mental health issues, chronic physical conditions, and even obesity), SNAP is a way to prevent things from getting steadily worse for the elderly, the disabled, and people on limited incomes.

My point is that I found the email/challenge slightly insulting. Not because I don't think that it's a good idea. But because there was no allowance made for people who are already doing it. It made an assumption of privilege. And I always hate those. I don't think it's much better for people to say 'let's live like the poor people' under the assumption that no one reading it is poor, than it is to say 'people who shop at WalMart are evil' under the assumption that everyone has enough money to shop elsewhere, or 'they should have gotten a degree' under the assumption that everyone had the same educational opportunities. It's frustrating to me. Although I might be overreacting due to something that was said to me yesterday ('women who let themselves get unequal treatment deserve it' - there are a whole lot of privileged assumptions in that one).

Which brings me to the reason I'm posting this: WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THIS? Do you think I'm overreacting? Do you think the challenge is a good idea? That it doesn't go far enough? That it's insulting? That it will actually change something? Post your comments below and let me know what you think. I wait with bated breath.

More informationCollapse )

(Toss A Penny)

August 13th, 2013


12:26 pm - Aquaintance Rape is a Strange Thing
I was reading an article regarding how the fear of rape (or the social fear of girls being raped) costs women in ways we aren't always aware of. The author pointed out that women who do not take these steps are often blamed for the results. However, roughly 75% of rapes are perpetrated, not by strangers in dark alleys, but by friends or acquaintances. This got me thinking about my own experiences and how they have changed the way I move about in the world. I will relate one such story, and the results (insofar as I'm conscious of them), below and behind the cut. I've had other experiences, some much worse, but this one is particularly relevant to me today.

WARNING: Trigger for SomeCollapse )
Current Mood: stressedstressed
Current Music: Harvey Danger - Flagpole Sitta

(Toss A Penny)

July 16th, 2013


06:45 pm - Love, Part II
First off, what it does not mean:
  • "I will die without you"
  • "I will sacrifice everything I want to keep you around"
  • "I'll become a totally different person to keep you around"
  • "I will kill anyone else who tries to touch you"
  • "I would die to make you happy"
  • "I would hurt/kill someone to make you happy"
  • "I own you" (or "I want to own you")
  • "You own me" (or "I want you to own me")
  • "I want to control you"
  • "I want you to control me"
  • "I want to have sex with you" (although that can certainly be a component of the relationship, it is not a requisite for love - to put it another way, loving someone makes sex better, not the other way around)
  • "I want you to myself"
  • "I want something from you"
  • "I want to show you off"
  • "I need you"
  • "I will let you get away with intentionally hurting me, emotionally or physically"


What it does mean:
  • "I would die to protect your life in certain situations, if there was an excellent chance that action would result in saving your life, and you did not put yourself in that situation intentionally" (e.g., I'd push you out of the way of a runaway car, but I wouldn't jump in front of the bullet you intended to kill yourself with)
  • "I will protect you when I can & it is appropriate" (I generally want to protect the people I love always, but I force myself to stop because coddling is it's own problem)
  • "I would hurt others to protect you if they are trying to intentionally hurt you" (there are limits, relative to the hurt they are attempting to cause)
  • "I respect you"
  • "I insist on keeping my self-respect"
  • "I will make certain/some compromises for you"
  • "I care about you"
  • "I don't want to hurt you"
  • "I find it painful when you are in pain"
  • "I enjoy being around you"
  • "I think the person you are now is awesome" (at least in some way or ways)
  • "I enjoy making you happy"
  • "Any time/money/resource I spend with/for you is never a waste"
  • "I am glad you exist, whether or not I have contact with you"
  • "You are, by definition, irreplaceable in my eyes"
  • "I trust you" - this last one is required for me to begin loving someone, but not required for me to continue loving them (sometimes I continue to love someone after I have ceased trusting them)

(2 pennies | Toss A Penny)

05:50 pm - Love, Part I
I had a conversation several months ago with some of the guys in the philosophy department, and I was shocked when one of them said he didn't think it was possible to really love more than 2-3 people. I thought this was incredibly strange. Thinking about it, I realized he was an only child, and that perhaps that might have had something to do with it. It occurred to me that this might indicate that smaller families result in less connection to others within society, which might result in less ethical behavior.

So I started asking around. What I found surprised me. It didn't seem to be based on how large the family was, or gender, or any of the other criteria I was considering. I would really like to do a large-scale cross-sectional study that looks into things like family size, age, gender, and abuse. That way, I could plot them out and determine whether or not there are any correlations. But, for now, it seems sufficient to recognize that, while they may be correlative, they do not seem to be limits. And I think I can safely conclude that from the anecdotal evidence I acquired by asking friends, family, and Facebook.

See, the reason it was so shocking to me is because I love so very many people. I don't mean 'care about.' I mean 'love.' I mean, the maximum feeling I am capable of. I could write a list of the people I love, when I first loved them, and what my favorite things are about them. While my commitments to them might be different, and while every love is a little different, the amount of love I feel is not. See, when I love someone, I never stop loving them. No matter how horrible they turn out to be, even if I have to voluntarily cut off all contact, I can't NOT love them. Not including family members, I love 39 people. Twelve of those are women. Two are dead. Seven, I currently have no contact with (one intentionally, per his request). Eight became sufficiently abusive that I intentionally avoided them at one time or other for my own health or theirs (I've resumed contact but am still guarded around them). Two of those eight tried to rape me, and another turned my entire life upside down by stalking me (which, by the way, was worse). And I still love them.

If I include family, the number jumps significantly (to 87), in part because I have such a large family. I'd like to say I love my entire family, but I don't. I barely know some of them. I care about them a lot, and I say I love them as family, but it isn't the same level I'm talking about here.

I don't know how much of this is related to nature or nurture, but it seems like a really important question. Because if most philosophers only love 2-3 people, and make their social observations under the assumption that everyone else has the same experience, it could really be throwing off the results.

Of course, while I was asking around, this question came up: what do you mean by love? Because that varies from person to person, too. Without that, it could be argued that the only difference between the respondents (those who love 2-3 people, those who love 4-15, and those who love 15+) is the way they define love. I've spent the last several months trying to define love, so I will give my current working definition in part II.

P.S. I wrote this about a week ago, but didn't have an Internet connection to post it - sorry.

(Toss A Penny)

April 24th, 2013


09:30 pm - Women in Philosophy
On the one hand, I understand that, just because someone feels discriminated against doesn't mean they were. I've been on the other end of this myself, and it is really disheartening to know your well-intentioned actions were seen as somehow exclusive or cruel.

On the other hand, we live in a sexist and racist culture. To say 'there is no sexism or racism in philosophy' is to be blind to real problems. To say 'show me proof' is to ignore proof. Much of this stuff is so pervasive as to be invisible to most people. We cannot cure the problems of our society overnight. But we can try to minimize the impact of them within philosophy.

I can show you an endless stream of first-person accounts of sexism in the classroom. You cannot be expected to solve what others do, but you can take your own steps. Things like including female philosophers in introductory courses, treating female students with respect within the classroom, calling on women, and grading males and females equally can help attract more women to philosophy. If a female student participates as regularly and has opinions as strong as the males, try to see her as you would see the guys, not as bitchy or annoying. Discussing feminism (and dispelling some of the myths about it) is probably also a good idea, if only because it shows that we are thinking about these things.

At conferences and parties, behaving politely rather than making sexist jokes and hitting on all the female philosophers is probably a good start. When philosophers treat female philosophers as objects at conferences, it discourages females from attending those conferences. This is particularly true when the males are in a position of power, as it makes things very uncomfortable. Try to point this out if you see other guys doing it. In gatherings, make sure you are asking women what they're studying, not just the guys (there's a serious problem with this).

Another thing is to call on females during the Q&A period, and listen to what they have to say as you would from other male audience members. Don't belittle or dismiss comments from female members of the audience. I think that SJSU is better than other institutions when it comes to this type of gender bias, but most of you are going on to other places. If you look for these types of biases, you may be able to offset them with your own actions.

As I've discussed with some of you, I made the decision to try to dress in a more masculine manner early in my career, because I learned it was the only way to be taken seriously. Admittedly, it wasn't a huge stretch for me, as I'd only started wearing dresses every day a few years prior to that, but I liked my dresses and it was difficult to give them up. I thought I was alone in this choice, but, the more I interact with the academic community, the more I come across women who made the same choice. It seems that the hardest thing to do is to not judge 'girly' women as being undeserving of academic respect. So, try. Try to overcome your cultural bias. When someone dressed in a skirt and flattering blouse speaks up, try to imagine how you'd feel if a man said the same thing.

Finally, I suppose I should get to the reason why I felt I had to write this post: I was incredibly disturbed by the view that women who are discriminated against have some sort of duty to report it. This is a type of victim-blaming that I find incredibly insensitive and upsetting. I realize this view was espoused by one particular person, but the others in the room did not seem bothered by it, and I even saw a couple nods. Had I been in a better mood, I probably would have engaged the topic immediately but, as it was, I knew I would only yell, and that lack of professionalism would only distort my point.

If you want more people to report on discrimination, make it easier to file those reports. Make them anonymous and easy. Allow them to be submitted by third parties (other teachers and parents). No, you cannot fire a professor based on an anonymous report, particularly if it's submitted by a third party. However, if a lot of reports are filed on a particular professor, you can investigate them. You can have a system set up to look into these accusations and find out whether it was a misperception, or a real problem.

And never, ever blame the people who are being hurt by this type of activity. It is not their fault. They are not responsible for the actions of another person. Holding them responsible is misguided at best, and propagates the same behavior you claim to be against at worst. No woman should be told she is responsible for reporting sexism to sexist people within a sexist institution.

When you report sexism to the college administration, it is not an easy task. It is not simple, and it is FAR from anonymous. Depending on the school, you may be asked to give your story several times in front of several different people (or groups of people), who may be very hostile towards both you and your story. You may risk, or feel that you risk, expulsion just to shut you up. The process makes you even more vulnerable, makes you feel even more like a victim. Even after giving the story that many times, they will tell you they can't take any action on an individual report, no matter how bad. At which point, you can either drop it, or you can try to get other people to speak up, knowing they will have to go through the exact same hostile process. If you're incredibly lucky, the sexism will be so overwhelmingly bad, and accompanied by enough non-sexist misbehavior, that you will be able to get all but 5 students in the class to sign a petition to get the teacher removed from his job, and even talk a few of those into filing an official report with the administration. You may even be able to convince some men to file reports on the misbehavior they remember, which may not include the overt sexism, and they may come back and say they don't know what hostility you're talking about and that it was a very easy process for them. Otherwise, you have to go back to class with a teacher who knows you reported him (because, despite assurances to the contrary, the rumour mill is ever-churning). Or go to classes with other teachers who know you reported their colleague. Academic life suddenly becomes a lot more hostile than it already was.

Even if you make the reporting truly anonymous, women from other institutions or with previous experience may still not make reports, because their past experience tells them that anonymity is a lie, and that they will be punished for daring to make a report. This is not something that should be blamed on the individuals who fail to report. It should be blamed on the institutions that made them feel unsafe about making reports in the first place.
Current Mood: frustratedfrustrated
Current Music: No Doubt - I'm Just a Girl

(Toss A Penny)

April 23rd, 2013


03:27 pm - Feeling Sick
So, this morning, I was looking at a friend's Facebook page. She'd posted about religious tolerance, and I wanted to see what she'd been up to lately, so I started scrolling down her page. In the process, I came across
an article about Gosnell, an article about SEXTing, some comments about Steubenville, a PSA I'd have shared if it hadn't asked me to, an article about a student publication on rape culture and a spoof trailer for the 'Drop Dead Gorgeous' movie.

All of that reminded me of an incredibly insightful article I read about a week ago, regarding the problems behind Dove's Real Beauty Sketches commercials.

For some strange reason, don't ask me why, the spoof trailer made me want to watch the actual trailer. When I searched for it on YouTube, what I came across instead was the actual movie, in ten parts. At first, I dismissed it. Then I started to wonder if maybe, just maybe, it wasn't worth watching. As a comedy, it has the opportunity to make social commentary where others can't. Feeling kind of depressed by the swarm of sexist stuff I'd come across that morning, I figured I needed an insightful comedy, and sat down to watch it.

I could not have been more wrong.

It is true that there was some social commentary. But it wasn't anti-sexist or anti-paternalistic in nature. There was commentary on small towns, and commentary on competition, and commentary on corruption. But it didn't really talk about the fact that the women in the movie were being told that their only redeeming qualities were their physical features.

One girl decides to do a dramatic reading. This gave me some hope. However, rather than taking this as an opportunity to show that there can be something beyond just looks, they have her do the reading in such a way that ends up making fun of her choice. How dare she want to do something intellectual as her talent?

Honestly, I saw nothing in this movie beyond a reinforcement of the cultural values I'd been reading about all morning.

It got me thinking. I have never really thought about beauty pageants from an intellectual viewpoint before. I've thought about them only insofar as I think they are silly, and have no real desire to participate in one. But, really, they do seem to send that message that girls are only valuable insofar as they're attractive. How can this message be anything other than damaging?

For those disagreeing, ask yourself why there are no male beauty pageants. Even today, in a realm of female sports (where women wear less protective gear) and stay-at-home-fathers (who are expected to do less well than their female counterparts). The closes things we have to male beauty pageants are drag shows. The men who participate in them are seen as overly feminine gays, not 'real men'.

The problem of rape reporting is blamed on the victim. But blaming the victim here is ridiculous. A victim, in deciding whether to report a rape, has a lot to think about. Will the complaint be taken seriously (unlikely)? Will blame and shame come from all directions, including not just neighbors, but peers and friends (probably)? Will the rapist be free to take revenge for reporting it (probably)? Will the rapist's friends take revenge if the rapist is caught (yes)? With all of that breathing down the victim's neck, is it any wonder that most don't report their rapes?

Now, ask yourself this: did you assume the victim I was just talking about was a woman, and the rapist a man? Look back over what I just wrote. Nothing was gendered. And, yet, you most likely made those assumptions. Because women are victims and men are perpetrators. Women are teases and men are unable to control their urges. Men do get raped, and are even less likely to report it than women, because society tells men that being a victim is weak and feminine. No guy wants to be feminine! That would be horrib--- wait, weren't we just talking about underlying sexism?

The truth is, for all the patting we do on our own cultural back, the underlying view really hasn't changed much. Women are ditzy caregivers who's only real value is to be pretty enough to attract a man. Men are intelligent breadwinners who have no feelings and just want sex. And until we change that, until we make it okay for a man to be pretty and a woman to want sex, for a woman to be smarter, for a man to be more caring, things will not improve. We can't just change the way things are done. We have to change the way things are thought. And that's a much taller order.

Some would say we'll know we've won when we read about a woman making alimony payments to her ex-husband. But I don't think that's right. I think we'll know we've won when that happens, and we don't read about it, because it isn't news.
Current Mood: sicksick

(4 pennies | Toss A Penny)

March 8th, 2013


03:30 pm - Leaving
I'm told that it is harder for the person being left, than the one doing the leaving.

The person leaving is going on to bigger and better things. The person being left has nothing.

But I'm not sure this is the case. The person doing the leaving has to actually, you know, do the leaving. Has to make the choice that whatever they are leaving for is more important than what they are leaving behind. Has to decide the when and the where and the how and the what of leaving. The person being left just has to maintain the status quo.

The thing is, I don't want to leave. If I value human connection above all else, how can I cut such a strong and important connection for a piece of paper?

Granted, it's a magical piece of paper. One that will allow me to use my knowledge and skills to help others create connections. And that's important. That's based on my values.

But how can I tell my students to value connections with a straight face if I leave mine behind? How can I look myself in the mirror every morning knowing the kind of choice I made?

But staying isn't really an option, either, is it?

If I stay, he won't respect me. He probably won't even stay with me. Or let me stay with him.

Even if all I do is defer enrollment for one year, which is an option I've seriously considered, what will that accomplish? A big pile of nothing, that's what.

Every choice I consider, all I see is nothing. Miles and miles of nothing. Of emptiness. Of lip service to my values.

I should have stayed in computers. At least there was money in that. You can buy a lot of comfort for an empty and meaningless life with enough money. Enough to forget how empty and meaningless it really is.

(2 pennies | Toss A Penny)

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