Today we’re going to talk about an important historical phenomenon that just won’t die, though we don’t talk about it as people used to. Today we’re talking about fears of the “contagion of liberty,” those insidious beliefs of our mythologized founding fathers (lo, the paternalism!) which limited their rhetoric about the republic and freedom to them and their buddies. Continue reading TF’s No BS History Corner: Fear of the “Contagion of Liberty”
The nation’s political situation feels, when I’m not optimistic, like the nation is wrecked. It’s never been perfect, but it’s always had fantastic ideals worth striving for. It has always proclaimed it was exceptional for its freedom, its liberties: a point I always thought was nonsense (we’re not exceptional, we’re like much of the rest of the world) but the country’s dedication to an ethos of liberty and justice feels utterly abandoned lately. Combined with my busy schedule and the financial exhaustion of the two kittens when they were in the vet’s weekly, well, I’ve kind of abandoned my frugality. I’ve been wrestling with unfrugal politics. Continue reading A Personal Impact of Awful Politics: I Haven’t Been Frugal, and I Miss my Kitchen
I took on another committee position at my job. I’m a tenured professor who overdoes it in the “service to the university” category regularly. In addition to being the vice chair of the faculty, I’m now the chair of promotion and tenure–the committee which initially handles and judges all applications for promotion and tenure. I was terrified of this committee when I first started my job. Now I’m the boss. Continue reading On Ambition
Things have been happening so fast at the federal, state, and personal level that I haven’t had the wherewithal to process and post much in ages. Two special-needs kittens are exhausting, as it turns out, between vet visits and adjusting them to overnight sleeping (rather than locking them into a room of their own, they now have the run of the house overnight. This isn’t great for non-kittens). My job has been busy and parts of it have been kind of draining. Politics here in our state are garbage (we need a budget to make up for decades of unfunded pensions which have left us a multi-billion-dollar hole, and the GOP and some Dems here suggested gutting the state’s public higher ed as a solution). And 45 et al are, well, their own form of draining and exhausting.
So. here we are.
Arguing that we don’t deserve to have health care gutted because the Kochs promised big bucks if the GOP does it–that lives are worth more than their money. Waiting for Mueller to begin publicizing indictments as our president raids campaign funds for his own defense, which certainly suggests a lot of somethings. Plus natural disasters. Shit is wearisome.
So much goes on in an average week that it’s hard to remember that what happened last week still matters even as this week piles it on. Many people are quick on the draw, posting their thoughts as stuff happens rather than after digesting it, as a consequence of this pacing. I’ve debated on the pointlessness of writing on last week’s stuff, but since that stuff still matters, onward I forge.
Let’s talk about Title IX, which Betsy DeVos plans to dramatically alter following an announcement last week.
Title IX guarantees sex and gender parity in higher ed so long as the institution receives federal funds in some way. Initially developed to give women access to sports at co-ed schools. Women’s teams were few and far between at most universities, chronically unfunded and seen as irrelevant. Title IX has also become an important tool in addressing sexual misconduct on college campuses. This is a new phenomenon, developed after then-president Obama issued a “Dear Colleague Letter” arguing that parity in higher ed included access to educational spaces, and that having to attend class, for example, with one’s rapist meant that women (overwhelmingly it’s women who are assaulted) did not have parity of access.
Title IX developed protocols for university reporting of sexual misconduct on college campuses, stemming the tide and tradition of universities shielding such information from public or federal scrutiny. Many universities downplayed sexual misconduct–this includes everything from harassment to assault–and women faced all kinds of other harassment for reporting. So women rarely reported. Since the Title IX changes, university protocols to remove the allege assaulter from spaces (this can go as far as expulsion) has led more women to report assault, and schools like the University of Connecticut had to face a real reckoning when its rates of assault became public.
Reckoning is good.
Reckoning forces change. And it created spaces in which women who long hid the rapes and groping to speak out, which many women avoid because of the backlash she often faces–anything from social ostracization to public doxxing to the usual blame-the-victim garbage.
Well, Betsy DeVos wants to do away with all that.
Now on the surface what she suggests doesn’t sound entirely crazy, and some intelligent women are even defending her points. She argues that rule-by-letter isn’t good governance, that a systemic approach would be better. Ok. She argues that schools expelling alleged assaulters violates our innocent-until-proven guilty legal system. But here she’s missing several key points.
School isn’t necessarily public space. Schools have their own rules and policies. Schools can and should be subject to federal and state laws, but what DeVos is referring to is our legal system. Should the alleged assaulter go straight to jail? No–that person is entitled to a trial like everyone else. But if schools feel that an alleged assaulter’s presence is violating Title IX’s argument for equal access, then they have the right to take what actions they choose.
DeVos rooted her point of view in the claims of Men’s Rights Associations. These people are BATS (the We Hunted the Mammoth archive can fill you in). They see men, usually white men, as being on the losing end of our society, a society which has shriveled because of feminism. They regard women with hostility at best and brutal animosity at worst. They argue not just that expulsion and the like isn’t fair, but that women mostly fabricate allegations of assault–thus, assaulters are expelled for fraudulent reasons. DeVos herself has even said that some 90% of campus assault allegations are really just break-up and drunk sex, regretted.
WE KNOW THIS ISN’T TRUE.
The costs of claiming assault are often so high that, as noted above, women don’t often report it when it happens. Only a very tiny sliver (2-10%) of assault allegations have been proven to be falsehoods or unsubstantiated (though there’s no common definition of those terms used): to say otherwise is to perpetuate a myth. What we have, then, is a proposal to make assault less punishable by the colleges and universities themselves and compelling women to repeatedly cross paths with their assaulter until a legal trial–which can take years to even get started–concludes. Should this be shocking, given that the man who hired DeVos bragged about sexually assaulting women? Nope.
It feels like we have our eyes on more balls than we can handle right now (pun firmly intended). Exhausting though it is, we have to keep at it. We have to engage in a public discourse on all of this stuff–assault, health care, election veracity, saber rattling–so that we don’t come to normalize what isn’t normal. Treating women like gossipy, threatening demons used to be normal–it’s not anymore and we shouldn’t go back there. If we stop being appalled that 45 publicly calls foreign leaders “rocket man,” we’ve begun to allow the erosion of our basic system.
We deserve better than 45 and his horse-people of the government apocalypse. I’m being dramatic, but the stuff that’s going down–lots of it in the name of making money, holding on to power, and erasing Obama’s legacy–is apocalyptic to a lot of people. Take time to breathe so you don’t wear out. We need you in this conversation.
A week ago Sunday I had a birthday. I wasn’t one of *the* major milestone birthdays but it was close: I hit the age my grandmother was when she decided to stop counting. I’d like to say that her reasons were good ones–that age is but a number, or because women are castigated for aging. But instead, grandma decided that after this age was Old, and she wasn’t going to be Old. She never told us her actual age no matter how often we asked, nor what year she was born so that we might do the math. She only changed her mind when she was eligible to retire, at which point 65 was a thrill.
For the record, I’ve only just turned 39.
I was born when grandma was 43, which meant that she told us she was 39 for about twenty years.
I am glad I don’t feel obliged to lie about my age, in jest or otherwise. It’s striking to me that grandma felt my age now was old for her–that it was the end of her youth. Being blessed with a young face, perhaps I feel inured against such thinking. Perhaps I’m in denial that I’m not as young as I once was. But when I look back at my near-40 years (shocking though that number is) and I take stock, I’ve done a lot of things without feeling like those are the only things I’ll ever do.
I’ve also done a lot that makes me happy, and I’m not sure she ever felt or feels that way. I don’t know that she ever felt that she could choices for happiness alone. I’m happy in my marriage. I’ve pursued my own dreams–she never talked much about having them, nevermind pursuing them. I don’t have kids, and it’s ok to make that choice now if that’s what one wants. My grandma is a tough nut and not always easy to get along with. I suspect she sees herself as a victim from time to time, even if it’s truly of her own unwillingness to do otherwise.
So I am very ok with 39. I am not Old.
39 isn’t the end of my youth, even if I’m not exactly young. I like to think I’m just gently aged, wiser for my time here. I don’t have bitterness at the past that might encourage me to feel my youth was wasted. I don’t care too much about the cultural imagery of youth that might see me older.
But that’s not to say that I don’t have aging anxieties. I realize I’m a little anxious about being considered not-young, whether in my own head or otherwise. I know it’s irrational, and that the alternative is awful. But it’s a thing that looms somewhere in the back of my head and surfaces at weird times. For me, I think it’s more about feeling relevant–and that’s not a concept actually attached to age but how one is in the world.
Speaking of relevancy: coming up soon is a post on the hideous plan Betsy DeVos has for Title IX, my thoughts on HRC’s book What Happened (my copy just arrived!), and a discussion of my “side hustle.”
2017 is the year I’m abandoning the NFL. I’ve been a dedicated Patriots fan for years (born and raised) and an avid Fantasy Football player. I’ve swallowed a lot of garbage–turned deliberately aside–in order to keep watching and playing. But this is the year that ends. Here’s why:
The NFL gives no fucks about women. On occasion they pay a little lip service, like last year’s campaign against domestic violence. Or they slowly add women as sideline reporters, which took both network and NFL changes. These things are good, but they’re not enough. The NFL, at best, slaps the wrists of those accused of domestic violence, but that’s not even common. Vice reports that 44 current players, ready to start the season, have been accused of physical or sexual assault. Players can pretty much do anything short of kill someone and still have the NFL’s blessing, so long as you still play well. Then there’s the cheerleaders: they work hard, they’re athletic, and they’re paid peanuts. Having cheerleaders on the field is thus solely about exploitation–the NFL could pay them better, but doesn’t.
The treatment of Colin Kaepernick has been awful. He’s been effectively blackballed after protesting police violence by kneeling during the national anthem. So, if I understand this correctly, this is how things work: fighting dogs is ok but protesting racist state violence is not. For shame.
Those two things are really more than enough for me after years of pretending like they don’t bother me. But the unwillingness of the NFL to deal with its head injury problem–and the amount of damage their lack of concern has led to–is disturbing. I get why they like big hits–big ratings, especially in a season that competes with basketball, America’s most popular sport. And players know that head injuries are a risk of the job. However, the NFL has hidden behind an “it’s not so bad, let’s not talk about it” ethos for years. It has to stop.
And here in New England, Robert Fucking Kraft. Sure, he’s built a great team and he seems like a charismatic enough guy. But supporting 45–giving him a Superbowl ring with his own name on it recently–is disturbing. What’s the line at which he says “yeah, not anymore”? Kraft’s got lots of African American players on his roster–45’s response to Charlottesville didn’t shake him up in some way, make him wonder at his own ethics? If he hires all these guys and has no trouble with 45’s response, we should start to pull apart his motives. He’s there to make money–he doesn’t give a shit about the players themselves, either as individuals or groups. It’s appalling.
The season starts soon and it’ll be weird not to have my usual background sounds on while I work on the couch on Sundays. I love football. I’m going to miss it. I’ve got family ties built around it that I’ll miss this fall. But the NFL owes the people far more than it has given, and it needs to do more to renounce its misogynistic, racist ways before I come back. Here’s hoping for 2018.
I’ve seen a number of posts in my Twitter feed lately that follow similar patterns. In what I’m assuming is intended as benevolent helpfulness, they encourage readers to save. “Save for retirement, even if you only make three nickels!” is (my) exaggerated version. Today I saw some that suggested the only barrier to saving is self-discipline. These kinds of posts struck me as troubling, and I think PF (personal finance) bloggers need to take a deep breath and a step back to evaluate some.
Chiefly, my criticism is this: posts like that deny the very real problem of class in America and show little empathy for that problem. If I’m making, say, $30k a year, saving for retirement–and surely for early retirement–is nearly impossible. If I live in a less-expensive area, maybe my odds improve, but overall? $30k is very little in our country, and even less so if that person has a spouse or kids or even, hell, pets. $30k is barely enough to begin to save an emergency fund for some people. No amount of budgeting in the world will make much difference if expenses–food, rent, transit to work–are average. Telling people–as some have–to move for better-paying jobs ignores how costly moving is. First month, last month, security–these add up to thousands of dollars in many cases, and that’s not including something to haul one’s stuff. It’s also denying that people want more than just to save for retirement–living near family, for instance, might be worth far more than being isolated someplace in order to save money. A little empathy aforethought might change what this piece was up to entirely.
And while sometimes indeed what stops people from saving is willpower, just as often it’s likely a combination of events that leaves a person in the red or paycheck to paycheck. Class is a very real part of our world, and it’s compounded in America by other factors like gender, sex, and race, all of which lead to lower paychecks than white men receive. We know that 2/3 of Americans don’t have much of anything saved for an emergency, and it’s not always because of willpower: it’s because of a lack of funds to begin with. Significantly, a $1000 emergency–say, the refrigerator croaks–is 31 days’ worth of work for someone making $25000 a year (Pew Charitable Trust study, cited in link above–$25000 is just over the official poverty line for a family of four). Setting aside that money may be nigh on impossible for someone making $25000. Average income in America is a little over $56k, which means many people are making well below that amount (by some estimates, up to 14.5% are below the poverty line). Deepening one’s ability to understand where people are coming from–finding some financial empathy–will go a a long way to being a better advocate for people interested in personal finance issues, and better able to figure out what people actually need rather than what one thinks they need.
Relatedly, it’s time to chuck the “just pull yourself up from your bootstraps” narrative. It’s been a persistent part of American culture for decades, but it lacks awareness that everyone’s bootstraps start in different places. White, educated men in certain geographical markets and without prior roots in poverty have the easiest-to-pull bootstraps, as they’ve got the most overt privilege, systemic and otherwise. Everyone else starts lower. For many, the straps themselves barely exist. To assume otherwise–to say or imply, “I did it, why can’t you?” about any given topic without qualifiers–suggest that you either haven’t recognized that we don’t all have the same bootstrap pullability, or an unwillingless to recognize it.
So, take this as a piece of constructive criticism, PF bloggers. Before you offer, however well-intended, a suggestion that anyone if they tried hard enough could FIRE or hell, just retire someday, or save far more than they already do, think about the position of privilege you’re coming from. You’ve been blessed. No doubt you’ve worked hard, but sometimes hard work alone doesn’t cut it. Keep that in mind as you proffer advice for the rest of us. Work on developing empathy for what $30k means for some families and for the complicating factors in people’s lives. Empathy is as good as gold in terms of social currency.
Hey, readers! It’s been a quiet week or so in these parts. The news here in the US has been generally bad, to the extent that writing about it just seems exhausting. Here, the summer’s over and I’m back to my job this week, which is another reason I’m tired. I’m trying to figure out how to navigate current events in my classroom while keeping it open for dialogue across all spectrums. That way people can come to informed conclusions without assuming my own positions and clamming up. It’s going to be a challenge.
I attended a faculty workshop recently in which one of my colleagues talked about how, in the name of his neglected research, he was going to stop working on dialogue and justice on our campus. He was going to take all the time for himself. But then, as events unfolded, he couldn’t. He felt dirty with the knowledge of how his privileged position as a white male allowed him to turn his activism on and off, as his outer appearance allowed him to blend away from crisis whenever he pleased. So he changed his mind.
May we all be that colleague. May we take time for ourselves when we need it, but not stop fighting because we can. Let’s use our various layers of privilege to work for others, to find ways to dialogue and also ways to reject fascist hatred. We’ve all got gifts–if we use them for others, we’re making the world a better place. If this week has shown us anything, it’s how badly we need each other in the face of the dearth of understanding and empathy in our culture.
Good luck with the rest of your week! I’ll be back on Friday. Kitten quarantine is lifted Saturday. Wish us luck.
This is a post I’ve been mulling over for months, but wasn’t sure how to write. I am not comfortable talking about vulnerability or being vulnerable. But I’ve been reading Roxane Gay’s tremendous Hunger and got thinking that she is brave, and she is vulnerable. Being willing to be vulnerable and able to handle the risks that come with it is, I suspect, key to figuring out who you are, under your layers. A lot of us wear a great deal of armor to hide those layers. I further suspect we aren’t always doing ourselves favors hiding in our armor, as hard as it is to shed.
I am a Rock. (I am an Island)
I have often been a rock for others. I chose that position. It’s a good one. It’s good to be the person your friends count on–in college, we’d gather in my room when things felt out of control, and I’d lead the process of bringing us back to where we needed to be. We called it the “sanity club”. These days I tend to bring my “sanity club” approach to things like meetings–in, out, let’s get things done.
Part of why I make a good rock is that I’m ruthlessly rational, methodical, and pragmatic (hi, I’m a quintessential Virgo). The downside is that I don’t deal well with emotion and in my less-generous moments, don’t have a lot of patience for them, either. I realize the irony there, as my attitude gets me into emotional messes. I like to fix other people’s problems, whether they want me to or not. I realized later that this attitude meant that when other people were vulnerable with me, giving me that gift, I shut them down. I was uncomfortable with emotions and people’s pain, so I tried to fix them in order to send own discomfort away.
(Incidentally, I loved Olivia Pope on Scandal in the early seasons–a problem-fixer by trade!–until she got too stupidly emotional over Fitz. Pffft, you’re so much better than that dumbass, Olivia. Get your wine and go home. Rational. Methodical. Fix it and move on. Sheesh.)
When we moved in order for me to take my job, it was 2008. The market crashed as we arrived in our new destination. My husband–who left his job to come with me–had job prospects that dried up rapidly. We ended up in a really rough place as the terror of watching the fiscal system left us not knowing what would happen next. I wanted to fix it, and the pain that came with it for us. I couldn’t. It was awful.
Years later, in a different rough place, I began seeing a therapist who asked me, in the first fifteen minutes, when I became so co-dependent. It occurred to me, as I worked through all my garbage and googled what the hell co-dependent meant, that I had always been, even when I was a kid. I don’t let other people solve their problems, because in my wacky perspective it’s easier for me to do it so we can all move on. I wasn’t good at letting people sit with their emotions; I didn’t accept them all that well, and I’d try to fix whatever caused negative emotions so I wouldn’t have to deal. You can guess how that usually goes: poorly, for all involved. And at the root of it all was an unwillingness for me to be vulnerable–to accept that I am not always the rock or the fixer–and that I, too, had emotions.
The Time I was Ditched
The real test of this awareness came a year or so later. When I was sorting through with all of this personal stuff–and it took months to get to a place where I felt I had a handle on it–I wasn’t altogether pleasant. I was blue a lot, which is what got me to the therapist in the first place. I was struggling at work (not with my work, per se, but with other elements–I had no patience with anything and my anxiety was through the roof. I stopped going to some meetings because I just couldn’t handle them). I was mopey, though I thought I often masked it pretty well.
At the time I had a couple of very close friends with whom I’d go out regularly, the three of us. And I hadn’t seen much of them and I know I wasn’t entirely great when I did. And eventually, I opened up to them. I told them a lot of this stuff. In those days, I didn’t tell people this stuff.
And shortly after I did, they stopped talking to me. I saw them once more inside several months, and then abruptly, that was it. There had been an ugly moment that led to a break with one of them, but when I tentatively asked her about the whole thing months later, I was told the friendship had been long dying, which was news to me. The other friend never returned my calls or messages, both prior to the moment of break and after. It was brutal, and at the time, I figured I had to have screwed up royally in some capacity I couldn’t even figure.
I cried for months, beating myself up, unable to see what had happened. I hated myself for being weak–they didn’t deserve my tears–and for not being able to see what they did. I believed I must have done something horrible but ultimately not memorable for me in the least. It took a lot of talking with other friends to see otherwise.
But on the Bright Side
Eventually, it occurred to me that the two former friends couldn’t handle my vulnerability. Yeah, I wasn’t a great deal of fun for probably a few months. I know there’s an ethos out there that says people should prune from their lives those who bring them down. I get that, but only in terms of people who are, say, negative for the sake of negativity. I’d opened up, and I’d been honest with them, and I’d been vulnerable in talking about what bothered me and what was going on, and they’d ditched me–they confirmed my hunch that being vulnerable was not my bag. I hid inside myself for a long time after that. I didn’t know adults could be so brutal–it felt like junior high.
But in the long run, I realized that I deserved far better. I realized that my vulnerabilities don’t make me weak or stupid, and that I don’t need to be everyone’s rock all the time. They don’t want or need me to be. I can be honest about what I struggle with and often, that honesty strengthens the relationships I have (though I don’t rush into friendships any more–I am pretty careful about who I let in, but pretty open once I make that call).
I am not always brave. I am not always patient. I am still cruel to myself (I’m a terrible self-talker) but I also realize the nonsense inherent in doing so. I try to let people fix their own stuff, and listen to them rather than taking the helm. I’m trying to soften my edges, and the real perk of all of this is that increasingly I realize that things I tend to worry over aren’t my things to worry over, because it’s not my job to fix all the things.
May you find safe spaces to be vulnerable, and to reveal what shines under your layers. May you not have brutal people shock you into doing so. May you gain insight and compassion through your bravery, and find peace in the process.
Back to work tomorrow. May I remember my own words.
I know I haven’t been up to too much in this space in the last two weeks. It’s been exhausting, both at home and at large. Here’s hoping next week is better.
These two are much improved. Sol (gray) has another week of antibiotics and is still sneezy, but much less gross. Trixie (calico) is good to go.
Wardrobe creation continues. Tally is currently 2 cowl neck shirts, three skirts, two pairs of pants. There’s a blouse in need of revision as well. I was hoping to show you some of the pieces today, but it didn’t happen.
I’m going to stay up for Wynonna Earp at 10, and then I’m hitting the hay.
I hope you can find a little peace this weekend, even as we stand strong.