Another Role/Reboot Twofer: Poverty and Lesbians!

Call me strange but I’m kind of digging this “twofer post” thing — maybe combining two seemingly unrelated topics in my subject line attracts a higher quantity of readers? Hmmm…

Speaking of higher quantity of readers, both of these pieces are getting quite a bit of traction. The first, published on Role/Reboot at the end of July, deals with American attitudes toward poverty (which, let’s face it, are absolutely misguided). I talk about the familiar “bootstraps” narrative that we like to regurgitate over and over again in the media we consume (hello Rocky Balboa), but that isn’t realistic when applied to our current state of economic affairs in 2014. Income inequality is the highest it’s been since before the Great Depression, so blaming individuals for “not trying hard enough” in the face of larger oppressive systems at work is misguided at best and heartless at worst.

Side note: Any educators who follow this blog should check out the writing of Paul Thomas, whose “grit narrative” piece I reference in my article. Many of his posts discuss racism/sexism/poverty in education, problems with Common Core/standards-based programs. He is phenomenal, and you can find him here: http://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/

Being Poor Doesn’t Mean Someone’s Lazy — July 22, 2014 on Role/Reboot

My Role/Reboot column for this week, “On Lesbians Who Settle Down With Men,” is a direct response to a piece EJ Levy wrote for Salon last Tuesday on how she unexpectedly married a man, but still identifies as a lesbian because her sexual attraction is to women and women only. As you might imagine, comment wars have erupted all over the place (including on my article — some very interesting discussions going on!) I had a lot of fun examining the distinctions between romantic and sexual love, as well as our tendency to think that they are one in the same or that one always inevitably leads to the other.

Some of the commenters bring up excellent points: in particular, that Levy’s story may perpetuate the harmful myth that lesbians can be “converted” through sex with a man (J.M. Coetzee’s novel “Disgrace” is a chilling use of this myth), and while I completely understand the concern and wish Levy would have acknowledged it in her piece, I do not believe that we can put that kind of burden on one woman’s story. A lot of the argument boils down to definitions, but if we are going to ask what constitutes lesbian/bi/etc., we have ask those same questions of other relationships? If a self-identified lesbian is attracted to women who look/act/dress like men, is she “less” of a lesbian? And somehow, I feel like we wouldn’t criticize a self-identified straight woman who happens to fall in love with a woman (which has also happened) as harshly as some are criticizing Levy.

All of this aside, I do speak from a different point of view because I believe that we are all innately bisexual — just by varying degrees. And after this, I will definitely be writing more on queer theory in the future. Check it out and add your voice to the conversation!

On Lesbians Who Settle Down With Men — August 3, 2014 on Role/Reboot

A Role/Reboot Twofer: On Clothes and Contraception

In my mad scramble to get through the busiest part of summer semester, it occurred to me that I never posted a piece I wrote last month on women’s clothing. This was an especially fun one to write, as it was very personal (and involved me quite literally cleaning out my closet). We’re told to not judge a book by its cover, but unfortunately, as I expressed in a prior piece on high school dress codes, the character of women is too often assumed by what she chooses to put on her body. In this piece, I talk about the power of agency in wardrobe choices because, yes, we really can dress ourselves.

Thanks, World, But I Can Dress Myself — June 19, 2014 on Role/Reboot

Last weekend, my seething cauldron of anger and disbelief re: the SCOTUS Hobby Lobby decision finally boiled over into this article, which was published on Role/Reboot last Monday. I firmly believe that when business deny women contraception on religious grounds, the heart of the matter is a disdain toward women who are sexually active. And I’ve noticed this reflected in the responses of women who cry out that they need birth control for endometriosis or ovarian cysts or some other curative reason. While all of these reasons are totally valid, it’s still not okay for us to treat birth control for contraceptive purposes as something superfluous or “lesser than.”

There Is No Immoral, Unnecessary, or Wrong Way To Use Birth Control — July 7, 2014 on Role/Reboot

Now! The reason I haven’t been updating this as much as I would like: I’m currently transitioning from this blog to my own website, which I feel will be a lot more user-friendly and easier on my end to maintain. There, you will be able to find all of my articles and fun extras like the HuffPostLive segment in one organized place. I will keep everyone posted as these changes occur!

A Culture of Busyness

I’m not going to lie — there were some more self-serving motivations lurking behind my latest article, namely that it’s the start of a summer semester and I have to get my affairs in order. If you ever taken summer college courses, you probably know that most of them are “accelerated,” meaning that instead of taking place over the usual 15 week duration, they are 10, 8, 5, and sometimes even 3-week classes that meet several times a week for more than the standard hour and fifteen minutes. I have four of these this summer, which, at times, will feel like eight. The potential for headspin is high for both students and teachers!

The thing is — I love my job. I really do. And whenever I talk about work, I like to think of myself as more the “I really love what I do and being absorbed with it” type rather than the “Look, everyone, at how BUSY I am” bragger-for-the-sake-of-bragging. And yet, even though some of us may willingly define ourselves by our professions, we can’t exist exclusively in that capacity. This week’s Role/Reboot article offers some practical advice to those of us who happily “live to work”: let’s not feel guilty for taking time to have some fun, too!

“Knowing How to Play When You Live to Work” — June 10, 2014 on Role/Reboot

Hashtag Advocacy and the #YesAllWomen Movement

I was a little late in acquiring all the details of last week’s horrific shooting in Santa Barbara, but fortunately was able to catch up thanks to the trending #YesAllWomen on Twitter to point me in the right direction.  The practice of hashtag activism (or “slactivism” in some circles) has recently come under fire for being a lazy, useless, and trendy-for-the-sake-of-being-trendy mode of communication.  But I would argue (and do, for Role/Reboot this week) that hashtags like #YesAllWomen at the very least spread information and draw attention to issues that might otherwise have flown under the radar. 

Is Hashtag Activism Just a Lazy Substitute for the Real Thing? — May 30, 2014 on Role/Reboot

One of the commenters on the original article asked “where is this hashtag conversation going?” if the activism never really branches out beyond our shared words and stories, which is an excellent question.  But I think that if we are going to ask that question, why not question the power of written media as a whole?  The hashtags themselves aren’t as important as the words and stories they are tied to, which have the power to change the world.  If books can radically change mentality and culture (hellooo, Betty Friedan!), so can online messages — albeit in a different format.

Segment on HuffPostLive!

When I sat down with my best friend and his boyfriend last night for martinis at a video lounge in Pittsburgh, I was definitely not expecting to be contacted by The Huffington Post about contributing to a live segment tomorrow!  But there you have it…my first on-air guest experience and it’s with the Huffington Post!  I am thrilled beyond belief.

So if you’re interested, the HuffPostLive segment “I Got Divorced After Being Married for 30 Years” will stream at 1:40 p.m. EST and will cover issues of rising “grey divorce” and adult children of divorce, which I’ve written about a few times before.  I will be coming to you live from the Steel City, caffeine in hand. And with that, I’m off to make myself look presentable!

Hot Town, Summer in the City

We here in the mid-Atlantic United States have moved straight from a harsh and unforgiving winter into hot hot summer.  You know what that means: out come the shorts, the tank tops, and the rampant sexism.

This week, I found inspiration in a flyer that, thanks to a mother who commented on my Role/Reboot piece, I now know was originally posted around Lakewood High School in Colorado.  Apparently, temperatures inside the high school had reached 80 degrees and in order to combat the heat, several girls violated the school’s dress code and were called into the office.

The strange double standards boys and girls face while dressing for summer are, as far as I’m concerned, directly connected to our sexualization of female bodies: Men freely walk around topless in the heat, but a mother breastfeeding on a park bench sends us into an uproar.  All of our lovely female curves are loaded with the implication that because they are on “display,” (never mind the comfort factor in sweltering temps), they openly invite criticism, deserve comment, or indicate a lack of self-respect. So absurd, but oh-so ingrained.

I’m happy to report that this piece now has over 3,000 “likes” which is a tremendous (and welcome!) surprise. I hope that some of you will share it around.

A Message to Teenage Girls About Summer Dress Codes — May 15, 2014 on Role/Reboot

The Friday Five — 5/9/14

1. Female professors less likely to have children
A Times Higher Education article reports that female professors in Australia are less likely than their male counterparts to have children, often because they viewed having children as a hindrance to career advancement and travel opportunities.

2. Why I Filmed My Abortion
25 year old Emily Letts filmed her surgical abortion and posted it to Facebook because “there are no positive abortion stories on video for everyone to see.”  The approximately three-minute clip shows Emily before, during, and after the surgery, which was brief and, for the most part, guilt-free.  The video focuses on Emily’s face during the procedure and is not at all graphic.  Bravo, Emily!

3. Mostly Straight, Most of the Time
A timely follow-up to my “bisexual erasure” piece from last week.  More and more straight men are “coming out” as having homosexual inclinations, according to an article on Good Men Project.  What does it mean to be “mostly straight”?

4. Stop Saying ‘I Have a Boyfriend’
This piece so much.  We all do it, girls — “I have a boyfriend” is the convenient fallback response to any kind of unwanted attraction, but it completely robs us of our own voice and agency.  Why isn’t “I’m not interested” enough?  It should be.

New Pittsburgh Penguins UPMC Sports Complex!
This last one has absolutely nothing to do with gender relations, but I’m a huge Pittsburgh Penguins fan and am thrilled that the construction for the new complex is underway.  The center is in Cranberry, a suburb of Pittsburgh, and the township where my dad lives.  Does this mean that come next summer, I’ll be able to drive down the street and watch my favorite hockey team practice?  You bet!