Friday, June 28, 2013

Welcome! Now Say Hi, Please!

I see you, new readers.

Day 5 - Hide and Seek

So (if you're willing), please say hi in the comments and introduce yourself. (And if you're not a new reader, but you'd like to say hi, I'd love that, too!)

Photo: nataliej

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Blogging to My PhD: Tightropes and Hard Times: Do You Have to Have it Hard to Be a Good Rhetorician?

This post is like Christmas and your birthday and New Years all rolled together because you get three books in one post. I know, I know. You can hardly contain your excitement.

I've still been working my way through Reclaiming Rhetorica: Women in the Rhetorical Tradition. I noticed a theme starting to peek through in these profiles of strong female rhetoricians. Here, see if you can pick up on it:
Christine's marriage turned out to be affectionate and secure. With both her husband and her father well employed in the King's service, her family faced a prosperous future. Soon after the de Pisan-du Castel alliance, however, Charles V died and with the change in monarchy de Pisan's and du Castel's positions and salaries were reduced. Within a few years, both men died, leaving Christine as a grieving twenty-five-year-old woman, with three children, a niece, and her mother to support. She had no means of income and faced complicated lawsuits to recover salary due her husband.-From Jenny R. Redfern's "Christine de Pisan and The Treasure of the City of Ladies"
Mary Astell's early years were probably happy. Her parents, though not particularly rich, were reasonably well-to-do, and she grew up with the advantage of a comfortable home. All this changed within a relatively short time. First, her father died. It then became apparent that his financial position was insecure. . . There was nothing left over to provide an adequate dowry for her. Soon after the death of her father, her formal education came to an end with the death of her uncle. She continued to live with her mother and aunt--two other Mary Astells--until their deaths. . . A young girl of her class was, of course, expected to marry--provided she had a dowry. Mary Astell had none.-From Christine Mason Sutherland's "Reclaiming Rhetorica in the Seventeenth Century"
But with the unexpected death of her father in the autumn of 1835, the twenty-five-year-old Fuller found herself suddenly responsible for her own support as well as that of her widowed mother and her six younger siblings.
-From Annette Kolodny's "Margaret Fuller: Inventing a Feminist Discourse"
At sixteen, responsibility was thrust upon her when her parents died suddenly of yellow fever and she had to take care of herself and five younger siblings.
-From Jacqueline Jones Royster's "The Rhetoric of Ida B. Wells" 
089/365 Money...What Money

If you answered that between them they were penniless and that parents were killed off with a frequency that the Disney franchise has to admire, you're right. 

All of these powerful rhetoricians faced extremely difficult situations. They were thrust into a position that left them vulnerable and ill-equipped, particularly in the face of sexist and racist societies that made it even more difficult for them to use the skills they had.

And it's not that these women just reached their full rhetorical potential despite such troubling challenges; they reached them because of those challenges.

This is where the second book from the list comes in. In Thomas P. Miller's The Formation of College English: Rhetoric and Belles Lettres in the British Cultural Province (which has a very boring title but is a very interesting read), this topic is explored through a different lens.

First, Miller has some words about rhetoric itself, as a field of study:
When the humanities evolved into what C.P. Snow has termed "two cultures" of the arts and sciences, rhetoric was left betwixt and between--too situated and self-interested to be scientific and too calculated, political, and utilitarian to be literary
Stuck in the middle with you. That's rhetoric.

This is particularly important when juxtaposed with some of Miller's other observations:
those who study in the "contact zones" influence the history and future of the discipline far more than has been recognized
And elsewhere:
Those at the boundaries of the dominant culture tend to be intensely aware of the differences marked by those boundaries. 
In other words, it's the placement in a difficult position that makes the need for rhetorical skills apparent. Take a look at all of those women's biographies again. For almost all of them, there was not only a set of very dire circumstances, but a drastic change in circumstances. There's no need for rhetorical development when everything is going fine, and even if everything is not fine, if it's always been that way, the need for rhetorical mastery is less apparent.

Rhetoric is about change, about transformation, about evolution. The most effective rhetoric does not merely push us to think, it pushes us to act. Rhetoric is how we mold our own perceptions of the world around us, which means that rhetoric has the potential to change everything.

This brings me to the third book, Gloria Anzaldua's La Frontera/Borderlands. Anzaldua lived a fascinating life. She self-identified as a queer mestiza. Her ancestry was a mix of European and indigenous Native American populations. She suffered from an endocrine disorder that had her menstruating as an infant and stunted her growth. She eventually had a hysterectomy to deal with the disorder. She often found herself between the boundaries of white and Latina, feminine and masculine, English and Spanish. She coined a term la facultad (Spanish for "faculty") to explain the way that people within these borders operate:
It's a kind of survival tactic that people, caught between the worlds, unknowingly cultivate
I am especially interested in her use of the word "unknowingly" here. This almost suggests that la facultad is an evolutionary, maybe even biological, reaction to conflict.

She also says:
Fear develops the proximity sense aspect of la facultad. But there is a deeper sensing that is another aspect of the faculty. It is anything that breaks into one's everyday mode of perception, that causes a break in one's defenses and resistance, anything that takes one from one's habitual grounding, causes the depths to open up, causes a shift in perception. This shift in perception deepens the way we see concrete objects and people; the senses become so acute and piercing that we can see through things, view events in depth, a piercing that reaches the underworld (the realm of the soul). 
How is Anzaldua's notion of la facultad, a sense that she sees as something that deepens one's connection to Self and soul, connected to those other rhetoricians' struggles?

In the article about Ida B. Wells, Royster says that Wells:
looked closely at her life, named herself, claimed her own vision of reality, claimed her own authority to speak the truth that she saw, entitled herself to this authority, and made the decision to use the tools of rhetoric and composition to bring about what she perceived to be much-needed social change.  
Royster compares Wells' rhetorical navigation of her complex position to a "'dance' without a net along a rhetorical tightrope between these two spaces."

Tightrope Walking 

Taking all of these pieces together, we could use this metaphor to have a greater understanding of rhetoric and rhetorical skill. No one learns to walk a tightrope from the safety of stable land. Sure, they might do things to develop the necessary skills. They might find balance, stamina, and focus. But the only thing that prepares you for walking a tight rope is walking on a tight rope, and if that tight rope is one without a net, then it's not particularly inviting to someone who doesn't have to be there.

Being on a tight rope is also necessarily an action. Even when appearing to stand still, the body is acting. Standing upon that rope requires the use of constant muscles to stay balanced; the body is constantly in motion. The tightrope is, like rhetoric, a space where action is necessary.

Does that mean that the evolution of rhetorical skill is particularly targeted to those who are in moments of crisis and conflict? If so, mights its sometimes denigrated position in both scholarly circles and public opinion be explained by the gap between people who are advantaged (by stable ground) and those who are disadvantaged (by being on the rope)? And what does that mean for those of us who teach rhetoric? Do we need to place our students in a moment of crisis to develop them? Do those moments need to be authentic or can they be artificially constructed in the classroom? What are the ethical concerns surrounding such a pedagogical question?

These are issues that are central to every piece of my own identity: personal, professional, and scholarly (this blog is, after all, called Balancing Jane). I would love to hear your thoughts. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Curious (Links for the Week!)

Here's what I've been reading this week that made me smile (The Good), cry (The Bad), and think (The Curious).

The Good

I read two different pieces that in very different ways made me think about the beauty of mother's bodies. This slideshow shows pictures of women's post-baby bodies, and they are beautiful. Then this Offbeat Families post presents a woman who is dancing burlesque while 8 months pregnant.

I just recently discovered Brain, Child. It is wonderful, and you should read it. In particular, you should read this beautiful article about a sighted toddler with two blind parents:
Langston knows my husband and I can’t see. That we are both blind. He never points at things and always attempts to verbally describe something to us. He knows that if he wants to show us something he can’t describe, he needs to bring it to us or us to the site. He even manages to show us where our dog threw up without having us touch it directly or touching it himself. “Mess,” he says in disgust, “mess, mess!”
And, while I'm busy gushing over how much I'm loving Brain, Child, check out this other article from them from a mother who took her daughter to a heavy metal battle of the bands:
I wait five minutes then walk over to the boys. “You in the band?” I ask and they stop talking to stare at me. I am in white jeans and a blue button-up blouse. The boy with the ring in his nose and spider web tattoo on the corner of his eye looks at me. “We are,” he says, and he smiles, his voice normal like my son’s voice. I don’t know what I expected. “Meet the members of Indecent Exposure,” he says. “I’m Tack, this is Freeze, and that’s Jebs.” I reach out my hand for a handshake, notice the skull ring on Tack’s middle finger. I wonder how I would feel if Sophia brought one of these boys home for dinner.
I'm not completely convinced, but I do have to admit that hearing that Ken Hoinsky (the author of that Kickstarter assault book proposal) has set up meetings with anti-assault activists to help ensure that his book does not promote any non-consensual advances. I really, really want to believe that this is genuine and that this guy just really didn't get it but is trying to figure it out.

Doing sign language interpretation to Wu-Tang:

Technically, Stephen Colbert's tribute to his mom made me both smile and cry, but it definitely belongs among the Good.

Sometimes you need a reminder of how amazing the world is:

The Bad

I am not squeamish about bugs. I catch spiders and put them outside. I have a live-and-let-live philosophy towards most crawly things. The exception, though, is wasps, which creep me out something fierce. I am pretty sure I will have nightmares after watching this video about a "prehistoric" wasp nest in Central Florida. That sound!

A 12-year-old girl was kicked off her football team for making her male playmates have "impure" thoughts, though apparently none of them actually voiced or acted on said thoughts. It sounds like the only ones thinking of anything "impure" are the horrible administrators who made this decision. The rest of them are just kids playing football. 

What in the world is George Zimmerman's lawyer doing?!

An 8-year-old girl was clearly preyed upon by a murderous predator who knew exactly what he was doing. Her mother obviously shouldn't have let her walk to the front of a Wal-Mart with him for hamburgers, since that was the moment he used to kidnap and murder her. However, I would urge people to truly think of how many tiny decisions they've made could have ended tragically but didn't. It's easy to blame this mother, but we need to find some compassion. 

The Curious

PhD in Parenting has an interesting post on some survey results for how Canadians and Americans see men as "masters" of the household.

This xoJane piece about pumping breast milk while covering a music festival made me remember (and not miss!) my own pumping days. Like this author, I often found that I was more embarrassed about asking for pumping accommodations than anyone I asked ever seemed to be.

Here are some reflections on the meaning of failure:
The sad thing is, when the flash bulbs do pop and fade, you are left, in the pulsing after-light, with a keen sense of how unhappy people can be with what they have achieved in life. Perfectly successful people. With perfectly good lives. And you come to appreciate the ones who have figured all that shit out.
A nurse reports on the most common regrets she hears from dying patients.

This Atlantic article posits that poor students not taking advantage of Ivy League colleges is squashing the American Dream.

That's what I've been reading. What about you?

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Grammarian and the Alderman: My Foray Into Local Political Action

Last week, I told you that my city (St. Louis) was considering a ban on sagging pants. As I noted in that post, I am completely against such a ban and wanted to exercise my civic responsibility in letting my local representatives know.

I don't know how local politics are arranged in most cities, but St. Louis is broken down into 28 wards that are represented by Aldermen (who are elected by the people in each Ward). I contacted the Alderman over my Ward, but he is not on the committee (the Public Safety Committee) where this bill is being debated. If the bill makes it through committee, it will go up for a vote among all of the Aldermen.

st louis arch

I am not even going to pretend that I understand all the complicated interconnectedness of local politics, but judging from the few conversations I've had with a few of these aldermen and alderwomen, they are complex and often petty. There appears to be in-fighting, alliances, and tit-for-tat handling of issues. It's like a really, really boring episode of Parks & Rec.

At the suggestion of my own Alderman, I contacted all 11 representatives on the Public Safety Committee since that is where this bill is currently awaiting its fate. So far, three of them have responded to me. One supported my view. One co-sponsored the bill, but was polite in the correspondence, and the other one resulted in an email exchange that absolutely flabbergasted me.

In the interest of transparency, you can find the entire exchange documented here, but I'm just going to take some key quotes for this blog post (my responses are in gray; his are in blue). (Also, all of these emails were sent to me from this alderman's professional, City-issued email account.)

Act 1: An Unprofessional Exchange

The letter I sent to the committee was basically a slightly more professional version of the blog post I wrote laying out my objections to this bill.

In response, the Alderman wrote me this:

I appreciate your view and your comments, but I aslo don't like the remarks your making first of all the Public Saftey Committie does not pick and decide where bills that are introduced go to that is done by the Board President, the 18 people that were shot in a matter of hours all knew each other according to police and third of all seeing kids and adults walking around with their pants and shorts hanging showing their ass is not only dissapointing but yes disgusting I sure wouldnt want my 4 year old grandaughter seeing that.

Again everyone has an opinion, I dont hink people should get locked up for sagging pants, but I think the Alderwomen wants to see something done so people respect their selves and others.
 Look, I am not the grammar police, and as I have written about in the past, I don't think that grammar should be held up to judge people's intelligence or abilities, but I do expect a certain level of professionalism from an elected official.

This email contains multiple spelling errors, several run-on sentences and comma splices, a lack of a controlling idea, homophone confusion, and the use of the word "ass" in a professional exchange.

This sent a very clear message to me that the Alderman didn't proofread, re-read, or think very long about his thoughts before responding to me. It was disrespectful and unprofessional from the beginning.

In my initial response, I didn't mention this unprofessional style at all. I did express my disappointment in his seeming support for this bill, which I gathered from his own admission that he wants to "see something done" about people "showing their ass." I told him, among other things:

I am disappointed that it sounds like you support this bill.

Act 2: Getting Personal

His next response jumped to a level of personal hostility that I don't think was justified:
    I really notice people already know im supporting something when they have no clue and neither do you, I never said I liked the bill, I simply stated that something should be done reguading the matter it is disgusting to see kids and grown men wearing their shorts the way some do, the police should write a summons and the city fine them, then maybe they will pull their pants up.
So, to paraphrase: "I never said I liked the bill. I just said that I support what's in it."

At this point, I was truly confused by what he was saying, and I responded:
Perhaps if I was confused by your wording, it is because your original letter was so full of run-ons, typos, misspelled words, comma splices, and other grammatical errors as to be almost unreadable. I can only go off of your own words, and your own words are unprofessional (really, including the word "ass" in professional correspondence is fairly asinine.)
I'm not sure I should have said that. It's snarky and mean, and I try to keep my correspondence a little more balanced in tone. However, by this point, I was absolutely struck by the hypocrisy in a man who wants to police how others dress using such a crass mode of expression himself. 

After he sent me another typo-laden letter that didn't address any of the things I actually said to him, I responded with this:

This entire exchange has been combative, rude, and unprofessional. I was not attacking your grammar or spelling out of spite. I literally could barely read what you wrote. The sentences all ran together. It looked like something that was written without any care, thought, or proofreading. You are treating me incredibly disrespectfully when all I did was use my rights as a citizen to voice an opinion. 
 And later I said:
Grammar is much like style, actually. Here's an interesting article from the New York Times that explains the connection. I don't think that proper grammar makes someone a good person. I also don't think that sagging pants makes someone a bad one. I find it ironic that you think it's okay to attack someone's fashion choices (and you said yourself, in an email that I can quote back to you if you would like, that you support fines for sagging pants), but you yourself are making such poor grammar choices in a professional setting. If you felt insulted by my comments, imagine how a young man would feel who is being arrested and fined for his clothes.

The Final Act: Unprofessionalism Abounds

In his final email to me, the Alderman said this:
Well I have never had a person in my ward complain about the way I communicate with them on my page so im glad you don't live in my ward.
What?! I have kept my tone professional and tried to focus on the topic at hand throughout my entire exchange. I am a citizen of the City he works for. He is on a Public Safety Committee that serves the whole city (not only his own Ward). Furthermore, as a representative of the City, his statement that he's glad I'm not one of his residents is isolating and cruel.

The City of St. Louis already has a problem with an exodus of professional families taking their tax dollars with them. To have a City official out-and-out tell me that he doesn't want me in his neighborhood is incredibly rude and insulting.

I contacted the Mayor and Aldermanic President about his unprofessional conduct, but I don't know if I will get a response.

Curtain Call

I don't personally know this alderman. If I had to guess, I'd suspect that he's probably a decent guy who ran for a local election in a neighborhood that he cares about. I'm definitely willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on that. 

However, his response to me indicates a level of incompetence on the local level that is absolutely flabbergasting to me. 

I teach writing to community college students, many of them residents of this City. One of the things we talk about is the role of writing in civic discourse. I teach them that writing is a way to have their voices heard in public policies that directly impact them. I believe in that message. 

Many of my students (and members of the community in general) get nervous about writing to public officials. How would one of them feel if their heartfelt letter was met with this kind of rude and condescending response? Would it be enough to discourage them from participating in civic discourse in the future? 

Finally, what does this exchange suggest about the expectations we put upon and communicate to our local officials? I would hope that they know this kind of response is unacceptable in an elected public office. What responsibility do we have as citizens to hold our representatives accountable for the position in which they serve? (I know I would never expect to be able to talk to a student the way that this elected official just talked to me.)

UPDATE: This alderman responded to me again to tell me that he had no responsibility to hear my concerns since I wasn't in his Ward (even though he is serving on a city-wide committee). I have updated the Google Doc to include this final email, but it's short enough and mean enough that I thought I would also post it here:
Thank you for finaly ending this conversation, because you are almost at the point of harassing me, I certainly don't have to answer to you on anything, my concerns are the people in the 12th ward.

You may contact the Mayor and the President all you want, the bottom line is the people in my ward vote also and I do include them in my voting.

Please do not respond back, but I do understand your concern on the issue.
This is a politician who is being elected by the citizens of St. Louis and paid by our tax dollars. He is serving on a Public Safety Committee that determines laws for the entire city, and he literally told me that my voice does not matter to him and that he does not want to hear from me.

I can't say I'm particularly encouraged about the state of my city right now.

Any other local politics horror stories out there? Any successes? What have your experiences with local politics been?

Edit: I wanted to say that I didn't post this until I had found federal court cases where the emails of public officials were allowed to be published publicly without the writer's consent. I am generally very respectful of privacy, but this man wrote to me as a public elected official from his professional email account. I feel that his constituents have the right to see how he is representing them. 

Photo: Christina Rutz

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Blogging to My PhD: Practicing and Preaching

I'm reading Reclaiming Rhetorica: Women in the Rhetorical Tradition, a text that--as its title suggests--attempts to reclaim the role of women in the history of rhetoric. The essays within it explore female rhetoricians throughout a vast span of time.

The article I just read was "Daring to Dialogue: Mary Wollstonecraft's Rhetoric of Feminist Dialogics" by Jamie Barlowe.

Mary Wollstonecraft was a writer in the 1790's who wrote feminist arguments that insisted on the exposure of illogical and immoral oppressions of women in her contemporary society. Despite the fact that her writings brought no substantial changes to these cultural practices, she is often heralded for her strong rhetorical writing.

However, many of the literary critics who deal with Wollstonecraft's works separate her public and private writings in an attempt to dismiss the private ones. This is because, as Barlowe explains, her private letters are often a source of "embarrassment":
The fact that the woman touted as writing the first feminist manifesto could twice attempt suicide after Gilbert Imlay's rejection of her is a source of ideological discomfort.
Yes, Wollstonecraft wrote increasingly desperate letters to a man she loved with whom she had a child. Her letters suggest that he continued to encourage her by promising to return from the business trip that had taken him away, but the date kept getting pushed back further and further. When she discovered that he was living with a mistress, she attempted suicide. Even as she planned a second suicide attempt, she continued to write him and lay out an argument for his return based on his promises, commitments, and love.

relationships are complicated
It's complicated.

Barlowe's article focuses on the rhetorical nature of these letters and places them into a context that demonstrates a consistency in Wollstonecraft's rhetorical philosophy that connects her personal and private life in a way many critics have not done.

I think that's a worthwhile project, but I also think that Wollstonecraft's critics demonstrate something else that's interesting to me:

We don't want feminists to have real lives.

Today, we argue that feminists can't wear makeup or can't be stay-at-home moms or shouldn't breastfeed or can't get married or shouldn't change their last names if they do or shouldn't cook or shouldn't wear heels or dresses or . . . you get the idea.

All of those arguments center around the same thing that those critics did to Wollstonecraft. They tried to separate out her philosophy into a neat little package without recognizing that those ideas only came into existence through a complex set of experiences in which Wollstonecraft lived an actual life.

Sure, it's not particularly encouraging to see a powerful feminist throwing herself at a man's feet and letting his rejection push her to attempt suicide, but that's the life she lived. Those are the situations she faced.

If we only get to have ideals in perfectly sanitized lives that never conflict with our views, what good are they?

Photo: hojusaram

Friday, June 21, 2013

St. Louis Proposes Sagging Pants Ban

I live in St. Louis. It is a city that I love and one I have no plans to leave. It is a city with a rich, wonderful culture and tons and tons of family-friendly, budget-friendly, and fun-friendly things to see, hear, and do. (If you're not from St. Louis, I encourage you to come visit sometime and check out all of these things). I want to make it very clear that I love this city because I am about to say some critical things.

If you're not from St. Louis, chances are that your impression of us is either neutral ("flyover state") or negative ("crime-ridden"). That latter designation is not without merit. We've been ranked second most dangerous city and have the third-highest murder rate in the country. There are (as with all of these statistics and cities, I'm sure) complicated issues surrounding these data, but suffice it to say that there are several legitimate problems facing the city of St. Louis.

In fact, we had a particularly violent night just last week where 18 people were shot in the span of just a few hours. It was followed immediately by a high-profile and tragic triple homicide/suicide.

What I'm trying to say is that this might not be the best time to be worrying about whether or not someone's pants are sagging, and yet that's exactly what alderwoman Marlene Davis has decided to spend her time focusing on.

You can see the full text of her proposal here (pdf). Basically, she wants to replace an existing ordinance with one that includes the line "Any person to appear in a public place wearing pants below the waist which exposes the skin or undergarments which is likely to cause affront or alarm" as a definition of an "indecent or lewd act." The fine for a violation would be a fee of somewhere between $100 and $500 and/or up to 90 days in jail. 

I am angry.

I am angry for several reasons, and since I already called my own alderman (who is not Ms. Davis) to express that displeasure and didn't really feel like it did much good, I'm going to take to ranting on the internet about it instead. Here, in no particular order, are the reasons that this is a terrible idea:

First Amendment Violation

Dress is an important part of personal expression. Yes, I will admit that I personally find the saggy pants thing a little silly looking, but people are allowed to wear silly looking things. People are allowed to dress like clowns (I mean that literally, not as a metaphor for sagging).

Kenny the Clown on Market Street 

Hell, when I worked at Wal-Mart a guy used to come in wearing a complete clown costume that was covered in the most brimstoney of Bible verses and included actual felt flames to represent the pits of hell that his attire assured us we were all doomed to visit if we did not repent.

He creeped me out, but he was still allowed his mode of expression.

The Supreme Court has already established that the First Amendment can be applied to clothing, which counts as a valid mode of expression.

You may not like baggy pants, but they are a personal clothing choice, and policing personal clothing choices outside of the bounds of public nudity laws (which I'm going to get to in a minute) is a violation of First Amendment rights. Indeed, similar bans have already been found unconstitutional in some state courts, and the ACLU has put out a statement on why the issue is important to them.

Just because you do not personally like someone's means of expression does not mean you get to make it illegal.

This Law is Racially-Motivated

In this case, Davis denies that there is any racial motivation for her proposal. One of her fellow aldermen, however, sees it differently. 

According to the St. Louis Public Radio article
Alderman Antonio French says the bill inordinately targets young black men.
“It's another way the city is sending the wrong message to the young black men of the city," French said. "We need to be embracing this population, offering more opportunities and let them know that they have a partner and a friend, and not this adversarial relationship.”
And, yes, St. Louis has a race problem. We are one of the most segregated cities in the entire country. There is a long history of racial housing discrimination, and a recent report shows that black people are arrested at 18 times the rate of white people for marijuana use in the city (despite nearly equal total population numbers).

I'm not going to question Ms. Davis' personal motivations for putting forth this proposal, but I am going to say that I am absolutely convinced that it would be enforced in a racially-motivated way, creating even further divides in a city that needs to do more to fill in the gaps we already have, not create more racial tensions.

Speaking of Davis' motivations . . .

Sagging Pants are NOT Symbols of Gay Sexual Availability (and It Shouldn't Matter if They Were!)

"If you don’t know it, it comes from the prison system," Davis said. "When a man walks around with his pants down, it says 'I'm available for you to use me.' Is that how they want to represent themselves in the community? I don't think so," Davis said.
This is not true, so please, please, please stop saying it. (As a side note, it worries me that someone who apparently can't even do basic internet research is in charge of proposing laws for our city.)

That said, if it were true that wearing sagging pants were a symbol of homosexual availability as Ms. Davis claims, it would be even more evidence for the fact that denying that mode of expression would be a First Amendment violation, since then there would clearly be a specific message suppressed in the ban.

There's nothing wrong with being gay, Ms. Davis! And this city has a very active and supportive gay community, so I would hope that Ms. Davis is not actively denigrating such an important part of her constituency with blatantly homophobic remarks.

Hey, speaking of close-minded remarks:

Policing Other People's Clothing Choices As a Morality Issue is NOT Okay

As movements like Slutwalk have made clear, using clothing to police people's morality or worthiness is simply not okay. Claiming that someone's short skirt makes them culpable in their own sexual assault or saying that someone's sagging pants make them a menace to their community both depend on huge, stereotypical assumptions that let a clothing choice stand in for someone's humanity. 

Ms. Davis proposes that anyone who wears pants below the "waist" (which, again, does Ms. Davis have Google? Does she know where a waist is? Perhaps she means "hips"?) that show "underwear" are offensive and thus need to be banned. 

Underwear is material. What difference does it really make if the material covering those "buttocks" the bill deems unacceptable is denim or Daffy Duck covered boxers? There is no affront to the public's delicate sensibilities if the area is covered. To suggest that we can police how many layers must cover it and what kind of coverage one can get is absolutely absurd to me.

A Personal Motivation

I have to be honest, the reason that I am most angered by this proposed bill is my personal connection to the city of St. Louis and a segment of the population that I feel this ban would impact most heavily. I teach at a community college, and many of my students are in the criminal justice system. Some simply have petty penalties and fines that keep them in court and out of my classroom. Some are on house arrest and cannot use the computer lab after hours because they have to make curfew. Some are fresh out of prison and trying to get their lives back on track. For many of these (mostly male) students, laws like these are simply barriers on an already rocky road to success. Getting fined or imprisoned for sagging pants makes it that much more difficult for them to make it to class, afford textbooks, or stay motivated. I have seen so many promising, intelligent students get bogged down in the system. 

Safety is important to me, but arresting someone for a non-violent offense like sagging pants or marijuana possession just exacerbates the existing problems. 

This is a Petty, Racially-Driven Waste of Time and Resources

So please, if you live in the city of St. Louis, contact your aldermen/women and tell them that this is unacceptable. It would be an embarrassment for our city to do something so petty when we have so many real issues to deal with, and it would be a personal violation of civil liberties as well as an additional wedge with which the racial tensions in the city could be exacerbated. 

This issue is being taken up by the Public Safety (because visible undies are such a safety issue, you know) Committee. You can find their contact info here

Blogging to My PhD: Meta-Post (How the #*%& Do I Study for This Thing?!)

When I take notes on a book or in a seminar, I'm pretty good at capturing both the main ideas and my own supplemental thoughts. Most of the time, I don't even need to go back over the notes. Simply having written them down puts them in my mind in a way that lets me build on them. My notes are often detailed and sometimes physically complex (as in, there will be little symbols written next to them or stuff jotted in the margins or arrows connecting ideas to one another or different colored ink for different levels of thought).

When I started taking notes for this exam, I just picked up one of the books and got going.

I'm now several books in, and I realize that I've weaved myself a very tangled web.

Deadly Web
I'm supposed to be the spider, but I'm growing increasingly
suspicious that I'm actually the fly in this metaphor. 
I use (and love) X-Mind (which is free!) to take notes on most things that I know I'll be writing about later, so it seemed like the best thing to use for this exam. In some ways, it's working really well. I am able to type direct quotes that I want to be able to use later, give summaries to chapters and whole texts and color code them, and use symbols to denote particular themes that I can look at later. This is basically the same method I use when working on a seminar paper, and it is usually fairly effective. 

But I am usually taking notes at that level of detail on four or five books for a seminar paper. For this exam, I am working on eighty. I'm not particularly strong in math, but that's a lot more. 

It is, I've decided, too much to try to handle with my usual methods, so it's time for some innovation. I can't even screen shot the entire thing in one screen when it's zoomed out as far as it will go and I've only read fifteen books so far

Aw. That's not so bad, but what happens if I expand to see all the notes . . .


I am definitely the fly. 

In the past, I would use the little symbols to mark things with themes that I wanted to be able to find later and then just skim the page to find the symbol I needed when I was looking for a particular quote or idea. 

But this is just too big of a map to have to skim every single time I want to find something. 

I may have accidentally stumbled upon a solution though. While I was typing some notes on Augustine, without even realizing it, I typed "#pathos" at the end of a sentence. Yes, my social media discourse habits leaked into my notes and I was hashtagging on auto-pilot. 

At first I laughed at myself, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. If I turn each of those little symbols into a hashtag instead, the entire text of the document will be searchable. I can then type in whatever hashtag I want and have it highlight every section that's marked that way. I won't have to scan the whole thing every time I need to find a quote, and I can make new hashtags more easily than I can make new symbols because I can use multiple tags with varying levels of complexity and interaction. 

I can't say for sure yet, but I think that my social media addictions may actually be helping me become a better processor of complex information. (I know, I know, the internet is making us all stupid, but give me this moment of excitement, please). 

How do you handle keeping track of lots of data that you plan to use over a long period of time? Any magic tricks I should know about? Also, has there ever been a time when a skill you learned in one place turned out to be surprisingly useful somewhere else? 

Photo: Gerald Yuvallos

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Kickstarter Sexual Assault Guides and Free Speech

I was absolutely disgusted to see that a Kickstarter campaign for a "pick up" guide on how to get women to date men received $16,000 (8 times the requested $2000) despite the fact that the author of said work advocates sexual assault as a tactic for "dates."

Ken Hoinsky promises that his book will be "an extension of articles [he's] posted online over the past three years." So, since this is the internet, someone took the time to go see just what it is he's been posting. It includes gems like this (warning, these are pretty disturbing, and could be triggering):
Decide that you’re going to sit in a position where you can rub her leg and back. Physically pick her up and sit her on your lap. Don’t ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances.
And this:
Pull out your cock and put her hand on it. Remember, she is letting you do this because you have established yourself as a LEADER. Don’t ask for permission, GRAB HER HAND, and put it right on your dick.
What Hoinsky is suggesting is not just sleazy, not just creepy, but a crime. You cannot physically grab someone's hand and place it on your genitals without consent. That is assault.

And handcuffs aren't just for the [consensually-managed] bedroom. 
Which brings me to a little rant. This story is getting some social media and news attention as people petition the funding of the project and take to publicly shaming the would-be author on Twitter, with some even tweeting his employer in the hopes of getting him fired. 

Predictably, commenters in the articles covering this story have started crying that this is an assault to Hoinsky's "free speech." 

Look, I'm no free speech scholar, but it doesn't take an expert to understand two things that apply to this case:

1) Free speech protects you from government penalties to your expression. It does nothing to protect from private individual's reactions to your speech. In fact, if free speech did tell other people what they could say in response to your speech, it would be a limit to their free speech. People are free to dissent, boycott, and yell to their heart's content. Rush Limbaugh's racist, sexist rants cannot be taken off the air for being abhorrent, but people most certainly can (and did) contact the advertisers on his show and tell them that they would exercise their freedom to not buy their product if they didn't pull their financial support. It might end up silencing Rush, but it's not a violation of his rights. 

2) Even the government can interfere with speech that promotes a crime. In 1997, a U.S. appeals court held that the publisher of Hit Man, a fictional book labeled a "manual" for would-be hit men, could be held liable for a triple murder committed by a reader. They settled out of court and agreed to destroy remaining copies of the book. 

There is a First Amendment exception for speech that promotes "imminent lawless action." Obviously, charges would have to be brought to show that someone did indeed read Hoinsky's criminal suggestions and then act upon them, but it definitely seems like his how-to manual that speaks directly to readers and tells them "GRAB HER HAND, and put it right on your dick" would constitute a specific and direct incitement to commit a crime. (And it certainly seems much more direct and specific than a case like, say, Hess v. Indiana where the speech was ruled protected.)

But the real problem, I think, is that too many of the people reading Hoinsky's words don't realize that what he is suggesting is a crime. In fact, Hoinsky himself might not realize it because we live in a culture where sexual assault is normalized. 

I've written about rape culture before, and--whether they realize it or not--the people standing up for Hoinsky's "free speech" rights are perpetuating it. 

Picture: The Comedian

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Curious (Links!)

I hope everyone's summer is off to a fantastic start! We've broken out the sandbox and just got our porch repaired so that we can enjoy some nice, muggy, sauna-like Midwest weather (that is, if it ever stops raining).

Here's what I've been reading this week that made me smile (the Good), cry (the Bad), and think (the Curious). Please share anything you've been reading (or writing!) in the comments.

The Good

First, here's John Boutte singing "Bring It On Home to Me." If that doesn't make you smile, your smile might be broken. 

Look at what this guy does with a Wii remote!

In what I'm sure is some sort of karmic retribution for a past transgression, this comedy tour is not coming to my city, but if it is coming to yours, you should most definitely go

There's a new symbol for disability in New York City and it focuses on movement and independence rather than static dependence. 

The Bad

There is someone running for a major political office who believes (or at least believed) that yoga lets Satan into your mind and did not have the cognitive wherewithal to have someone proofread the title of his book. The title! (most pertinent part is at the 3:00 minute mark in this video from Rachel Maddow). 

The craziest part of this video demonstrating racial profiling is the people who willingly helped the pretty blonde woman steal a bike: 

There are actually and truly people who are angry that a Latino child named Sebastien de la Cruz sang the national anthem at the Spurs game because he's not "American" enough for them. Someone needs to read some history books.

This Slate article has some advice on how to be a successful woman in academia: don't have a baby.
Before even applying for the first tenure-track job, many women with children have already decided to drop out of the race. They have perceived a tenure-track job as being incompatible with having children. In our study of University of California doctoral student, 70 percent of women and more than one-half of the men considered faculty careers at research universities not friendly to family life. Others are married to other Ph.D.s; the “two body” problem. In those cases, one body must defer to the other’s career and that body is far more likely to be the woman’s. Or their husband’s career, not in academia, limits their choices. As one biology graduate student in our study said, “My husband has a job he loves, but it will require that we don’t move: This limits my postdoc and career options significantly. I think the chances of staying in the same city throughout the career and finding a tenure track position are almost nonexistent. However, I am not sure I care any more.”

The Curious

Perhaps the birthday song will be moving to public domain?

Code Name Mama's tips on alternatives to telling your child "good job" had me thinking about how I give praise and encouragement in my own parenting.

Watch Aisha Tyler explain her frustration over people who tell her she's not "black enough."

Nina Badzin has a fantastic piece about how it feels to let go of helicopter parenting tendencies while she watched her child botch a piano recital:
Sam eventually made it through the rest of the song, bowed, and took his seat. We, his parents and grandparents, were extraordinarily proud that he had not run straight out of the room like I imagined I would have done in his place. And of course that was the issue right there. Sam had shown all the strength and fortitude any parent could wish for a child in that moment. But I was too busy projecting how I would have felt sitting on that piano bench. I couldn’t seem to separate myself from Sam—I was Sam, Sam was me.
This post over at Feministe (especially the conversation in the comments) reminded me of just how much work we need to do to stop digging ditches between women with children, women who want children but haven't been able to have them, and women who don't want children. We have a lot more in common than the mainstream narratives about our collective lives would like us to believe.

Check out the fascinating history of breastfeeding, photos, and the narratives of motherhood

Friday, June 14, 2013

Blogging to My PhD: Thoughts on Obedience and Toddlers

I'm reading Quintilian's Instituio. Since I am (most certainly) not reading for these exams in a vacuum and am instead doing so while simultaneously teaching summer classes and parenting a very active toddler, some of the passages in these texts hit me in unique ways. For this book, the passage that got me distracted from my own scholarly pursuits and wandering into thoughts in my personal life was this one:
My ideal pupil will absorb instruction with ease and will even ask some questions; but he will follow rather than anticipate his teacher. Precocious intellects rarely produce sound fruit. By the precocious I mean those who perform small tasks with ease and, thus emboldened, proceed to display all their little accomplishments without being asked. . . They have no real power and what they have is but of shallow growth: it is as when we cast seed on the surface of the soil: it springs up too rapidly, the blade apes the loaded ear, and yellows ere harvest time, but bears no grain. Such tricks please us when we contrast them with the performer's age, but progress soon stops and our admiration withers away.
Uh-oh. I fear that I am raising a child Quintilian would say has sprung too rapidly.

And yes, I realize that Quintilian is writing thousands of years ago and that his words probably aren't the most relevant when it comes to contemporary parenting advice, but I suspect most parents reading that passage can think of some pretty similar admonishments in modern times.

Hobo Mama had a recent post that bounces off of this very concern. In it, her parenting style came into direct conflict with her own mother's. When her son wanted to wear a pair of shoes on his hands, the grandmother became frustrated and handled the incident with firmness:
But my mom stepped in. "1 - 2 - 3," she counted (as if Mikko knew what counting means in disciplinary terms!). She snatched the Crocs off his hands, opened the car door and threw them in, locked it with the key fob, and marched away without looking back. "There."
When Lauren (whose blog is about natural parenting and who frequently talks about the gentle discipline methods she believes in that encourage discussion and choices over authoritarian command) confronted her mother about stepping into her parenting boundaries, the confrontation continued:
"Mom," I said, trying to keep my stupid voice from breaking, "we were handling the situation. I don't appreciate it when you step in and take over like that. We're his parents, not you." 
My mother gave this hardly a beat before she came back with her response: "Well, you sure don't act like the parent."
And if you want to see how downright hostile some are to kids and their childish behavior (because they're kids, after all), just check the comments of any thread on child bans in things like restaurants or airplanes.

The latest one making headlines is a Virginia sushi bar that allows no children under 18. The most up-voted comment of the moment is this one:
If people didn't let their kids run around like animals we wouldn't need to ban kids!
To which some wonderfully enlightened person shares frustration over not being legally allowed to spank another person's children in public.

Speaking of spanking, there is probably no other parenting topic that raises to such vitriolic levels so quickly (and I've been in breastfeeding debates, so that's saying something). Just go read the comments over on an article about the debate for evidence.

It's pretty clear that the belief that unruly children need to be disciplined into submission is still alive and kicking in contemporary parenting philosophies.

I don't spank my child, and I've been chastised for that decision. To be fair, Quintilian is on my side on this one, saying "I disapprove of flogging, although it is the regular custom . . . it is a disgraceful form of punishment. . . an insult, as you will realise if you imagine its inflicting at a later age."

But it's clear that even many people who agree that hitting a child isn't the best method of discipline are looking for ways to make children more obedient. And obedience is at the core of Quintilian's dismissal of precocious children. Children should, in his estimation, wait on the teacher, ask only a few questions, and be ready to take in the given information dutifully and obediently.

But is obedience really such a good thing?

Crayon on walls

Last year Annalisa Barbieri suggested that maybe it wasn't. Within that article, she notes:
Alfie Kohn, author of 'Unconditional Parenting. Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason' says, "When I ask parents, at the beginning of my lectures, what their long term goals are for the children, I hear words such as ethical, compassionate independent happy and so on. No-one ever says mindlessly compliant." 
A compliant child becomes a particular concern, Kohn admits, when they reach adolescence. "If they take their orders from other people, that may include people we may not approve of. To put it the other way around: kids who are subject to peer pressure at its worst are kids whose parents taught them to do what they're told."
Many other people, especially those within the attachment parenting or gentle parenting movements, have similarly questioned our insistence on obedience.

This post from Liberated Parenting suggests that we ask ourselves why we should praise a quality in children (obedience) that we tend to see as a weakness in adults:
A more appropriate goal for our children would be cooperation. Cooperation strengthens the underlying fabric of relationships through balanced interchange, open communication and mutual understanding. Demanding obedience damages the relationship as well as the self esteem of the child. A child that is cooperated with tends to want to cooperate in return! The child who has no will to choose has no room to develop self discipline and becomes the child you were trying to avoid in the first place.
Socially, though, there isn't a lot of room for this kind of parenting. It is also utterly exhausting. I try really, really hard to focus on cooperation with my child instead of making her blindly bend to my will, but I sometimes fail. When I'm trying to get her out of daycare and we need to be home because there are 10,000 more things to do before we can go to bed, she wants to drink water from the fountain, say goodbye to the fish, put every single doll back in its respective bed, run into every room to say good-bye to every teacher, get another drink, say goodbye to the fish again, take the dolls out of the beds and throw them all over the floor, get another drink, put them back in the bed, hug her teacher again, say goodbye to the fish, open the first door to get outside, run around the lobby, open the second door to get outside, open the car door on her own (which she can't physically do), climb into the car seat by herself (which she also can't physically do), pick a book off the floor of the car, read it, get into the car seat, buckle it herself, and then listen to a song of her choosing.

I'd be lying to you if I said that I always reason through all of these choices with her even though they each, individually, make perfect sense and I think demonstrate her to be a kind, independent, and loving person. I want a child who wants to hug her teachers and say goodbye to the fish. I want a child who wants to be independent in what she does. But when that means that it takes 35 minutes to do something as simple as leave daycare? Sometimes I pick her up, screaming, after the second drink of water, walk out the doors, and plop her kicking into the car seat. In that moment, obedience sounds pretty nice.

Toddlerhood is but a fleeting moment in life, though, and I truly think that the same qualities that drive me absolutely crazy today will be the ones that give her the skills to make good decisions later.

She will probably never be the student that Quintillian would want. She will likely ask too many questions. She will almost certainly play up the room for laughs when she ought to be paying attention, but I am not ready to cast her off as a shallow, fruitless crop just yet.

yellow grass

Photo: Bernhard Schwarz, Mario in arte Akeu

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Loving Day!

Today I'm over at All Things Beautiful as part of a post on Loving Day, the anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia decision that declared interracial marriage bans unconstitutional.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Let's Be Real: Balancing Life's Roles

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be real


Real has a few different meanings. To be real can simply mean to exist. It can also denote a degree of authenticity. It can display membership, belonging, give you a right to claim a position. 

We also use it as a yardstick. We say that "real men don't eat quiche" or "real women have curves," and it lets us draw arbitrary boundaries around broad identities in order to make them more exclusive, more secure. 

There are problems, to be sure, with these exclusionary statements, many stemming from the fact that the people who make the claim often don't have the authority to exclude. There has been a lot of pushback against these narrow messages because taking such a broad identity category as "man" or "woman" and trying to add membership requirements is damaging. 

There's something else going on here, too, though, and that's what I want to look at. 

It's not just those broad categories of identity that get caught in the "real" trap; it's all of them. 

Real runners don't listen to music while they train. 

Real mothers breastfeed. 

Real wives cook dinner every night. 

The list goes on, and on, and on, and on. There are arbitrary, externally-motivated qualifiers placed on virtually any role that you want to play. Someone will be unhappy with how you're doing it. Someone will insist that the way you are doing it isn't good enough. 

You are not real. 

I've been thinking about just how frustrating and omnipresent these messages are recently.

Yesterday, I read Jezebel's article "Sorry, Neo Caveman, But Your Paleo Diet Is Pretty Much Bullshit."  In it, Madeleine Davies argues that because actual paleolithic cave people had both digestive systems and dietary choices different from modern man's that the entire "Paleo" eating movement was ridiculous. (Really? And when I used this diet for a month, I totally thought that neanderthals had access to Lara bars and almond butter shakes mixed up in expensive blenders. Damn it. Back to the drawing board.)

 Davies is trying to denigrate the people who adhere to this lifestyle choice because, in her estimation, they aren't "real" enough. If they aren't eating like real cavemen, then their entire foundation should crumble. It doesn't matter if it makes them feel healthier or stronger or gets them away from processed foods. It only matters that their beliefs are "bullshit" because they don't live up to some arbitrary standards that no one was actually trying to impose on them in the first place. 

This idea of "real" came up again today in my classroom. I teach developmental English at a community college, and one of my students said that another teacher had told her my class wasn't "real" college because it was a remedial class. I had to dial back the reaction I wanted to give, but I assured her that this was definitely real college. She is, after all, paying real money. I am, after all, really grading these papers. I do design real assignments with real grades. They do real homework and learn real things. 

It seems to me, actually, that there is not one thing that I do in my entire life that is "real" enough for the outside world. I'm not a "real" mom because I use daycare and--according to some people--depend on my husband too much in the day-to-day work of housekeeping and child-rearing. I'm not a real teacher because I teach developmental coursework. I'm not a real runner because I'm overweight. I'm not a real writer because I'm just blogging. 

It reminded me of something my friend Amanda wrote about the pressures of graduate school. Her main point (which is worth a read, so go check it out) is that we have to find a way to balance goal-setting for the future with living in the present. On the way to making that point, she said this:
Over the course of this past semester, I confessed to several of you that I was actually pretty miserable. About three weeks into the semester, as my son was screaming in my ear about an hour past his bedtime, I told my partner “I quit.” At the same time, I regularly tell people how lucky I am. I love my job. I have colleagues telling me that I’m doing a “good job.” And, presently, I’m still here, here being in this PhD program, and I don’t have any actual intention of leaving, leaving being not completing the degree program requirements. How does that make any sense? It’s not at all a case of indecision – I think instead it’s a symptom of the multiple stresses in my life right now. And I also think it’s a matter of intention and choice in working to manifest the present I want, and not quite yet succeeding.
Being a real graduate student is sort of a big deal in academia, and doing something crazy like having a kid or getting married (especially if you're a woman) can send big red flags to the professionals around you that you are, in fact, not real at all. If you cannot devote every waking minute to this graduate program, if you decide that you need to seek full time employment during this educational endeavor because you'd like to, I don't know, put a roof over your kids' heads or something, you are most definitely not focused enough, not driven, not serious, not "real." (In addition to being a pretend teacher, runner, wife, mother, and paleo dieter, I am also a pretend graduate student.) 

It was reading Amanda's post where it really hit me.

Every single role that we play can consume us completely if we let it. Even something as simple as a hobby can become an all-encompassing, all-consuming demand on our time, energy, thoughts, and life if we listen to those who claim to know what makes it real. 

Think about it. Do you like to bake? Well, in order to be a real baker, you need to bake from scratch, of course. And scratch might mean that you also need to grow your own spices, grind your own wheat, raise your own chickens so you can collect your own eggs, and lovingly craft each meal that you make. If you only do some of these steps or only do them sometimes, you're a fake. 

Do you like to write? Well, in order to be a real writer, you have to get up every morning and write for at least two hours before you do anything else. You have to send your work off to be published and go to conferences and get paid. You are certainly not a real writer if you sneak it bits of composition between nap times and working hours. You are a fake. 

And don't even get me started on beliefs and causes. 

You care about ethical food? Well, you're not a real ethical eater unless you boycott every single thing touched by a GMO and never, ever, not once eat an artificial dye and only buy your produce from the farmer's market and even then wash it three times in organic food spray. Is that a box of instant oatmeal in your cabinet? Oh wow. You are a fake. 

You care about feminism. Well, you're not a real feminist unless you think about feminism first and foremost in every single decision you make. You had better not wear lipstick, but you better wear sexy lingerie (for you, of course, not for a man), and you shouldn't breastfeed because it tethers your boobs to another person's needs. In fact, you might just not want to have kids or get married at all. You fake. 

I (at least partially) blame the internet. On the internet, we are not complete people. On the internet, we belong to tiny little pockets of communities that are wholly focused on a minuscule part of ourselves, and the people within that community become slivers of their entire being. They can hone in on all of the "flaws" you have in this one, tiny area of life without seeing the whole picture. If you are on the knitting message board, then all anyone need ever know about you is your knitting skills. If you are on the feminist blog, then all of your comments must constantly be about feminism. If you are on the site for teaching your calico cat to karate chop, then that's all those people know (or care to know) about you. Any deviation from the script because you have other concerns or other purposes in life is a failure. 

But that's not what it means to be real. Being real means giving what you can to each part of who you are and remembering to nurture the whole self. Being real means doing things that make you feel complete and at peace. If you give your all to any one of those things, you lose the chance to give anything to all of those other parts that make you who you are. You have to be cautious with your resources. Some of the things we do replenish us, but none of them is capable of replenishing us at the rate that giving everything takes it away. If you are not careful with how you allow yourself to expend your energies, you will lose them. 

I may not be a real anything else, but I am a real person. 

What do you think? Do you ever have the pressure to be more "real" at something you do? Has someone told you that you aren't "real"?  

The Good, the Bad, and the Curious (Links)

Here's what I've been reading lately that's made me smile (the Good), cry (the Bad), and think (the Curious).

The Good

Kiwi Crate has some fun tips on how to raise creative kids:
Model Creativity. What’s your creative outlet? Where do you enjoy putting your creative energy? Cooking, singing, gardening, drawing, dancing? Children who watch their parents engage in creative activities are more likely to embrace these activities themselves. If it’s been a while since you’ve done something creative, think about what made you happy in your own childhood and spend half an hour doing that activity with your child. How did it feel? Could you try it again tomorrow? And the next day?
Um. Adorable:

School of Smock has a wonderful post about what she learned by being a terrible teacher.

The Bad

The practice of criminalizing non-violent infractions (like dress code violations, absences, and tardiness) in school children has made a terribly effective school-to-prison pipeline . . . and it disproportionately impacts minorities and poor kids. 

The removal of children from Native American homes in South Dakota is reaching epic proportions. It's so bad, that some are calling it a genocide

This professor doesn't think fat people should be allowed into graduate school because their body size demonstrates a lack of self-control. Setting aside the fact that his correlation isn't true, I wonder why he doesn't send out hate-filled tweets denouncing the lack of self control of smokers, drinkers, impulsive shoppers, those with credit card debt, etc. Why is it only fat people who don't deserve a graduate degree? 

The Curious

A New York Times post considers whether only children are really as doomed as our culture seems to think they are: 
Don’t take my word for it. Consider the data: in hundreds of studies during the past decades exploring 16 character traits — including leadership, maturity, extroversion, social participation, popularity, generosity, cooperativeness, flexibility, emotional stability, contentment — only children scored just as well as children with siblings. And endless research shows that only children are, in fact, no more self-involved than anyone else. It turns out brutal sibling rivalry isn’t necessary to beat the ego out of us; peers and classmates do the job.
Some likened this "You Can Touch My Hair" project to a petting zoo; others saw it as socially progressive.

Gender equality in the workforce is better than ever . . . unless you're a mother:
Much of the progress that women have made in income parity has gone to childless women. Motherhood, writes the sociologist Joya Misra, is now a greater predictor of wage inequality than gender in the United States. According to her research, conducted with Michelle Budig at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, motherhood imposes about twice the earning penalty in the United States compared with what women face in countries that have expansive publicly financed child care systems.
In 1961, this woman was asked sexist questions on her Harvard application about how she would handle a career and motherhood. She just got around to answering them.

This opinion piece about St. Louis has garnered a lot of attention. Is the Midwest an isolating place to transplants?

Hobo Mama has an excellent piece on how a parenting dispute with her mother helped her unpack what parenting means:
But I'll now know it's always in the back of her mind, how she thinks I suck at this parenting gig. I'm not sure how much I care about her opinion, but it does make me sad that she doesn't see the joy and connection in our family and concentrates instead on our perceived failings as disciplinarians.