A Woman’s Place

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A woman’s place is in the home.

But home is where the heart is.

A woman’s heart is in her chest, in her body.

But if the woman is in something that’s already in her body, then that’s, like, an infinite chain of woman-within-woman.

And an infinite chain is infinite space.

Which means a woman’s place is anywhere she wants it to be.

Why I Show No Enthusiasm

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This is a very complex topic. There are too many angles and too many factors that don’t have words yet for me to comprehensively answer a deeply personal question. I could never start a hobby blog because there’s nothing I am passionate enough about to put that much time into not only doing, but writing about, and I couldn’t build up the confidence to assume authority over that matter. The same applies to pop culture and fandom, on any level. I tweeted about that very vaguely and briefly yesterday:

There’s a bit of unintended irony in there, using a Kids in the Hall joke that’s at least 20 years old by now, but Twitter is so casual and KitH, as sketch comedy, is such an easy medium to absorb and enjoy with other people. It’s also the same five men, and a five-season TV show that doesn’t give enough room to argue over which period or cast members are better.

I don’t like getting in conversations about tastes in popular culture because there’s a big chance that whoever wants to talk about it will know more. Fandom is competitive. It’s defensive. It’s idol worship. If I don’t go to the same levels of dedication that other people do, I’m so proudly defeated by the other person. And if I do match the level of enthusiasm and have something special in common with somebody, if that somebody is a heterosexual man there is a risk of things getting dark through mixed signals – assuming that me liking something means I’ll like other people who like it, and if I’m passionate about the thing that I like I will be passionate about the other people who like it. While most people aren’t like this, the ones who are can potentially get very dangerous.

A man killed several people last night after posting a video on YouTube about women not liking him even though he’s a “nice guy”. It’s not a stretch to see the embedded logic in here: because he’s nice, he deserves the women he wants. Niceness can be replaced with common interests here in the minds of many men who are taught to persistently pursue women they think should be theirs because what they think is right. That mindset is very compatible with people who are passionate fans of things – and this can be seen in places like geek subcultures creating unsafe environments for women and the “fake geek girls” source of misogyny. That’s what “nice guy” backlashes are – misogyny.

It’s a dangerous way of thinking and a common one. In male-dominated interests like sports or music genres or comic books or video games, the interest in the woman can be based on parts of her personality rather than her sex or sexuality alone, and men think that validates their pursuit. Men think that makes them “nice guys” because they like the woman for who she is rather than her body. But women are not merely their interests, nor the sum of their interests, and sharing interests does not make a man qualified to be her partner. Yesterday evening, when the weather was beautiful and the sun was still up, I went outside and lied on a blanket to read a book. Men passed by me and asked me what I was reading. One started conversation saying he couldn’t help but be curious about the book I had in my hand. Fortunately that conversation didn’t last long (as clearly I was busy with that reading) and none of the interactions amounted to further harassment…but if I were reading something in popular culture that had dedicated fandom rather than a short book transcribed from a 1990 Massey Lecture, I could’ve been in greater danger.

There is a rabbit hole we could go down here. It’s clearly not this simple; most men don’t assume common interests give them an entitlement to women, and if it does spark an attraction they can take being turned down like reasonable people. But it’s not surprising behaviour for a significant portion of heterosexual men to engage in. It’s a stereotype that is tolerated, a version of masculinity that’s accepted at the cost of women’s safety. I don’t want to interact with men on the basis of something they can measure, because they can use those measurements against me somehow. They can use those interests as a tool of legitimizing harassment, and of justifying misogyny under the name of Men’s Rights. Men do not have the right to engage in anything with me. They do not have any rights to rewards from trying to be “nice”. Niceness isn’t supposed to have ulterior motives. “Nice guys” do.

The Workplace and Social Media: Tips from an HR Professional

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As a duly qualified professional in the human resources field, I need to keep myself informed on the latest news in employment trends and articles by HR professionals.

This means I have to read a lot of buzzword bullshit.

Sometimes I do question my choices on this career path, but the damage has been done. I’ve invested so much in this field with my education and the five years that were remaining in my youth, so I should at least keep up with the “latest” “trends” as a hobby. While the particular work I’m doing now doesn’t involve having to snoop through employees’ Facebook pages (thank the lordy lordy imaginary lord), I still read a lot of news and professional literature that covers the topic.

I’d introduce this list as things that I’ve learned from this reading, but they’re actually rooted in my own common sense. Anyway, let’s not get off topic here. Here’s a short list of what you shouldn’t do on social media:

  • Complain about work in a task-specific sense.
  • Complain about work in an incident-specific sense.
  • Complain about work in a coworker-specific sense.
  • Name your employer unless there’s a positive corporate culture towards it.
  • Name your coworkers unless there’s mutual consent.
  • Friend/follow your coworkers unless there’s mutual consent and you really trust each other not to break any of these other rules.
  • Tell funny stories of things that happened at work that day.
  • Be a bigoted asshole.

The context of employment varies a lot from individual to individual, as do personalities and life events and how compatible they are with the vanilla-in-a-flavourless-edible-styrofoam-cone style of “good behaviour” in this stick-up-the-ass Puritan culture. If you’re going to post nothing but pictures of your kids, it’s probably safe to openly associate your social media presence with your work. If you post political opinions, only add former coworkers on Facebook. If you post nothing but stupid memes, do not friend your coworkers on Facebook because they will lose overall respect for you and create an unfriendly work environment. If you post inappropriate images or racist/misogynistic comments, do it pseudonymously, or better yet not at all…and also quit your job.

Avoiding these things will not only reduce the chance of conflict and prevent a hostile work environment; it will also give HR professionals and employment journalists less reason to say words or phrases like “social media”, “LinkedIn”, “Facebook”, “Twitter”, and “poked”. Yeah, people are still writing about getting poked on Facebook. I’m not even sure that’s an option anymore.

Not only will this help you avoid potential blows to your career prospects, but it will help you be more interesting on social media. Nobody wants to hear about your day at work. All they want to see is fart jokes and pictures of cats…and if you want to show pictures of cats to your coworkers, print them out and stick them at your desk so they can stop and look at them if they do in fact care.

Dear Unsolicited Advisers

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Dear Unsolicited Advisers,

I’m not even going to start this letter off with the lie “Thank you for your concern.” I’m not thankful for your concern. If you were concerned about me in some way, you would know not to intrude into my thoughts and my struggle until you were invited. Some people have good judgement and can read into the nuances of when their help – specifically their help, with special knowledge on a subject and most importantly a thorough understanding of my inner struggles – will actually be helpful. Some people, over many many years of close friendship, have earned my trust on my most sensitive matters. I’m not talking about deep secrets. I’m talking about things that are visible and apparent, things about which I’m thinking out loud and expressing how and why they concern me so much. It’s not asking for advice unless I say “Any advice?” It’s therapeutic self-expression.

Most of us have weak spots that we don’t want people to point out or give advice on. Most of us also have strong or indifferent spots where we like to troll people who try to give advice. I can do the latter with weight issues or skin issues, which are the most visible flaws in my physical appearance by current standards. I will troll the fuck out of you. “You know what’s weird? Every time I go to my doctor, sometimes even when I get weighed again, all she does is, like, talk about the vitamins I’m getting, then stick scraping metal objects into my vagina.”

My weak spot, though, is my hair. It starts with a benign comment like “Why do you always tie your hair back? I’ve never seen you let it out.” I will respond with “My hair and I are sworn enemies and as I’m in control I will oppress it like the despot I am.” At that point, it would be best to say something like “Some hair types are so hard to control” or “I know other people who feel the same way” or “Whatever works for you.” It would be okay to ask if I’ve tried something, to which I’ll respond “Yes, and some other things too, but with the time it takes and the inconsistent results, I’ve decided to stick with what I do.” Most people respond with “You know what you should do?” then list a number of things I’ve heard a hundred times and probably even tried a few times too. That is unsolicited advice, after I’ve made a strong statement about my feelings towards my hair. You are socially impaired if you cannot read between the lines of my polite but unambiguous statement.

Most people won’t care about the success stories you’ve had, or your friends have had, or your friend’s cousin’s sister-in-law have had. This applies to hair, weight, and skin, which are the most visible body issues people often talk about. It applies to other health issues like energy and anxiety and depression. It applies to factors of personal life like relationships and finances and aesthetic choices like wardrobe and decor. Any one of these could be a sensitive issue for the person you’re talking to. Tread lightly and take signs when they first try to steer away from the topic or respond with a call to halt.

It’s not your job to fix other people’s problems. In an episode of Parks and Recreation this past season, a pregnant Ann was complaining about pregnant things to her partner Chris, and Chris in his hyperactive positivity went out and got what he assumed were needed solutions. Their friends sat down with Chris and told him the golden rule of people casually complaining about small things – listen and say “That sucks.”

Please learn from this and apply it broadly. Apply it to things specific to an individual. Apply it to people expressing the effects of not having privilege. You’re not the grand caretaker of the human universe. You are merely a person yourself. You must understand that we are all flawed, and not all things can be so easily fixed – especially not with your unsolicited advice.

Minimum Rage

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On Twitter yesterday, @MattBinder sought out tweets of people who were criticizing fast food workers for demanding higher wages…then retweeted them along with tweets earlier in their timelines of them complaining about not having money. It was quite brilliant. Binder is very dedicated to exposing widespread cultural ignorance and hypocrisy.

Here’s the mentality that’s commonly held to bring about this disdain for fast food workers: we admire people who do what we can’t do, but we look down upon people who do what we won’t do. It doesn’t have anything to do with the hard work required (even if it can be done by high school drop outs, does it look like the people making your burger and fries in the back can browse the internet while on the clock?) or the feats the person rose above to get there (fleeing their home country, breaking a cycle of welfare dependency) they’re still getting what they deserve – poor pay and a spit in the face from those who refuse to live by principles of respect.

If the employees who toil over the burning grill or deep fryer or appease large and impatient crowds of patrons shouldn’t get paid more as the profits of the company grow, then just how should the market value of their labour be measured? Sure, the marketing department that lures in more customers should get its due for increased business, and those who come up with food substitute recipes that make these products deserve fair compensation as well. But these wouldn’t sell if there weren’t front line workers connecting to customers. The value of their work should be reflected in their pay.

It’s because many of us refuse to work in those conditions that we see the job as beneath us. In entertainment we are okay with people getting excessively wealthy because they do something – play sports, sing, maintain a certain body shape – better than we can. But the cleaner who can make that throne shine in the office restroom better than we can with our home shitters should get paid as little as possible for it. We would rather not work than take what’s available – because taking what’s available means compromising ourselves with our prejudices.

But some people who need a job take what’s available. They work hard at it. They keep that job because it’s what they can get. It’s grown people – full time workers, paying rent and raising children – who are largely behind this movement. It’s not about giving teenagers more disposable income…although, if the kid’s doing the work, the kid should be earning the money. That kid deserves way more than teenagers who can’t get the job they want and complain about it on Twitter.

A Sick Day in Time Saves Nine

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I’m not a material hoarder. I don’t have a mental illness that attaches me to things, assuming I might need it one day so I can’t get rid of it now. I’m a little bit wrapped up in frugality with unease towards debt, which has always been the case but got deeply personal when I was out of work for many months.

That’s not an uncommon or unhealthy way of thinking. It’s usually just called “good judgment” along with ageist complaints that Mi*****ials don’t have any of it. But I digress. The mentality behind this is separating what accumulates and what is bound by use-it-or-lose-it restrictions.

I switched from a job that allowed five paid sick days per calendar year to one that accrues about one sick day per month and carries forward. In the job that had five paid sick days, I knew I had to use them up, and did so strategically. Now that I can keep building on a bank of sick time, I am determined to use it less – in case I need to use it more in the future.

But the purpose of employers offering sick time is so people get rest when they need it to improve their overall performance. It’s so diseases aren’t spread around the office. It’s so brief illnesses aren’t dragged out to impede productivity and the whole, you know, wellness of a human being. So I did go home early yesterday after dryheaving all morning to sleep all afternoon. And I did come into work late today to sleep in a bit more as my neck was stiff and head was heavy after showering as per my usual routine.

But I took neither day off in full, because – to end this with another variation on an overquoted proverb – sick time saved is sick time earned…when you’re allowed to save it.

The Least Sincere Form of Flattery

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Twitter unveiled a new feature on its website and official apps today that’s called “muting” people. This means you can be more selective of whose tweets appear in your default timeline and without ever having to block or unfollow.

The gap between Twitter and Facebook gets another step smaller.

We already do this on Facebook. For many people the site has become, or has always been depending on the time they joined and/or their aptitude for good future judgment, a place to list names of those you know from the off chance that you might want to get in touch with them at any point in the future. You don’t need their phone number or email address anymore, which makes it a great way to abstractly herd the people you only sort of like but don’t want to risk getting contacted by regularly in what’s generally more of a personal space.

We don’t need to use Facebook to actually share all the things we’ve read or update our daily life events or share memes and cheesy photos. For those who do, we can still make some sort of functional communication from the site by removing the annoying kinds of posts, or the serial annoyers altogether, from our timeline. I’ve done that quite a bit.

That’s essentially what Twitters mute function does, but even further. Muting somebody can not only remove their tweets from your regular timeline, but make any interaction they attempt with you initially invisible, until decided otherwise. I could “follow” thousands of people and mute them just to inflate my ego and the chance that they’ll do the same to me. (And then, like a true Twitter queen, I would get offended that my audience is so insincere and doesn’t actually read my scatological destruction of the heteronormative patriarchy.)

The separation I try to keep between Twitter and Facebook is different content for different audiences. On Facebook: updates few and far between, because most of the people I’ve known throughout my life have completely different interests and lifestyles than me, and to them I appear boring and immature. On Twitter: spurts of bombardments of silliness or rants that are witty and insightful, because as mundane as my life may be, I can be a pretty entertaining person to a properly entertainable audience.

Facebook: a Rolodex.

Twitter: an open mic.

The better part of an open mic is that it’s free for people to use and paying attention is purely voluntary. There’s nothing to be gained or saved by standing in front of someone freely performing and only pretending to listen. It’s loitering, even in a virtual landscape of near-infinite space.