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How To Make Friends and Not Get Raped

August 18, 2013

I have a friend who moved to D.C. after undergraduate around the same time that I relocated to Chicago. We both are from Houston and went to San Antonio for school before moving up north to our respective cities. Reading her blog recently to catch up on her adventures I got very angry as I began to feel connected to two of her posts in particular. In one post she describes her quest to make anonymous friends and a run-in with what I can only categorize as thinly veiled harassment (though she may qualify it differently). In another post she describes an encounter she had on the metro that I hypothesize would be familiar to many women who take public transit. You should read her posts in full for the stories but here’s a snippet of the topic I’m delving into:

“Hello young lady, how are you? You are looking very beautiful today,” the man said, stepping back to make way for me on the sidewalk. I was in a really good mood because it was Friday and I was on my way to a picnic in a garden, so instead of politely smiling and nodding, I engaged him.

Please note this as Mistake # 1.
Long story short, he boarded the bus and kept talking to me. He was sitting across the aisle at first, but then asked if he could sit next to me. I SAID YES. WHY? For a few reasons, I think:

1. I care what people think of me to a fault. I didn’t want him to think I was rude, even though he was obviously being a big ol’ creeper.

2. I’m on a personal quest to make anonymous friends, obviously.

3. I’m an idiot.

I found myself nodding my head slowly along in agreement with her stories. To put it simply, I am frustrated with the similar tension I feel living in a new city and trying to make friends. For young women particularly it seems a contradictory and dangerous process and this angers me. The rules of thumb seem to be as follows:

1. Be friendly and outgoing with strangers (but only certain ones who look to be your version of safe [unfortuantely usually along racial lines], and don’t be too bubbly or they’ll maybe try something bad or think you’re hitting on them).
2. Be open to new experiences and adventures (but only ones that have you home before dark and not going to the dangerous parts of town).
3. Have the time of your life  (but make sure you’re being safe in all of the above mentioned ways and not opening yourself up to trouble by being too outgoing).

I have lived this dichotomy many times. I have struggled hard to not let past experiences keep me from being the social person that I am, even though my trustworthiness in people, curiosity in the lives of human beings, and general friendliness have gotten me into quite a lot of “trouble” (a frustrating euphemism for me as it tends to linguistically imply the trouble was caused by the subject in question). I am increasingly frustrated with this fine print of how I must go about making friends in a “more safe” and less “Sarah” way. This friend making conundrum usually occurs along gendered lines too as our society remains heternormative at its core.

I want to be able to be loud, happy, smiling and welcoming without having to think about whether or not the situation might require a protective “bitch face” to come out.

I hopped over to read the Red Eye after my friend’s blog for some random news and found another head-nodder from Niki Fritz about harassment on the L. I can’t tell you how many safety warnings I got from friends and family before I moved to Chicago about the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority). And most of them had to do with me adjusting my behavior to be less Sarah-like in order to keep from getting raped, assaulted, or otherwise violated.

I want to be able to be myself. I want to tear apart rape culture and make so many new friends in my newfound freedom. I want my friend in D.C., Niki Fritz, and every other person in new and unknown situations to only feel freedom, fun, and enthusiasm and not fear. I want to live in that world.

This is my favorite videos of Nina Simone. I understand her words in a different way very time I watch it.


SB5, Texas Home, and the Beauty of Naiveté

June 28, 2013

It has been a ridiculously emotional week for me (and for a lot of you, I’m sure). Voting Rights Act anger, DOMA and Prop 8 celebration, and at the moment most important to me, SB5 filibuster.

I am from Texas. I am a Texan. It is one of the most salient parts of who I am. I love my state (as most Texans do) and I knew moving away to Chicago would not be easy. But I did it because I knew if I didn’t do it now, I wouldn’t do it ever.

Watching the most beautiful political action happen this week on our senate floor made me so joyful and so painfully heartbroken at the same time. Senator Wendy Davis filibustering for 11 hours and democratic allies swirling around her after a third point of order was brought against her to end the filibuster is the version of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington I always wanted to see. And it happened in my state and it was my rights being challenged.

SB5 citizen action

Citizen action beauty via

The fact that I could not be there because of a post-college move killed me inside. I stayed up until 4am watching, crying, shivering at the beauty of the filibuster and the citizen action around it, wishing more than ever in my life that I could be a part of it. But it was the most beautiful thing. I was so hopeful I was giddy. I ran into work the next day talking up a storm about it like everyone else talks about the superbowl.

I planned and organized a Slutwalk in San Antonio, this was my scene and I couldn’t be there. And I know Texas will not change fast. My state has a lot of work to be done before it changes from red to a beautiful purple and then victorious blue. But in the face of negativity after the filibuster I so hoped that republicans would see us. Would see the women and men who showed up in Austin to fight this and not call for another special session. Of course, Rick Perry called for another freaking session but I’m already catching wind via Facebook of the organizing going on to fight it just as hard as the first.

And say we don’t win, say the republicans pass it anyway somehow… It is still the most hopeful, happy, and elated I’ve felt in a long time. Watching everyone come together, watching them take action. I urge you to read this Amy Gentry’s piece over at The Oeditrix about maintaining hope in the face of adversity (read: republicans). It might seem impossible, but feeling that power of citizens acting is the most hopeful and wonderful thing to experience. It is easy to not let yourself be giddy and to let yourself be consumed with the reality of the negative, but watching this, and pushing against that reality, that is what matters. So let’s all be stupidly giddy and hopeful. It feels too nice to not let it happen.

Despite the amazing cynicism I saw down on the floor last night, I am still naive enough to believe that my visible and vocal support of women’s rights will make a difference. And so are the hundreds of other orange-shirted Texans—more than a thousand all told, both women and the men who support us because they understand that we are all people, goddammit it. We are incredibly naive. We are naive enough to believe that our presence mattered, that it filled the House Dems with spirit and pride and motivation to do the most thankless work imaginable on the House floor: taking an issue seriously that Republicans in our state honestly could give a flying fuck about, so long as they get reelected.

We who are the under-dogs can afford to be naive, because we’ve got nothing but our bodies to lose.

Sen. wendy Davis

You Go Wendy. All my love. Via

Doing Away With Dyes

June 16, 2013

I was in the shower today, where most awesome thoughts take place because my brain has time and allows itself to just slow the heck down for a second. While I was hangin’ out, having some quality me time I looked down to discover that my shave gel/cream/whatever on earth that stuff is  has a slight pinkish tone to it. I became rather frustrated quite quickly.

I’ve always hated pink. Not only is it just an aggressive color to me and off-putting in that regard, it is also associated with everything girly and permeates little girls lives so much that it terrifies me. It also got me wondering what the base “color” of the cream would be without any dyes added. Khaki colored? Slightly purple? Who knows? I’m consumed by this thought sometimes. What would the color of our lives look like (and mostly the colors of our products be) if we just didn’t try to make them look nicer?

And that’s the other thing! Nicer according to whom? Who is the person who decides that we need to color cheddar cheese bright orange? Are producers actually telling companies with their money that they prefer these products? Or are marketers selling the idea to us that these products are better when they’re like this and we just follow along?

And my rage doesn’t stop at cheese, creams, or butter. Consider the meager tampon. Why on earth are we bleaching these things white. Why are we manufacturing something to go inside someone’s body for a pretty significant amount of time that has who knows what terrible things inside it?

I would love a dye free world, I would love to see what it looked like. To feel the calm that it could inspire and the imagination it would force one to have. I would love to do away with dyes. Natural, synthetic, all of it. I just want products to be the color they are after production. To not associate white with clean, brown with gross, or blue with jeans. To start over.

Making Work Work With Your Life

June 11, 2013

I have always had a resentfulness for “big data.” Those huge statistics used by economists, journalists, and sociologists to signify change. It’s why I was drawn to anthropology. A study that does not apologize for a lack of focus on the large because it allows for a more complex and meaningful micro scale story and understanding.

For some time now I have been musing over the uproar and conversation around the concept of  Leaning In, from Sheryl Sandberg’s book. The entire conversation revolved around small data, the personal stories of women and how they were making it work. It was frustrating that a majority of the stories told were from women of privilege and in very high up and high paying positions (who had the option of building nurseries next door to their office). But nonetheless, since then I have been consumed by thinking about women, mothers, men, fathers, and just people in general making it in their lives and in the workplace. What are people doing to make ends meet, how do they feel about it, what do they wish were different?

To me, this was one of those conversations very much worth mulling over and creating some sort of active legislation, policy, or at least elongated, formal discussion over. Instead it disappeared quite quickly and there was a shoulder-shrugging silence following a very heated debate. It was as if the people having the discussion about the workplace needed to actually get back to the workplace.

In large part, my obsession with this conversation is no doubt sparked by my own entry into the workplace. I’ve yet to get a handle on the new time that I have to work with outside of my cubicle as you could grasp from spotty blog updating. I’m also now roaming around new social circles where people are parents, spouses, and individuals and finding ways to make time for everything, My refrain to them is “How?”

How are they making it work? We (in the United States) seem to be increasingly a nation of go,go,go. The more you can work and the cheaper you can work, the better and more employable you are. I keep coming back to the fact that we have no paid maternity leave. The graphic below from Think Progress sums it up in a frightening manner.

Weeks paid maternity leave by county

Instead of paid leave, people fling about from FMLA, sick time, personal days, vacation time, and temporary disability to cover the time they see fit (or rather, can manage to use) to make a newborn as independent as possible before finding another means of covering their care so they can return to work.

In a recent Washington Post publication Phyllis Richman responds to a letter sent to her while she was an applicant for graduate school at Harvard. The letter questions her ability to mesh her personal life of needing time to raise children, tend to her husband, and otherwise be a woman in the 60’s with the difficulty of grad school. She offers up in great detail some small data on how she made it work and, despite the lack of support from Harvard, feel successful.

It is in this question of how people, especially women, are making their work work with their lives that I find small data to be the most valuable. The anecdote from a sister or friend about how they are struggling but getting along serves as advice for me as I move forward trying very hard not to lose sight of what I wanted in those glorious days right before graduation, while I stave off the negative thought that the “real world” (whatever it is) seems increasingly antagonistic towards me succeeding professionally, having enough money to subsist, and succeeding in the type of personal life I want to lead.

I feel at times that I have very little direction on this front. My dad worked in the oil business and made enough money that my mom could stay home to raise myself and my two sisters. It is a mixed bag of a blessing as I think my mom could have done (and would have wanted to do) so much more professionally if she hadn’t felt socially pressured into staying home with the kids. In any case, there was never a question of how to mesh life and work. But I am quickly realizing I will have no such privilege of choosing full-time parenthood over work or some other option or combination. Whether I had wanted to or not is irrelevant. I will have to work for a very long time to make ends meet and if I have kids, find some way to make it work with work.

And though big data lacks the ability to capture the how it very astutely captures what is going on. A study out from The Council on Contemporary Families (referenced in this New York Times piece) shows that, “much of the progress that women have made in income parity has gone to childless women”.

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.
But the motherhood penalty is not just related to the tendency of mothers to cut back their work hours because of lack of child care or other family support systems that allow them to continue working full time. The sociologist Shelley Correll at Stanford University points out that mothers earn 5 percent less per hour, per child, than comparable workers who are childless women. They are also less likely to be hired if they leave or try to change jobs.

Reading statistics and trends like this is absolutely terrifying. It’s also scary because it provides the fear but no answer. No helpful tales of how women have overcome, persevered, made it work. What is lost in the big data is the way I can navigate this impending future.

So if you’re a working parent or just a working human being who is maintaining a life outside the office (and/or outside of being a parent), cheers to you! How on earth are you doing it?

Weekly Roundup!

March 21, 2013

There’s quite a lot going on in the media, culture, and news concerning topics I generally cover here. I’ve yet to write on them, but there’s been some fantastic work already written all over the internet worth sharing, so go forth and read!

Lena Dunham (writer and creator of Girls on HBO) does an interview with Playboy and says, “It’s always shocking when people question whether it’s a feminist show. How could a show about women exploring women not be? Feminism isn’t a dirty word.” But there’s quite a few people raising valid concerns and discussions around a scene of sexual violence in the close of this season.

Ms. Foundation image about rape culture in steubenville case

via Ms. Foundation

The verdict in the Steubenville rape case came this week and there was a highly questionable media reaction with outlets heavily sympathizing with the perpetrators as the image released by the Ms. Foundation for Women suggests. It has been thankfully covered by many arguing about how ridiculous of a continuation of rape culture the case became in the media.

A beautiful cartoon depiction of the story of Malala Yousafzai upon her return to school via Upworthy.

A whopping 70% of Americans were found in favor of health insurance companies covering the full cost of birth control via Planned Parenthood.

There’s still a lot of discussion around Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In that brings some critical commentary to the issues brought up and brings men into the fold of the conversation.

And one more just for fun: A majority of women voters consider themselves feminist. Sweet!

‘Veronica Mars’ Movie: Proving the Merits Of Collective Ownership

March 14, 2013

I originally published this piece over at PolicyMic and am reposting it here because it’s an interesting development in the Kickstarter world!

Kickstarter history was made yesterday with Rob Thomas’ Veronica Mars Movie Project. With the original goal set at $2 million (and at the time of this post it has been exceeded with $2.7 million pledged), Kickstarter history, too, has been made. Thomas broke the news early this morning saying in a project update, “We were the fastest Kickstarter project to hit $1M. We were the fastest Kickstarter project to hit $2M. We set the record for highest goal ever achieved … We’re also the largest film project in Kickstarter history.”

The success of the project and of the Kickstarter model itself prompts an interesting conversation in the role a largely symbolic collective ownership can play in a society that generally prioritizes the individual over the collective. At the very least, this model seems to be one worth exploring and potentially advocating for as it seems to have power beyond the simple funding of films, limited as it may be by the necessity of a prior cult fandom to buy into the ownership.

Go Pack Go!

Go Pack Go!

Similar to Veronica Mars, another example of a symbolic collective ownership success can be found in the financial model of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers. The Packers model is that the team is actually a nonprofit as of 1923, collectively owned by shareholders. Anyone can purchase a share for $250. The quite small population of Green Bay itself (just over 100,000) compared with the enormous financial success of the team would seem quixotic. Additionally, much like Veronica Mars, buying into the model doesn’t get you much more than a T-shirt, certificate, or copy of the script. So what’s going on?

The power of the model seems to lie in the pride and fandom of the cult-like following involved in both examples prior to the establishment of funding goals. Jeff Bercovici at Forbes touches on this writing that, “The advantage of the community ownership model isn’t that it raises more money; it’s that it actually makes Green Bay fans love their team –  our team — more than any other fans love theirs. We love it the way only owners can, so much that we’ll straight-up donate our money to it, just to be able to say we did it.”

The Kickstarter backers of Veronica Mars have a largely unmeasurable say in the outcome of the movie or how it is filmed. Shareholders of the Green Bay Packers might go to annual meetings as part owners of the team but the power they hold is largely symbolic.

Speaking to the improbability of this sort of collective ownership success, Ben Pearson makes the astute observation that the funding of Veronica Mars won’t hold true for all in the entertainment industry. He writes, “This could change everything, or it might only be used for tiny resurrection projects like this.” Combining the case study of the Packers with Veronica Mars, it seems far more likely that those who already have a cult fan base to pull from (like Joss Whedon withSerenityFirefly, and Dr. Horrible) will have the most success with collective ownership buy-in model.

Does Dr. Horrible 2 have a crowd funded future?

Does Dr. Horrible 2 have a crowd funded future?

It would seem these dual successes would lead to a revolution in the way projects get funded. But with the prescription of needing a dedicated fanbase before reaching out for money, those who would dive in new to the scene should not expect such fantastic success. As Dan Ryan (co-founder and CEO of ByteLight) found and describes in his article for Xconomy, it also takes certain types of projects to predict success. He found out the hard way through trying to work through Kickstarter that, “The fund-first-deliver-later model doesn’t work as well for technology as it does for creative projects.” That being said, the Packers can promise to work hard as a team but of course cannot promise success to their shareholders and funders.

Creative types should rejoice in this success and try to learn from it to use it to their advantage. Others should see how their ideas or projects could fit into and work with a collective ownership model as there is power in numbers. Collective ownership of a team, movie, and even social movements can prove to be powerful in funding capabilities and in creating social change. When everyone has a stake (even if mostly symbolic) in the success of a project, they will work harder to spread the word, get others involved, and promote the project however they can. It’s a lesson worth remembering when you’re working towards a seemingly impossible goal like $2 million in donations.

Congratulations to the Veronica Mars team in their success! Their project is still open to those who wish to support it, visit their Kickstarter page to become a backer. If you’ve got a hankering to buy a share of the Packers, you might have to wait a while but keep an eye out on their website!

Unemployed: A Sort Of Hopeful And Not Too Whiny Update

March 12, 2013

I have neglected to write about why I haven’t been writing very much recently. I moved from my home state of Texas to Chicago after the completion of my last job in November and have been looking for work ever since. I have become a piece of the (according to who you read) 13.1 to 16.6 percent of unemployed millennials.

The Huffington Post is providing a number (13.1 %) from the U.S. Department of Labor as of early this month. Editors over at PolicyMic are reporting that, “When “real unemployment” is factored in, that number jumps to 16.6%”. But no matter how you slice it, I’m in there. And I knew nothing about graduating and finding a job (especially with a liberal arts degree) was going to be easy, but I didn’t think it would be this painful either.

All in all, I’m fine. I have savings from previous jobs, a friend is graciously letting me crash on her couch while I hunt, I can eat, take showers, and drink tea while writing this out. I can only imagine how difficult it would be if that were not the case. But my confidence, my ability to bounce back from rejection feels impossible to find. And like a little slap on the wrist for not being more confident, the whole discussion over Sheryl Sandberg’s new book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead pops up. CNN is even gearing up for a two-day extravaganza on women in the workplace. But all of this talk of women CEO’s, COO’s, and asking for raises feels so far from me when my pretty simple dream of getting my own place (with some roommates) and paying my bills on time feels more and more far off.

Between going after nonprofit jobs, unpaid and super competitive journalism internships, filling out Starbucks, Walgreens, and restaurant applications, I have gone over in my head all of the things I should have done differently. More internships. Different major. More externships. Learned a second language. Perfected my cover letter more. Started applying earlier. People tell you that unemployment sucks but what they don’t tell you is how it kills your soul a little. In efforts to stave this off, I’ve been gettin’ my volunteer on lately as much as possible.

If I let myself list out all of the things that make me feel crappy, I’d feel even more crappy because I’d read through it all and chastise myself for being so whiny. So instead I’ll just wrap this up by linking to some articles that have comforted me for a variety of reasons during this time period of unknown length that you should read:

Don’t Let Unemployment Crush Your Soul: Staying Sane While Seeking A Job(XOjane)
The Age of the Permanent Intern (Washingtonian)
The No-Limits Job (The New York Times)
Generation Stress (RedEye Chicago)
When a Kid’s Bedroom Isn’t a Room (Mother Jones)