R3pression

It has been a long time since I’ve written anything on here…  And knowing that absolutely nobody has been missing reading my shit!  Which is something that I embrace and lends to the freedom I feel in writing.  Even though there are a number of people who would be able to trace this back to who I am in real life.

I watched a movie yesterday that made me really think about the extent to which people immersed in the tech culture these days really create their own realities and identities through their online lives…  And sometimes it astounds me how I can express myself fully and completely on a computer, even when talking one-on-one with someone, but am so shy.  And how I can feel so exposed by being asked questions in person.  When you’re typing and have time to think and write, you can think about how it would sound to someone else, choose the way in which you hope to be portrayed, censor yourself, and you have the ability to hide your true emotions.

Real life can be scary in that you don’t have that benefit.

Especially when you can’t hide that you have no emotion about something.  When I’m feeling most depressed, that’s the thing that’s the biggest struggle for me: I don’t show the appropriate responses and affects when someone tells a joke, gives me a compliment, etc.  And socially, that’s unacceptable if you’re playing by the rules of the game and want to be a “normal” person.  So it’s exhausting trying to save face and not be asked a million questions about why I’m down.

Repression.  Don’t know why I named this piece that.  Just have been thinking a lot recently about someone I lost seven years ago.  Every day I think about her and am bridled with questions about why she didn’t leave a suicide note, how she could have left my sister and I when we needed and loved her, what really happened that day…  Just forget how much those emotions affect me and then they all come back every year as May begins.  It’s like someone has laid a thick blanket over my energy and emotion and everything is just subdued while it’s there–and it’s comforting at the same time because it feels like a familiar retreat, emotionally.

To remember or not to remember?  Oh.  We don’t have a choice.

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Open Letter to “John Smith”, Thoughtcatalog Writer

For me, nothing compares to waking up to long shadows of dawn accompanied by birds singing, light breezes through my window, and the smell of brewing coffee. Few things can come between me and an idyllic morning such as this, but today, something has.

13 Things A Woman Can Do To Be More Attractive To Men

Surrounding oneself with feminist friends with whom to discuss issues of gender, self-compassion, empowerment… can create somewhat of a bubble. It seems impossible that there are still people who forget that 20th-century America happened, and that women are no longer confined to living based on the expectations, desires, and fantasies of the male mind. So, I would like to write a [respectfully disappointed] open letter to John Smith, the author of the post listed above about his ideas about attractiveness.

Dear John Smith,

1. It’s great that you want to be aroused by the sight of a naked woman, but our bodies’ purpose is not to arouse you or be evaluated, quantified, or observed by you in any form. Your idioms with regard to our bodies are offensive and unnecessary, and your dietary suggestions might be read with a grain of salt, a whole pizza, a stalk of celery, or that bag of greasy chips.

2. This may come as a complete shock, but we do not select our hair color with any regard to your preferences! Our first thoughts when deciding which piercing or tattoo to get are not, “Oh my, will a man want to look at me or date me after this?” or “Maybe this will make my body more enticing for males that gawk at me while I walk down the street.” Tattooing and piercings are much deeper than your superficial and cosmetic understanding of them–they are modes of expression and understanding of the self. They simultaneously reflect and affect the world around us, and they will continue to exist and flourish despite your lack of approval, which we do not need or want.

3. Your framing of this “point” posits men as inherently making more money than women, which is not a truth, and women as needing to adjust their behavior if they make more money than a man… Could there be a more patriarchal way to write about gender and finance dynamics?! As men have the political, social, economic, etc., etc., upper hand, it makes sense that you would attempt to keep women in a place of submission. However, our world is changing, planes are being leveled, and in the mean time, you can deal with our one-upwomanship.

4 & 5… Since you have conflated femininity with submissiveness, I’ll deal with these two together. Firstly, I’m not sure which decade you’re stuck in, but ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ are no longer mutually exclusive. Sorry to burst your bubble on that one. The healthiest and most well-adjusted people are able to embody traits that have been known as feminine and masculine equally. (Also, to clear up any confusion, your biological sex doesn’t dictate one’s gender. You should probably read about that before you make evaluations about feminine characteristics.) Your ideas about submissiveness really don’t deserve acknowledgement, but for the sake of discussion, I’ll include this. You wrote, “Seriously, heaven forbid you do a little back bending for the sake of pleasing YOUR man because you want to keep him interested in you.” -___- Well, you made a slight comeback at the end of this point by writing about reciprocity, but the idea that women should kowtow or relinquish her personal needs to ensure a man’s contentment is just invalid. Feminism has only made life harder for you because you don’t want to acknowledge the fact that you will not always experience your I’m-a-white-male privilege. #sorrynotsorry

6. Your bullet about women using sex to get what they want has already been annihilated by several other writers, so I won’t reiterate that information here. But it might be worth your time to look at how that’s bullshit. Also, lots of people have had traumatic sexual experiences in the past, especially women who have encountered men with your ways of thinking. So sex drives aren’t a One Size Fits All concept, and what you would deem healthy is probably radically different than what most other people consider normative.

7. Based on the content of your post, you clearly do not have any footing have expectations of intelligence in a partner.

8. Women are almost always the primary caretakers for children, regardless of whether or not the biological father is in the picture. Instead of turning a woman’s children, with whom she is probably inextricably psychologically bound, into “burdens” try thinking about why women are consistently left to care for children alone. Women are oppressed and left with much more of the caring, and then are vilified for requesting the assistance due to them from irresponsible men.

9. I can help you here! Where this “turn in women’s progress” was taken lies in the fact that women are now experiencing more success than ever before in professional positions! They are working full-time jobs (still at a rate far below that of men)! And they still, for the most part, end up working around the home and taking care of many of the relational administrative duties more heavily than men do. Wouldn’t a relationship in which two partners share equally in cooking and trying new things (or even cooking together?!) be better for both parties?

10. The idea that the propensity to use electronics while interacting with others is, in any way, related to gender is laughable.

11. Good underlying message, poor delivery.

12. “If you think you are such a fucking lady, you had damn well better act like it for once.” I know this will probably be surprising, but most of us don’t think we are ladies? Or want to be ladies? Or care if you think we act like “ladies” or not?

13. You’re right–trust is earned and not granted. So unless you heed the words of women and start learning from your problematic thinking, you will never have the trust of any woman. I’m actually sad that you will probably never find a partner whom will genuinely know you or trust. Superficial relationships are built on the tips you gave in your article. I don’t know if any of this will sink in, but I hope so.

I hope this “Counterargument Sound Bites” suit you well. 🙂

Sincerely,

objectifemme

Forced Ability

Image

I’m an extremely introverted person.  That’s something I’ve known about myself for a long time, and something I’m okay with.  In fact, I’ve grown to really appreciate that about myself because it’s such a large part of who I am.  Sensory overstimulation is extremely jarring to me, and often times, people are the cause of that overload.

 

Working in a high school is probably the least helpful thing I could do for myself with the information outlined above.  We are constantly in crisis mode; campus safety officers run by my door yelling; students come in flocks with needs that I can’t always see to…  And often times, by the end of the first hour of work I’m feeling so overwhelmed by all of the commotion, [at least, what I perceive as being commotion] that I don’t know how I’m going to get through the next seven hours of the day without shutting my door, crawling under the desk, and hiding from everyone.

 

Then, one day, I found myself in a conversation with a coworker in which she described how chaos was necessary for her to thrive at work.  This particular coworker is always talking to people, very social, and seems to be energized by all of the craziness of the days at school.  In awe, I asked her how she recharges or reboots after a day like the one we had just had; she said that she couldn’t wait for the next one.

 

By nature, people who fall further toward the extroverted side of the spectrum are excited by, and feed off of, interactions with other people.  They need the energy of others in order to feel spurred forward and motivated to continue throughout the day.  That’s not me.  I desperately need alone time with solitude and my own thoughts in order to feel like I can go back out into the world and not break down from people overload at the end of the day.  It’s extremely draining for me to have multiple social interactions in one day, and figuring out how to turn my [very socially oriented] job into one that fits me better has been a challenge.  Every day, I struggle to find a balance between giving of myself in order to serve the students at the school and having enough time to myself so that I can accurately and effectively help them.  Because if I don’t have enough time with low stimulation, there is no way I am able to patiently and lovingly work with students and staff.

 

So, where can I go from here?  I’m extremely invested in the students with whom I work, and so to find another type of work right now is not an option.  I love what we do, but I might not be the best fit for it.  How can I reshape what I do to better fit my needs so I can serve these young people better?

 

I’m still not sure.  But I’m trying to figure it out.  And by taking the time to write (which is something I love) and work through what it is about my personality that is so affected by the stimuli at school, I am hoping to strike the key that leads to my inter- and intrapersonal success with work.

S.O.S., Susan Douglas!

girl eating

As a woman with aspirations of closing health disparities between socially advantaged and disadvantaged groups, I am interested in better understanding the cultural climate in which we live.  I understand the importance of looking to our predecessors and learning from history; many of the battles we are fighting today are eerily similar to those of 30 years ago, only packaged differently.

One of the most dangerous ways in which patriarchal ideology undermines the work of feminism is by using women, themselves, as a vehicle for the perpetuation of sexist thinking.  How is this done, you ask?  Succinctly and aptly put by Susan Douglas, through Enlightened Sexism.

Enlightened Sexism refers to a subtle type of sexism that carries a mask of celebrating empowered, strong, and successful women.  However, this “success” is still defined by male terms and this type of sexism, whose mask is transient and illusive.  Enlightened Sexism is most dangerous because it leads women to believe that certain choices will leave them more legitimized, when, indeed, what they are actually doing is dismantling important tenets of feminism.

Elite Daily, a website that totes itself as “The Voice of Generation-Y,” has a lot of articles that are thought-provoking and insightful.  This one, however, was certainly not.

Entitled, #NoF*cksGiven: 22 Glorious Times When Caclories Just Don’t Count

-_______-

This piece, which is all about when it is “okay to rationalize” away the number of calories that you have eaten (or want to eat,) is nothing more than a place for fat-phobic women who have been so brainwashed by the dieting and weight-loss industries to feel that they can eat what they want and still be valued in society and as women to come together and find reasons to “cheat” on their diets or “let loose”–which usually entails one and a half treats for dessert, instead of the usual one.

I don’t want to put down individuals who have a mission of eating healthy, exercising in moderation, or embodying the #NoF*cksGiven attitude surrounding food.  The body positivity movement supports all of these things, as long as the motives and behaviors do not become problematic and all-consuming in a person’s life.  These types of shifts can lead to disordered eating and psychological stress, of many things.

What is troubling to me is that the “No Fucks Given” mindset is really just another vehicle for Enlightened Sexism.  It is sending implicit messages that there should be set rules and regulations for when women “allow themselves” to eat whatever they want.

* Otherwise, who knows what might happen if women were at peace with themselves and had a harmonious relationship to food that allowed them to enjoy eating foods that have social labels as Bad or Fattening?! *

In order to ensure that women are kept in the subordinate positon, socially, these types of patriarchal messages seep into the fabric of our culture.  Representations of “real” women on TV, in books and magazines, in young girls’ favorite movies, and physically around them are women who have already been affected by this cultural crisis.

Think about a young girl that you know, or teach, or babysit, or coach, (or yourself) and ask yourself if you would want that little girl to fight her self all throughout her life.  Do you want her to be conflicted about what she “should” eat, when she should be eating, how much, if others would judge or shame her or not?

Until we are able to eradicate our culture’s long-standing messages that value can be placed on a particular body type, that being on a diet makes you a better person than someone who isn’t, or that you need to abide by society’s rules about women, food, and bodies, we will continue to see articles like the aforementioned abound.

Where do you see these fat-shaming messages?  And how can you change the script to be more accepting of all bodies?

 

Why existential crises aren’t just for midlife.

A sad but ever-repeating truth about human nature is that we wait until the death of a loved one, diagnosis of a terminal illness, a life-altering car accident, or for shit to just hit the fan until we start to account for the importance of many of the connections and relationships in our lives.  Midlife gets a bad rap because it’s such a weird time, in terms of a lifespan perspective.  Stereotypes about this period in a person’s life guide the way in which many of us think about the difference between what constitutes a “crisis” and a normal reaction to an environmental stimulus.  Women (and men, to some extent) above the age of 40ish move out of the spotlight of “noteworthy” people, as dictated by our culture, and into a space where society says, “Hey, you’re too old for us to really understand or care about, so we’re just going to pathologize any behaviors or responses that you have and label them as a mid-life crisis.”  Ageist cultures, such as ours, do not celebrate the older generations and make strong attempts to learn from them, as more collectivist cultures tend to do.  When someone in their 40s or 50s has a pattern of behavior that is labeled as a mid-life crisis, why do we poke fun instead of reaching out?  Why do humans, consciously or subconsciously, experience different ebbs and flows in our level of desire for closeness and connection with others?  Why does midlife tend to be known as a time in which we most yearn for acknowledgement and validation from others?  I would like to offer an Eriksonian analysis of this issue within a lifespan framework, and propose that existential crises occur in different forms at each level of development.

Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages make up one of the most widely used templates with which the process of human development is understood.  Erikson’s theory of development consists of a series of conflicts that are mapped onto chronological periods in a person’s life, and the outcome or shortcoming of not having specific needs met during each stage.  It’s important to keep in mind that although Erikson’s theory is commonly referred to as, simply, Developmental Stages, the term Psychosocial is imperative to add because of the emphasis on how individual psychological development is in many ways shaped by, and lends to different perceptions of, social interaction.

Infancy  Although this is the earliest stage of life and of Erikson’s Stages, it is arguably one of the most important times in terms of gaining the capability of bonding Self with other humans.  The “crisis” here (from birth to 18 months) is Trust vs. Mistrust, and Erikson purports that if an infant does not receive physical needs, emotional support, and consistency in nurturance, the result will be a fundamental mistrust of other people.  To me, this seems to be the most essential piece in accounting for oneself as a member of a local or global society.  Does my caregiver make eye contact with me?  Does he feed me?  Does she play with me and hold me close?  Does zhe speak in a soft, soothing, and gentle voice when with me?  An unresolved existential crisis at this stage sets a person up for many different types of personality and insecurity issues to arise at a later age.  Erikson proposes that this stage typically occurs in infants until 1.5 years of age, but the next stage does not start until 2 years, so it appears that Erikson built in some leeway for children.  (In reality, I believe that many people traverse the stages in a timeframe different from the one that Erikson outlined, but I think that his ages are generally a “norm.”  Depending on an abundance of environmental, familial, genetic, and physiological factors, this stage can take much longer to work through and for a person to move on in psychosocial development.

Early Childhood  Ahh, the infamous time of toilet training.  This type of crisis is one of learning about Self and deciding whether or not the feeling of self-determination and independence is there.  Caregiver response is extremely influential at this point in time for a 2- to 3-year-old child, and chastising a child for not successfully mastering the control of their own bodily functions and fluids will cause shame and can be devastating in terms of development.  Existentially speaking, feeling as though one can function on one’s own and by way of one’s intrinsically-situated virtue is extremely important, especially in our individualistically-oriented culture in the U.S..  Erikson calls this crisis Autonomy vs. Shame/Doubt, and although this stage tends to occur in young individuals, even young minds are not lost on the understanding that their self-worth is too often tied in with how quickly they are able to learn how to do certain things.

Preschool  During this time, usually a child is between te ages of 3 and 5.  Interacting with the environment and learning about how one fits into it is key, and kids in this stage of Initiative vs. Guilt are beginning to understand that there are emotional consequences of behaving in a way that is not socially acceptable, according to peers.  If a child feels that she can take an appropriate amount of control over her environment, she gains confidence in taking initiative in trying new things.  The guilt that can occur when a child realizes that she has taken too much initiative and is ostracized by her peers is what creates a crisis at this stage.  It also teaches a child how to exist harmoniously with peers and others.

School Age  The years leading up to adolescence have, on the surface, less to do with what is happening intrapersonally with a child and more with what he is facing interpersonally.  The existential crisis can arise in this stage is when the child begins to feel incompetent in comparison to his peers.  Industry vs. Inferiority is what Erikson proposed as the challenge during this time and can be likened to a fork in the road of development.  I think this is a very personality-shaping time; if a child is not able to capture a new concept as quickly as his peers, he begins to feel inferior and will be less likely to seek out new challenges in life.  Our personality is ever-changing and shifting based on our experiences, the earliest time of our lives holds “critical periods” in which learning and experience are stored in our memory and coded a certain way in our brains.

Adolescence  Notorious for being a time of mood swings, impulsive behavior, and instability, adolescence is also the time when a person’s identity begins to solidify.  Erikson poses the conflict of Identity vs. Role Confusion at this time, but the whole stage can be a crisis for many people.  Identity is always in flux, based on how one takes one’s self to be in relation to others.  If this conceptualization is different in private, it can lead to fragmented selves that take on different identities in different contexts.  The pressure that many youth feel when in social settings can exacerbate this issue, leading one to feel a separation between the ideal self and the performative self.  This time is one in which many people grasp certain values and ethical ideas more strongly than others, and is strongly focused on how one’s own identity is formed.  As our culture is currently saturated with the influence of social media, adolescent identity is a particularly interesting subject.  Generation Z struggles with the additional challenge of integrating the selves created in public spaces and virtual social spaces with the self that they most strongly connect with internally.

Young Adulthood This stage, in Erikson’s opinion, lasts from age 19-40.  It is marked by people’s need to foster relationships with others.  He posits that all people have a need to form loving relationships with other people and the conflict defining this time is Intimacy vs. Isolation.  As we come into the next stages of our lives, meaning in one’s life is thought to be found in how we connect with others.  Many people partner with another, live with other people, get married, and spend free time with friends and family.  If there is discord or conflict with others during these years causing a person to connect less with others, isolation results and can interfere with how meaningful one see’s her life to be.  An important thing to note here, if we take Erikson’s stages to be relatively accurate, is that this stage sets a person up to behave in fulfillment-oriented ways during the next stage.  If this is true, then stereotypically mid-life-crisis behaviors will result after loss of an important relationship, emotional distress due to isolation, loneliness, etc.

Middle Adulthood  Between the ages of 40 and 65, adults are supposed to be struggling with “work and parenthood,” according to Erikson.  Firstly, not everyone chooses to have children, so issues of procreation and parenting are not always important.  This is the stage of life in which one’s behaviors are often labeled as “mid-life crises,” and the conflict that Erikson purported was evident here is Generativity vs. Stagnation.  The trouble is, every person’s definition of ‘generativity’ is very different and each person’s conceptualization of what it is will manifest itself in a different way.  Before we judge how a person is or isn’t spending money, choosing to be or not be in relationships, or changing appearances, think twice about whether or not you want to label it a mid-life crisis.

Maturity  Basically, Erikson threw this stage in there as the “preparing to die” stage.  “Age 65 to death.”  How depressing!  How many people do you know who worked way past the age of 65?  How many people have you met who are vibrant, wise, and expressive that are over 65?  It’s really sad how our society underemphasizes the contributions that this age group can make to society.  Ego Integrity vs. Despair is the supposed conflict, and although I have seen individuals go toward both of those ends of Erikson’s outcomes, I think far fewer people would move toward an experience of despair if our culture wasn’t riddled with ageism.  If we celebrated and supported individuals who are 65+ and sought out more intergenerational connections, we could gain insight that would enable younger generations to appreciate the history that made our society and culture what they are today.

So, this basically turned into a rant about why we should seek out more intergenerational friendships, but the takeaway message is this: don’t be ageist and don’t buy into the stereotype that individuals in their 40s who are exploring their identities anew are “in crisis.”  Because existentially, we are all in crisis all the time.  At least, according to Erikson we are.

How agism and ableism killed my grandfather.

aging tree

Some of my earliest memories of my grandfather are of practicing doing handstands in a pool while he cheered me on from the water’s edge, eating snacks together on our “goof off days,” and playing basketball in my driveway on a hoop that he and my dad constructed.  My grandfather was a great athlete when he was younger and played basketball at Duke University during his twenties.  He was tall, good-looking, and found a lot of joy in sports; I believe that a large part of his identity was inextricably tied to his ability to play basketball and be seen as a college athlete.  Among many assets was his calming and unconditionally loving nature, which everyone near him could feel.  He passed away recently after struggling with a rare type of melanoma, which caused his last weeks to be punctuated with the loss of his cognitive faculties, loss of speech (as the cancer had spread to his neck and he lost control of the muscles in his mouth and face,) and spells of unexpected vomiting and defecation.  I do not believe, however, that it was the cancer that killed my grandfather; I hold that the culprits were much slower, elusive, and degrading killers: agism and ableism.

As more and more years separated my grandfather from his years of glory as a college basketball player, he saw his life shifting in various forms.  His concerns were no longer about his sport or his studies, but about his feisty, intelligent wife and their two young sons.  He had a job in finance for several years of that marriage, during which time he discovered that neither one was to be a long-term presence in his life.  As it were, I knew my grandfather only after his retirement and as a unit with his current wife, my grandmother, so his years of being an able-bodied basketball player were far behind him.  Despite his shrinking ability to be active into the later years of his life, he still seemed to be in relatively good spirits when he was around family.

The older he got, however, the more he began to resent the weakening body that carried his heart and his mind, and looked upon more elderly individuals with disdain; he could not begin to conceive of his life as that of an Old Man who would find luxury in Sudoku and shuffleboard.  As his hearing got worse, and none of his medical attempts to correct it materialized, he became withdrawn and stopped or accompanying his gregarious wife to social events.  It seemed he no longer found joy in golfing, going out with his dog, or seeing friends outside of his home.  The loneliness of being with your own mind 24/7 when you don’t want to be there can be devastating; it was this isolation that led my grandfather to begin self-destructing.

In 2010, he attempted suicide in his home.  His wife found him and immediately took him to receive physical and psychiatric care, and he was brought home soon thereafter.  His brother and his sons rushed to be with him for support, which he received reluctantly.  Although he was not able to physically depart from the world during that time, a large part of his spirit was gone after that day.  The next few years of his life consisted mostly of existing only within the home, and he began drinking heavily to abate the ever-increasing pangs of his existential crises.  He had surgeries for his melanoma, fewer reserves to which he could turn (emotionally) to fight for his life, and was blessed in January, 2014 to be relieved of his suffering and to finally depart from this life.

How did ageism and ableism contribute to my grandfather’s death?  Our culture valorizes athleticism and a [problematic] narrowly-defined picture of “health.”  [NOTE: My issues with society’s definitions of Health and what it looks like would fit into several books–not in this post.]  Because my grandfather found himself, as a twenty-year-old man, in a very coveted position of collegiate athlete where people could watch him on TV and admire his physical abilities, he found a lot of his value as a human being (though certainly not all of it) through the eyes of viewers, and due largely in part to his physical prowess.  He was socialized to believe that his athletic pursuits were of the utmost importance and made him valuable; the hierarchical fashion in which our culture positions different types of body movement and expressions of physical selves contributes to the negative and positive ways in which women and men see their selves each day.  Because of the glorification of college athletes, however, I believe that the years after stopping a sport can be a period of dysphoria for many finish playing.

The patriarchy supports men only for as long as they are still young-ish, able, capable of expressing sexuality, have a decent amount of money, pursuing and performing physical activity in their lives.  Because my grandfather saw his value as a young man through the eyes of others, he could also feel society’s gaze changing as he transitioned into the later years of his life and was no longer able to perform the same types of feats with his body.  I believe that he internalized a lot of the ageism that resides in the messages that we see each day, read in newspapers, watch on TV, and our ableist culture left him feeling like a useless, abject ex-athlete who no longer has a place in society.  Continuing to watch sports exacerbated his dysphoria, as he likely kept comparing the image of The College Athlete (which does not age) to his ever-aging self and body.

No death is easy to understand.  I thought, because I had knowledge that he had intended to die four years ago, that it would be easy to come to terms with his death when it would inevitably happen.  But it is certainly not easy.  And this post is just a small part in my process to make peace with how the grandfather I knew could experience depression, suicidal ideation, self-hatred, and have his wish for death actualized by way of a cancer, slowly eating away at his will to live as society simultaneously did the same.