Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The War Against Women

I'm thinking about John Scalzi's "Going Meta for a Moment" blog post, explaining the reasons why he wrote his brilliant "Being Poor" essay.  In "Going Meta," he explained that he was so pissed off by the asshattish response to Hurricane Katrina that he was unable to work--and this is how I feel this evening, having apparently reached critical mass of reading one after another right-wing attack on reproductive autonomy, and now this story about the bombing of a Texas State Senator's office. 

I have lost patience with having respect for other people's positions.  Are you against abortions?  Fine, don't have one.  Better yet, work to increase access to contraception and comprehensive sex education.  Or, at the very least, learn how conception and contraception actually works before proposing legislation requiring non-consensual, invasive vaginal procedures (which, by the way, anyone can construe as anything other than rape--well, they're wrong).  It is impossible to deny that there is a systematic attack on women's autonomy in this country at the moment. Again, if people were actually so darned concerned about the welfare of children in this country, they would be doing things like increasing--or at the very least, not decreasing--funding for education.  Improving Medicaid.  Things which actually impact children's lives--rather than threaten and shame women for being autonomous adults.

No one is seriously questioning men's rights too--well, anything, other than control over women's bodies and lives. No one is questioning Viagra access, or funding, or insurance coverage, or access to vasectomies, or working on holding men more accountable for paternity.  Like I said, no one is even bothering to learn how menstruation and contraceptive medication actually works.  And any woman who questions this is overreacting at best and a slut, harpy, and premenstrual bitch at worst.

I've lost my patience for being open-minded--and the primary reason is because I feel threatened.  It's not just a question of moral debate--rather, it's a question of the real possibilities of invasive procedures, public shaming, and condescending lectures from men who are opposed to female autonomy.  Even more, the continuing violent rhetoric of the right constitutes a real threat to me.  I went to the church in Knoxville where people died as a result of a shooter who was determined to take out liberals.  The Planned Parenthood I used to go to in Cincinnati has been the recipient of numerous attempted attacks.  It's not just a couple of nutjobs on AM radio--the rhetoric of the right encourages violence against people like me--female, feminist, liberal, and intellectual. 

Certainly, I plan on being at the March Against the War on Women on April 28.  But right now, I'm feeling quite cynical about its potential.  I went to DC in 2004 for the March for Women's Lives, and while it was an enjoyable experience of solidarity, I can't honestly say that it did anything lasting.  I'm beginning to suspect that political protests only serve as pressure valves to keep people from actually accomplishing anything.  We'll go spend the day yelling and waving signs and feeling like we're not alone, and the Monday there will be another bill proposed somewhere that requires a husband's permission before a woman can buy condoms. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Though I had Tobacco Road out to read on the bus ride home, I instead put it away, closed my eyes, and listened to my headphones all the way home.  It was a delightful break.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In which I try to not too much of a yogahead, but I'll probably fail

The last couple of days I've had several moments of paralysis, where my to-do list feels like it has so many top priority things on it that I've just not been sure what to do next.  Sure, I'm a big believer in do the next thing, but it's been hard to figure out what that next thing is.  Ironically, my to-do list seems a bit shorter than normal, but everything on it is important. 

Part of the difficulty has been in taking on this new class, though the benefits of the second class so far seem to be outweighing the negatives. Though it's the same class I've been teaching, this group seems so much sweeter than my other class. Perhaps it's a function of their being new and shiny, but--so far, at least--no one's been reading the paper in class or been nearly as chatty as my other class.  And I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out how to transition them to a course schedule that more closely matches the other class I'm teaching.  As soon as IT can figure out how to get me access to their grades, I'll then need to figure out how to integrate their previous grades with the ones I'll give them.  Midterm grades are due Tuesday; while it would be nice if I could submit them on time, if I can't, I can't.

I'm getting better of letting go of such things. I've been working on expanding my Wise Blood paper I gave at SAMLA into an article-length piece, with the intention of submitting it to Southern Cultures for their music issue.  However, its deadline was March 5, and last week I realized I wasn't going to make it in on time.  I had a finished, article-length version of my Edith Wharton paper that just needed its citation style changed for a women's studies journal which is having a special issue on fashion coming up; as that was quicker to finish, I focused on that, and was able to submit it on time.  Last week in writing group, I brought an abstract for a southern panel at MLA that's focusing on southern sexuality; that's a big priority, too.  Between my professor's comments and my awesome writing partner's comments, I was quite happy with how it turned out.  I continue to really appreciate my writing group/partner--having a reachable goal each Friday has been working really well to keep me on task.

Anyway, despite these accomplishments, I have kept hitting the wall of not knowing what to do next, which gives rise to unpleasant feelings of anxiety.  This anxiety has the snowball effect that I then keep doing work, and haven't been nearly as active as I'd like to be.  I have been doing other activities--my mandolin has been played, and over the course of several work breaks, I've made a bonnet for the Jane Austen Festival this weekend.  Still, I think the anxiety and fatigue have been interacting in a way to make me reluctant to do anything active.

I broke that cycle today, and did the online pilates/yoga class I like a lot this afternoon when I got home from a good day at school (the positive feedback loop thing).  I noticed, though, at the end of the video, how much I missed savasana, that wonderful pose at the end of yoga classes where you lie in corpse pose, usually while the teacher talks you through a relaxation exercise.  Happily, it occurred that nothing was keeping me from doing that myself, so I laid down on my mat and spent probably ten minutes walking myself through conscious relaxation and paid attention to my breathing.

I felt so good afterwards.  Though I've always felt suspicious of the yoga talk that savasana is needed to let your activity "sink in" or something, it occurred to me that such a pause is a good thing, and perhaps that's what I've been needing in my not knowing what to do next.  I get so into crossing an item off my list that I immediately move on to what's next.  I'm now going to try not going on immediately to the next thing--rather than do the next thing, I may try, do something, pause, take a break, do something else. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Where I'm At

Yesterday certainly was an exercise in perspective.  The two areas of the country where I have the biggest concentration of friends is the Ohio/Indiana/Kentucky tri-state area and Tennessee, both of which were hit with storms.  Everyone seems okay, though a friend's relative in Indiana lost her house, and when they last checked in yesterday afternoon were unable to leave its remains (I guess they were in the basement) because the downed power lines were too dangerous.

Add to that a friend who was in the hospital last night after a mild heart attack, and a colleague at school who underwent surgery for a faulty artificial heart valve yesterday (her third open heart surgery).  Perspective, perspective, perspective.

I'm actually picking up a section of English 2000 taught by my colleague who had surgery yesterday.  I don't know her--I believe she's an instructor--though I think I've chatted with her before a talk before.  It's the same class I'm teaching, though her syllabus looks much, much different from mine.  There's another teacher who's picking up another section of the class, and she's given me access to her Moodle page, so I can see how she's going to proceed with the class. 

It will be interesting to see how this goes.  Midterms are due week after next, so I'm picking up this class almost smack dab in the middle of the semester.  Though I've complained about the lack of community in my department, it's opportunities such as this which kind of make me put my money where my mouth is--am I willing to pitch in when its needed?

This coming week, there's a meeting scheduled with the intention of "envisioning graduate studies" in my department, which was put together after some heightened awareness of student unhappiness.  I'm open about the fact that I was ready to leave my first semester here--only the promise of the course offerings the next semester (sexology, southern lit, and Faulkner) and one class I was taking whose professor was completely engaged and exciting--kept me from reapplying to other schools over Thanksgiving that year.  And it wasn't a shock about the difficulty of grad school--at UT, I spent the first month going--shit!  Who the hell is Wittgenstein and why has he been mentioned in every class so far?  Rather, it's a lack of structured support for incoming students, especially those coming in with an MA.  For students with a BA and MFA students, they have structures built in--they have a week of orientation to prepare for TAing a section of a large class, which gives them a built in cohort with which to learn.  For incoming MAs, there was nothing--not a welcome from a faculty member, not a here's what you can expect, not even here's where the refrigerator is.  There was an EGSA meeting for an hour, with a welcome and things,  and a welcome to Baton Rouge booklet with useful information about neighborhoods and for using PAWS and things.  And everyone attends the big English department meeting the Friday before school starts.

Still, at UT, there was a week of orientation for everyone, which was overwhelming, but incredibly informative.  Several professors participated, and by the end of the week I felt like a part of my cohort and had a sense of who to talk to about what.  Here, there's supposed to be a mentoring system in place, but it's a crap shoot whether the mentor a new student is assigned to will actually respond.  (You'd better believe I have--my mentee is a priority to me.)  Many of us have gravitated to other departments, like WGS and Mass Comm, because (perhaps because they're smaller) they provide the kind of support and community that's lacking in English. 

And with March here, it's now less than a month away that the WGS graduate student organization is hosting a screening of the documentary Miss Representation.  We had a very productive meeting with the director of the Women's Center this week, who's offered quite a bit of support for the event.  So, fingers crossed!