The Three Stages of Feminism? Saturday, May 5 2007 

…Sure, there are only three….

Something thought-provoking happened in class the other day.  Like most of the French classes I have taken at the college level, this one is overwhelmingly female (I wonder if the guys in these classes have similar feeling to the female minority in engineering classes…hmmm, thoughts?).  This is not particularly strange to me – while there are certainly men at the graduate level, at the undergraduate level, they seem to be…diluted.  But I digress, since the real question is more generational in nature.  The make-up of the class, agewise, is:  Female professor (in her 40s), me (in my 30s) and everyone else (20-22).  And we’re discussing the work of a feminist author, and we are trying to parse what feminism might have meant then (the 70s) and now.  These are not direct quotes, and they were in French, so the intentions and/or nuances may have been different than what was actually said or understood.  This is just to give a taste of what I was so thought provoking

Professor:  Are there any aspects of culture where women are barred?

Me:  Not explicitly.  But there are some domains where, if women participate, they are held up and discussed solely for their gender.  In hip-hop, for example, there seems to be an exclusion of women.  You can have someone like Missy Elliot, but all people seem to feel comfortable talking about is how she’s a woman in a man’s world.

Professor:  I see your point.

Another classmate:  There aren’t any rules keeping a woman from being president, but I think a lot of people still feel uncomfortable with the idea.  When my friends and I talk about Hillary Clinton, we seem to think that people have a problem with her being a woman.

Professor:  Although that could be about her being Hillary Clinton.

Same student:  Sure, I guess.

Different student:  I think she [Cixous] makes a point of drawing a distinction between the sexes, so she can identify herself as a feminist writer.

This goes on.  During this discussion, I felt like there was a disjointedness, due to three very different generational perspectives on gender relationships.  And this would be a time where I was acutely aware of an age difference during class.  This is my theory, which might be full of crap, but regardless, this is how I saw it.  Women from the baby boomer generation, like my professor, still remember what it was like before – “a career?  what, you don’t want a husband?”, and that sort of thing.  I think they have a true appreciation about how far we’ve come in such a short period of time.   Women from my generation (and usually, I’m the only example of it in a class), vaguely remember the earlier days (Charlie’s Angels, you know, had to leave the Police Department to do real detective work), but we also realize some of the success we’ve had is ambiguous, at best (really, undercover work at the roller derby?  Two Charlie’s Angels movies?  Are you kidding me?).  And the young women in my class may or may not have an accurate idea on the debates that are still raging outside of their generation.  I think they get a lot less ambivalence from the guys in their generation than, say my professor and I would find in ours; still, I think it is telling that the student that made the comment about Hillary Clinton takes a lot of classes in a department that is a lot more evenly distributed in terms of gender than the French Department.  Politics, too, is notoriously risk-adverse; often, politics seems to find itself rushing to catch up with the rest of society (and I think that’s why you find a lot of reactionary politics – people tend to get nervous around too much change).  So yes, I think that notions of feminism are inseparable from where you are generationally.  I also think the response seems to be to say that any form of feminism that doesn’t line up exactly with what came before to be “not feminism.”

What’s the point?  I honestly don’t know, but I think that drawing attention to some of this stuff is the point.  I think we believe that societal influences are something we can “get over,” but I’m pretty sure that most of those influences are too subliminal for us.  I’m not saying people are powerless against their cultural influences, I just think that we should acknowledge that we are not nearly as powerful as we think we are.

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The curse of ambivalence Monday, Apr 9 2007 

I’ve finally gotten the wherewithal to write a new post.  It has been a few days, but the spirit hasn’t moved me – at least, not enough to sit down and do it.

It has been a less-than-profitable break.  I haven’t done all the reading I planned, I didn’t get a jump on future homework; most disturbingly, I am down to mismatched socks, as the laundry I planned on doing remains undone.  In my defense, my ankle still dislikes the stairs, and the two-flight trip to the laundry room would be painful.  Everything else is a bit of a wash (no pun intended).  I could have been more ambitious, and I was not.  I could claim that I needed the rest, that I have been pushing myself and I need to conserve my energy for the long haul.  That might be 25-30% true.  I think that the bum ankle and the decrease in mobility has created a paucity (I dig that word – very verbal section of the GRE) of energy.  I went out and about for a bit on Friday and Saturday and I did get some quality studying in, but my ankle became painful – and the winter-like weather did not help at all.  It is clear that I’m going to need some PT to get back to my old self.

Two things that I did do that were successful (aside from the studying I did get done) – I bought a used medium-format camera off of eBay (yay).  It isn’t a professional model, as even the obsolete ones go for hundreds of dollars (which I do not have).  I bought some film, and I am itching to try it out (but the weather is not cooperating – overcast does not photograph too well).  And last night, I took another practice GRE (my test date is 20 days away) and I got a 710 verbal, 620 quantitative.  Not too shabby, but I need to keep working on my accuracy – some of the mistakes I made were just careless.  But practice, as they say, makes perfect (or at least improves one’s scores).

Back to the grindstone – ironically, I suspect I will be much more efficient once I’m back to my usual schedule.  I don’t do so well with leisure time – it gives me too many opportunities to doubt myself (or simply to not care).

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Lost in a forest of syntactic trees…. Thursday, Mar 8 2007 

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I am still under the weather.  Yesterday’s full day left me beat, so I decided to go to my one class today, but not to work.  My head has been feeling like it is at least twice its actual size.  I ran out of cold medicine, and can’t function without it (yet).  So I went to the corner drugstore (literally), and purchased one of those combo day/night packs.  I didn’t have to bring a slip to the pharmacist, so I gather the decongestant is not the type you can make crystal meth with.  One can only assume that will keep those bizarro dreams out of my head (as in Sweet Cold Medicine Hangover below).  Speaking of bizarro dreams of late, I did, against my better judgement, e-mail Dead Dream Friend.  Partly because I dreamt he died, and while I don’t actually believe that it was an omen, better safe than sorry.  I haven’t heard from him yet (I omitted the part where I had a vision of his death); at the bus stop this afternoon, it did occur to me why I dreamt about him in the first place.  Unlike my 10-cent psychoanalysis, it actually is quite simple – DDF used to live in a West Coast city that contains one of my graduate school choices.  I remember thinking, before the I had the dream, that I should get his thoughts on what living there was like.  All that weirdness was just a “note to self.” 

Speaking of other things I have done, against my better judgement….I mailed a birthday card to the Ex.  I kept trying not to, but it just felt wrong to not acknowledge his birthday.  So I did.  I don’t think it will send a “please want to marry me” vibe, no matter how much I want him to want to marry me (whew, that was torturous).  Just a card to say, “hey, happy birthday.”

Lastly, I am fighting with my Syntax homework.  Syntax has been the bane of my existence; and the homework is no exception.  Part of this is that the exercises in the textbook seem to give you sentences that a) have idiosyncrasies that are difficult to tree and b) not seem to give you any concrete idea how these idiosyncrasies are handled.  The whole design is to have you “guess.”  Which I suppose is one way to learn, but it would be nicer if at least he covered some of that in the lecture, too.  Fat chance.  But the bulk of my ire for syntax homework, especially tree drawing, is that he wants the trees done in a word processing program.  There is no easy way to do this.  If I’m going to spend hours doing the homework, it might as well be spent figuring out knotty problems, not trying to line up the branches.  And don’t even get me started on Word’s “line draw” tool.  Line draw, my ass.

But, I suppose I’ve frittered enough time away (in so, so many ways).  Time to be the Johnny Appleseed of syntactic trees.

Am I the woman I think I am? Tuesday, Feb 27 2007 

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For most of the day, I have felt…uncomfortable.  Not physically, but psychically (not in the “psychic” sense, but the “psyche” one).  I don’t know if it was the 2 feet of snow that soggily landed on our fair metropolis – a case could be made for that, since I found myself having to scramble over 4 foot-high snowbanks merely to cross a street.  I don’t know if it is just another side effect from being broken-hearted.  I don’t know.  I was all right in today’s only class, but work was another issue.

I was dreading getting up and getting out this morning, but that was mostly a dislike of trudging through piles and piles of snow.  I got to work, and my mood didn’t lift.  I have hated jobs before, believe me.  I don’t hate my job, I just…sometimes have personality issues.  I tutor students at a two-year college.  Some of them are going for an associate degree in a field where a four-year degree doesn’t make sense.  Some of them are saving money; they spend much less per credit than they would at a four-year school, and many classes transfer.  Others are beyond unprepared.  Unprepared academically, unprepared emotionally, just generally unprepared.  In theory, this is a good option for them.  If they need high school level classes, they pay no tuition; there are many resources for them to get prepared for college-level work.  And yet, so many of them are so far behind, I fear they’ll never see it through.  And for those who are unprepared emotionally, their lack of maturity works my last nerve.  I grit my teeth, hold my tongue and just smile and try to push them in the right direction.  But most of the time, I just want to chew them out.  I feel bad for disliking some of them.  I wonder if some of them have serious problems – that they aren’t just ill-prepared or immature – and if so, maybe I’m holding them to unrealistic standards.  Not everyone wants to be like me; some days, I don’t want to be like me.  I can be a bit of a snob.  And while I don’t think so, I can understand why some people might find me pretentious.  As they say, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.  So since I’m loaded with not-so-admirable qualities, why judge people harshly just for being annoying?

I’ve been thinking about this for the better part of the day.  Not beating myself up, but challenging myself not to be so quick to dislike people just because I find them annoying.  I don’t have to be friends with everyone, but recognize that there is enough contempt in the world; I certainly don’t need to add to the sum total.

The joke is that people often call me nice.  As I have joked to my friend, KS(-P), what these people don’t recognize is that I’m not so much nice as polite.  While being polite is fine, maybe I should try being nicer.

And yet…as my work day came to a close, I worked with two very nice students.  They may have been in the same boat with the others, but how they choose to row is completely different.  Now, I’m not sure – do I need to be nicer?  Or am I going to be someone who is never going to suffer fools gladly?  Does that make me a bitch?

Why bother? Monday, Feb 19 2007 

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I remember, back in the day before everyone yammered on endlessly about blogs, coming across one written by some guy (I believe he was from Iowa).  This guy’s blog focused entirely on the topic of…pudding.  Now, I enjoy pudding as much as the next gal, but really?  Just about pudding?  And the kicker was that it wasn’t about how to make pudding, which could be considered slightly useful.  No, it was an inventory on pudding he had eaten, and his enjoyment level of these puddings.

Why bring up this Pudding Putz?  As an example on why I have avoided starting a blog.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to write, and I am fairly certain that I am soooo clever; but who would read it?

 While I am at sea as to who would enjoy musing on puddings some guy has eaten, I’m confident that those of us who are older than the other students; if they are anything like me, feel a little isolated.  Maybe we feel a little strange trying to make friends with our classmates, maybe our friends are having a little difficulty remembering what it was like to study for a mid-term.  Maybe our friends are feeling a little resentful at being left behind (I have been fortunate not to have this happen, but I’m sure it’s common enough).  At any rate, I might be the only one interested in my blabbings, but if the rest of you have something to say, this might be the place for you to say it.  I welcome the input.