Lydy's Anarchist Revival Meeting
18th June, 2018. 4:11 am. The Existential Why
Over dinner, a dear friend who likes lots of people as individuals, but pretty much no groups, asked why I cared about the continued existence of the human race. Not wanting to die in a cleansing thermonuclear fire makes sense to him, but I have no children, and I don't believe in the after life, so why did I care about whether or not there were human beings in a hundred years?
"Right now, there are people who are in deep, meaningful conversations with Plutarch, people who are arguing angrily with Machiavelli, people who are so moved by Sumerian poetry that they want to tell the world, people so angry with Shakespeare they are trying to argue he never existed; and in a hundred years, I want people to be falling in love with Jo Walton, arguing angrily with Herodotus, writing love poetry to Eloise. I will not see that conversation, but I want it to continue. It is a great glory, and a beauty that I do not wish to fade from the earth."
Oddly, he thought this was an argument that made sense. It does not persuade him, but he understands why I think that way.
3rd June, 2018. 4:43 pm. Question about Health and Weight
Why does the medical establishment use a disease model for obesity? How is this beneficial? They don't do this for other symptoms which have multiple possible causes. If you see your doctor because you are short of breath, they don't tell you to breathe better. They look at heart health, lung function, possible neuromuscular disorders, medications, and maybe even psychological issues. There are a lot of reasons that one might be short of breath. They might even put you on oxygen if your blood oxygen levels are low while they try to figure out the exact cause.
How is being overweight different? Why do we treat obesity as if it were the disease, and not the symptom? There are a lot of reasons one might be carrying more weight than the doctors prefer. But lifestyle choices is only one of them, and even there, those choices are often intertwined with other issues like joint pain and time management problems and poverty. But by using a disease model when looking at obesity, it seems like they are getting their causality wrong a lot of the time. People in pain move less, which increases weight, which makes it harder to move, which increases weight. But seems like you want to tackle the pain, first.
I also want to bang my head against a wall every time someone says "obesity epidemic." To the best of our current knowledge, obesity is not contagious. So using an epidemic model is just nuts. It seems like this impairs communication, not improves it.
I think that I would be much more willing to talk about my current weight with my doctor if I had a feeling that we weren't going to be scolding me, or recommending drastic solutions like a gastric bypass, and instead were looking at it as a symptom with an underlying cause. But "you weigh too much" is, um, not helpful? It's not new information.
29th May, 2018. 4:57 pm. The Other Things I Wish I Could Tell My Patients
16. Please don't be embarrassed. I have no interested in making judgments about your sleep habits, your weight, your appearance, or anything else. I absolutely understand that life is complicated, people are weird, and you are unique. When I ask for certain things, this isn't so I can make value judgments, it's so I can ensure a good study. Please tell me the truth, I will not shame you, and there is no reason to lie.
17. I'm a medical professional, and everybody has a bladder. It's fine. Really. I do not mind in the least, and please don't make yourself uncomfortable. I will cheerfully unhook you eighteen times tonight, if that's what you need. I will never, ever shame you about this.
27th May, 2018. 4:05 pm. Things I Wish I Could Tell My Patients
1) Please sleep between the sheets. They are changed after every use; the blanket and comforters...not so much.
2) When you go to bed and when you get up are not state secrets. It would also be really helpful if you would answer the questions I ask, rather than the ones you want to answer. "When do you normally go to bed?" is not the same question as "When do you want to go to bed tonight?" If they are different, I do want to know the answer to both of them, but to repeatedly answer the second when I ask the first frustrates both of us.
3) Likewise and also, "What is the latest I can get you up tomorrow without screwing up your day?" is not usefully answered by "I always wake up at five-thirty." If you have sleep apnea, and if I put CPAP on you, two things we do not currently know, there is absolutely no guarantee you will wake at your normal time.
4) "It varies," is not an answer. Values for "varies" ... vary, a lot. When pressed, people have explained that they mean "between ten and ten-fifteen" or "between nine in the evening and two in and the morning." Likewise, "late" and "early" are not useful descriptors, late meaning anything from ten in the evening to three in the morning, and early anything from three in the morning to seven in the morning. I am not being rude when I press you for details, I am trying to get really basic information.
5) Almost everyone has a sleep schedule. People who truly sleep at entirely random times a) do not hold down jobs and b) are really, really rare. Please don't tell me "I don't have a schedule." Tell me your normal range.
6) I will listen politely to your theories about your sleep. However, I won't take them very seriously. The person who knows the least about your sleep is you, because you are unconscious at the time. I will do my best to sort out actual information from theory, but you make it hard when you mix verifiable facts in with complex theories with no data to back it up.
7) You are a competent adult, and that means that you have the right to refuse any and all medical interventions, up to and including CPR. I must, therefore, assume you are in the lab voluntarily. If you really don't want to be here, why the hell did you show up?
8) I am very sorry your doctor doesn't listen to you. They don't listen to me either. Telling me won't help you communicate them. If you really hate your doctor, maybe you should get a different one? Just spit-balling here.
9) Barring basic social lies, I will tell you the truth. There are questions I cannot answer, either because I don't know or because I am not allowed to tell you. But everything I tell you about the test, your health, and sleep is, to the best of my understanding, true. I also won't tell you partial truths to mislead you.
10) I do exert control over your environment. I do this to get a good-quality sleep study. I understand that this isn't how you sleep at home. I am not trying to measure that. I am trying to measure biological, intrinsic sleep, and I want to eliminate environmental factors that might confound the results. I will try to work with you on psychological issues that may affect your ability to initiate sleep, but I am not just being an authoritarian prick when I tell you you may not have the television on all night.
11) I am not running a scam, and I am insulted by the implication that I am. However, even if I were, why would I ever admit that to you? Therefore, accusing me of running a scam is pointless as well as irritating.
12) Please do not attempt to discuss politics or religion with me. There is a chance that you will be comforted by the fact that the person guarding your sleep is an atheistic anarchist with bisexual leanings, but most of you will not, in fact, find that to be relaxing. Let's just not talk about it, m'kay?
13) Do not talk to me about your sex life. At all.
14) The wires are not negotiable. And, yes, if this is a repeat study, they did all of this to you the last time, too. Just because you don't remember a specific item doesn't mean that it wasn't used last time. In point of fact, it was. There are standards, and every accredited lab follows them.
15) If I do my job right, you will be unable to tell if I actually like you, or if I have classed you as a video game, where the win condition is to make you think that I like you. I actually do like most patients. It still doesn't matter. Let's get a good sleep study, and move on with our lives, m'kay?
12th May, 2018. 7:39 am. Humor, Longer Me
I've had some thoughts about humor which I posted to Twitter at three in the morning, which means that no one has seen them. Here's longer me.
With the understanding that I am not describing every funny thing in the world, humor generally relies upon violated expectations. Frequently, this is done by juxtapositions of unlike things which, together, create a new picture. Much of humor relies upon radical reframing. Humor leverages our pattern-matching software and our startle response, jarring us out of an expectation to reveal something new and different, and hopefully funny. It is, in fact, a neurological hack. One of the reasons it works is because it by-passes social armor and practiced emotional defenses. That makes it an incredibly powerful tool to address issues that are hard to discuss. It is why it is a frequent tool of activists.
One of the easiest ways to create a jarring juxtaposition is to trivialize something that isn't trivial. That's why there are so many jokes about sex and death. But trivializing something doesn't make it trivial. In point of fact, the joke flat out doesn't work if the issue is actually trivial. This is one of the ways jokes fade away. When I was a child, the joke with the punchline "She leaves crumbs in the bed!" was a screamer. It isn't nearly so funny, these days, because the concept that a bride isn't a virgin is just not a big deal to most people. In subcultures where that still matters, the joke is probably still funny.
Because jokes are, by their very nature, a way to get past normal social defenses, and because the subject of many jokes is non-trivial, it is really important to understand that jokes can hurt people very badly, savage them on soft spots before they have a chance to defend themselves. That is the nature of humor. A joke can make you think, puncture your vanity, cause you to revisit long held beliefs. But it can also attack your essential sense of self. The defense "It was just a joke" is like ignoring the fact that the gun is loaded. Seriously, don't point that fucker at a target you don't want to hit. If the subject matter had no weight to it, it had no potential humor.
23rd April, 2018. 3:36 pm. Ok, Fess Up, Whose Nightmare Was This?
Sleep last night was terrible, made especially terrible by an incredibly complex nightmare in which I was involved with/held captive by an abusive man who was planning on bombing Brittany Spears at Coachella to prove that he loved me because Brittany had stolen my boyfriend. There was some really icky sexual violence in the nightmare (thank you, brain) and a lot of shooting and running around and bombs and it was really terrible. But in what universe am I monogamous? And Brittany Spears, really? I mean, I barely know who she is. How was this my nightmare? If this one belonged to you, I am so sorry, but I really wish it hadn't been mis-delivered.
Read 1 Note -Make Notes
21st April, 2018. 9:28 am. Team Rant
For years, I have hated the managerial exhortation to "work as a team." In my experience, this management attempting to not do its job. Rather than paying attention to who does what, encourage good behavior and discourage bad behavior, and generally, you know, manage,
it is used like collective punishment. No need to sort out who is actually doing what, just hold everyone responsible. I hate getting the memo that I know is targeted at a specific person, which exhorts everyone to do or not do a specific thing that only one person is doing or not doing. Even more infuriating is the one-on-one, where the manager needs to scold a particular person, so he takes each person, in turn, and scolds them, regardless of who is actually fucking up and who is not. The people who work hard and care about their job get really stressed out by these meetings and the jack-off feels comfortable and camouflaged, since these meetings are always prefaced by the words, "I'm talking to everyone about this." Demotherfuckingmotivational, dammit. Most work environments do not have direct rewards for teamwork, only individual incentives. The one work place where there were specific team bonuses, there were also individual bonuses which were a) secret and b) significantly more than the team bonus.
Today, it occurred to me that exhortations for more team work are heard differently by men and women. Women are generally socialized to be team players, and are also usually the ones in the team who do the invisible team portion of the work. They organize the cupboard, wash the coffee cups, keep track of the birthdays, do things to make the physical environment more pleasant, work that is often not noticed. So when some dumb fuck of manager starts blathering on about how we all need to be better team players, and we need to pitch in and work better as a team, what he's really saying is that the girls should do more work. The exhortation is almost never specific, no guidelines as to what anybody should do. So guys stand around with their thumbs up their asses, and think that maybe they should, you know, work an extra fifteen minutes now and again, or not take a coffee break. And the women haul the team up the mountain on their goddamn backs.
Dear everybody: I'm tired. And ranty.
Read 2 Notes -Make Notes
15th April, 2018. 5:37 pm. Things I Hate
On my rather extensive list of things I hate, right at the top are being cold and heavy physical activity. Guess where snow removal falls on my list of hated activities.
Pamela did some shoveling yesterday, and David and I did a bunch of snow-blowing and shoveling today. And it's snowed at least three inches since then, plus a lot of blowing and drifting. So it's all to be done again.
I am not going to do more today. But tomorrow, I will probably have to get out the snowblower again. WTF, April.
Even though I dress appropriately, in layers, if I spend much time outside, when I come inside my legs, especially my thighs, develop cherry red and fish-belly white splotches. Sometimes big splotches, sometimes little ones that look like a rash. After a while, they start to itch. Sometimes, this also happens to my face. I find that if I get into a hot bath as quickly as possible, that deals with the problems, and I usually don't get the itches. I have no idea what causes this.
I am so done with winter I could scream. So much snow!
9th April, 2018. 3:30 pm. Fairness, Justice, Harassment, a Rant
Over the course of working anti-harrassment issues, and in the wake of the Me Too movement, I have been struck by how completely and utterly the world is built around the experience of being male, at such a basic level that concepts like fairness, justice, and damage are not entirely applicable to the way women live and move in the world. Moreover, there really isn't a good vocabulary to describe our experience. There is literally no language to discuss the substantive issues, and the connotations and denotations of the language that we have available to us so overwhelm the discourse that often we end up talking about things in entirely male-centric ways, utterly without know it. To be clear, the concepts of justice and fairness and measurable harm are incredibly useful, and I don't propose that we simply abandon them. At the same time, they badly deform the conversation in ways that are literally impossible to describe. You know the classic example of the women's march? It starts as a bunch of women wanting to get together and show solidarity for each other, and to insist that they are important, too. Men think that this is a fine idea, and want to join and help. Some women object, for a large variety of reasons, some of them really well founded, some less so. And all of a sudden, the conversation is entirely about the guys, whether or not they can march, whether or not they can be allies, etc. etc. etc. It's an almost inescapable dynamic. It's one of the reasons why women's-only spaces keep on cropping up. Because any time, any time, you let guys in, the conversation revolves around them, regardless of the wishes of any of the participants. Even in venues where everyone is acting in good faith, this dynamic occurs. Add in even just one person of bad faith, and it rapidly becomes toxic as fuck.
Let me give you an example of how fundamental concepts like fairness don't work for women. Think about "equal pay for equal work". What does that even mean? It sounds straightforward and obvious. Every guy can get his head around this. It makes sense. Do the work, get the dough. How is this complicated? Two words: mommy track. Barring some pretty stunning bio-tech, girls are gonna be the ones to make the babies. This is a societal good; indeed, it is a societal necessity. Which means that women need to take several months off to gestate, give birth, and recover. Additionally, somebody needs to take another couple of years providing intensive care for the baby human. The child-minding job is not biologically determined, but what with one thing and another, it's usually a girl. So, we have incredibly smart, talented women who, if they want to have kids, get sidelined from their careers. Even three months off is a significant hit in a fast-paced professional environment, never mind two to five years. "Equal pay for equal work" doesn't encompass this, not even close. It doesn't help that we do not define procreation as "work." We don't even admit that it's necessary, and it is treated as an individual choice that one should have to pay for, like a skiing holiday. There's a loss of prestige, a loss of income, and a loss of opportunity. And there isn't an easy fix for this. Do we pay women and provide advancement for them as if they were working while they are home raising babies? I don't see that as feasible, do you? Do we societally mandate paying women good wages for procreation and child-minding? If we do, that still moves women out of the advancement track in their field. I mean, sure, destroy capitalism, that'll work. (It might not, depends on what replaces it.) But short of something utterly radical and very nearly unthinkable, there isn't a good answer for the mommy track. Having babies is not really an economic activity, it's a biological and social imperative with huge emotional and physical burdens. (Ok, yes, everything is economic in a sense. We talk about the economy of honey bees, so in that sense, yes, but can you see the edges of the way that the use of the term economic warps the discussion?) In the current context, with the current language, there isn't a "fair" alternative. And most of the ways that we try to talk about it end up turning procreation into either an economic activity like any other job, or a hobby. It is very much neither of these.
This is not a tangent. It will sound like it. In my working life, I have not noticed a gender bias in lazy grifting. Some people just don't want to do the work, and will finagle to avoid doing as much work as possible. Assholes gonna asshole, I guess. The opposite, however, is gender-biased. There's the co-worker who's generally aware, not only of her own work, but of the work that is happening around her. What other people's work styles are, what their priorities are and how their work load varies. That person, almost always a woman, adjusts her own workflow to make sure that stuff is easier for everybody. At my job, I tend to know if it is a good time for me to take a break, how long it takes my co-worker to make beds, where not only my own patients are, but my co-worker's patients. I know where all the various supplies are, I know if we're low (even if I didn't use said supply recently), and so on. I make minor adjustments to my work flow, choosing which tasks to do when, based on what makes everybody's life a little easier. It is something men almost never, ever do. When my work environment changed such that I was the only girl on-shift, I started coming in a little earlier, so that I could get there before my co-workers. In part, it was to make sure that I didn't always get the worst patients and the worst wire sets. But it was also so that I could set things up so that the rest of the night would go more smoothly. Check on on the sleeping rooms, check in on the supply room, read the charts and make sure that the patients were well -paired so that no one has a really horrible night. Many of the women I have worked with throughout my life, did similar things. It's not that we're doing more work,per se. It's that we're adjusting the work that we do do, so that everyone's environment is smoother, easier, more productive.
Here's the interesting thing: most of this work is invisible to the guys. I've experimented with not doing it. What happens is that no one else does, either, and there's just a lot more grit in the gears. Things are harder, schedules get jammed up, everything takes longer, important details fall between the cracks, things don't get ordered. It's stressful. And it's not, as far as I can tell, that guys are just waiting around for me to do it because I'm the girl. As far as I can tell, they are simply, completely unaware of how the way they move through their workday creates problems or solutions for people around them. Guys are often crap at accepting help, even when they need it, and they are terrible at offering help, even when asked for it. And this goes beyond selfishness and arrogance, I think. There's just a huge amount of how people rub along together that they don't think about, and quite honestly don't see. If I do all the little things that make life easier one night, and don't do them the next, the guy will notice that the second night is more difficult, but does not appear to have a single solitary clue as to why. It's a lot like being invisible, and having people bump into you, step on your toes, push you into walls, all without knowing it because they can't see you.
A friend identified this as "emotional labor" and he's not wrong. But the phrase "emotional labor" is, fundamentally a male-centered and capitalist-based view of the problem. It points at the problem, but creates a misapprehension of what the problem actually is. This isn't work that can be identified and remunerated. I've been doing serious, emotional labor, both at work and in my social relationships, all my adult life. I've gotten better at it as I've gotten older. But the ROI is pretty crap. Very rarely, someone will ask why I do the work. The question of why is actually really important, but it's generally asked in the rhetorical, as if it were one of the great mysteries of the world. As if it were as unknowable as the mind of God. And we're back to the impoverished language with which we are stuck. I have done this, continue to do this, because I love the men in my life, and generally like the guys I work with. Love, like, those word that means everything and nothing and conveys exactly nothing, here. But there aren't better words, either. Relationships are central to our experiences as humans, love central to our stonger bonds. But I don't have nuanced, precise language to discuss it. I have general-purpose, close to meaningless words such as “love” and “like” and “care for”. I have a damn good vocabulary, but the words aren't there, or don't do what I need them to do. But I tell you true, if I and other women didn't do this kind of work, the world would be a much worse place for all of us -- and the guys would have no clue why. There's a thing about living in communities that is fundamental to the human experience, which is also invisible to large swaths of the population. The question of why we do this is central to the problem, but there's literally no good language to discuss it that I know of.
A lot of people like to mock what is seen as leftist pieties and jargon. Leftists, feminists, progressives, they are people, which means they are subject to all the hypocrisies and arrogance and ignorance that all humans are. But words like "intersectional" are not nonsense words designed to obfuscate, although like all language they can be used that way. Instead, they are an attempt to grapple with concepts for which there are no useful words, concepts which are utterly deformed by the way our common language is designed to describe the male experience, but not the female experience, the dominant social position, but not the marginalized social positions. All of this is brought into sharp focus, for me, in conversations about anti-harassment. When women talk about it, they talk about how they feel, how it hurts, the way it limits them. When they talk about solutions, they talk in complex, nuanced ways about the men they know, using specific examples, and striving for a clear taxonomy. (No, we don't have one, yet.) Men talk about fairness and rules and clear guidelines and specific punishments. The problems are contextual, systemic, emotional, and the solutions are neither clear not clean. The solutions involve relationships, interactions, iterative decision-making. They are community-specific. The very idea of fairness, when introduced into this realm, rapidly deforms the whole conversation very much like the conversations about whether men can march in the Take Back the Night marches. The conversation shifts into a paradigm that really doesn't work. And yet, women strive, patiently, to construct narratives and rules and guidelines that meet some abstract idea of clarity and fairness, in a world that is fundamentally built on inequity and unfairness. The ground on which we meet, men and women, is not level. So when guys, from a great height, try to insist that we provide for them a level playing field, it is completely reasonable to rage or to mock. What you want is not possible. You do not meet us as equals. Justice, fairness, rules, all these things assume a level of equality, or the possibility of equality, that simply does not exist at any point in a woman's life. And so when faced with demands for these things, of course we kick against it. Just as many people don't see the constant micro-adjustments that people make to create less friction, they don't see the fundamental inequity of demanding fairness. I think that pretty much everyone wishes we could use those metrics, it would be so much easier. But it doesn't work.
Another really important thing to understand, here, is that when people mock the language being used by feminists, LGBTQ, and other marginalized groups, they are not mocking the vocabulary, they are mocking the experiences of people trying to talk about their lives. There really, really aren't words to talk about how we move in the world, and so we are building that vocabulary. And, yes, we make mistakes, and yes, sometimes those words are deployed in ways that aren't helpful. But when someone mocks those words, what they are saying is that the only experiences that matter are theirs, that they get to define what is real and important and valuable, and that by extension, my life and my experiences are not real, not important, that I am not valuable. It really doesn't matter that they only intended to mock my language. What they do is mock me. And it hurts so much. And it hurts again that they can't see that they are hurting me. There are ways in which the invisibility of my pain, of the pain of so many women, is uniquely horrible. Imagine standing on a busy street corner, streaming with blood, and having every passer-by look away. Or worse, jostle against you, as if you weren't there. There are a lot of pieces of identity and experience that I do not understand, a lot of the language that I don't get, either. But people need to stop mocking and start listening, because we are all here SHOUTING.
In the end, I am so tired. I am so tired of everything I do and say on the topic of harassment, being recast into a framework that doesn't actually reflect my lived experience. Here are some things about harassment that people need to understand. The actual harassment is frequently weird and gross and embarrassing. That means that talking about it is weird and gross and embarrassing. Which means it's just plain hard to talk about. It's even more difficult and embarrassing to provide specificity. Also, that kind of information is frequently weaponized. There's a huge loss of privacy when a target admits that they were hurt by being called a particular name, or when they admit that a particular physical action was performed upon them. It's like admitting in public to having done something very embarrassing, even though it was done to us, and not by us. It's still bloody embarrassing. And whatever the issue, there's always someone there to insist that it didn't happen, or if it did happen, it wasn't that bad, or if it was that bad, she deserved it anyway. Transparency will (not may, will) cause additional aggression against the target. There are a lot of reasons why women don't come forward when they are abused, but one of the big ones is that when they do so, they know that this will be the proximate cause of additional, targeted abuse.
When we think about fairness and justice, we tend to think in a framework which assumes that harm is easy to understand and assess. Harassment doesn't work that way. The harm is not clear-cut. It's the harm of terrorism, not of robbery. The effect isn't to steal a specific thing, it is to create fear and circumscribe people's choices. And it exists in a matrix where women's experiences are denied, devalued, or mocked. Which means that those actions have a force-multiplier which will be variable depending on the target's previous experience. In so many ways, the specific action cannot be assessed in isolation. At which point most men-people will start to talk about how this isn't fair, and that you can't write rules that way. And yep, yep, yep, it ain't fair, and the rules don't work, and hi, didn't I say that at the beginning? Am I not saying that now? Harassment is the tip of the iceberg of inequity that women live with all the time, and attempts to deal with it necessarily touch on a lot of systemic issues in ways that are not clear, clean, and discrete. It's not a clear, clean, discrete problem. It is the messy problem of living with people, having relationships, and having to continue to have relationships with people who mistreat you.
I do not want to burn the world to the ground. I do not want to harm the men in my life. (Well, not most of them. There are a couple notable exceptions. Moving right along.) I wouldn't mind smashing the patriarchy and destroying capitalism, but I don't expect that work to be done in my lifetime. But it doesn't seem impossible make progress. To get men to see women more clearly, to get people to see the other people in their lives in context, rather than trying to force those people into worlds and words where they don't exist. To develop a better vocabulary to discuss this. I want the men who love me to see where I stand in the world, to see the ways in which, when we move in the same space, I tend to yield and they tend to prevail. I hope for the revolution, but in the mean time, I'd just like some fucking burden-sharing. For all my life, every time a social interaction has gone wrong, it is the woman who is held responsible for the failure. I am asking that men step up, and see that for what it is: bullshit.
One last thing: some of this is applicable to other marginalized identities. Some of it is not. As a cis (mostly) het white girl, I am hesitant to speak for other people carrying their own burdens. I want to call out this, because it might seem that I'm ignoring those issues. I'm not, I just don't think I understand them well enough to write about them coherently. But I am listening. You should start listening.
5th March, 2018. 4:43 am. Black Panther, Second Viewing
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I noticed a couple of things this second time. Cut for minor spoilers: ( Collapse )
I am not seeing much discussion of the importance of the father-son relationship in the reviews I've read. I am aware that this is a somewhat fraught topic in the African-American community, most especially because mainstream press tends to frame the issue of missing fathers as a result of a failure of the community, rather than the result of abusive policing and horrific policy decisions around poverty. Am I not seeing these discussions because I'm not reading the right reviews, or is the conversation not happening because it is so uncomfortable and fraught?