Peer to Peer Mentoring: Leaning In

Now, I haven’t read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In yet, but I’m going to weigh in based on the reviews offline, online, her 60 Minutes interview, as well as based on joining Lean In’s site last week. The conversations about the book and the phenomena of Lean In as a movement reminds me of Graduate Women Scholars of Southern California. This was a peer-mentoring women’s group facilitated by one of the Women’s Studies faculty members at San Diego State University. Dr. Susan Cayleff saw that her office hours were busy with women graduate students asking the same questions. In 1991 she decided to try hosting once per month meetings at her house related around a particular topic.

These monthly meetings were workshop-like and typically led by one of the members and the Cayleff. The topics covered varied from how to put together your CV, prepping for a conference presentation, working on your thesis/dissertation, dealing with your committee, and more. These meetings provided a safe place of support for women students. We were Leaning In. We were learning from one another and sharing strategies. It was a bullshit free zone for the most part and we were allowed to admit that we were second guessing our choices or having a hard time finishing projects. The women involved were primarily from the Art (Humanities) and Social Sciences from the local universities in San Diego; however, there were several from Los Angeles and even one or two who were from the Bay Area, but living in San Diego.

Thanks to this peer-mentoring group I was better prepared for grad school. Sure, I occasionally felt like I was faking it or didn’t belong, but overall the mentoring sessions reminded me that I had to make academe my own (or attempt to do so). I think that Lean In is on to something and that peer to peer mentoring is important. If Sandberg’s book and the site get more women to connect–great! I have benefited from strong mentors throughout my academic career and to this day have some great peer mentors and coaches. I have blogged before about how mentoring is my mandate. It is. Part of my mentoring is getting my students or peers to Lean In.

I need to read Sandberg’s book. And, yes, I know that she’s Harvard educated and part of the elite. I know that she’s wealthy–Google, then moved to Facebook as their Chief Operating Officer. But, from perusing different bios and videos, I can see that there is lots to gain from Lean In. And, I also know that we can be are worst enemies in our work lives, as well as our personal lives. Self-doubt, not negotiating, and making poor decisions hurts us all, but women more so at work. I am not an acolyte with rose-colored glasses. I think my main point is that I know how to Lean In and the Breathe Now is yet another example—a conference that I co-planned. Many of us have been networking, strategizing, and organizing. We know this work well. But, I’ll speak more to Sandberg’s book and movement after I read the book and pore through more of the blog.


Before You Email Your Professor: Redux 2013

This was my most popular post in 2012 with more than 600 views. Of all my posts, I didn’t expect that this was the one, but I don’t imagine that the metrics at Word Press are wrong! I have taken the liberty of revising some of this.

I haven’t taken a Netiquette 101 course recently, so I think it’s time to give some tips about sending emails to your instructors. Of course, I assume that my colleagues send concise, well-written, and respectful emails to students. Frankly, that is a given. (Fingers crossed)

1. Always assume that you should be more formal. Each department will vary; however, going with formal is easier than the reverse and then hearing: I expect to be referred to as…

2. Address the person in the email with a hello or even a “dear.” Avoid, “hey. And, use your full name, as your instructor might have many students who share your first name.


Dear Instructor: I am emailing to find out information about your Fall class. Do you suggest any prerequisites for the class? I’d also like to talk with you about a paper topic that I have. Do you have any time to meet this Summer?

Thank you,

Student X


Hey, I’m going to enroll in you class. Should I be worried about your feminist bias?


3. Never send an email that is incoherent. This is email and not a text to your best-friend. Type out all words, use punctuation, and proper spelling. What I mean is that even if you’re using your smart phone, be smart and use real words and avoid abbreviations. You could even wait to compose the email on your tablet or laptop!

4. Never send an email when you are mad. This goes for all emails. Send yourself the email and then wait a few hours or overnight, and then send the email that you won’t later regret. When you send an angry email, it is very hard to do un-do. I know that I won’t respond and I’ll call a  meeting with you to chat about your problematic email.

5. Be honest. Understand that your instructor might say that this conversation needs to take place face to face. Some conversations really need that human interaction. This really goes for talking about an assignment, reviewing a draft, talking about grad school, and other important conversations.

6. Do not be offended if the instructor corrects your use of their first name or some policy. Most of us will be kind and say–we have a 24 hour policy with emails after work is handed back and it’s in the syllabus or I expect students to call me Prof. Schmitdkins. (Apologies to my colleague who I used for part of this last name!)

7. Read the syllabus before sending the email. Perhaps the syll answers your question or notes that you should take the time to write a coherent email noting who you are and why you are emailing. And, some of my friends won’t even respond to an email if the question is answered in the syllabus. Avoid saying something like, “I don’t have time to read the syllabus, but was wondering…” Read the syllabus and if your question is not answered, then send the email.

Overall, treat email with the same integrity that you would treat an office hour visit. And, yes, I do get lots of emails that start off with “hey” and have been asked about my feminist bias…

The above advice is good for all of us–in and outside of academia.


Tough Mudder: Give a Sister a Hand Up

I am a champion for women and girls. This does not mean that I do not support men and boys; however, I have dedicated my life’s work to supporting women in higher education, and in other aspects of my life. I mentor and coach women and men equally, but that is not the point of this post. I feel that another part of my efforts is supporting women athletes. I live with one competitive swimmer and her little sister is following the same path. I also participated in team sports throughout high school, so I feel a special kinship to and for women athletes.

It gives me great pleasure to blog about one of my UVIC students who is a Tough Mudder. She’s a bad ass. She’s an athlete, personal trainer, and scholar. And, I’d like to introduce you to her: Lindsay Van Gyn. Lindsay is a student in the Social Science Faculty at UVIC in the Anthropology Department, who is focusing her degree on First Nations of British Columbia. Lindsay is taking one of my courses this term and approached me about her upcoming competition.

Previously Lindsay has volunteered for Adbusters Magazine. And, she comes from a family of women athletes. Her sister is a professional snowboarder! Why am I sharing this? Well, Lindsay qualified for the Tough Mudder competition in New Jersey and she’s fundraising for iBelieve Foundation—dedicated to finding a cure for Hunter Syndrome. Here is her Indiegogo site. Did I mention that Lindsay was the first woman to cross the finish line at the Seattle Tough Mudder. She must sit in my first year class and think that the environment is nice, warm and friendly—compared to the grueling Tough Mudder competition. It’s not easy to qualify for the World Competition—only some 5% of Tough Mudder competitors are invited. What can Lindsay expect at the Worlds:  8 miles that includes more than 40 obstacles and all at a balmy freezing or below freezing temperature! Lindsay will compete in this race for 24 hours completing the course as many times as she can. Yes, I did say that the she will run complete the race multiple times. This Tough Mudder race makes the Camp Pendleton Mud Run seem like a cake walk (but please don’t tell the Marines this), and I can tell you that the Mud Run is a hard race. So, I’ll support Lindsay in spirit and more. Don’t you want to open your hearts and wallets?

I am asking readers to share this information and think about donating to one Tough Mudder—Lindsay, who is raising money for a great cause. Please share this post! And, as  usual, thank you for reading and commenting on my little slice of the Interwebs!

Are you serious? When Social Media Loudly Triggers

The interesting thing about social media is not just the immediate means of communicating with people locally and internationally, but you also learn more abou behavior. There are moments when things are rather serious in terms of discussion about education, politics, violence, and other hot button sorts of issues. There are also those moments, when things can get light-hearted and interesting. It isn’t all doom and gloom, and erudition. But there are times when you have to shake your head and wonder about the bravery, and cowardice demonstrated on social media platforms.

All of the above banter, though, doesn’t begin to explain my sheer frustration and anger over the continual dismissal of rape and rape victims on Reddit by some Reddit users. Here, I might as well place big red target on my chest. But, Googling Reddit and rape is illuminating, as there is a pattern of conversations about rape that second-guess survivors of both sexes. The pages of comments responding to posts is mind-numbing. I’m going to just say it–most of these posts drip with misogyny, and this saddens me. Perhaps I am painfully naive to expect more from people, but this is a serious issue.

The above image is from a screen shot of a Google search Reddit and Rape from July 30, 2012. Notice that there are hits from April related to rape discussions on Reddit.

The thing that really pisses me off about the out of control comments is that some of those commenting seem to not care that the survivors are speaking their truth. And, it’s cowardly to attack the survivors, and second guess the veracity of their statements. Rape statistics are notoriously under-reported. Whatever the exact statistics are for the country, state or province that you reside in–the number is actually higher. Why? There is a still a stigma with rape and violence. And, we know that in many instances the assailant is an acquaintance, which can complicate reporting.

So, Reddit I usually don’t weigh in on my problems with some of the posts, but today I’m calling out all the malcontents and cowards who used their strength behind their monitors, tablets, smart phones to attack survivors. Daniel Tosh (will not link to him) learned that joking about rape caused a reaction–but the fact that he joked about the gang rape of a heckler also speaks volumes. Please don’t shirk that we don’t live in rape culture. We do. We see it rear its ugly head more online, though. Remember this.

Jezebel has also weighed in again and again about misogyny on Reddit. Here is a screen shot from one post last week. As you might have noticed, I have not connected to the exact Reddit or Jezebel articles. I feel like I should, but then I don’t want to send people to the site for more hits. You are free to Google the articles!

I really hope that the next time there is a discussion about violence on Reddit or other social media platforms people will think before they second-guess the survivor and say even worse. The reality is that all of us knows a survivor of violence–she or he might not have shared it with you, yet.

11 Months Later: Revisiting the Life List

I decided to revisit this great exercise from one of the BlogHer 2011 pre-sessions.What do I think differently after this last year. I was reappointed unanimously by my colleagues, applied for an Associate Deanship and was shortlisted, didn’t get the job, had surgery, and then had a pretty rough term. The second term caused me to re-evaluate my priorities. Numbers 16-19 are new and I used a / to add to an original thought.

Life List exercise at the afternoon session for “My Blog as a Life Changer” was hard to do. Here is my first stab and again, unedited.  Try out the exercise. It’s fun.

  1. Go to Hawaii with Jason and both girls / See my family more. More quality time with them at home.
  2. See my family of origin more than one time per year. / Yes, see them more.
  3. Publish my books / I’m working on this and progress has been made.
  4. Get tenure / I was re-appointed, so step one is confirmed.
  5. Continue to Mentor / Ongoing
  6. Continue to Teach / Ongoing
  7. Learn French / I’ve heard more and have attempted to speak some. Does that count?
  8. Start a Women and Politics Center on campus / Oh, long term goal.
  9. Take kids to Grand Canyon and DC / Long term
  10. Work on either a Congressional , Senatorial or Presidential campaign / Long term
  11. Learn how to golf / Started learning in May!
  12. Spend time with friends in the US and elsewhere / Did some in March–ongoing want.
  13. Take kids to Europe / Long term goal
  14. Go to Harry Potter Theme Park / Long term goal
  15. Use sabbatical to attend conferences / To write book and to visit teen in university
  16. New to the list–take better care to relax. I am powering off my phone more and trying to not work for an hour or more every night. Balance
  17. Remember to schedule time for me and Jason
  18. Exercise as part of my daily routine
  19. Return to the life list once a year!

Revisiting Being a Feminist

This was the first post in a series where I ruminated on what it means to me to be a feminist. And, for re-reading the post not much has changed in the past two years or so. First things first, I have no problem self-identifying as a feminist. Just as some of my colleagues live by their Marxist or Socialist tendencies, I live by my feminist beliefs. I advocate feminism and I am an advocate of feminism, but I do not shirk the label.

I do get frustrated though when assumptions are made about feminisms–as if there is this  monster of sorts. There is so much variety among feminist theories and feminists themselves. I am a strong believer of the fact that there are different types of feminisms. There is not a monolithic feminism or feminist club that I have to earn a card to be a member of and act and speak a certain way in order to keep my membership. Feminism is not Costco. Feminisms provides a philosophy of life, love, education, politics and so much more. My feminist politics includes an understanding of the importance of intersectionaliy. My feminism includes an understanding that politics and life are influenced by race, class, education, sexuality and many other indicators.

To be honest, I find it quite amusing when a student or other person outside of academe accuses me of having feminist politics. The student might as well accuse me of breathing and thinking. We are all guided by a philosophy of sorts–mine just happens to be feminism. And, some many decades later this term seems to scare, enrage or confuse people. I recall being in grad school and a professor asking me if I was a Chicana or Feminist first. I felt the question was a ridiculous question. Shall you take my right arm off or my left? My identification of my ethnic background is inextricably connected to my feminism.

Feminism informs the way I read pop culture, articles, people’s actions and I will not apologize for thinking. If my feminism intimidates you–you need to think about why is this the case? Do you understand feminism? Do you want to? Years ago I recall telling a friend that I was going to be a cultural critic when I grew up. I don’t think either of us understood this, but when she later told me that her mother thought that was a terrible idea, I knew I was on to something. I tell my students that my vocation is thinking, reading, writing, and more thinking. This thinking is informed by feminism.

The typology of feminism that best explains my own would be Women of Color feminisms circa This Bridge Called My Back  added with Third Wave feminisms. I was lucky enough to earn a BA in Women’s Studies (Go Aztecs! ) at SDSU, so most of my mentors were of the Second Wave persuasion. I feel well versed in different types of feminisms.

How does this feminism inform my daily life? Well, that is for a different post or two. One about my teaching, and another about relationships (parenting and love). Femnisms informs my life.

The above screen shot is from the Feminist Ryan Gosling Tumblr. What a great gift and I add here to make make you smile.

Snow White: #SWATH

Snow White and the Hunstman (Spoilers)

The new re-telling of the Snow White fairy tale moves away from the typical story: Girl needs saving and then gets married. In this version, Snow White played by Kristen Stewart has agency and can fight. She defends herself repeatedly. Due to her innocence and goodness, she has a connection to nature and animals and this helps her throughout the movie. To be blunt, Snow White kicks ass repeatedly. The best part of the story is that the movie does not end with her marrying. Well, the second best part is that the kiss that wakes her is not from another noble or a prince, instead the kiss that brings her back is from the brawny and handsome huntsman played by Chris Hemsworth.

Is this a feminist re-telling? Why, yes. The Evil Queen, Charlize Theron, is conniving and  obsessed with beauty and staying young. Her extreme lengths includes sucking the life out of women—especially young, attractive women. One group of women have gone so far to mar their faces and their daughters’ faces, so that they are no longer pretty. This protects them from the Queen. Thus, beauty is really ugly here. We see that the Queen’s obsession has made her evil incarnate. This should not be read that feminists do not appreciate beauty, but rather that the shallow want is not enough and that beauty alone does not make someone strong, virtuous or worthy of leading people. If anything, this re-imagined Snow White demonstrates that beauty is ugly and that strengths is found in other ways.

I want to see this movie again, so that I can see Kristen Stewart lead a call to arms and then get dressed in her fighting gear. She the proceeds to fight like a warrior and looks down at the Queen and says, “You can’t have my heart.” The movie ends on a strong note with Snow White proudly at the throne—alone. The camera does pan to the Huntsman who is smitten, but no priest is nearby!

Pop Pop Pop Culture

My consumption of pop culture is often informed by a few things varying from what I’m interested in, teaching, or what my family wants to see or do. This last weekend we saw some Americana, ubermasculine spectacle. I’ll give a hint, “You sunk my battleship.” Unlike many people we saw “Battleship” and enjoyed it for what it was worth, but I am ever mindful of some interesting points.

The first thing that we discussed was how the testosterone was dripping from the movie. No, it was exploding from the screen from the different characters’ bravado and the use of nothing possibly more hierarchical and masculine–the military. The movie included lots of male posturing and fighting–yawn. I won’t outline the exact plot since that is somewhat irrelevant as a Peter Berg extravaganza that is based on a Hasbro toy. The thing that made my teen daughter’s face react the most was this notion that one man has to ask another man for his permission to marry his daughter. I know that this tradition is one of those time-honored for many, but is not for me or my family.

The other thing that is so obvious with the “world is going to end due to an extraterrestrial invasion” is that the American military is there to save the day. Even though in this movie the RIMPAC event was taking place and several countries were represented it ended up being the American Navy and some survivors from the Japanese Navy to save the day. The good news was that Rihanna starred in the movie and was in several scenes. Yay for the token, strong black woman. In all serious, she did have a pivotal role working weapons, carrying a gun, and having her clothes on in the movie! I can’t say the same thing about Brooklyn Decker and her role as eye candy in the movie. Decker had on lots of form-fitting outfits, short shorts, and pretty dresses.

Spoiler alert. The movie also offered its own homage to the men who have served via a scene celebrating them and later incorporating some of these retired servicemen in the use of the museum the USS Missouri. Yes, there is a scene in which these older men parade toward the lead character and ask what he needs. He needs them and they are willing to get the decommissioned battleship out to sea to kick some alien ass. I know…cue the national anthem. But, it was pretty darn sentimental and a smart scene in some respects. The old technology still needs the old guys to run it, though. Here, a different demographic gets a nod in the movie. Likewise, in all fairness to Decker she plays a Physical Therapist, so there is a long scene at a rehab with lots of male veterans getting physical therapy. The camera pans over these men who are missing a variety of different limbs. And, one character ends up having a pivotal role in the movie.

Overall, you need to just suspend your beliefs as you watch this over the top movie. Was it terrible? No, but then again I did use some of my Scene points to get one free ticket. Had I paid for both tickets perhaps I’d feel differently!

Fri Fun Facts: Gay Marriage/Same Sex Marriage

Today’s Fri Fun Facts is dedicated to thinking about the continued fight for human rights in the US. Yes, I’m weighing in on Gay Marriage or Same Sex Marriage. I have to share that this issue is such a no brainer here in Victoria, BC Canada. Same Sex Marriage is legal in Canada since the Civil Marriage Act was passed in 2005. Wait, yes, just 7 years ago. Canada joins nine other countries:

Argentina, Belgium, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Sweden. There are other countries that allow same-sex marriages to be performed and then another group of countries that recognize same-sex marriages, but do not allow them to be performed. Let’s think about what is so problematic to 30 of the states in the US, which have taken special care to ban same-sex marriages.

1. “50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, according to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri.” via This does not say much to the whole “sanctity of marriage” line of argument. Looking for divorce statistic is interesting, as the data varies depending on the source that you examine and the government records them according to the number of divorces within the population: Divorce rate: 3.4 per 1,000 population (44 reporting States and D.C.) via 2009 data.

2. Many supporters of the ban refer to the Bible. The most commonly quoted saying that I’ve heard, “The Bible refers to Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve.” Fair enough, but I we don’t have everything in the Bible literally. And, not everyone subscribes to the teachings in the Bible. Using the Bible as the guide to politics might offer a short-sighted means of thought and practice.

3. We need to think about how the 14th Amendment offers equality under the law. The bans do anything but this and actually discriminate against unmarried partnerships (heterosexual) and against the LGBTQ community. Why are we allowing hate legislation? This is a human rights issue or a civil rights issue at the very least.

4. Bans against Same Sex Marriage are draconian at best. What they really demonstrate is that bigotry is alive and well and seeping into the law. We need to re-think the motivation for these sorts of laws and respond.

I support same sex marriage. And, unfortunately the Congressional Representative who does not represent me is in support of banning same sex marriage. Thankfully President Obama noted on May 9th that he is now in support of same sex marriage. With today’s Fri Fun Facts I am sending supportive energy to my sisters and brothers who demand that their families are protected by the states they live in or visit.

This was one of two emails that I received within hours of Obama’s interview.

Catching my Breath: One Week Post-Breathe Now

It’s been more than a week and I am still processing the magic behind the Breathe Now ( #breatheyyj ) conference that I co-cordinated with Angela Rafuse-Tahir, Janice Mansfield, and Yukari Peerless. We wanted to organize a conference that we wanted to attend in Victoria. Between the four of us we have attended business women conferences, social media conference, academic conferences, BlogHer, Blissdom, and other work-related conferences. We wanted something completely different that spoke to women’s need to balance work and life and remembering to take time out for yourself and breathe.

The conference was a resounding success from head to toe. The energy was pulsating at the various panels and workshops that the 100 delegates attended. I saw lots of smiles, tears, and heads nodding during the presentations. A common theme throughout the weekend was that it’s important to have balance in our lives. Many women spoke to how imbalance led to different types of crises and the need to reflect and reboot life. I was pleasantly surprised to hear repeated speakers talk about how important therapy, exercise, sleep, eating right, and taking time out for oneself was crucial to mental health and overall physical well-being. When the conference ended, I got sentimental and felt a little sad that the weekend was ending, but so many great connections were made.

I’m thankful for all the emails, coffee dates, and tweets that I’ve read since the conference. I learned lots about myself, my friends, and the various speakers. Our choice of keynote speakers was perfect, too. Rona Maynard and Bif Naked both spoke their truths and offered the delegates a chance for important reflection. We all left the conference energized and ready for everything and anything. I look forward to chatting with my friends about Breathe Now 2013!