Racialized Sexism with Rape Survivors

I’ve been reading lots about rape and post-rape trauma. One of the latest books was What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape by Somalia Abdulali (2018). Her experience and story sheds light on the racialized sexist lens that is used to cover rape stories.

Abdulali was raped more than thirty years ago and her op-ed from then went viral due to the #metoo #timesup tag and rape cases in India. Her book is part autobiography, survival tool kit, and historiography of rape and trauma, but the highlight is the way that she examines rape culture and the intersection of race and sexism. What I enjoyed most was her guidelines for saving a rape survivor’s life on pages 75-76. This is a must-read book.

Abdulali, Sohaila. 2018. What We TalkAbout When We Talk About Rape. NY: New Press.

Things I Learned (TIL) Part One

I tend to not have New Year’s Resolutions, since I live my life by the academic calendar and have thought of the new year starting in September. But, 2019 is about change and I don’t have any big resolutions beyond continuing to be more mindful of my health. This post will speak to things I learned in my five years as an Academic Administrator and this is part one of likely a few posts.

At the university where I have worked, Academic Administrators (AA) are faculty and protected under the collective agreement; however, I learned that many of faculty colleagues did not know this and assumed that an AA was one of them. You know, the big, bad administration. I don’t like the us vs them discussion, but I realize why this tension exists. There are tensions on university campuses and in some departments the tensions are thick in the air. That said, for brevity I will number the TIL.

1. Human Resources (HR) staff are indispensable. I found the consultants, workshops, and array of resources critical. If you are managing people, you need to confer with the HR professionals for assistance. Faculty normally do not get trained on people management and this needs correction. Managing teams is hard work and you need to be thoughtful and strategic.

2. Collaboration is key. If you are serving a department, parts of campus or the entire campus in your AA role, you are going to collaborate with lots of people and you will need to get out of your former silo and be prepared for this new environment. Embrace it!

3. Listening. In my faculty role, I was used to being the guide on the side or sage on the stage. As an AA my role was completely different. I was part of the team and had to learn to hone my listening skills. During my tenure as an AA, I got a tattoo on my arm that reads: Listen Learn Lead. It was my mantra as a middle management leader on campus.

4. Leadership. I tried to be the kind of leader that I wanted to work for and that took work. Again, listening is key as well as the humility to learn. For instance, I learned that it is critical to support your staff. I have had to make tough decisions around staff that included firing, hiring, and writing staff up for their performance or lack thereof. I had to participate in an investigation of a staff member’s terrible mistakes and also guide and support other staff upon their return to work. Empathy is an important part of leadership as well as good communication.

5. Managing up. I have worked for two provosts and a few vice presidents and learned that there is a revolving door with upper administration. Managing up is hard work. There are strong leaders, weak leaders, and terrible leaders and I have had the pleasure in departments and as an AA working for all of the types. The worst ones are the poor communicators, who lack people skills. Trust me–they exist and managing up is exhausting with those type of leaders. Here is where HR is again helpful.

6. Save your emails and/or get things in writing. Unfortunately, this is a reality of the job. You do need to protect yourself and at times will need the proof regarding a statement. It could be great news or a colleague’s angry email. If you don’t have emails, then write things down after an interesting meeting.

7. If you’re unionized–seek counsel from your union. I learned the hard way that I should have had my first contract reviewed by our nascent union. But, now I know my union representative and President quite well and they have helped me lots during the last two years. I learned that at times new leaders will not refer to the collective agreement and make mistakes. It’s key to protect yourself and not feel like you’re a problem when you point out that they are in contradiction to the collective agreement. You are protecting your rights as an employee!

8. I also learned that the upper leadership is homogenous. As a feminist, woman of color, in middle management and upper management there are few people who look like me or come from a working class background. This is a problem. We can do better in terms of equity, diversity and representation. I am not saying that the upper management needs more Latinas; however we need more than words on paper or holding events. And, sure, we could use more wise Latinas! Mentoring is important, but that is for another post.

I am no longer an AA, as this particular category was disestablished and all of us have been transferred or re-classified as Faculty Exempt, Management Exempt or Regular Faculty. I will miss my former department–of which I was the founding director–however, going back to teaching full-time is no hardship! There is more to come and my story continues.

I finished Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming, last week and then my best friend sent me this shirt. It fits. Go high!

Testing Out Different Apps

For more than a year, I have tested a several meditation or relaxation apps and websites. I have found that I am smitten with a few that are working for me. My favorite are: Headspace, Meditation Oasis, and white noise. The white noise I get from either Relax Melodies or my Nursal White Noise Machine that I bought via Amazon.ca.

I have had problems sleeping for more than a year and part of the issue was my anemia. Repeatedly I was advised to do yoga, meditate, and change my sleep routine so that I could ease into sleep. Some of the advice worked. I have tried numerous apps and websites, but Headspace and Meditation Oasis are my favorites.

I find that waking up, meditating and doing yoga works well for me. Then, I end the day doing some relaxation poses and more meditation. I prefer the Nursal machine’s ocean mode. With Relax Melodies, I have tried a few of the settings, but find that the underwater or ocean sounds are the most soothing for me. I do not have the paid version of Relax Melodies, but do have the premium Headspace account.

Which apps, sites or YouTube channels do you like for your meditation or relaxation routine? Please share!

Taking Care of Yourself

I have had issues with anemia during the last decade for an array of reasons and each time it’s come up and surprised me. I was never anemic during my pregnancies, but somehow anemia is my kryptonite. And, the two times I’ve been anemic I had no idea until I was exhausted and had a spate of illnesses.

I was referring to my illnesses as an Election Flu, since I had been ill almost every other month for more than a year. Somehow I was caught up in life and work and didn’t think that there was a pattern of illness and exhaustion. But, my family and friends kept reminding me that I was getting sick lots. I finally asked for some blood work and realized that my illness and exhaustion was from anemia. I am eating so many green leafy veggies that I think I am seeing green. Oh, and I’m eating more meat.

But, that is not the point. The point is that it’s important to take care of your health. Self-care is not a luxury. And, in the midst of the blood work and doctors’ appointments I had a few surprises. So, here I am taking better care of myself and finally sleeping better and feeling somewhat better. What I have been thinking about is that I am not going to take my health for granted. I am enjoying this tea from Silk Road and reading with my cuppa.

Yoga

I’m back to doing some yoga and does it feel great! I forgot how much I need yoga and stretching in my life. I also have taken to doing some active meditation. The thing that I like about some of the classes is that I’m seeing fewer flexy sexies and more regular practitioners.

As far as meditation, I have tried a few apps and will write about them at another time. I need to see which ones turn out to be the best fit for me. Sharing a photo of my cup of coffee.

Thinking of #MeToo

You’d be hard pressed to not know what the #MeToo movement or hashtag is. The words really resonate with the fact that so many people are survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The numbers are higher for women as survivors of harassment or assault. In Canada, almost 500,000 will be sexually assaulted each year. This number might sound high or low to some. I am going to offer that the number is likely too low. Statistics in the US are also overwhelming. From RAINN we see that in the US every 98 seconds a woman is sexually assaulted. These stats essentially mean that we all know several people who are survivors.

We are at a tipping point and people are listening to women, girls, and others about different untenable situations that they have faced. It used to be that we didn’t talk about our me too situations. They are ugly and we likely want to move on and not remember the ugliness from work, home, a bar or just about every darn place that we live. My first #MeToo was in junior high, but the me too moments or situations that stung the worse were with partners or in the workplace. There are too many stories to tell.

I took this photo in an Old Navy. It is a shirt in celebration of International Women’s Day, March 8th.

Quit Lit

I have mixed feelings with academic quit lit. To explain, quit lit is the post or letter about leaving academe. The job market stinks and one could spend their entire academic career trying to piece together courses and live at or close to the poverty level. The quit lit genre feels close to home and that is likely one reason why I am uncomfortable. I spent the better part of my career as a lecturer or sessional. Part of it allowed me to get teaching experience and start my family.

The other part of this is the luxury of having a gainfully employed partner and my absolute unwillingness with moving off the West Coast. I insisted that staying near my family of origin was necessary. But, quit lit also makes me sad, as I see most of the posts or letters penned (er, typed) by women academics. I am also reminded of my research about women in political science and all the 1970-1990 early quit lit letters to the Women’s Caucus in Political Science. Yes, the archives included personal stories about leaving political science.

I also have guilt. I ended up moving up the coast and immigrating to Canada to start over. I co-owned a business, applied for government work and had a few interviews, and on a whim, I applied to teach a class at a local university. I got on the part-time track again, but this time after a few years I moved to the tenure-track. I feel like an academic unicorn. The quit lit stories hit me in a sore spot and my sense of empathy is raw. Last hired, first fired. It’s a rough place to live. I remember. I’m including a photo of San Diego State, where I earned my BA in Women’s Studies, and MA in Liberal Arts and Sciences. I’m in town for a family issue. And, it was at State where I decided that I wanted to be a college professor.