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.

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.

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.

The Pain of #MeToo: Moving Forward

The #MeToo tag and subsequent anecdotes have gone viral. The tag was first referred to by Tarana Burke, an activist, who recounted her own story. But, in the last week, Actress Alyssa Milano used the tag and it spread like wildfire on social media and beyond. The legacy media responded by covering the story and it would be pretty hard to avoid the stories. We are at a tipping point. In the last two years, more stories came out regarding the current President of the United States—some thanks to the leaked audio and others thanks to the women coming forward. We also witnessed women coming forward regarding their terrible stories with actors and Hollywood moguls.

Sexual harassment and sexual assault are not new. It’s a known fact that rape is often used as a weapon of war during conflict. But, it was just in my lifetime that marital rape was coined. And, it was also in my lifetime that academic job interviews were moved from hotel rooms to lobbies or more public meeting places. I am certainly not condoning this behavior. I am stating fact. The stories that are flooding papers, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and elsewhere are important to listen and read—even if they are painful. These stories are too familiar.

Like most women, I have my own stories. The situations that stem from a tween through recent situations. But, where I have some semblance of power is the way that I support people around me. I am empowered, if not required, to speak up and support others. And, I do. My last post referred to a more common contact that I’m seeing on my social media channels—unwanted contact by men. I’ve taken to blocking once these sorts of contacts, as I don’t want to be hit on via LinkedIn, Instagram or other social media networks.

As a leader, I am familiar with the policies at work, and as a mentor, I am also supportive of my mentees and helping them maneuver any issues. LIkewise, I am glad to see that we are talking about sexual assault and harassment and the conversations are including men. Good. Overall, we are all responsible with making change and moving forward, so that the #MeToo stories become less common. However, I want to see more frank discussion about stopping violence against women and  conversations about unacceptable behavior.

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Listen, Learn, Lead: Tattoo Origin

I was promoted almost five years ago. I was leaving the classroom full-time to run an academic service department that serves all of campus. This meant that I was going to lead a new department that was reorganized from two previous departments. I took the promotion with verve and through myself into my new job. I was thankful that I was still in the classroom, but not as much as before.

One of my peer mentors supported me through this transition and I still remember a meeting with him. We were chatting about the process and this would have been several months into the job. He looked at me and offered that I needed to listen more. I can’t remember his words verbatim, but they were something like this. “You need to listen. You need to learn.” We chatted and the overall tenor was that I was not a professor in the room, but part of this team working toward the same goal. I needed to act like I wasn’t in a classroom environment. We chatted some about the meeting’s content and I left his office.

I mulled his comments and my mantra became: Listen. Learn. Lead. I was set on leadership to the point that I was not thinking about listening. I was learning lots, but thanks to his feedback, I was listening more. Now this doesn’t meant that professors don’t listen. Don’t Learn. Don’t Lead. I needed my mindset to include more listening. I’m a hard extrovert and I’m known for my energy. But, I wasn’t always a good listener. I spent the next year thinking of this mantra and doing my best to listen actively.

When I got my second tattoo more than a year ago, I had Listen Learn Lead placed on my inner left arm. My right wrist has Mentor. And, yes, I did use Times New Roman. My former students will smile at the font name, as it is my preferred font. I used the Maple filter for the triple L. The Mentor is fresh from the studio and that is why it’s raw looking.

I’m a Political Scientist

I’ve been at the annual American Political Science Association #APSA2017 meeting this week and I’ve been thinking about my two decades as a political scientist. Part of it is the fact that I have attended an array of focus groups and started off with the Women of Color in Political Science Conference #wcps17 in San Francisco, California.

#APSA2017 has been fraught with so much awesomeness and introspection. The focus groups have caused me to reflect on my time in Political Science. I’ve had some strong mentors and some great experiences; however, I’ve also had some interesting or terrible experiences. And, from the focus groups, I know that these situations and anecdotes are more systemic in higher education and perhaps not unique to Political Science. I want to blog more about this and this brief post is only part one.

Lessons Learned

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I have had two outlier terms in my teaching career. And, one was in the last year. When things work well, you feel like every damn thing is in order, and you want to pinch yourself. In a similar way, when things begin to go wrong you want to stop and fix them, but they continue to slip out of your reach, it feels like a train wreck. Well, I had a term like this and I’m looking back, so that I can look forward.

I used some new materials, had some strong personalities, and did my best. Well, things did not go as planned, and I need to do a few things. I need to own it. I need to move on. But, right now I am reviewing things. What could I have done to make things better? I know it was not just the books, the students, and me. There are always more factors at play when a class is mediocre. I pride myself on how much I enjoy teaching, as I view it as a form of mentoring and I find teaching fulfilling. And, when things go offside, I feel responsible.

I chose a few new books in order to push my class to read about debates in the field. If I could go back, I would have chosen one new book. The material was provocative enough to cause uncomfortable feelings, debate, and a good measure of animosity between the students, and some directed at me. It is far easier to teach the usual suspects. So, there is a part of me that stubbornly thinks that I would not change the books. I did explain that the material would push the students and that they should feel uncomfortable, but it was not enough. From the papers, I could read that a handful of the students did not like the book or both books. Now, whether or not I had a deep reflection about the content is a different story, but I did hear about the materials vocally. “I want a different book suggestion, since I cannot relate to this one.” I did not give the student another book option.

Course materials are important and I reviewed several books and was really happy with the overall syllabus and assignment. I can reluctantly admit that I would not teach both new books again. One did not work. I won’t name it, as it will do a few things. It will make the students realize that I am talking about their class, and it’s likely better that they not know which of the courses I am referring to in this post! Well, on their own, both books are intellectually engaging or problematic. I do not want to teach perfect books, as that is too darn easy. What else would I have done differently? I think I would have noted that this course had fewer readings and pages of work due to me, than previous terms. From reviewing the evaluations, it is clear that some of the students thought that I was asking them to do too much work. I was not.

The good news here is that I take each class as a learning experience. While teaching feels like it comes easy to me, it is good to know that I will still have an off term. It is good for me to reflect on the course. And, I am not a rock star every term. I have been fortunate to have so many awesome courses and experiences–this year reminded me to be humble! And, the few unhelpful evaluations say more about the student, than they do about me. Thanks for reading the post. I’d appreciate any feedback you have about awesome or crappy terms. We all have them.