Mentoring: Job Searches and Month of Mentoring

Mentoring Matters. Mentoring comes up as one of the larger words in my blog’s word cloud. There is a good reason for this. I write (and think) about mentoring, coaching, and sponsoring lots. I am trying to make my March posts all about mentoring.

I was happy to have a great conversation recently with a former student from more than ten years ago about her last job search. She was lucky enough to find out about a local mentoring program at the local Jewish Community Center. Now, it is important for me to note a few things. My former student is not Jewish and the program was free! She knew that she needed a local mentor to help her with her job search, so she researched different possibilities and found this program.

She was assigned a seasoned mentor who was not quite twice her age. They met every other week to chat about work and her job prospects. Some might think of this relationship as a job coach, but it is billed as mentoring program. I’m glad that she was pro-active to seek a mentor during her job search. I was also proud of her for her initiative to take charge of her own success.

Not everyone has a good old boys or even a good old girls network. You need to establish your own networks and this might mean getting out of your comfort zones and going to meetings in your community or different communities. It is going to take work. There are days that feel like I have the same conversations over; however, I sit back and realize that for my mentee this is relatively new for them.

I am also reminded that those of us in the position to do so need to mentor, coach, and sponsor to help others network. We are only as good as our networks and we need to be willing to share our networks and lift others up so that they can have success, too. I remember a friend from a mentoring group calling me Spiderwoman thanks to the network webs that I weave. I like that. Spiderwoman!

Book Review: “I Hate Feminists!” December 6, 1989, and Its Aftermath

The book’s title caught my eye. I remember where I was when the news broke that a male student killed fourteen women students on a college campus in Canada. Melissa Blais weighs in on the terrible events that took place on December 6, 1989 in this short, and powerful book. Blais does not makes sense of the tragedy, as that is not the book’s intent. Each chapter examines what took place and the consequences. The chapters are divided accordingly: Introduction, Feminist Participation, Marginalization to Disparagement, Commemorations, Negotiating the Representation of the Massacre, and the Conclusion.

Some have called the events the Montreal Massacre and others have refer to the Polytechnique violence. Regardless of the shorthand this tragedy caused many to take a serious look at targeted violence against women. Of course, violence existed prior to this event, and the fact that the women were college co-eds caused more attention by some. Blais teases apart the ways in which the newspapers covered the events and the consequences of the murder to the feminist and anti-feminist movements in Montreal and surrounding areas.

I read the English translation (thank you Phyllis Aronoff) and doubt that anything was lost in translation. The book is not an easy read, as you will want to put it down and think about some of the points that Blais makes. I read the book and thought about what has changed since this tragedy. I also thought about the Highway of Tears in British Columbia and the missing and murdered women in Juárez. I have mixed feelings. I know that many things have improved, but I think that some have stayed the same.

I have had the honor of sitting on the Dec 6th planning committee at work and this is the sort of work that requires a sincerity of the larger project–stopping violence against girls and women. I recall hearing some engineering students lamenting that they had to be reminded about the event and how burdensome it was to have to do this. I think it is more burdensome to not remember the 14 women from Montreal, and the women before and after them. The commemorations have become about stopping violence and it is crucial to remember this.

One of the things that came out of my reading this book was that I found out that my colleague, Maureen Bradley wrote some thoughtful work about the events. And, Bradley’s work is cited in this book. I encourage you to look at Bradley’s website about her other work since. Overall, I Hate Feminists is a book is worth reading and then thinking about the different ways that you support anti-violence efforts in your community. The book lingers–as it should.

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Blais, Melissa. 2014. “I Hate Feminists!” December 6 1980, And Its Aftermath. Translated Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott. Toronto, Canada, Fernwood.

50 Shades of Meh: Women in Pop Culture

I can recall reading about women’s fan fiction with great interest. The cultural studies work about shipping and the Kirk/Spock love triangle was fascinating to me in the early 1990s. When fan sites began to devour (pun intended) the Twilight series, I did not think this was anything particularly new or exciting. Then, the fan sites frenzy gave birth to E. L. James and her 50 Shades of Grey series. I read the first book carefully and pretty much yawned through it. The writing was similar to the Twilight  series, which was no surprise given that this book came from one of the fan sites. The book was painfully difficult to read as it was obvious that the author was not familiar with the norms in this SadoMasochism (SM) or Bondage and Discipline (BD) community. BDSM as the abbreviation.>

Right about now, most readers will think one of two things: huh and wait, how do you know about this? Well, my MA thesis was about Women and Consent. This does not make me an expert, but it certainly makes me interested in the series, the movie, and conversations related to consent in pop culture. I have been mulling over a few things about the book(s) and now the movie, which apparently has made some real money. This series has popularized grey ties and re-ignited conversations about BDSM, and the popular culture depictions of a BDSM relationship. Now, if you want to read well-written books in this area you can see the Erotica Booklists or see what Susie Bright suggests–many know her by her alter ego, Susie Sexpert.

The BDSM issue is an extremely divisive issue for feminists. In the 1980s, the sex debates/sex panics/sex wars * culminated with the emergence of “anti-sex” and “pro-sex feminists.” The lack of cohesion and agreement among feminists and others centered around the definition and understanding of women’s sexuality. One of the problems was that feminist epistemology has never been unified in terms of defining what constitutes women’s sexuality. The various sides of the debates acquired their own definitions of women’s sexuality and furthermore, what constituted a feminist sexuality. -there is one feminist sexuality? No. And, if you have followed sex positive discussions, this is still not ironed out.  For ease of discussion, though, I will refer to the two major sides of the sex debates.>

There were different, heated opinions regarding women’s exercise of power and consent. Can women consent? The anti-sex side viewed women’s sexuality as something that male-identified society defined, controlled, and used against women. By contrast the pro-sex camp acknowledged women’s power to pursue pleasure and exercise sexual consent with others in SM sex or non-SM sex. Subsequently, women’s bodies were interpreted as either a site of domination or power among the two loudest or most prominent factions. And, this might shed light on how sex positive debates are at times fraught with controversy, when perhaps they should not be.

Feminists need to take consciousness raising to the level of self-education of women’s various sexualities. It is self-effacing for feminists not to make coalitions among one another and acknowledge the diversity of the movement and identity. We must understand the history and struggles behind women’s sexuality and how this aspect informs women’s identity in society. Clearly this does not require a monolithic feminism with feminists united in one belief. Feminists must work toward developing an inclusive theory of sexuality that includes pleasure, desire, and autonomous consent to sex thinking of women as having sexual agency.

In the future an inclusive sexual theory that embraces various sexualities and sanctions sexual consent as part of women’s sexuality is auspicious. Continued research into theories of sexual politics and consent is justified and needed in the hope of someday securing equality and not playing with the same tired tropes about male dominance of women, as witnessed with the 50 Shades series. This is one of the many reasons why I think: 50 Shades of Meh. I read the book, and do not have to see the stylized version of the book from Hollywood. My safe word here: no.

*Yes, I linked to Wikipedia. It is a good synopsis and written for the lay audience. <Do not be cheeky.>

Childbirth Reflections

I’ve been thinking about the ways in which birth experiences influences the ways in which you feel about your health care provider and yourself. I heard a great MA Thesis defense this year and during the latter part of the defense there was some discussion about personal birth experiences. This made me think about my two birth experiences with my daughters. Both births required some intervention. And, here I am thinking about them some ten years later.

I did not opt to find out the gender of either of my girls. And, I had a birth plan in mind. I did not follow the birth plans, but I did end up with two baby girls. My eldest was encouraged to join us via the breaking of my waters and I labored for some 11 hours with her. I was quite thankful that for the epidural and will never forget the excruciating back labor. It really was like someone was trying to grate the skin off my back and hurt like nothing I had ever felt before. The next wonderful thing that I experienced were the shakes post-childbirth thanks to the epidural–with my teeth chattering. The rails of the hospital bed were cushioned so that I would not hurt myself, during my seizure like shakes.

The easiest part of my birth experience was breastfeeding. I had no issues with breastfeeding post-child birth. I also have warm memories of that first diaper change with the meconium being released by each daughter. Oh, good times.

My second (and last) child birth experience was more traumatic. I started off laboring standing and was feeling pretty good; however, in the matter of 10 minutes I went from laboring standing to the nurses realizing that something was wrong. I was summarily prepped for surgery and had an emergency c-section. I will never forget the moment on the hospital bed with my arms strapped down and feeling the doctor tug and open me up. I did not feel any of the surgery, but I could feel movement, and then my daughter was taken out of me. My doctor explained that the umbilical cord was wrapped around my daughter’s neck twice and this explained the fetal distress. I shed tears of joy and relief. I felt guilty that every contraction strangled my poor girl. This daughter is more of a fighter and she comes by it naturally. Listening to other women’s child birth stories I am struck with the joy, honesty, and in some cases regret.

I did not feel guilty about the interventions that I had with my birth experiences, then, I do not now. And no one else is going to change my mind. Smiles.

How Do You Answer?

I have read Lean In and have blogged about it previously. At BlogHer13 I heard Sheryl Sandberg speak and got to meet her and take a quick photo. I also have read the updated book for college grads. And, I’m a lapsed member of the Lean In movement and circles (Education). At this year’s BlogHer14 in San Jose, California, I attended the Lean In circle workshop.

I am looking at the great cards that Dr. Carole Robin did with Lean In. I saw the question, smiled and immediately pictured a few things: my loveys and coffee. I was chagrined that I saw his face, and my two daughters’ faces, then pictured coffee. The question is not as simple as it looks. What brings out the best in you?

My immediate answer was personal. My family and my home brings out my best. When I think of extending that circle some, I can answer that question with my family of origin, my good friends, colleagues, the warm sun on my skin, my students, a great meal, and a strong Dark and Stormy. There are different nuances to the question and answer that you might give.

When I am teaching, a great class can bring out my best. I try to give my A game to my students, but a strong group of students who like the material can make a big difference with the class. Likewise, when I sit on a committee and other are committed to the agenda and the execution of the final product, the committee work moves more smoothly.

My Loveys bring out my best. My friends bring out my best. My work brings out my best.

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BlogHer14 Takeaways

I attended the 10th BlogHer held in San Jose, California. This was my third BlogHer and I was really looking forward to the media sessions and the future of blogging. I also wanted to network and check in with the WordPress Happiness Bar consultants, as I had some questions about my site and other more general questions related to the enterprise instance of WordPress at work.

What was different this time? Prior to the conference, BlogHer contacted attendees to sign up for different Skype groups, and queried BlogHer veterans if they would be willing to mentor a newbie. I joined a few groups: Bloggers of Color, Parents of Tweens & Teens, Scandal, and Game of Thrones. I wished there was an Orphan Black group, but where would they stop?! I was paired with a few women who were new to the conference and had Skype messaging conversations with them. I ended up meeting one of my “buddies” at registration and got to know her during the conference. A big thank you BlogHer for making this arrangement, and for continuing the conversations post-conference, as it’s a great way to keep building the community.

I do not know if the pairing was a new thing, but it worked great for me. I got to chat with my new friend about her work and reasons for attending BlogHer and we just had honest conversations about work, social media, blogging, entrepreneurship, family, and more. BlogHer is a different type of conference. It is diverse in terms of topics covered and the attendees. I sat at many sessions or keynote presentations and noticed the diversity in the room and this is a quick observation based on phenotype and not knowing every story or identity.

What else did I learn? People are doing amazing things with technology on their blogs. Lots are using different media platforms to share video, make videos or just add to the overall presentation of their sites. Infographics are used more and this could explain Canva’s presence as a sponsor. I got the sense once again that the consumerization of the platform is key for many users. People want to move their blogs forward, share their story, and in some cases make money in the process. It was interesting to see so few refer to privacy or security. And, as I noted in my Twitter posts, this is something that I am more cognizant of, given that I live in a province with the most strict privacy and records management guidelines in the country. As an expat living in Canada, I live in both worlds in the Twittersphere and Blogosphere. My personal footprint is radically different than my work footprint or use, but that is for another post.

Overall, BlogHer continues as an amazing conference and space for women (and some men and other allies). My only regret is that I do not have a clone who can attend other sessions for me to soak it all in and take notes. Rock on, BlogHer!

 

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Blog Her, Blog Her

I am going to a conference for professional development this week. You might have heard of the conference–BlogHer. This year marks its 10th conference. You have to figure that some 11-12 years ago the group of women founders looked around the Silicon Valley and realized that they were doing something unique and needed to network with other women. Voila–BlogHer was born.

Now, BlogHer is a tween and is going strong based on the various other conferences, website, and more. I am happy to attend this year’s conference in my home state, California. And, I am looking forward to learning more and making connections. Lifts coffee cup–to BlogHer.

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