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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LinkedIn is Not a Dating Site

I’ve found LinkedIn useful; however, for the better part of a year I’ve noticed more posts that reminds me of Facebook. I don’t need to know my work related contacts’ birthdays. I want to network and share information. If I want to wish people birthdays or other personal news, I’ll do on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I’m also finding more men contacting me and it’s ultimately not work related.

Sample A from this weekend:

Look, I am happily married. And, I am not on LinkedIn for anything but work related networking or to help my students find work. So, let’s keep LinkedIn work related. It’s not a dating app.

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.

A Few Things I’ve Learned

When I first started teaching, I was too nice. I had to establish better boundaries for deadlines, protecting my time, and protecting the learning environment of the classroom. Then, I swung to hard to the opposite side and was too strict and demanding. I’ve taught at four institutions and they spanned the gamut of a community college, comprehensive, and research one institution. What happened?

1. I caught a cheating ring in a class. All of the students submitted the same paper, but had moved some paragraphs around throughout the paper. They all earned a 0 on the assignment. One of the guilty students saw me in the library a few weeks later and bellowed at me, “You’re the reason I am not staring law school in September.” I knew most of the libraian staff and some came closer. While my heart was racing, I looked over and said, “You’re the reason you’re not going to law school in the Fall.” I walked away. This student was the only one who tried to deny that he cheated. The others dropped quickly and admitted it. Occasionally, I wondered if he did get into law school and if he’s a practicing lawyer. What I can say, he was a cretin. He was terrible to me and if I got treated this way today, things would play out differently.

2. I accepted any excuse for late work and was surpised to bump into deathly ill students in the campus pub, staffing a table, or at the gym. I soon realized that I needed to have a late policy that was more firm. But, I also didn’t like this “gotcha” culture with late work. I had to work almost full-time throughout my university experience and I’m sympathetic to work/life balance. Now, I rarely ask for proof. It’s just not worth my time or my students. The wording in my syllabus is firm, but in reality, I just want them to be successful and I don’t need them to go spend $25 on a doctor’s note.

3. I dress up for work and class. The first time I wore jeans to class at one institution a few of my students talked loudly about how I had jeans on and it was not professional. I had a nice blouse and blazer on and ignored their banter and started class. Fast foward almost twenty years and I still tend to dress up for class. But, if I could relive that time, I think I would have asked the two students to stay after class and chat about their comments. I wore jeans again, but in a more defiant way. I belonged in that classroom and in that institution even if there weren’t many who looked like me.

4. When I was pregnant and teaching, this opened up my eyes to the way in which my body was viewed as public property everywhere and how my body excited some and repulsed others. While lecturing the Cletus the Fetus moved its arm, and through the shirt the students could see an elbow and I thought a few students were going to pass out. Their eyes opened huge and they looked startled. It was quite funny to me. What I didn’t like, was the touching. I announced to the class that I did not want anyone touching my pregnant belly. It was uncomfortable. Imagine my surprise, when the chair of the Women’s Studies Department emailed me during the Western that a student had complained about this. The Chair supported me, but I still smirk that a student contacted the Chair and argued that it should be OK for her to touch my pregnant belly. It’s comical.

None of these scenarios took place at my current institution, but they all impacted me during those first five years of teaching. The biggest takeaway for me is that I am not here to police the students, to weed them out, to punish them or belittle them. I am here to ensure that they learn about the subject matter and during this time they’ll get a feel for the learning environment that I am in charge of and get a chance to think, write, and interact. This is simplistic, but this is one of several posts about what I’ve learned in two decades of teaching in Political Science, Women’s Studies, and Technology and Society.

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.

Book Review: On Tyranny

I read Timothy Snyder's latest book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017) last week. It's more of a novella with the 20 concise sections, but it is a timely political book. My copy is dog-eared and I wish that I was teaching first year Political Science this year, but alas, I am not. His book is timely given the current political culture in the United States, but the book is useful for most to read and reflect upon today or tomorrow.

There are many takeaways and provocative points in the book. I was really caught up on the section about language. I kept on going back to my lectures on Fascism and the way that language is used under totalitarian regimes in order to scare the citizenry into blindly following the leading party or regime. The book provides a timely warning. One can likely read this book in a sitting, but I chose to savor it over the weekend and think of current examples related to each section. Unfortunately, the book has so many examples pulled from the headlines that it's as if Snyder is the political Dick Wolf.

This book is a must read.

Failing

I saw a job posting that noted that a strong candidate would want to fail miserably. I don’t have that link, but honestly I think that I have done that recently by taking some chances with my courses. And, guess what? I am fine with it. I am willing to take risks and have it fail. Fail miserably. It is a learnable moment. Sure, I often note the importance of a teachable moment; however, when I have failed miserably with a course I am learning. It is important to push boundaries and push myself.

My happy place is to push my students. But, recently I have pushed and failed. I have failed with books that my students did not like at all or assignments that did not work well. I held office hours in the last week and was a bit surprised to hear that the students liked the assignment. I am not convinced that it was a resounding success, though. Either way, I will have at it again with the next class.

3769283867_01c3214399 image is via Chris Griffith