About Me

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Grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Richmond, El Cerrito, Berkeley, Oakland. My time now is mostly spent getting better at being a person, refining my time management skills, trying to read normal people books and articles, and learning how to be a force for good.

T1D Life in full effect. 

I will never stop learning, nor will I stop working to make a difference for someone.

Friday, December 8, 2017

"Don't Judge the Police Using 20/20 Hindsight" or: Forget Rational Thought Regarding Public Safety

The title of this post must be read with an understanding of what I'm talking about. In most mostly-white communities, the police are the people we depend on to help us create a sense of public safety. ('Public safety' actually existing and being a thing is its own debate, which I imagine I'll turn to at some point in the near-ish future.) They help find stolen items, solve violent crimes when they can, and generally can be seen and interacted with as officials that represent state-sponsored control. Or more generally, law enforcement officers (LEOs). I have known many LEOs through my friends who chose that career path, through dealing with police personally, through a whole bunch of second hand accounts, through my life as a sociologist and criminologist, and now through the lens of a law school grad. DISCLAIMER: for the most part, I personally believe that most LEOs are good people, and want to be good people, and want to be forces for good. This, I believe, is generally indisputable. That there are 'bad apples' or people who aren't actually good people at their core that also join police forces is also pretty indisputable. But there are problems with simplifying the issue down to the previous three sentences.

First, because those three sentences are generally indisputable, it does us little to no good to have that conversation. They are a given. Like gravity. Or that the earth is a spherical planetoid. Or that #mentoo is stupid, and men don't need to interject and include ourselves in women's fights for equity so that we can be included in the 'victim' column. (Women were standing up for male victims of sexual and interpersonal violence before it was cool.) Y'know, obvious shit.

Second, the 'good people' and 'bad people' issue is wholly unnecessary if we're talking about a systemic problem. Systemic problems are not started by just having 'bad people' around doing their 'bad people' stuff. It's a ridiculous argument to make that any police officer who does something shitty is just a 'bad person' and needn't be taken as a representation of a systemic problem. That's also an old argument that just...doesn't work anymore.

Third, if what people were really concerned about (as they addressed the issue of police violence in the US) were 'bad people' becoming and working as police officers, this conversation would be about HR practices and hiring metrics. This conversation is not about that. Humans, please.

The issue of unnecessary, unwarranted, and ultimately unjustifiable violence by LEOs is a systemic discussion. It is one that must start at the beginning (the first 'police' departments grew out of the tyrannically racist slave patrols) and continue through today (police departments as one arm of a criminal justice system that implicitly and explicitly negatively affects our larger society, but much more acutely communities that aren't mostly wypipo). The part of that discussion that no one wants to have is the one where juries of normal people continue to absolve LEOs of such unjustifiable violence. This absolution comes through our Supreme Court holding that the only requirement for the justification of homicide by LEOs is being afraid. On top of that, when juries are counted on to make these distinctions, they are only allowed to place themselves in the defendant officer's shoes within the moment of the violence. No 20/20 hindsight, no reasonable and rational look at whether the violence (often homicide) was reasonable and rational within our societal context. THIS IS A HUGE FU**ING PROBLEM.

First, if we are making the case that LEOs are better people than your average US citizen (as the case has been made during all this police officer hero worship), and we demand that these people receive extensive training about how to do the job well, how can the justification for homicide be, "I was afraid for my life." That is ludicrous. Simply, utterly, ludicrous. I'll even give you that LEOs are generally not better people than the rest of us, but they certainly do get trained to behave better. Even then, being afraid as a highly trained officer of the law cannot be enough to excuse homicide. It just cannot. LEOs ARE PAID TO BE AFRAID AND HANDLE IT BETTER THAN THE REST OF US. Popping off five shots into some guy because you can't handle the stress simply shouldn't cut it anymore. Your job is to deal with the stress the rest of us don't, and shouldn't, need to. The real absolution should only come after this additional jury instruction:
As a law enforcement officer trained in emergency management and subject de-escalation and control techniques, is it reasonable for this officer to have killed this person in this situation?
Even this would probably produce some questionable outcomes, but we sure do think police are mighty fine, and if they happen to kill some folks, well, they were probably askin' for it. But to instruct a jury, or anyone else for that matter, to drop rational thought when glaring back at a tragedy to determine whether violence was justifiable; it's idiotic. Humans, please. LEOs in general need to be held to a standard that demands they behave better than early homo-erectus. See a tiger running at you? Being scared is a fine reason to kill that tiger. It's a fu**in' tiger! But a person who's lying on the ground handcuffed or walking down the street while not being a white person? LEOs shouldn't get to fall back on fear as an excuse. Their job is to be better than we would. Their job is to overcome their base instincts, like we sometimes can't. Celebrate LEOs for saving people in burning buildings? Absolutely. And if those LEOs can suppress their base instincts to run into a burning building, they can suppress their base instincts in killing someone out of fear. If we as a society continue to allow LEOs to kill us because they were afraid for their safety while trained to overcome that fear and operate rationally in emergencies, 'public safety' is a joke. ('Public safety' already is a joke in many places where the majority of humans aren't white folks. This is a fact. And the police shouldn't be part of this problem.) This could be different. But it won't be different until our standards line up with our expectations, and our legal system brings accountability to our streets.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Back to Life

I felt like writing a little, but I wasn't quite sure what to write about. There are multiple constitutional crises happening right now in the US, and it's bad. Very bad. SAD! But there are already many peoples who have that covered. Our Supreme Court has decided a number of impactful and seriously important cases over the past couple terms. Again, other folks have that covered. So how about this: what's up with me, and why does it matter?

I recently graduated from JFK University College of Law. That's right, y'all, I earned a JD. This was after I spent three years in Hawaii working on PhD level course work, teaching 5-6 sociology/criminology courses per semester, and learning a whole helluva lot about racism and whiteness, gender and all it's effects and implications, and the relationships both implicit and explicit within our societal and cultural frameworks. (I also pushed a couple 'official' publications out during, so not a total loss of time and effort professionally.) Prior, I earned an MA at Cal State Fullerton, after earning a BA at Cal State San Bernardino. This has been documented on this blog before, but hey, a little round up can't hurt.

During my legal education, I felt like I was in the right place at the right time, specifically in terms of what I was learning and how I was learning it. I loved learning the law, as much as it contributed to a sense of isolation and some personal...hiccups. JFK is a CalBar school; it is not accredited by the American Bar Association, which carries certain implications. (1) I cannot practice law outside the state of California for five years after I am certified in this state, unless I go through a decent amount of bureaucratic wrangling; (2) many folks in the legal community might view my JD as less than impressive (seriously, it's law school, and it wrecked me, and I fucking kicked ass); and (3) I am now more than $400k in student debt. Yep. 400,000 ugly electronic dollars, and some odd cents or other. This is the culmination of my total educational debt, worth three degrees and three years of out-of-state tuition in a very pretty, but very expensive US-controlled (read: colonized) island in the Pacific. So there's that coming. The student loan payments. Much of it is federal, which is slightly less shit-tastic, but some of it is private, and they don't give a shit about my income. They want their damned money back with hella interest.

Okay, section two, or why this matters at all to anyone else: law school debt and post-grad employment has been discussed ad nauseam over at Above the Law. They are a fun and pretty solid journalistic outlet for legal news, gossip re: the legal world, and some fun stuff that ties in to the legal profession in general. It became required reading after starting law school, and I still tune in pretty often. But here's the deal: a legal education costs a great deal of money, no matter where you acquire it. It is simply expensive to get almost any education, especially at the graduate level. Before choosing to go to law school, one needs to be certain they WANT TO ACTUALLY GO TO LAW SCHOOL, or that one has the time and money to just give it a go. This is a personal decision, and no matter how much my student loan payments hurt, it was right for me. I have no regrets on that front. But going to law school means that you will be making a conscious choice to have far less of a life than you would have been used to. You WILL NOT be able to retain certain niceties and comforts to which you have become accustomed. You will have to focus, non-stop, on learning how the third article of our constitution works, both in theory and in practice, and that is simply a monumental task. Just to be clear, if that's what you want (to intimately learn the law, and say goodbye to seeing most of your friends and family in any regular way for three to four years) I've got your back. But know that it can feel like a shitshow for no apparent reason, and feeling haggard and worn out for years at a time is kinda the norm.

A further caution to every person who comes across this blog, regards the reality of mental health during graduate education (hell, even undergrad education can really stick it to someone). Throughout all of my graduate programs, I dipped in and out of homelessness, struggled mightily with money, still managed to be relatively 'successful,' and during all this I did my absolute best not to let it show. At all. This may have been a mistake. I reached out for real help only occasionally at most. We don't talk about how to ask for help, so we sort of have to learn that skill on our own. But it can be very important, and it can literally save lives. If you choose to work toward graduate level degrees, if you're an undergrad, if you're a person at all, ask for help from someone you trust when you feel like you might need to. It's okay. Every person needs, and receives, help in some way at some point. It does not make you weak; asking for help proves the depth of your strength, in fighting against the internalized fears and the sense of failure. You are more than an isolated case of nerves; you are a person with other people in your life who care about you.

I'm now working as a graduate advisor supporting the graduate students in the Economics department at UC Berkeley. It's temporary for now, as I needed a new gig and they needed somone competent help to fill the spot for a bit. But it's really a joy to work with grad students (and undergrads occasionally) and help the internationally recognized program keep flourishing. I'm not sure what will happen in the coming months and year, and I'm taking the bar exam in February (wish me luck and stuff), but I'm going to enjoy every moment I can. I can breathe, and studying for the bar, while definitely time-consuming, is fun again. I needed a break, and I took one by choosing to put off the bar exam until the next round post-graduation. So off we go, on this new adventure. We'll see how things go from here.

I guess that's my entrance back into the blogosphere. Looking forward to it, and hopefully more comments than I used to have. I see those clicks, y'all, I know you're reading. Although, I guess that's enough.

Friday, July 10, 2015

From a Patient's Perspective 3 or: What the hell, Diabetes?

Hey people. It's been a while. Nice to see you again. But the reason for this post is not so joyous; I know I'm usually a happy-ish kinda person, but: not everyday goes as planned. Some days, they make you want to say, "I'm over this. Just over this." But I can't be over this; I've had type 1 diabetes for 24 years, and it's not going anywhere. C'mon researchers, I know you can do it!

Here's the context: I just started a new job. It's a killer gig, and I'm really excited about it. My working title is Executive Director of the Consortium for Data Analytics in Risk (CDAR) at UC Berkeley. The Economics and Statistics Departments are connected, as is a really forward-thinking industry partner, and there are two folks, plus a post-doc researcher I haven't yet met, churning research product pretty regularly. The mission is simple, yet elegant: work to bridge the academic and industry dimensions of data analysis regarding capital management and portfolio management, and minimize/mitigate risk in investment strategies. It's fantastic. And the people I'm working with are brilliant and very cool. On to the story.

This morning, had a meeting set for 10am. A meeting I arranged. A meeting I was looking forward to. A meeting that can happen another time, yes; but so what? I woke up, at 10:40am. Everyone's nightmare, right? Even more so here: I woke up to that familiar-yet-terrible low blood sugar feeling. And I was immediately pissed off, embarrassed, hungry for all of the carbs in the whole world, and hopeful they wouldn't want to can me. And then I had to make the phone calls and emails. That's the worst part. Knowing you screwed up, yet not even really, because not every blood sugar is preventable or knowable. Not every change in blood sugar can be traced to something clearly. That's one of the most irritating things about living with T1D: there is no blood sugar crystal ball. No matter how good you are at it, T1D can still surprise you.

I work pretty hard at managing this thing, while still having a life. Up through this past June, I was working three, and for a month, juggling four, part time jobs, and law school. Yeah, I know, I kinda asked for that batch of wildness. But out of all the things that can go wrong, this is the one that makes me feel powerless. As a wise cartoon once said, repeatedly, "that really grinds my gears."

I'm going to still work hard at making T1D work for me, as it already has time and again. But every once in a while, until we get this thing cured or auto-tuned, I know that it might kick my ass occasionally. I have to know it, and be willing to roll with it, otherwise it will make me crazy. For the most part, my life with T1D has been far better for it than in spite of it. But sometimes...sometimes blood sugars just kick your ass.

Monday, January 6, 2014

'Real Men' and 'Real Women': this is why we call it misogyny, folks

Cross-blogged from: http://toentertainathought.com

As many of us are wont to do, I too enjoy an updated Facebook newsfeed from time to time. I gotta say, there's a lot going on in our world, and since I subscribe to some cool pages, and have a bunch of smart and thinky-type folks as friends, I generally find my newsfeed littered with interesting topics, political points, blogs, article links, and scientific developments to sift through. It's fun, and following those links out into the webosphere takes me places I might not otherwise find myself. While sitting in the living room with three cats swarming all over the place, reenacting feline versions of scenes from the great Scorsese films of our time. There are also times when those posted things dishearten me;sometimes these links depict simple and sad phenomena like puppy mills, or the latest work on demolishing women's rights in the US (both of which inspire feelings in me of passionate, controlled rage). Other times, they're something else entirely.

This blog that you are reading now is an open letter to the guy who wrote (a now defunct) tirade about the pictures lady folks post on their profiles. Actually, I'm being facetious. He really, really wants women to know what makes a GOOD WOMAN. That said, there are everyday occurrences that speak to our collective and never-ending hope that women (and men) who speak against the socially acceptable dominant masculine viewpoint will just SHUT UP. It's very important that women stop having sex lives, personal lives, and professional lives, that maybe don't depend on our direct approval. These are the messages we send when we talk about 'good women', in relation to ladies that just...don't know what they need to do to be 'real women'. And ladies always need us dudes to tell them who 'good women' are. Because apparently, 'good men', 'real men', know who 'good' and 'real women' should be. (I hope readers of this know that I'm being very, very sarcastic.) I'm going to post the entirety of the entry, and respond within. And then I'll wind it up with a brief final analysis.

Here's the url: http://dernierevie.com/an-open-letter-to-women-what-men-really-want/. His response to people calling what he said stereotypically gendered and sexist was a pretty impressive avoidance tactic. Actually, no, it wasn't impressive; it was boringly standard and lazy. But let's get to the heart of it, shall we?

I was thinking, the most BEAUTIFUL women are the ones that are selfless. I think that submissive, caring, driven women are so sexy! I love it when I look at a woman’s page (on social media) and it’s nice and sweet. No club pics, no pictures of her in the mirror, no vulgar, drama filled updates… just her. I realized that most women draw their cues from other women. They look at big butts, huge breasts, hairstyles, and lifestyles of other women and try to imitate it thinking that it’s what men want. Well, its NOT. Yes, we give those women attention, yes those women get flown places, yes they get taken shopping, but at the end of the day (to us) they are simply something to do. (Typically something to sex). The treatment that they get is part of a contract. That is, spend a little money and a little time and her legs will always be open for you. (Dudes do just enough to keep them interested.)

This is just packed with bullshit. So, selflessness is beautiful; can't argue with that at face value. However, in this context, what he really means is that women who don't think of their own wants and needs, and cater to mens' insecurities, are beautiful. It's the old, "women who take care of men are real women," trope. If you're in service to your man or men, then you're a good woman. He touches on this a bit more later on. Then, NO CLUB PICS? What the hell are women supposed to take pictures of if they go to a club? This is code for underhanded slut-shaming, as in: 'don't be a slut and don't be out with dudes you aren't married to'. Selfies in mirrors are sociologically interesting, and sometimes hilarious, as we can see from the #selfieolympics on Twitter. And what if someone is dealing with some vulgar drama in their life? They can't talk about it? Again, this is code for WHY WON'T YOU JUST SHUT UP? What the hell, man? Okay, now imitation of others is sort of the point here. What do you think you're doing dude? Being originally masculine? We all imitate others. I imitate tons of writers, sociologists, lawyers, scholars...it's what we do as humans to try to figure out who we want to be. Who are you to tell half the population they should be doing anything other than what they damned well please? Now here's the fun part of this bit: he legitimately makes the case that women who dress a certain way are asking for it. Not rape necessarily, but absolutely as sex objects entirely. First, where the hell do you get off speaking for me? I have no interest in taking responsibility for what other adults choose as their dress code. And it doesn't matter what women wear: WOMEN ARE HUMAN PEOPLE WITH BRAINS, MINDS, BODIES, SEXUALITIES, AND LIFE TO DEAL WITH. It's your problem if you devalue women regardless of the context, not theirs. It's like saying, "look, it's not her fault she was sexually assaulted, but she went to a bar wearing that; what did she expect?" It's problematic because of the inherent misalignment of values and actions. Are we taking personal responsibility for how we treat people? Or are we blaming others for how we behave? You're blaming women for men treating women like sex-only objects. That's absurd, and should deeply insult all 'good men'.

What men, GOOD MEN, REALLY want is a GOOD woman! PERIOD. Give a man your (undivided) attention, time and affection and he will give you love and respect. If you cater to him, nurture him, mend his wounds and encourage his dreams he will lay down his life for you!

The last sentence here is fine-ish, as long as we're okay with a little Romeo & Juliet-esque dramatic style, and we assume that men should also 'care, nurture, mend wounds, and encourage dreams' in heterosexual relationships. But from what I know, most people would prefer that relationships take the form of a reciprocal, equitable time-sharing. It's shared time, not given time, that we might focus on. But again, dude, you're saying that women should service men. And that is a sexist idea. Remember, I'm disagreeing with you and labeling your words misogynist, not you the person. You can change your world view if you choose, but your words are what they are.

A man, a REAL MAN, takes pride in being a man! He will sacrifice EVERYTHING if it will put one smile on his woman’s face. No mountain will be too high to climb and no ocean too deep to swim. A man will go to the ends of the Earth to provide for the RIGHT woman.

More with the Romeo & Juliet fallacy. You know that was a story, right? Fiction, anyone? And one single smile? That's not a very high standard you're setting for yourself and all the rest of us. Now we're getting to the 'providing' action, and it is glorious! Let there be gendered separation! Men provide, women accept those providings with sexytimes and quietness. Yeah, here's what you're implying brosef: even if women have their own lives, they should spend extra time taking care of our needs, without regard for theirs. Because that's what the RIGHT women do to be GOOD.

Ladies, take pride in being a WOMAN. Take pride in the fact that you are the backbone of mankind. The power, majesty and beauty of civilization comes from your womb! We (men) recognize that. We long for the woman that understands that as well.

Alright. This womb-worship is all fine if that's your thing, but it's a bit overblown. To the point where it's pretty obvious that the exchange implied is: ladies, if you cater to our fragile little egos, we'll say we love your wombs, and that you're everything to us, except in charge of your own life choices that we don't necessarily feel totally comfortable with. Which is sexist and misogynist. Your words, not you as a person. I'm not attacking you, I'm appropriately labeling your publicly published thoughts.

Allow us to take the lead. Not to control you, but to protect you. Let us clear the path so that your walk will be made easy.

This makes me shudder. Slightly reminiscent of, "men may be the head of the household/relationship/whatever, but women are the neck." Also, "you need us to protect you. Because you cannot take proper care of yourself." Look, everyone's relational dynamics are their own, but it's wholly ridiculous to presume that women need 'protecting' more so than any other gender. Patriarchal, sexist, misogynist. Your words, not you as a person.

Submit to us. Not for us to stand over you, but so that we can extend our hand to lift you up, over our heads.

Physics! Science! God references! Submission! I fully support everyone interested in establishing a healthy and fully equitable dom/sub relational dynamic. But I know that's not what you meant. And if you're lifting someone up, it means you were STANDING OVER THEM! Now there's physics involved here, and it's getting serious. And then you say that we'll position women above us...uh, not to nitpick (okay, well, to nitpick), if women submit to us, there's a perpetual power imbalance in the relational dynamics. I'm also relatively sure that one of your other implications is that women should be willing to be held up, by men, as trophies of our position as dominant. Right? Yeah, that's what I thought. Nice try though.

Ladies, in our eyes (a REAL man’s eyes), there is NOTHING more precious than a woman. NOTHING.

You called ladies precious! That's cute! Like kittens, or puppies, or baby talk. Because nothing says REAL MEN and REAL WOMEN like baby talk. Again, if that's your thing, cool with me. But basing an entire gendered relations viewpoint on that? Naw.

One thing that I have realized about relationships is that people are continuously responding to the actions of others. What that means is, the best way to be happy, the best way to have a healthy, meaningful relationship is to give what you expect to get. If you want to be cherished, respected and valued, give us those things!

You keep mixing things that sound halfway decent, with things that are so obviously sexist it's staggering my fragile little mind. But what we're getting to here is that you're implying that if women want to be treated well by us in their heterosexual romantic relationships, they better cater to our egos and wants. Which is sexist and misogynist. Your words, not you as a person. Because I don't know you, but I'm getting to know your words intimately. And I'm getting more irritated and pissed off by the minute.

The treatment that a man gives to his woman starts and ends with her. Consider us, our feelings, our expectations, and the fact that we want to be treated EXACTLY how you want to be treated and watch as the world opens up to you.

We men can open the world up to women! I never knew! Where are the world-opening club meetings held? I haven't been to them, but I'd like to know how to open worlds for women with my magic. I bet that goes fantastically at parties (but not at clubs), where all the women are dressed in pillowcases not showing their cleavage or 'big butts' and just waiting to submit to me so they can be protected from themselves. I hear volcanoes are also very in right now, along with the opening of the world.

Ladies, we love you, we need you, and we want you to understand that the way you treat us (and YOURSELF) dictates the way that we treat you.

You insulting prick. We men aren't responsible for how we treat women because if they don't service us, we don't owe them any respect? I've held it together pretty well over this whole thing, but I'm at the point where I'm just going to say it: if you cannot treat people with respect regardless of whether they service your fragile little ego, YOU ARE NOT A REAL MAN.

Lastly, understand that your beauty and value ARE NOT defined by how you look or what you own. Your beauty and value is defined by your heart and it’s ability to give and RECEIVE love.

Women are constantly bombarded by imagery focused on inspiring body insecurity, cultural narratives (like the one you so eloquently wrote out) dictating wholly submissive and narrowly defined cultural politics, and political, social, and sexual violence. It's all cute and Disney (which is meant as a bit of an insult) to say things like it's what's inside that counts, or your heart and how you act are what really make you beautiful, but your sheer density is making me nauseous. Men have always been able to look like pretty much anything, and it's kinda alright. Yeah, there's a bit of body shaming in our culture toward men, but to nowhere near the volume, ferocity, and emotional violence as that directed toward women. So you don't have to excuse my anger at you for talking like such a typically uninformed and unaware male, and I don't really want you to. I want you get angry...at yourself, at our culture, at our gendered presumptions built into us by that very culture. To say that women should just BE THEMSELVES AND BE BEAUTIFUL INSIDE is like saying that everything we experience is just silly nonsense, and women should let men bring them up above it all, except that's exactly the problem in the first place.

I’m done being sappy.

You were a little sappy, and that wouldn't bother me one little bit if it weren't for you letting your sexist socialization and internalized misogyny dictate the thoughts you put into words. Sappy is fine with me; we all get a little gooey for the people we are attracted to. Totally normal in our context. The thing that bothers me is you took the bits of our cultural heritage of feminine servitude, tried to pretty them up with low-level platitudes about gendered submission being somehow romantic and lovely, and then tried to sell it like you were just trying to be helpful. Us guys do that helpful thing all too often, and I'm sure I have as well. We're built to do it by society; we are conditioned to think the way that you obviously think. No one is immune from cultural influence, and your writing is a perfect example of this cultural narrative training.

But here's my challenge to you: question why you would ever ask a heterosexual woman to submit to you, or any other male partner. Because if there's one thing I think I can guess, it's that you aren't secure enough in your masculinity to have a truly equitable relationship without that power imbalance specifically in play. That means, along with a whole host of mostly-hetero men out here, that you've got some work to do on becoming that good man you seem to idolize. And if there's anything else I know, working to be a good man intending to create gendered and sexual equity, never stops, and never should. But this? The words you wrote that popped up on my Facebook newsfeed from an old college friend? This perpetuates gendered inequity in such a subtle way to us, the heterosexual men, because 1) we don't have anything to be concerned about unless we care about pervasive misogyny in the form of 'protective masculinity', and 2) it's highly likely that if we want women to just be themselves as you so succinctly put it in your first paragraph, we sure as hell better start demanding that us men treat ALL WOMEN, ALL TRANSGENDERED PERSONS, AND ALL OTHER MEN, as worthy of our respect, regardless of how they decide to present themselves to the world.

So, instead of being done being sappy, which I actually think is good us overly-masculinized men, try being done with imitating all the other egotistical, self-centered, culturally twisted men out there. Try being done with falling back on your (and mine too) straight male privilege. It's old, it's tired, and frankly, it's insulting to me as a man and it pisses me off.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sexuality and society: misogyny and assumption at their most powerful

As I've been plowing through the first semester of 1L education (first year of law school...oy), I've been not-blogging. Yeah, I know. But, I've still been teaching two sociology courses online for Hawaii Pacific University; Introduction to Sociology, and Sociology of Gender and Sexuality. The text for the first half of Gender and Sexuality was already chosen for me, but it's definitely one I would choose anyway, and well worth a read for pretty much anyone: The Sociology of Gender, Third Edition, by Laura Kramer (Oxford University Press). The second half text was my choice: Current Directions in Human Sexuality and Intimate Relationships, Edited by Terri D. Fisher and James McNulty (Pearson) which features readings from the Association for Psychological Science publication. It's also friggin cool, and it allows my students to address the ways that good research can still have bias, and what we are learning from the sciences and social sciences about the study of our sexualities. Super interesting stuff in there.
As part of the course requirements, I post discussion board questions, to which the students respond. This is fun for me, as I get to watch them tackle the concepts and support each other in exploring the ideas in often very practical ways. This week was section four in the Current Directions reader, Sexual Orientation. There were five selections, all cool reads. Check the text out for what's in there; it's not expensive, and really good reading. Here's the discussion prompt from this week:
Our readings for this week form a relatively clear picture of what is going on today, in the sciences and the social sciences, regarding sexuality. One major development from the past decade has been work that highlights pre-birth factors contributing to people's sexual attractions. Another is an ongoing analysis of who people are, in terms of interests in familial arrangement, coupling, and sexual evolution, regardless of who we are sexually attracted to. These two major areas of research are important for two convergent reasons: (1) they allow us to better understand, as a society, what the interactions are regarding lingering questions about sexuality and the aged but still relevant 'nature vs. nurture' conversation; and (2) these areas of research provide a human picture of what it means for our society to be heteronormative at it's core.
Heteronormativity, put simply, is the assumption shared by many, if not most, people in most societies today: that heterosexuality is not just a 'default setting' of human beings, but that heterosexuality is the 'good' or 'normal' setting. The heteronormative assumption is also not necessarily overt, although often it can be. It is a foundational presumption with which we are taught to understand the world, through cultural messaging of all the kinds we experience: family group education, peer group conditioning, formal education, television, film, and in the contemporary era, internet entertainment and socialization. Ever hear someone use the term, "that's so gay," to illustrate the point that something is bad, stupid, wrong, or just uncool? This is only one, of many thousands of ways we are conditioned to understand non-heterosexuality as simply not as 'good' or 'acceptable' as heterosexuality. Similarly, many researchers and bloggers have, in recent years, tackled the idea that the most insulting thing a person can do to a man, is imply that he is 'like a woman', which is what we see when people call men 'little girls'. This brings us back to a set of assumptions that if a man is gay, he is womanlike, which inherently implies: less than a 'real man'. Which holds at it's core, the presumption that women are less 'good' than men, in whatever ways we seem to still collectively agree upon. And this is the foundation of misogyny pervasive and invasive in our society, that we must include in discussions of sexuality.
While there is research telling us that most folks tend to at least 'lean' heterosexual, there is good evidence pointing to a very large gray area of sexual attraction, and sexual interest. There has also been a decent amount of research documenting non-heterosexual sex in countless animal species, making the 'natural' argument for heterosexuality, and against non-heterosexuality, much less convincing. In any case, as the researchers from our texts note, the study of our sexuality is rightfully nuanced. As Brian Gladue from North Dakota State University at Fargo notes in The Biopsychology of Sexual Orientation: "A continual and humbling reminder of the task of developing a model [of sexuality measurement] is that heterosexuals, like homosexuals, vary in their psychosexual milestones of genital, neuropsychological, erotic, and reproductive development."
All of this brings us back to a discussion of heterosexuality, non-hetersexuality, and what sexuality itself actually is within our societal framework. Most sexuality researchers are now in agreement that our sexuality falls somewhere on a continuum, and many people experience shifts in sexual attraction patterns over their life course, meaning that our assumptions about static and singular sexuality are more than likely at least partially false. What are some reasons why this is so significant today? What might be some situational, cultural, and societal factors that we must include in a discussion of sexuality and the experience of sexuality in our society? How might we address these concepts in regard to politics and government policy? Finally, what might we say about how cultural norms and values either restrict or enhance our own experiences, and the experiences of everyone else, of our individual sexualities?
What do you dear readers think?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

My first To Entertain a Thought Blog

This is a blog I just posted on the new group blog http://toentertainathought.com/. To Entertain a Thought is all about discussion, interaction, and making positive contributions to a thought process. Check it out, get a Wordpress account, and join us for fun and interesting everything! This is my first post over there, mostly an intro to who I am and my perspective on doing things social and researchy. Enjoy.

Greetings Wordpressers! Nick Gibson here, to say hello and whatnot. The topic of this introductory entry is basically what makes me tick...like a clock with a nice clear set of directions, here we go.

My love affair with sociology began in my undergrad program at Cal State San Bernardino, and was buffered by my master's work at Cal State Fullerton and three years of Ph.D.-level work at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. That sociology applies to all facets of life is intrinsic to an explanation of what sociology is; yet without a concrete example of how the application of sociology works, the waters of thought can be murky. My first, and most direct example of 'anything is fair game in sociology' came when my undergrad mentor introduced me to the study of conspiracy theories. It wasn't just about what the theory was; we dug into how theories are transmitted, what people did about belief in conspiracy theories, and the effects conspiracy theories have on micro and macro-level relationships. A professor of mine from UH Manoa said once (Nandita Sharma who kicks ass professionally): at its most simple, sociology is the study of relationships in all forms, places, and spaces. Relationships between people, relationships between people and institutions, relationships between institutions themselves, and how people socially exist and create the social experience within institutions, and about narratives and definitions. So, with an eye toward an analysis of relationships, I have managed to explore a whole lot of social phenomena, including 9/11 conspiracy theories. And boy, is it fun.

Sociology can also be exhausting. By exhausting, I mean that it is very difficult to turn the sociology off. Or, as a friend of mine now holding an assistant prof position at Pacific U in Oregon puts it, it is practically impossible to 'put the sociology back in the bag'. Even while watching comedy, I see and hear things that trigger a sociological cringe and discussion in my head. But it's much more wonderful than not, and I'm grateful. Here's why: there is an important message that I learned, and it is that as a relatively very socially privileged straight, white, cis-gendered male, I have always been able to, and still can, ignore the effects of a privileged social position without much thought. To be perpetually tuned in, is to attempt to mirror the social locations of people without the same kinds of identifiable social indicators. To be always aware, is to attempt to pay attention to the presumptions and assumptions that most of us, at least those of us who grew up in the United States, share. I have been taught, indoctrinated, trained, pick-your-forcible-learning verb, to believe and act upon narratives about other people at a basic, fundamental, and usually unconscious level. Those unconscious lessons become real-world experiences, typically to the detriment of people without social privilege. And that, dear readers, pisses me off.

Yeah, I get angry about social privilege. Mostly because I didn't earn it, yet benefit from it almost all the time. As an undergrad instructor at UH Manoa and Hawaii Pacific University, I explained this to my students in every course I led. We are taught through media programming (movies, TV shows, music, news shows), political discourse, our social networks, and our legal system, to believe things about our fellow human beings that simply are not true. To me, this is scary. Most folks react in defense, yet given enough time, most folks also seem to eventually get 'it'. That 'it' is what is most important here. That 'it' is the thing that makes all the socialization and social training we experience understandable. That 'it', is the realization that we learn everything we know, and if everything we know about the world isn't always true, the fault doesn't necessarily lie with one person and their belief system. The term 'fault' isn't necessarily the most accurate term to describe what this means. Tim Wise discusses this interplay of blame, fault, guilt, and responsibility quite nicely. Guilt is something we should feel, as people aiming to treat others well, when we do something that harms another. Responsibility is something we decide to take because of the kind of people we try to be. What does this mean? This means that if we are attempting to add goodness to the world, we must explore the experience of becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. We must willingly engage in discussion about those things that involve feeling vulnerable, allowing for growth and self-reflection. We must take some risks, to feel positive change and shift our world toward a more just future.

I self-reflect on a constant basis, as many folks do without putting the same term to the behavior. I teach my students to self-reflect. I catch myself thinking things that piss me off, and work to shift what that means about what I have been taught against my will. My gender, assigned to me and taught to me without my active knowledge, provides me with social comfort. I must pay attention to that if I am to live what I believe. My race, assigned to and placed upon me without my active knowledge, affords me generous comfort. I must recognize the experiences shaded by race (all of my experiences, as far as I can tell), and talk about what that means. My sexuality, taught to me as the standard and 'normal', provides me a very comfortable social existence. If I do not work to build a more just and equitable world in my relatively tiny existence, I am not taking responsibility, and I am not living my beliefs. It is these three huge concepts that I work to make obvious to others. They inform why I do what I do, and why I aim to accomplish more as time passes.

Let's entertain some thoughts, and make our world what we wish it to be. I wish for an equitable, just, thoughtful, and welcoming society. Even though I experience mostly the best that people have to offer, I want better for everyone. Myself included.

That's it for now. Go like our Facebook page, and follow the To Entertain a Thought blog on Wordpress, and join us in entertaining some thoughts.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Zimmerman, Martin, and the Case for a Dose of Sanity

Over at the Book of Face, I've been adding to a small discussion prompted by Andrew Pegoda, a fellow academic and speaker on social junk and stuff. Check out his blog here. The original question was:
Should "double jeopardy" be OK in cases where it is quickly discovered the lawyers and/or judge put together a set of evidence and jurors that GUARANTEED the defendant would walk away. Consider the composition of the jury, statements by the jurors as they were selected (esp racist statements by B37 then, and now). Consider the directions they received [from the judge] (see first comment). I still wonder why we don't have a better system to decide supposedly clear cut issues [such as innocence or guilt]... [do typical juries] allow too much for prejudice, see second comment. Read, set, discuss! :)

I added the things in brackets. 

Interesting discussion. At the latest point, one person asked, "...it sounds like you went into this case knowing the outcome you wanted." A little later, "Of course, you had no opinion before this?"

I think this is disingenuous, to assume anyone is objective, without opinion. Further, to think race played no part in all of this is purely bullshit, whether intentionally bullshit or not. Here's what I said:

 We all have opinions. This discussion seems similar to the argument for 'objective analysis' or 'objective science'. No one is completely objective, or devoid of opinions, in any situation, ever. No one lives in a vacuum. This point is completely unnecessary. What makes most science, or social science or law 'good', is the attempt to be willing to change one's mind based on the observed stuff that happens. 

I figure it's not a real thing that Bigfoot exists. Haven't seen much solid evidence for that claim. But if there was a whole lot of solid evidence that bigfoot existed, as a social scientist I then change my perspective and assumptions to meet the reality of the observed stuff. This whole 'racism isn't a thing anymore in America' is contrary to the decades of social science evidence both in legal and social aspects. To say a grown man can chase an unarmed teenager, only doing so because of institutionalized presumptions about racial tendencies (and a keen fear of 'others' as we like to use in sociology), kill him, and then not at least be held a little legally accountable, is sheer madness. 

Yeah, they'd had break-ins. I get it. It sucks, I've had my stuff stolen, been jacked at knifepoint, it ain't fun. But I don't see anyone demonizing white men for being perpetual white collar criminals, who by far and away are almost the only white collar criminals in the U.S., with far greater reaching impacts on human beings than your typical street-level criminal. The real clothing I fear? White shirts and ties. Hoodies don't scare me. So yeah. Race had nothing to do with it.

What say ye?