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, 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? 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Move Back Home

Aloha, California!

It's been three weeks since I officially moved back to the Golden State (The California Golden Bear has returned). In that time, I have performed a wedding ceremony for two of my favorite people on the planet, have received more support, love, guidance and advice from those I trust than ever before, and got my motorcycle shipped, registered, and I passed the fuck outta the license tests. Also rode Amtrak for the first time ever. Met a couple new folks who I really dig. Have spent time with some of the people who are parts of the overall reasoning why I moved back, and will be spending more in the next week and a half. Agreed to jump into starting a business with another of my favorite people. Was invited back up to Bearskin which set my heart aflame. And that's not all...

Towards the end of my time in Hawaii, my perception of how things happened was pressured, so I've given it all some thought during the whole transitiony thing. I was absolutely disappointed about a lot things, but I don't usually talk about what I don't feel good about. Not typically my style, although I've done enough of that since getting back to last me months. I tried to work my ass off to earn a Ph.D. which didn't work out. Of all the reasons, I think the most important is that the place I was living and working in wasn't the right place for me. People have asked me a number of times, "so you miss Hawaii, don't you?" And I have to say, not so much. I miss many of the people I met, especially the folks with which I built friendships. They, I miss. Hawaii, with its expansive physical beauty, its stunning sunrises and sunsets, and brilliant snorkeling, is a fun place to hang out. All of this was overshadowed, for me, by the sheer nastiness of the cost of living. And why was it so expensive, you might ask? Well, my inquisitive friends, a great majority of the food, transportation junk, and everything else is shipped into the state.

Think about that for a minute. If shipping lines were disrupted, there's approximately enough food for the population living there for a maximum of roughly 3-4 days. This coming from the state gub'mint. I mean, holy grass skirts Batman! So yeah. There's the economic bullshit. Then there's the rent, which is somewhat comparable to San Francisco or Los Angeles, but is complicated by the realities of building shit in a tropical place: wood gets gobbled up by termites relatively quickly, metal gets nom-nom-nom'd by the salty air, and bricks don't make good windows. And the fuckin' Cane Spiders!!1! Those little bastards charge the shit outta humans! Fast! What the fuck?!!? Impressive little buggers, but what the hell, man. What, the, hell.

There were also some goings ons in my professional life that really sucked, but I'll leave out the details. I'm simply grateful that I'm for the most part leaving the larger thing of academia behind me. I'll always enjoy teaching, and I think it's something I want to keep doing in some form or another if possible. As a full-time gig it's brutal. Got mad respek for academics, as for the most part they are brilliant, interesting, and delightful after just enough booze. After teaching six undergrad courses in one bitch of a semester, I can honestly say that I love it, but I can also honestly say: fuck capitalism. Fuck it, right in its ear. That being said, I really loved teaching at HPU, and got over my reservations regarding private universities pretty quickly. I felt very supported in my work by the department administration, and really all of the administration I worked with at some point or another. The other faculty were welcoming and interesting. Also, the students were great! I enjoyed both the in-person and online courses there, and the folks earning grades with me were a lot of fun. My students at UH I will miss greatly, as they were very much my motivation for doing good work.

Also took the LSAT last week. Pretty sure I punched it in its solar plexus, although until my score surfaces from the depths of the LSAC intertubes I won't really know. So yeah, law degree or something. It's been an interest of mine for years, I just never pulled the trigger out of fear, anxiety, uncertainty, misinterpreted advice, yadda yadda. After getting through the professional shit-show that was my life on the island, law school and a startup: that I can and will do. Hell yeah.

My people are spectacular human beings. All of you. And to anyone thinking of moving to Hawaii: if it's really what you want, be prepared to kick some serious ass. Avoid acting like an entitled dickhead; Hawaii has a history, a relatively recent colonial history, and it would behoove you to read up on the actual history of the state we know as Hawaii. I never felt threatened or unwelcome anywhere, but I was challenged occasionally. I welcomed it, and it made me better. I'm a living sign of social privilege, regardless of my own challenges that I face. Be aware of what's been going on, and take it to heart. Avoid thinking you already know everything you need to know about being a good person in a given context.

The three years I spent on Oahu were perfect. I learned a shit-ton, possibly a metric shit-ton. Took opportunities as best I could. Worked my ass off both personally and professionally. Learned a lil bit of pidgin. Swam with fish who were literally eating each other alive. It was exactly where I should have been, until it wasn't. And that's a good thing to figure out; how to measure whether a place and space is working for me or not (and the complimentary part: whether or not I'm working for a place/space is just as important a thing to be able to see and internalize).

Alrighty then, time to get back to life. Or something. Holla atcha boy.

-Nick G.
a.k.a. The Golden Bear
a.k.a. Gibbey
a.k.a. Gibbo
a.k.a. Bigbo
a.k.a. Gibbs
a.k.a. Muthafucka
a.k.a. Haole Boy (thanks Shawn)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Online Dating

I responded to a Facebook query from Helen A. S. Popkin about online dating. Really interesting question to be sure: "What is the difference between dating people you meet in real life and dating people you meet online?"

Here's what I said:
There isn't much of a difference if we take into account what a face-to-face relationship becomes. Meeting people can happen any number of ways. The success of any relationship depends on the people in it, regardless of the initial meeting. Whether or not we take as seriously, as personally, or as meaningfully, meeting online versus meeting face-to-face initially, the success of a relationship is always a toss-up. The way I figure, online 'dating' which is really online 'meeting' unless the relationship depends on an online connection over time, is exactly the same as meeting face-to-face. We only show what we wish for someone to see for a given time frame. The added bits happen over time, whether the ongoing exposure to another person is online or in person. So really, unless one inherently devalues online 'meeting', there is truly no difference in meeting online or face-to-face, if we assume that what we show of ourselves is always measured in some way by what we think people see us as. Would we inherently devalue a long term relationship that depends on Skype connections? If we make that claim, then it is safe to say that online meetings are inherently less reliable, less enjoyable, and less meaningful. But, if we ascribe the same level of meaning to a relationship that depends on internet connections that we seem to ascribe to relationships that do not depend on internet connections, we must conclude that meeting online is of the same potential value that meeting through face-to-face interactions tends to suggest.

So, what do you think?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Generally Speaking...

I have students in a number of my courses submit reading responses as part of their overall course experience. With permission, I'm posting the text of one assignment from my Social Problems course at UH Manoa this semester. If you read through it, I'm sure you'll see why I'm putting it up for all to see; this kind of work should be shared, not hidden away in the deep recesses of my downloads file.

The topic covered by the text was poverty and homelessness. Check it:

"The problem with welfare as we know it, is we’re so full of shit. Not only do we have rich people who fucking complain about being taxed for having millions of dollars, they also have the damn nerve to say that the government is spending too much “their” money on welfare programs. How fucking greedy and envious do you have to be to think of treating people this way. These clowns never had to spend a day in the damn streets working for a piece of bread. They are in their nice warm luxurious offices complaining about how they don‘t have enough. In fact, we barely spend any money on welfare compared on how much of an income the government receives. The poor that do pay their taxes are returned just a bit of what they are asked to give. And of course the media is covering their fuckery up. And even the people that aren’t piss rich are so confused with all the crap that the media shows them that they believe all these lies that makes them think that the poor are a bunch of lazy, sorry, good for nothing people that try to cheat their way to a “perfect” American dream. Oh and to add a bit of truth to these big fucking lies lets blame it on the minorities as well. They are already known for being a bunch of savage people who like violence and drugs, let’s tell everyone that they are also the ones that use up all the welfare money and don’t pay any back. Matter of fact lets go deeper into this lie and point out the single black teen mothers and call their children “mistakes” that everyone has to pay for. Oh and by the way, Diane Sawyer can eat a bag of rusty nails. Who the fuck gives her the right to judge all mothers? No one knows what these girls have gone through in their lives. Show all the blacks in magazines and TV shows all you want. The truth will always be the truth. Media is a bunch of shit put on the television and paper to fuck with people’s minds. Call them myths all you want, they are all lies. And I don’t give a fuck about what the technical difference is between poverty and homelessness. I could honestly give a rat’s ass. They both mean the same thing: human beings that are struggling in life who need help. Ever seen the homeless here in Honolulu? The other day I bought a man a sandwich and a Gatorade. When I went to give it to him, he threw it back at me. Did I get angry and take it from the ungrateful piece of shit? Of course not, this person is a human being. Their prides aren’t asking for anything, especially not a welfare check. I walked away and returned after about an hour. He had the sandwich in his lap and Gatorade next to him. He could barely accept a free sandwich and people honestly give a fuck about the definitional differences between poverty and homelessness. Something is clearly wrong.  God, how many people are there out there that are like Murray Barr. Decent, loving people whose lives are in a black hole. And this can happen to anyone, in any city, town, state, country. No one ever wishes to live that life. It’s a disease for them. And boy does it cost millions of dollars on housing and medical bills. And surprisingly there aren’t that many of them when you really look at it. Life is not perfect by all means but if we all just chipped in a bit then something could really happen. We all own what we came into this world with and will leave with, our human bodies. Everything else is temporary possession and if you think you’re entitled to everything then you are in for a big surprise the day of your funeral."

See? Brilliant. In my courses, while I do want good scholarship more often than not, these assignments ask for students to reflect on the topics and concepts, and explore their own perceptions and beliefs. One assignment like this is appropriate for this course, given what i ask of them. Seems pretty blogworthy, yeah? And worth all the possible points. Good work, anonymous Social Problems student.