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Thursday, September 27, 2018

I Stand With Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

I am still adjusting to my new level of busyness, but when I have spare moments, I find myself turning to coverage of Brett Kavanaugh and the women who have accused him of sexual assault and misconduct.  At this point, three such women have come forward.  I believe all of them, but I chose to focus the title of this blog post on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford because she spent the day testifying before the Senate and we know the most about her experience.

Why do I so firmly believe her?  After all, I wasn't a witness to what happened.

Two reasons:
1.  Sexual assault is so extremely prevalent in our society that it does not surprise me when I hear that someone was assaulted. 

2.  She had absolutely no incentive to fabricate this.  From all outward appearances, she has had an extremely successful adult life.  Since coming forward with her allegations against Kavanaugh, she has experienced harassment and threats.  Why would she throw her own life into utter disarray, aside from a sense of civic duty?

Why am I so interested in this case?
1.  Because while I don't share Ford's exact experience, I've had other bad experiences with harassment and aggression from men.  The MeToo movement has shown me just how common such experiences are, and it makes me angry.  How much more mental energy would women have if we weren't trying to avoid harassment and aggression or trying to mentally recover from experiencing it?  What could we collectively accomplish with that additional mental energy?  What would life be like if women's bodies were not so routinely treated like public property?

2.  Because I resent the implications some have made that the fact that Kavanaugh was a teenager at the time somehow makes it okay to assault someone.  Sure, he can move on from that...but what about Ford?  She has had to live with this experience her whole life.  The fact that she was a teenager at the time does not make it any better for her.

3.  Because we are talking about making a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.  It's a foregone conclusion that I'm not going to be thrilled with anyone Trump nominates.  But the risk of a Supreme Court justice who attempted to rape someone--yes, even decades ago--is unacceptable.  Surely there are other people he could choose from, and surely not all of them have a history of violence.

4.  Because I'm appalled at how little we have progressed as a society.  I was in sixth grade when Anita Hill testified that Clarence Thomas had repeatedly sexually harassed her on the job.  Though I was still young at the time, I remember the skepticism she encountered.  Actually, one of my most vivid memories of that time is my (female) social studies teacher that year speculating that Hill had had a crush on Thomas and was acting out of unrequited love.  I would have hoped than in the intervening 26 years, our society would have become more enlightened.  I'm not asking for anyone to automatically believe anyone who brings forward allegations of sexual misconduct or assault, but I do wish that everyone would seriously consider them.  At a bare minimum, people who bring forward such allegations should not have to fear for their own safety.

The United States deserves better than this.  I deeply admire all the women who have come forward to try to ensure that we get better than this in the end.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

A Few Grad School Observations

The past few weeks have gone really fast!  It still feels a little scary to be back in school, rather that working at a job and earning money, but I also think it's entirely possible that my whole five-semester program will go by in a flash.  Here are some thoughts on the experience so far:

  • I'm really busy.  I thought I knew what I was getting into time-wise.  I thought I might be busier in this master's program than I was in my last one, so that isn't a surprise.  But what is a surprise is that I'm also busier now than I was in the past couple of years working full time and taking classes on top of that.  Gulp.
  • Learning ASL has given me another way to be uncoordinated.  Usually language classes aren't too difficult for me.  At this point, ASL is proving to be the exception because it involves a level of coordination that I don't seem to have.  It reminds me of trying to learn the moves to the Macarena when I was in high the time I learned, the dance had become unspeakably uncool.  I hope it will come in time.  I do think it's a fascinating language.
  • I have a distinguishing feature of some sort.  When I was teaching, it was very important to me to learn all of my students' names.  However, it was not an instantaneous process.  The way it worked for me was that the first names I'd learn would be those of students who had some distinguishing feature.  For instance, if there was, say, one student with red hair in the class, his or her name would be easier for me to remember.  All of my professors seemed to learn my name quickly...which leads me to believe that I perhaps have a distinguishing feature of my own.  I'm willing to bet that that distinguishing feature is my age, as I have at least ten years on all of my classmates (more in many cases!).  It's also very possible that I'm older than one of my profs.
The good thing is that people routinely get through these programs, so it should all be okay in the end.  This will, however, almost certainly be my last degree-seeking program.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Things That Will Make Next Week Easier

One week of graduate school is down!  Yay!  I'm not going to count how many weeks are left in a five-semester program.

Just like every new experience, the first week seemed pretty rough.  There are a lot of new skills I'll need to acquire.  There is a lot of class work to do.  And because of the nature of this program, I'll have responsibilities in the onsite clinic. 

It has also been somewhat rough emotionally.  I'm thrilled to have such a good opportunity to break into another field, but I'm also in my late thirties and have been working for years.  Leaving the workforce for two years to do something new is scary. I've thought a few times that it would have been nice if I had thought I could have the sort of life I wanted without retraining, if I had felt like I had a secure future at the job I just left.

But!  I have at least two reasons why this week will almost have to be easier than last week, and that is something to celebrate.

1.  I broke down and bought a tablet.  When I was working full-time and taking night classes, I carried an ancient--but fairly lightweight--laptop with me.  Its battery didn't stay charged for long, but hey, I didn't need it to because I had one class per day.  With much longer class days, I spent last week toting my newer--but extremely heavy--laptop with me.  I could tell after about the first day that two years of lugging that thing along with my lunch and even one of my textbooks every day was going to do serious damage to my back and shoulders.  I had been curious about tablets for years but had never purchased one because I wasn't sure I would use one enough to justify the cost.  After a few days of agonizing over how much money I had already spent on textbooks, I decided to bite the bullet and order a tablet.  It arrived today, and so far, I'm very pleased with it.  I think there will be occasions when I have to drag the laptop to campus with me, but those will be few and far between, and will likely remind me to appreciate my tablet.

2.  Metro will be restored to its usual level of functionality tomorrow.  Two metro stations that lie between me and my campus have been closed since late July(!).  I've been fortunate that this particular phase in Metro's improvement plan didn't inconvenience me much until last week, but I will say that I found it quite inconvenient over a short span of time.  I'm lucky in that I have a commuter train option where I live.  However, the trains don't run frequently on the line closest to me.  Twice last week I found myself running for the train because I knew I would have a long wait for the next one (or in one case, it was the last train of the evening).  I am not a graceful runner, and I had that abovementioned laptop on my back.  I won't miss the joint pain that resulted.

Wishing everyone a great week, even better than last week!