New Year, New Thoughts.

I haven’t written anything significant in a while. I’ve been spending quite a bit of time just listening – to podcasts, books, etc. And feeling like I just needed some time to focus on lots of other things. But I recently found all my writing from growing up, and though I would NEVER write that way on the public internetz, I do think having a space to talk about thoughts more coherently might be interesting. So. Here I am. Back again. Maybe writing some things in earnest. I think I also felt a bit limited in my freedom of expression because of work. I didn’t really want to be open about what I was thinking. But I am more settled in my job, and feel like it’s totally reasonable for me to, in my own personal space, write about what I think.

It is a sad, sad time. I’m overwhelmed still be how the election has felt, and I don’t think it’s possible to fully comprehend the impact this will have on the world. It feels like 70,000 Americans fucked over the world. Of course, it is more than that, because really, it’s everyone who voted for he-who-shall-not-be-named. I am still somewhat hopeful that things will not be as bad as I fear they will. But that hope is limited by my realism. I’m not even sure how bad things will get. I’m not sure how it will impact me personally, nor how it will impact other peoples’ individual lives. I’m angry with Republicans for failing to stand up to incompetence, and the whole system feels like it is broken. I believe in the idea and ideals of America, but honestly, I’m not certain I believe in the structure of the government.

I think I will feel sad for a very long time about what we could have had under a President Hillary Clinton – someone who is so smart, hard working, thoughtful. Someone who listens. A woman. And it’s not because she’s a woman that I supported her, and wish she’d have won, it’s that she would have been an incredible progressive leader. But while I’m scared about what will happen, and it is frustrating, I am hopeful about the movement I’ve seen, hopeful about how many people are outraged, hopeful that we can make it through this, stronger. That we can bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice, so to speak. I am anxious to be a part of that, to do the personal work around it, and shape my own life in a way that reflects my values.

“Solving” the Poverty and “Secret Millionare”

I’m sitting around enjoying my Sunday afternoon. I enjoyed some quality (ahem) reality show America’s Next Top Model: Cycle 2.0 (with boyz!!), but I was all caught up, so there was only one episode. And I had a sleeping roommate on me, so I was too limited in my movement* to read articles, so I began exploring Hulu in search of other great shows (previous contenders have included House Hunters, but also Holidate, whose contract with Hulu has sadly expired). I had heard of Shark Tank and was sort of curious about it, since I’m getting to be a bit more interested in start ups, start up culture and the mechanics behind investment in them. Perhaps this show is a good way to explore that, even though it’s still reality. It was interesting, and I discovered that I MUST FIND THESE SWEET BALLZ, but there was also only one episode. Hulu recommended to me a show I had not heard of, ABC’s Secret Millionaire. So I watched the first episode.

I’m so conflicted. Continue reading

A Recommendation of the Literary Kind

So, after illustrating how older folks are racist, I wanted to discuss one of the best books I’ve read in a while, called Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude M. Steele.

The masterfully written book walks the reader step-by-step through his and other prominent behavioral psychologist’s research on what he calls “stereotype threat,” which, by Steele’s definition is the threat of “being at risk of confirming, as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one’s group.Continue reading

Choice: The Loaded Word

Just a brief followup on my previous post about women’s judgement on other women’s marriage decisions. Jezebel posted a piece today that perfectly summarizes my point, much more eloquently than I could. Basically Moore says that it’s all relative. I particularly like her explanation that

One: All kinds of relationships, with lovers and friends, with pets you care for, with yourself, in all varieties, can offer something toward our growth and/or stunting as people. Two: marriage, in and of itself, isn’t stable. Or intimate. Nor does it offer companionship. It’s a legal/religious agreement. The people inside of it can foster and nurture those things. Or not. A lot of ’em do. A lot of ’em don’t. That’s what the whole divorce rate is about.

I don’t see why people attribute what’s good about marriage to marriage as a concept, as opposed to the people in it and the work they are doing. Marriage is just a framework. Everything about the way it goes comes down to the two people in it and how they face the challenges that befall them.

(Emphasis mine) This is the same argument, essentially, that I’ve made actually about social media–that social media (Facebook, Twitter, G+, Instagram, etc), are tools, but not, themselves, content, and you really need both. Content without tools means there’s no distribution, so to speak, and tools without content (a much more common way to interpret things) is empty and pointless — you’re essentially trying to eat with just a fork and plate. You need food though.

Moore asks, “Isn’t it weird to assume women don’t understand the risk of marriage, or not marrying, just as we understand the risk of marrying young, or old?” I agree, and would go one step further and point out that this comes back to the idea of choice, and understanding choices. I am pro choice, because I believe that people, women included, because you know, women are people, know best about their own (our own?) circumstances. They know when it is right for them to get married. They know when it is right for them to have a child. And people are better off when they are free to make that decision that they know if right for them. So I’ll also provide you with an incredible (seriously) argument about what women deserve by Sonya Renee, via RH Reality Check’s tumblr. It made me cry. But only because I already believe that women are people, people who are smart and resilient and know what they need, and I believe we should respect that as a society. I also believe that the only way to do that is through trusting women to make their own choices about their lives and their bodies.

The Momtastic DNC Convention 2012 and Religion

I, as many others did, loved Michelle Obama’s speech. It was, as others have mentioned, amazing and brilliant. But I noticed something else–she is all about being mom-in-chief. Now, there’s nothing wrong with motherhood. I, myself, hope to someday be a mother. But I’m not, and more importantly, even when I am a mother, it will not be all I am, and it is certainly not all Michelle O. is.  Slate had a wonderful post, written by Katherine Lanpher about how single, childless women are, quite frankly, forgotten. I don’t fault Michelle for this; rather, I consider it a problem of our society that we can’t talk about people who are not parents, and especially women who are not mothers. What bothers me about this is that it, like calling reproductive health issues “women’s issues,” limits women to our uteruses, to our reproductive capacity. It limits us to being simply a vessel for brining new life into the world. Which, while it is miraculous when women are heroic enough to bring babies into the world, is not fully representative of all the amazing things we can bring into the world, nor all the amazing things we can do in the world. Michelle has worked as a lawyer, successful in her own rite, and she made more money than her husband; she is part of a new breed of women, one where women are more educated and more successful than their male counterparts (which I am so psyched to read more about in Hanna Rosin’s forthcoming book, The End of Men, and was initially discussed in her Atlantic article in the summer of 2010). Yet, when she mentioned in her speech that for dates with her husband, she could see only a dinner OR a movie, because she was an “exhausted mom,” she left out a word–working. Because part of the reason she was tired was because she was working, not just because she was a mom. It is frustrating to know that she really can’t mention that, because the demographic she’s going for isn’t that, but people who still see an ideal world as one where women and men have their clear and very different places, and women’s “place” is in the home. I find it restrictive, and not very representative of what I see around me. But what do I know, I’m just a progressive, urban heathen.

The other issue is religion. Originally, the democratic platform didn’t have anything mentioned about God. But after criticism and accusations that the Democrats were taking God out of the government (what? We’re not a Christian nation???!), they had to put it back in. I am still frustrated as ever regarding religion and its place in society. I do see that it seems to have helped (and continue to help) a whole lot of people through and out of difficult times. I think that’s a good thing. But we do not live in a theocracy, and the rallying cries about how the Democrats are ruining the world with their birth control that somehow (seriously?) thwarts and limits religious freedom is just ludicrous. Your religious freedom does not cover you pushing your religion on others. Because that infringes on their religious freedom. Get it? No? Well, I guess we’ll just have to keep fighting for our freedom from religion.

I’m pretty tired, so my apologies if my thoughts aren’t entirely coherent. That’s all for now. More later. Or sooner!

A Visit Home and Another Wedding

I am now waiting at the airport for my flight back to NYC, after an eventful weekend of my best childhood friend’a wedding, Rachel. It was lovely–cupcakes and a candy table, and I am looking forward to seeing the photos. I also got to see my friend Elana, which was really nice.

Outside the wedding, I got to see my famillas friend Jon (who I hadn’t seen in 4 years at least) and Matt. AND I convinced my dad to go register people vote (Obama!!). All-in-all a really excellent weekend. I’m ready to get back to my NYC life and play some improv tonight with my favorite improv-playing ladies at the PIT. Yay! Then back to real life tomorrow. It’ll be a bit of a long haul for wok, but I’m pretty excited to get back to work an get some things done. It is going to be an awesome fall. Heck, yes. More to come soon (DNC convention, perhaps some religion stuff).

Love, Shannon.

Understanding the Other Side

I religiously listen to Planet Money, an NPR podcast that is amazing, and I highly recommend. The podcast has great music, is short and sweet and the folks who host it are great–funny, entertaining and best of all, it is a really accessible view of economics.  The folks that host the show also write other things occasionally, and I’m usually quite satisfied with the outcome.  Adam Davidson, one of the main Planet Money folks, wrote the cover story for the NY Times Magazine this past weekend, and it is seriously worth a read, though it’s a bit long.  The story is really a profile of a past co-worker of Mitt Romney’s, Edward Conrad.  He worked with Romney at Bain Capitol, and has recently released a book, Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong, explaining his theory that income inequality is actually a good thing for all of society.   There are a lot of reasons why this upsets me.  Conrad’s theory is well thought-out, and as far as I can tell, logically sound.  Davidson agrees.  The problem is that Conrad describes a world that I do not want to live in.

This constant calculation — even of the incalculable — can be both fascinating and absurd. The world Conard describes too often feels grim and soulless, one in which art and romance and the nonremunerative satisfactions of a simpler life are invisible. And that, I realized, really is Conard’s world. “God didn’t create the universe so that talented people would be happy,” he said. “It’s not beautiful. It’s hard work. It’s responsibility and deadlines, working till 11 o’clock at night when you want to watch your baby and be with your wife. It’s not serenity and beauty.”

This seems like a stale, sad, sad world.  I want no part of it.  Conrad basically argues that we need really intense, strong incentives for people to work hard and take risks, and that therefore, we need inequality so that the top is worth striving for, and the bottom worth striving not to be in.  And this is problematic for me because the world he is talking about is pretty entirely work-focused and really all about money.  But we made money up!  It is a metaphor and conduit for resources and power.  The world I would like to live in is more equal because I don’t like the idea of living in a world whose sole purpose is about amassing wealth.  That seems crazy to me, and icky.  I don’t have a great logical argument other than ick.  But that’s it.  Davidson does argue that part of the problem with inequality is that those with money (ie, power and resources) will use that money to influence society to help them maintain their status, money etc, and inevitably the system will reward those who initially obtain money, not those who actually work hard and take risks. Much better argument than mine.  But ICK!  Really, who wants to live in a world that is all about money??!!  No, thank you.

My dad’s girlfriend also posted a great post from a friend of hers who is an anthropologist. The post aims to explain how Evangelical Christians hold the political beliefs they do, while secular liberals are so flummoxed by  Evangelicals seemingly voting “against their own self-interest.”  I definitely agree with her main thesis, that Evangelicals see the world how they wish people would be, and that they see government programs “[step] in when people fall short.”    In my arguments with my Facebook friend, Peter, I have definitely seen this.  His arguments are based upon (it seems to me) legislating as if all Americans are the most ideal Christians, and that any law falling short of that is condoning a relatively evil way of living and being.  His arguments, as much as he tries to avoid it, are based upon his very Christian (Catholic, even) ideal world, and one where values held by Catholics are not just held but also attempted to be attained by all citizens in the US.  I know he is a caring and generous person one-on-one, and that his intention is not to hurt people, but I also believe the policies he supports do just that.

Anyway, a few articles worth their salt and time, courtesy of the New York Times.  What can I say–I’m a liberal New Yorker!!