Saturday, July 28, 2012

Farmers' Market

We drove up the hill to Fayetteville today, despite the blistering heat (104 here, and I think it was hotter there). Visited the Farmers Market, among other places, and got some lovely grapes and figs, more of the tiny peaches, beautiful tomatoes, red ones and orange ones, nice little purple potatoes, and Obama buttons all around.

Fayetteville is much more blue than Fort Smith, I think.

We also visited the best used bookstore in Arkansas (in our opinion), Dickson Street Bookshop, and got too many books, as usual. And then to the Ozark Natural Foods, for more lovely items -- rainbow colored carrots (orange, red, white, purple -- each carrot a different color, I mean, not the carrots colored like rainbows) and more grapes, because a different sort, and locally-grown free-range hens, deep-frozen.

The air conditioner on our ancient heap went out (as it usually does when the weather gets over 89 degrees) so we did most of this in the vicious heat, and now I am so exhausted.

But it is nice to have food in the house that is not frozen peas and crackers once again.

Friday, July 20, 2012

That Never Happened.

At the beginning of Joanna Russ's book, The Female Man, she has a quotation which talks about the various ways men silence women.

One of the main ways is to discount their experience. To say, in effect, that never happened. Don't be silly. You're exaggerating. I don't remember it like that.

I have (almost entirely) stopped blogging about my family here, because, well, the flak I get afterwards from them IRL isn't worth it. But I find I'm compelled to blog on this one.

Over on FB, my brother -- the one I like best -- and I got into a wrangle about the Tosh incident.

I posted a link to another of Tosh's very funny rape jokes, this one with several boys sexually assaulting another boy, with a header that suggested I found it shocking anyone could find Tosh amusing when he was making this kind of joke.

My brother asserted, basically, that one bad joke didn't make a bad comedian.

I argued back (a) not one joke and (b) rape jokes were different from "bad" jokes.

It went downhill from there.

Now reasonable people can disagree, clearly. But here is why I can't let go of this argument.

I made the point, to him, that Tosh had used the "joke" of raping the woman in his audience to silence her. I argued that this is how rape gets used in our culture fairly often -- as a tool to silence and oppress women. I said that I -- like many women in America -- had been threatened with rape by random strangers as well as by guys I knew almost constantly from the time I was eleven years old; I said that he (he's six foot four and hefty) could have no idea what that was like.

He said, "I'm sorry you let fear rule your life."

He said, "Seriously, you've been threatened with rape since you were eleven? By whom?"

And when I got more specific (listing an example, one out of about ten thousand, of the very first guy whoever yelled out of a car window at me, when I was eleven years old, "Hey, cunt, want to get fucked?"), he said, "Really? When?"

Because, you know, that never happened. Don't be silly. You're exaggerating.

I am really incapable of communicating how angry I am at the moment.

Even though, you know, this is nothing new. How many times has this happened -- not just to me, of course: to any woman who tries to talk about this to men. To any person of color who tries to talk about racism to white people. To any LBGTQ who tries to talk about their experience to a straight person.

You know, because it didn't happen to him, he didn't get stalked by guys in malls, he didn't learn he had to watch his surroundings constantly, he didn't get chased by guys in trucks when he rode his bike, he didn't get get cornered in a bar by someone who was his classmate in graduate school -- supposedly his intellectual peer -- and have his tits grabbed, told he had to give it up or he was a frigid bitch -- these things didn't happen to him, so they didn't happen.

I'm exaggerating. We all are.

From the Everyday Sexism site:

...last Sunday the Olympic torch was in Trinity Great Court. Students, staff and fellows had to obtain tickets well in advance of the event to stand on the grass and soak in the atmosphere (maybe a bit of rain too), welcome the Olympics, and watch the Olympic torchbearer take one lap around it. I hear there is a reference to the Chariots of Fire in there somewhere. The nominated torchbearer was a girl of around 16, maybe 17 max. Cheerful, sweet, incredibly enthusiastic, with her entire family gathered to watch. As soon as she was handed the flame, a middle-aged man from the crowd (I presume still drunk from the night before) yelled at her at the top of his voice- "Get your tits out for the lads". My boyfriend and I were too stunned to react, and by the time we both checked with each other we weren't hallucinating, he had run off. He was within earshot of security, cameras and crowds of people. No one budged.

Challenged a (male) friend the other day for posting a cartoon of a buxom lady with the caption 'What's worse, me or a mosquito? Me, because a mosquito stops sucking when you slap it.' His friends rallied to his defence, including a woman (and several young women 'liked' this pic, on Facebook).

cycling home when white van drives slowly next to you while a man oggles & says ‘need a hand sweetheart’

Walking home at night is something I avoid now. After I was honked at multiple times, stopped by a stranger in a car, and chased down by a drunk who thought following me would be a good idea, I don't feel safe anymore. It's a sad world.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bastille Day!

It's almost midnight here in Arkansas, and Bastille Day, as I have just noticed.

I've been working all day, writing, editing, doing laundry, doing dishes, reading and making helpful notes on student papers -- I started at 9:00 this morning, and it's six minutes to midnight now.

Tomorrow I'll do the same again.

Monday I teach, hold office hours, and then come home and do the same thing.

Good thing we professors only work nine hours a week.

But! I did get a chance, while I was eating lunch, to read this anti-Feminist bloggit lady, who says that women "naturally" belong in low-paying, low-competition jobs like nursing and teaching and secretarial work, because we are unstable and easily distracted -- that's if we're going to work at all: because obviously we should not be working. Obviously men should be working. We should be at home, raising six to ten kids each (or, as she calls them, consumers).

If women would leave the labor pool and stay home doing all that work of raising, nursing, laundrying for, and educating extra consumers for free, says The Thinking Housewife, we would have no economic crisis! It is only because we think we are citizens, and not Men's Servants, that these economic problems have arisen!

Now That's Just Common Sense.

And I have written past Bastille Day, right into July 15.

Start the Revolution Now.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Now You Must Write What I Say

This summer I have taught Comp I and Comp II back to back at our battered little university, which means 10 weeks of reading student compositions.

For the past five or six years, since we switched the curriculum toward making the Comp I & II classes more specifically aimed at teaching the students academic writing (rather than, say, the writing process in general), I have been running my classes more or less the same way. That is, in the first semester, students do field research on and write ethnographic papers about a sociological group (it can be a work group, a church group, any sort of subgroup in the society as a whole -- I've had papers about soybean farmers in the Delta, BASE jumpers, roller derby teams, Pentecostal choirs), and then write expository papers and argumentative papers on problems in those groups; in the second semester, students write one big paper about a problem in their own lives, with attached smaller papers that summarize and evaluate sources for that paper, and explain attempts to solve the problem, and attempts to research solutions to the problem.

My point here -- and I do have one -- is that for all of this work, I have been compelling students to find their own research topics. That is, they have to go out and find, on their own, the group they want to study for their ethnographic field work.

And in the second semester, they have to find their own problem -- ideally some problem in their own lives -- that they want to solve.

I designed the class this way in order to force the students to write about topics that are (a) things they actually care about and (b) small, manageable topics.

That is, by making them write ethnographies on groups they had actually researched, in person, themselves, and then write about problems attached to those groups; and by making them write about problems in their own lives, I hoped to avoid those horrible, useless, impossible papers that are the bane of every English professor's existence: Why Euthanasia is Bad. Should the Death Penalty Be Overturned? ABORTION: SHOULD IT BE BANNED?

These papers are horrible not just because students have nothing new to say about them; but also because it is seriously impossible for a freshman at a university to describe and solve these problems in a 10 page paper, no matter how many brilliant sources he or she uses.

On the other hand! A paper on what sort of physical training you need to be a competent BASE jumper? That paper a freshman at a university can write most brilliantly in 7-10 pages.

So what's the problem?

The problem is these papers keep making (some of) my students sad.

They don't want to find their own topics. They want me to provide topics for them. (I suspect they would also like the topics to be things like Why Euthanasia is Bad and Why Abortion Should Be Banned.)

I have been resisting this. But now. Lately. I've been wondering whether it wouldn't make everyone's life simpler if I didn't just divide the class into five groups and give them five different topics. And give each group a dozen different sources. Maybe even an outline of the paper.

Why not?

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Attacked by Giant BUGS!!

The kid and I take our walks in the early evening these days. We just about have to, with the weather Fort Smith has been having lately -- summer's vicious heat having arrived. Today was the first day in two weeks that the temperature did not go over 100, and usually the high was closer to 110 to 100. Also, no rain and few clouds have combined to dry up our world.

So just at or just past sunset (9.00 or so in these parts) is when we go walking.

Which has been fine until lately.

Just lately, and I can't say why -- maybe it's attached to the drought? -- all the cicadas have taken to dropping out of the trees. While this is sad for the cicadas, who struggle around and die on the pavement and roads and among the dry stubble of dead grass in people's lawn, it is worse for me and the kid, because when we're out walking at night, giant cicadas keep landing on us.

I don't know if you have ever seen a cicada up close. Here's a picture of one on Wikipedia.

Our are bigger, and MUCH UGLIER.

Especially when they land on you. And yell at you.

The kid thought it was funny when it was me it happened to. Because I made a sound like this: "AAAAGH!"

But then it happened to her.

Not so funny now, huh?

Enough to put you off exercise, I swear.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Working Working Working

Spent the entire weekend either writing writing writing (I've got a novel, plus a story I'm finishing, plus a new story I'm starting) or reading reading reading (other people's stories) or grading grading grading (Summer I grades R due tomorrow) so I am worn out.

For fun I cleaned house, as much as I can clean house as broken as I am.

Me: (starting to pick up laundry basket, growling.) Dr. Skull!

Dr. Skull: (Playing guitar loudly)

Me: DR. SKULL! (Adds a bad word.)

Kid emerges from her room, where she has been drawing for the past 15 hours: What now?

Me: Carry this, will you? (Another bad word.)

Kid: Oh, Mom. You're so sad. (Carries basket for me.)

(In Dr. Skull's defense, when he is not playing the guitar loudly, he does all the heavy lifting for me these days.)