Wednesday, January 19, 2011

No regrets

The word "feminist" is commonly perceived as an almost offensive word in mainstream social interactions.  If I call myself a feminist* when I'm talking to my close friends, especially my feminist, progressive friends, it's not a dirty word.  But if I use it in less-safe contexts, it certainly feels like I've made some sort of mistake.

At work, my feminism is no secret, but I often feel as if many of my coworkers consider it some weird quirk about me, like, "Oh, there Steph goes again.  She turned a normal conversation into a feminist-thing."  Not that my coworkers aren't great people, people I like and get along with, just that I have to be extra-conscious of the way I talk about a lot of issues.

There are two specific areas of my life where bringing up feminism feels like a moderate risk.  The first is when I'm trying to date.  The second is right now, as I try to get into graduate programs.  In both cases, I made the decision to make my feminism public.  And in both cases, I don't have regrets.


I don't like or hate dating.  It's fun, but there's a lot of stress and over-analyzing, and "What do I say or not say to get another date?"  And when it comes to online dating, there's a lot of stress over the fact that an online dating profile is often a terrible indication of whether or not you would get along with someone in person.  It's a great way to avoid wasting time with deal-breakers; I tend to avoid messaging guys** who smoke, who use misogynistic language or talk about chivalry, who don't have similar intellectual backgrounds,*** or who seem to be really keen on finding a partner who will join them in lots and lots of travel or physical activity.  But it's not really a good way to tell if the conversation will be interesting, or even if you're going to be attracted to the other person physically.

So the goal of the profile is to deter obviously incompatible people from messaging you (and yet I still get messages from 40-year-olds sometimes), and to get possibly compatible people TO message you.

So do I put in my profile that I'm a feminist?  Originally, I didn't.  I got more dates when I didn't, but I only had a handful of second and third dates, and they weren't fun.  So I decided to put it in.  It was in my profile when I started dating my last boyfriend, and while that relationship obviously didn't last, putting it in worked.  My boyfriend had been interested in my profile because I was socially progressive, and not afraid to say it.

I keep it in my profile now that I'm dating again.  I'm okay with the fact that it cuts down on the number of messages and dates I get.  Any guy I go out with is going to find out at some point that I'm a feminist.  I might as well make sure I avoid wasting time going out with guys that would find that unattractive or a problem.

Grad school:

I'm a pretty decent applicant for biology PhD programs.  I say "pretty decent" because I do not work in admissions, so I'm just guessing.  My GRE scores are fabulous, I have excellent recommendations, I've got great research experience, and I do think that my personal statement is interesting and well-written.  But I also have a super-mediocre GPA.

What's worse is that my GPA is pretty evenly divided between "biology classes" and "not biology classes."  Any class I took for my biology major, I got a mediocre grade in.  At best.  Most classes I took for other requirements, for fun, or for Women's Studies,**** I did very well in.  And I'm reasonably sure that, if you're dealing with a shitload of applicants, you're going to assume I'm not cut out for science and throw my application into the rejection pile.

I figured that with the rest of my application being really great, I would have a chance at some interviews, where I could explain that wild discrepancy.  It's not that biology classes are just too hard for little ol' me.  It's that biology classes at the school I went to SUCKED.  I'm not saying that I couldn't have aced them if that's all I had time for.  I'm saying they SUCKED.  You are not going to learn how to do excellent science by sitting in a lecture hall at 9:30am with 300 other students.  You are not going to learn how to do excellent science by struggling to do a basic lab experiment with a lab partner who's not interested in working.  You are not going to learn how to do excellent science in a lab class where your grade depends on technicalities, or whether or not a really difficult experimental set-up works (especially if only two groups get it to work and the professor admits that it usually doesn't work).

You learn how to do excellent science by joining a lab and working on a project.  I did some of that, mostly introductory labwork, and even though I was lost most of the time, it was the most helpful class I took to prepare me for working in science.

A lecture class with 3 tests, all of which require you to essentially read the textbook and memorize the details?  Not useful professionally, and not a good way to measure ability or even learning.

So that's pretty much why my biology grades are solidly MEH.  Because I don't learn by going to boring lectures interrupted by pre-meds, where the only way to ace the test is to read the book and remember everything.  I learn by understanding something, and relaying my understanding back to a professor.  Kind of like how Women's Studies works.  We sat and talked about everything, from hardcore theory to examples of socialization and bias.  We read engaging books.  We were "tested" by writing papers, giving us a chance to demonstrate our understanding by making new arguments.

That's how I learn.  Memorizing a biology textbook isn't useful.  Being able to understand, say, privilege and explain it in a paper is useful.

But that's something to leave for interviews.  I don't want to sound whiny in my personal statement.  But I did need to use that personal statement as an opportunity to distinguish myself from other candidates.  Like so many other applicants, I want to go into research because of a personal experience (in my case, my own illness), and I want to cure diseases.  Not original!  Not interesting!

Unlike a lot of applicants, though, my most important goal is to plug up the leaky pipeline***** and to increase women and people of color in the sciences in general.  And so I said so in my statement.  I said I was a feminist.  And I made it clear that you're not going to just get another person who can do good research; you're going to get a very unique PhD student who's not hyper-competitive, who's thinking about social responsibility.

I have gotten four interviews so far (waiting to hear back from six more programs).  I firmly believe that making my feminism clear in my personal statement not only helped to sort of diminish my weird GPA (and to make the Women's Studies classes look much less like filler, which they weren't!  I loved those classes!), but also helped to distinguish me enough that admissions committees are taking interest.

I hope that by making it clear that being open about my feminism hasn't destroyed my personal life and career, more men and women will feel good about applying that "f-word" to themselves.  No more, "I'm not a feminist, but!"  How about, "I'm a feminist, and!"

* I've tried and failed to use "feminist" as an adjective and not a noun.  I'll practice more, I promise.

** As far as I know, I am heterosexual, and therefore look for guys to date.  I have no idea what it's like to be a guy trying to date women, or a man OR a woman trying to date someone of the same sex.  Or to be a transperson trying to date.  This is just a hetero-cis-woman trying to date men who like women.

*** I've been called out before for this preference, but at this point, I've stopped trying to force myself to date guys I'm not attracted to from the start.  I like to date guys who graduated from a decent college, especially with STEM degrees (not necessarily exclusively, but all of my boyfriends were scientist guys, and I really like that ...).  I don't refuse to go on dates with guys who don't fit that bill, but really, I can't help it :(

**** This is what the program was called at my school.  I don't like that it's called that.  I think it should be called "Sex and Gender Studies," or, "Sex, Gender, and Sexuality Studies."  But it wasn't my decision.

***** The leaky pipeline specifically refers to the loss of women in the sciences higher up in the career ladder.  That is, the higher you go (from PhD student to post-doc to assistant scientist, etc. etc.), the fewer women there are.  And the fewer women you start with (i.e. a higher percent of biology PhDs go to women than do computer science PhDs), the fewer you end up with.  The reasons for the leakiness include, but are not limited to, sexism in the workplace in general, the stereotype of STEM as a "male" field, and the lack of childcare options in the US.

I like asterisks.

Friday, January 14, 2011

AGAIN. Words MEAN things

Words really mean things.  Just like "blood libel" does not generically mean "false accusation," the word "pogrom" does not mean "attack."

The Washington Times doesn't seem to get that.  In fact, while defending Sarah Palin's speech, where she used the term "blood libel" incorrectly and offensively, the Times uses the word "pogrom" exact same incorrect, offensive way.

What the hell is a pogrom?  A pogrom is a government sanctioned or condoned raid or attack on a minority, typically on their village or homes.  While it can be used to describe raids against many religious and ethnic minorities, it is most commonly used to describe those raids that occurred in Russia in the early 20th century on Jewish villages and shtetls.  Have you seen Fiddler on the Roof?  Where Anatevka is trying to celebrate a fucking wedding and the Russian soldiers tear the place apart?  That's a pogrom.

It's not a plain old attack.  It's a very specific kind of attack, meant to drive out or eliminate a minority.  It's not fair play in any sense--a pogrom does not occur as retaliation towards the pogrom-victim's earlier actions.  A pogrom is NOT when people criticize a public figure for knowingly and offensively misusing a loaded term.


Having two terms, both related to Judaism, misused within days of each other is really, really obnoxious, and it gets me fucking pissed off.  Words mean things, people.  And for the last time, if this isn't evidence that Jewish people are still disrespected in US politics in 2011, I'm not sure what would be.

Eeehehehehe--Grad School

Graduate schools are obnoxious.  Like I've said before, there's really nothing centralized, unlike undergraduate admissions and medical school admissions, which (while still a huge pain in the ass in many ways) make some effort to centralize the process.  You've got guidance counselors and medical school advisors, who organize the mailing of recommendations.  Test scores are easy to send out (although this is true for the GRE as well).  There's a common application.

Graduate programs are a wreck, and not just in terms of the disorganization of applications.  Most of my deadlines have passed (two programs have deadlines tomorrow), but now we're in the waiting period.  Many programs are already getting back to people; I have three interviews already (including one that I got back in December--absurdly early), and one of the interviews was issued before the application deadline.  Additionally, there are only so many weekends in January, February, and March, and so many people, myself included, are anxious about how quickly we're going to have to throw together schedules for these months.  I know I'm extremely concerned about how much work I'm going to have to miss (1 day per local program, possibly 2 days for others).  So I sought out information--when the hell should I begin to suspect I've been rejected?

I found a couple of websites, and the results?  FUCKING HILARIOUS.

Getting into a PhD program is really important to me, and to other people.  I've been extremely obsessive and organized about my applications, and now my interviews.  But I'm also confident that I'll get in somewhere great, have a great/stressful/wtf 5-6 years, and end up with a great career.  Cool.

People are freaking out, though.  They're posting their "stats:" GPA, what kind of college they attended, GRE scores, years of undergraduate/other experience, publications, etc. etc. etc., in addition to all of the programs they applied to and have heard back from.  People are freeeeeaking.  And while I don't find anything particularly hilarious about, "I found out I was rejected from [school].  I'm disappointed," I do think it's hilarious to see people panicking about the massive Nor'easter that just hit New England, because, and I'm not kidding, they're worried that it'll impact the decision timeline from Harvard's BBS program.  Now, I'm not that panicky because I didn't apply to BBS.  And because my PI told me that BBS isn't even close to making any decisions.  So it's hilarious to see that people are actually paying attention to Boston weather because they think that they're supposed to hear back any day now.

Anyway, am I anxious about graduate school?  Yes.  Do I feel panicked because I'm still waiting to hear back from 7 programs?  Yes, but it's because I always get anxious during the waiting game.  Also, I'm bored because I'm done with applications, and panicking is something to do.  But it just tickles me a little bit to see people getting this upset and worried so early in the game.  Look, everyone, almost all of us will be getting a PhD in 4-7 years.  Don't worry.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Part 150,443 in "Words Mean Things."

As you may already be aware of, words actually mean things.

I'm not going to really go into just HOW bad it is that Sarah Palin is accusing the media of "blood libel."  Because it's really bad.  It's appallingly and inarguably anti-Semitic.

Words mean things.  If you want to say, "The media is falsely accusing me of instigating violence," then you should say that.  But "blood libel" doesn't mean "false accusation."  "False accusation" means "false accusation."

For those of you who are unfamiliar with "blood libel," it's the specific false accusation that the Jewish people sacrifice Christian children in order to use their blood to make bread that we then eat.  Blood libel has been used for hundreds of years as an excuse to persecute, dehumanize, discriminate against, and murder Jewish people.

So unless the media is accusing Sarah Palin and the Tea Party of murdering good liberal children in order to use their blood to make bread, and then using that lie in order to persecute and murder Sarah Palin and the Tea Party over hundreds of years, it's NOT blood libel.  Like, actually, factually not even close.

Words mean things.  And these words?  Anti-Semitic.  DUH.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jared Loughner is crazy! Or something!

Saturday was going so well for me.  Loki woke me up early, which was okay because I always feel more productive when I'm awake earlier in the day (translation: more time to sit in bed and do nothing).  I went on a date that was really fun.  I picked up some items from Walgreens that I needed.  And I even straightened up my room, which has been clean for all of 2011 (usually my room stays clean for 2-3 days before returning to its usual disguise as the fourth circle of hell).  I even vacuumed.  And then I crawled into bed with a little green bird and looked online.

So here's what I guess I know.  Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who has faced numerous threats and actual acts of violence (her office was vandalized--rocks thrown, etc.), was at a Congress on your Corner event.  This guy named Jared Loughner, who has had lots of issues (drug use, dropped out of college), went up to the congresswoman and shot her in the head.  He then opened fire on the crowd, killing several elderly people, a Federal judge, one of the congresswoman's aides, and a 9-year-old girl.  Fourteen people were injured, including Giffords, who managed to survive the gunshot to the head and has been in critical condition since Saturday.  Loughner was tackled and apprehended before he could do further harm to others or himself, and now faces two counts of attempted murder, two counts of murder, and one count of the attempted murder of a congressperson.

Here are some more things I know.  For a long time now, several individuals and groups on the right have been espousing violence--specifically gun violence--as the way to "take back" America.  That is not to say that these people have actually taken their guns, gone to perceived enemies, and threatened to kill them.  I'm talking about the rhetoric that's being used, the imagery that we're seeing.  It's not a secret that these individuals and groups have been using this rhetoric and imagery, and I'm actually just mostly offended that now, they're acting like WHOOPS WE DIDN'T MEAN IT.

Head's up, people: words mean things.  If what you mean to say is, "I know that right now, we feel hopeless because there are changes happening in our country we don't agree with.  We need to stand up and speak out against these changes, vote for the people who will stop these changes, and introduce legislation to make the changes that we want to see," then don't say, "Don't retreat, RELOAD."  Don't talk about "second amendment remedies."  Don't threaten gun violence if you don't think gun violence is the answer!

Now yeah, sometimes you want to use analogies and metaphors in your rhetoric to mobilize your base.  Cool.  But if you're not creative enough to do that without actually threatening people at the same time, maybe you should find a different job?

Here's something I don't know: Jared Loughner's brain.  I haven't met the guy or his brain.  I don't have his medical history.  I don't have an extremely accurate narrative describing his drug use.  I really don't know.

And I don't fucking care.

Yeah, it's true, there's got to be something wrong if you think that it's acceptable for you to try to assassinate a congressperson and then open fire on a crowd.  But we, as a nation, need to stop making the erroneous assumption that if you are capable of doing something almost universally accepted as wrong and evil, you must be mentally ill.  There's really no reason to make this assumption, beyond, "I don't understand how someone could make this decision, unless their brains didn't work properly."  Well, aren't YOU a talented psychologist?

I know people who are, as we say, mentally ill.  Mental illness is a term that bothers me, since it implies that these people always have sick brains that don't work properly.  But the people I know who are mentally ill are just like me, for the most part.  I've never had to stop being friends with someone who's mentally ill because they've threatened me or done something horrible.  And in many cases, I haven't even known about a friend's mental illness for a long time because it's not obvious.

So is Loughner "crazy?"  I guess the better question is, "Well, does it even matter?"

Ask the victims--does it matter whether or not the guy is crazy?  Or does your gunshot wound suck just as much?

Ask congress--does it matter whether or not the guy is crazy?  Or are you still concerned that voting the "wrong" way will put your life in danger?

Ask the people and groups spouting crap about reloading and the second amendment--does it matter whether or not the guy is crazy?  Or are you still thinking now about whether or not your rhetoric might have an impact you didn't want?

People are also freaking out about who's allowed to buy guns.  Look, we can't have everything both ways.  Either guns are hard for everyone to get or easy for everyone to get.  Generally, if you're working hard to increase access to guns, people you'd rather not get a gun are going to get a gun.  Make guns harder to get for everyone, including you, and then you can solve that.  But clearly, this is like increasing spending without increasing taxes; what the hell are you trying to do here?

Sady Doyle at Tiger Beatdown makes an excellent point in her Arizona shooting FAQ.  We don't know if Loughner is crazy, but it's pretty clear that he's stupid.  She has a great takedown of his favorite books list, correctly pointing out what I noticed as well: no one who ACTUALLY understood these books would have liked all of them.  Come on!  We are not dealing with a genius.

So, to sum up:

1) This ruined my Saturday.
2) Being mentally ill does not make you kill people.
3) Do not use violent rhetoric if you do not mean to incite violence (also known as "words mean things").
4) It doesn't really matter very much if Loughner is mentally ill.
5) Jared Loughner is stupid.
6) Sady Doyle rules.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Word of advice from me to me

As a Kaplan SAT teacher, one of the pieces of information I passed onto my class at the end of the course was related to test day.  Lots of teens don't get enough sleep, and being extremely tired on test day can be a disaster.  Kaplan has us tell our students to get a good night's sleep two nights before the test.  That is, get plenty of sleep on Thursday night for the Saturday morning test.

And then I stopped thinking about this advice.

Never mind the assertion from a good friend of mine that Tuesdays are worse than Mondays.  I always felt that was true, but couldn't pinpoint why (I kept thinking, "But Tuesday is closer to the weekend!").  I never questioned why Tuesdays were my least productive days.  Until today.

It's 2011, and my sleep schedule got slightly messy over the weekend, during New Year's.  I ended up sleeping till noon on Sunday, and I was disappointed, knowing I'd have trouble sleeping that night.  I did struggle to get sleep, and while I didn't wake up on Monday feeling well-rested, I didn't feel terrible.  Monday night, I didn't go to bed early, but neither did I go to bed unreasonably late.

This morning, I am ridiculously, obscenely over-tired.  I just want to sleep.  I slept through my alarm, and I'm almost asleep at my desk.  The thought of getting up and getting work done would be terrifying if I currently could feel anything through this haze of sleepiness.

Get sleep on Sunday night, people, or you will find yourself barely even half-awake on Tuesday ... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Resolutions 2011

I'm one of those people who loves to make to-do lists and plan, to the point where I don't actually follow through on half of what I say I will.  That means I'm exactly the kind of person to make all these awesome resolutions for the new year, and then have to make the same exact ones the next year because of how spectacularly I've failed.


This year, I'm trying something only slightly different, hoping that it'll change things.  Like many people, my first resolution has to do with my body.  Everyone's miserable about how they look in some way or another, either anguishing over how they'll never look normal, or pouring their efforts into making themselves look normal.  I decided to start before the new year because the new year is an arbitrary date, you know?

I got a gym membership in mid-December, and I've so far met my goal of going once a week for the rest of the month of December.  I also have met my goal of making sure I'm on the treadmill for at least 30 minutes and 2 miles, even if I have to walk.  For January, my goal is to keep the 30 minutes and 2 miles, but up the nights a week to 2.  February will hopefully be 3 days a week, and March will be 3 miles.  I'm hoping that by joining a gym that I pass on my way home, starting with smaller goals and increasing them, and allowing myself to walk if my calves seize up are excellent ways to get this to work.

My second resolution is another one that a lot of young people try to make.  I am famously a slob.  Really.  Part of it's not my fault.  I moved out during my senior year of college, and my mother sold our house.  The majority of my worldly possessions are currently in my room.  The rest are in my apartment, with very little in my mother's apartment.  I think that somewhere, there's a plastic trunk with childhood things in it, but that's it.  I have so much crap, and very little space to put it all.
Part of it IS my fault.  I'll leave clothes on the floor.  I'll forget to bring empty cups and bowls back to the kitchen.  My bird will get seeds all over the floor.  I'll pull out books or DVDs and forget to put them back.  I won't make my bed.  And then I'll be so overwhelmed and/or tired from work that I won't clean, and then it'll just get worse.  It's pretty horrendous!

I also get passive-agressive about the bathroom.  I share it with two roommates who've never cleaned it.  But no one cleans the other common spaces either, so I resent having to clean the bathroom.  I hate cleaning the kitchen or doing the dishes when the majority of the mess and dishes are not mine.  In the end, the apartment is icky.

I like to start off the new year in a clean space, though, for good luck (also good luck: wearing new clothing.  Bad luck: things I did while drunk).  So now my apartment and room are nice and clean.  I'm going to see how long I can keep it that way, or at least my bedroom.  Hopefully my roommates will pitch in with the common areas.

My third resolution is the least likely to happen.  I tend to hit snooze on my alarm until it's an hour after I planned to get up.  I tend to take too long to get ready.  And I tend to get to work a bit later than I wish I did.  I'm going to try to improve my wake-up time, but I'm not going to kill myself over it.  It's not as if I leave work early or don't get anything done.  We'll see how it goes.

December: 1x/wk, 2mi -- TADAH
January: 2x/wk, 2mi
February: 3x/wk, 2mi
March: 3x/wk, 3mi

Clean through January 3rd

Boo, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal!!

Trigger warning: non-consensual crap ahead

Hey, you know what figures?  That right after I posted about how psyched I was about SMBC's recent comic featuring a gay couple incidentally (rather than as part of a joke), SMBC would piss me the fuck off!

So this comic is pretty horrible.  I mean, seriously.  HAHA isn't it funny that this woman made a claim about women being better at something than men are, and instead of either a) pointing out that she's made an unfair generalization, or b) just swallowing his pride and getting over it, the dude she's with decides that it's completely okay for him to prove her wrong by taking photos of her, with his testicles on her forehead, every night while she's asleep.  If that weren't bad enough, on his death bed, he found it hilarious and appropriate to post a flipbook of those photos on the internet for everyone to view.

It goes without saying that this is just so, so wrong.  Putting your testicles on someone's face without consent is assault.  Taking photos of it is also a form of assault, and a huge violation of the other person.  Putting the photos online is even more horrendous a violation.  And all of this done to someone you supposedly love, and who obviously loves you?  WTFFFFFF.

It's just not very funny.  The punchline made it worse.  Not that I could think of a justification for this dude's behavior, but the punchline, which was the motive behind the violation, seemed so petty, and so passive-aggressive, I found it mortifying.
What makes everything even worse, if the rest of it weren't bad enough, is that this woman is basically now being shamed for her partner's behavior.  Those messages are for her.  He's dying and no longer has to deal with the consequences.  The woman has been left to cope with what he did to her.  It's heartbreaking.

Plenty of people can be hilariously funny without resorting to anything as cruel and crude as this particular comic.  SMBC is often one of those comics where they're usually hilarious without making me, as a progressive feminist, run away screaming.  This is the biggest disappointment yet.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bathrooms: Two Thoughts

First thought:

A lot of conservatives will panic at the idea of a transwoman using a women's bathroom.  They have this really weird conviction that male sexual predators will pretend to be transwomen, go into women's bathrooms, and sexually assault "real" women and, of course, children.

If you're unsure of why this fear is absurd and rooted in transhate, you're probably reading the wrong blog.

But another thing that I find so incredibly upsetting is this equally absurd idea that women and children will be safe if we keep bathrooms gendered and keep transpeople in the wrong sex and prevent them from using the bathrooms they feel comfortable with.  I'm one of many women who was not assaulted in a bathroom, or by a male sexual predator disguising himself as a transwoman.  Additionally, I know of a woman who was murdered in a reststop bathroom ... by a man who was obviously not pretending to be a transwoman.

The problem here is not that some women using the women's bathroom will have penises.  The problem here is not that some men in the men's bathroom will not have penises.  The problem is that there are people in this world, mostly but not exclusively men, who think that it's okay for them to assault and hurt other people.  There are these people who will decide to hurt people, and if they can't go into the women's bathroom to do it, they'll do it elsewhere.  But allowing men and women to use the bathrooms they feel the most comfortable in?  That's not going to make people assault each other.

Second thought:

As a woman who grew up with an older brother, and who has only NOT lived with men during four years of college, and who currently has three male roommates, I'm not the kind of person who would find Ally McBeal type unisex bathrooms upsetting.  But I've accepted that fine, that's not going to happen any time soon.  In the meantime, I'm mostly annoyed with some of the ways that men's and women's bathrooms are designated.  Even the classic block figures bother me, since like many women, I don't wear skirts frequently.

But I noticed something about the bathrooms at work that first bothered me, and should still bother me, but no longer do.

In the women's bathrooms at my work, the stalls are pink.  Not bright pink, more like a dusty pink, but pink nonetheless.  And in the men's bathroom, the stalls are dark blue.

Why are the stalls so gendered?  I'm not sure, but there's now a reason I'm grateful that the stalls are different colors.

I work at a research institute with an animal facility, and it's essential that we have showers for employees.  The animal facility bathrooms are different, but on the main three floors, the bathrooms are all in the same area, because they all share the same plumbing.  Additionally, on the first floor, the women's bathroom is the one with the shower; the men's bathroom with a shower is on the second floor.  So to make the most of the plumbing, the bathrooms are reversed on the first floor, with the women's room on the left and men's on the right.  On the second floor and third floor, the two floors I usually use the bathroom on, the women's room is on the right.

I rarely use the first floor bathroom.  In fact, I've only used it a couple of times.  One morning, I had to go to the bathroom extremely urgently, as early as halfway to work on the T, and as soon as I got into the building, I was rushing to the bathroom.  Obviously, I wasn't going to wait for the elevator or climb two flights of stairs, so I went to the first floor bathrooms.  I walked in and realized, "Wait ... this doesn't look like the bathroom."  It was very obvious I was in the wrong bathroom because the stalls were the wrong color.

I'm not suggesting that using gendered colors is a good idea, and I'd be one of the first people in line to support non-gendered multi-stalled bathrooms.  But as long as we have separate bathrooms, different color schemes (not necessarily gendered ones) aren't such a bad idea, especially in our institute, where the bathrooms look the same on all three floors, but are reversed on one floor ...

Yay, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal!

I'm not a huge follower of webcomics, not because I hate lots of them, but just because of general disinterest.  Right now, I'm down to a few: xkcd, PhD Comics, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, and Brawl in the Family (the last one updates much less frequently, but I love me some Nintendo).  I'm not always thrilled with every single comic, and many of them are highly obnoxious and sexist.  Sometimes, the authors get things right, and sometimes not so much.

Recently, SMBC had an excellent comic regarding nerds and football.  Sure, I know nerds who like football, and non-nerds that aren't so much into it.  But still, this is pretty hilarious:

One thing, though, that the author commented on is pretty great.  This comic utilizes a dating situation with two guys, BUT the punchline has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that this is a date between two guys.  It's just two guys on a date.  And not like a "man date" between friends, but a legitimate romantic date.  And the fact that they're two dudes is not the punchline.

Comics like this one are first steps, but necessary first steps.  We're moving towards a culture where we don't have to focus on things like, "OMG GAY."

Because you know what?  The joke was so funny, I didn't even really notice that it was a date with two men.  Not because I assumed it was a woman on the other side of the table, but because seriously, king of football = awesome.

TV Twist: OMG she's pregnant!

On TV, you rarely see all of the options for women who've become pregnant by accident.  You also don't often see women who become pregnant on purpose.  Thinking over the shows I watch, I've thought of some examples:

Completely unplanned:
Ross and Carol (Friends: ex-spouses)
Ross and Rachel (Friends: just friends)
JD and Kim (Scrubs: just started dating)
Jordan and Dr. Cox (Scrubs: first while they weren't together, then while together) twice
Angela and Hodgins (Bones: while married, not planned)
Jack and Avery (30 Rock: in a non-exclusive relationship, then together)

Phoebe (Friends: surrogate for her brother and sister-in-law)
Carla and Turk (Scrubs: tried to conceive for months)

Angela and Wendell (Bones: Angela's test was a false positive)

So I don't watch a ton of shows, but that's okay!

So we see a ton of unplanned pregnancies, only a couple planned, and a situation where initially, a character believed herself to be pregnant.

Let's look at the results for the unplanned pregnancies:

Ross and Carol (Friends): Carol has the baby, and little Ben shows up from time to time until season 8
Ross and Rachel (Friends): Rachel decides to have the baby no matter what, and she and Ross end up as a family with their daughter
JD and Kim (Scrubs): The two decide to have the baby even though they only just started dating.  They end up long distance, and Kim lies about having a miscarriage because she wants to stay at her new job.  They get back together, but JD never forgives her, and they end up breaking up when their son is born.
Jordan and Dr. Cox (Scrubs): The first pregnancy gets them back together as a couple, even though Dr. Cox doesn't know he's the baby's father until after it's born.  Their second child is born after Dr. Cox has had a vasectomy.
Angela and Hodgins (Bones): They're already married, and while the pregnancy was unplanned, it wasn't something they assumed they'd avoid.
Jack and Avery (30 Rock): Avery's pregnancy results in Jack finally dating her exclusively, and they plan to get married.

First off, Avery from 30 Rock and Kim from Scrubs are both played by Elizabeth Banks, who I guess is now the go-to actress if you want a male TV character to get his girlfriend pregnant by accident.

Why such weird unplanned pregnancy situations?  It's especially when couples like Turk and Carla struggle so much to have their first child (and couples like Chandler and Monica end up having to adopt instead).  I guess on TV, the moral of the story is that if you're a married couple trying to have kids, you will usually have trouble.  If you're not trying, or you're not married, or you're carrying your brother's babies,* then it's super easy.

The thing is, these are ways to make TV "more interesting."  How did the Friends writers revitalize the series after season 7?  Rachel gets pregnant.  How do we add drama to Turk and Carla's relationship?  Make it hard for them to get pregnant.  And how do we make Jack pick between two women?  Get one of them pregnant.

What this means, though, is that we lose a lot of perspective.  We see unplanned pregnancies resulting in babies extremely frequently.  We see the few couples who want to have kids struggle to do so.  We tend to lose the stories of the men and women who decide to start a family and then ... start a family.  And, most importantly, we rarely, rarely see unplanned pregnancies ending in abortion.

Of COURSE these women are going to choose to have their babies--otherwise, the storyline gets cut short.  Pregnancy can last for a whole season; an abortion needs to happen quickly.  Pregnancy and parenthood present writers with tons of options for storylines, but also often can be pushed to the sidelines if necessary.  There can be pregnancies, but not every episode has to focus on it.  And very often, even once characters have children, those children mysteriously "disappear" when it's inconvenient to have them around.  Everyone seems to be able to afford a nanny, or the grandparents will babysit, or something else that gets the babies out of the picture.  Convenient.

Abortion ends quickly.  It's over.  And because PTSD-from-abortion is bogus, there's not a lot of, "OMG so sad about my decision!" that comes afterwards.  The only reason to include abortion, it seems, is for controversy.  Because if you can't get a long, fun storyline from pregnancy, then why have one at all?  In TV, characters only get pregnant to further the plot.  Abortion clearly is not an option there.