Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Emotional Labor of a Nation

If you haven't heard of Gina Haspel, there might be a very good reason. I mean, she was a spy for most of her career.  I'm sorry, a highly decorated agent in the clandestine services.  By all accounts she has spent the majority of her professional life as a measured, capable, smart member of elite people who sacrifice some level of normalcy to gather an utilize intelligence about international goings-on.  Then the current president, who goes through staff faster than I go through cheese, needed a new director of the CIA.  The first female director, which is great,e specially because she is, by all accounts, great at her job.  Experiences, level headed etc.

But.  For a week during the Bush administration she over saw a Bangkok black site where a man was waterboarded three times.  Later, against the recommendation of some, she penned a memo for her boss directing the tapes of some waterboarding to be destroyed.

There is a lot in those two sentences, a lot to unpack.  Waterboarding is torture, and torture is wrong.  Bad.  Problematic.  A lose-lose.  Most experts agree that torture does not get useful information, and is against the Geneva Conventions.  It is a violation of human dignity.
That being said, when Gina Haspel was in Bangkok, we had a president and an administration who considered waterboarding okay.  They called it 'enhanced interrogation' to skirt the law, and they said it was necessary to prevent a mushroom cloud in Manhattan or something.  Before Gina Haspel arrive at the Thai facility she briefly oversaw, another detainee was waterboarded more than 80 times.  That poor man lost consciousness and actually died, and had to be resuscitated.  The descriptions are horrifying.  Haspel took over, briefly, over saw the same horrific act conducted 3 times, and then shut the site down and moved on with her career. 

I am not here to assuage her guilt, or defend water boarding.  But I can't help but feel like holding this woman, who over saw a tiny fraction of the horrific acts done in the name of U.S. national security and actually worked toward stopping it but shutting the Bangkok facility down, is misguided.  We had a president who supported it 2002, and we have a president who claims we should do more than water board suspects now, and no one is questioning either of those men.  Nor is anyone bothering to speak to the man who was in charge of Gina Haspel's conduct, who placed her in Thailand for those weeks in 2002.  Nor is anyone questioning the individual who actually did the actual water boarding.  Or who actually destroyed the tapes. 
We are questioning, haranguing, the woman in the middle, between the men with all the power and the men who follow orders, and holding her responsible.  To me, that seems like we are asking Gina Haspel to answer for our national sins, our election of these presidents and their appointed cabinets, because we still can't. 
Talk about emotional labor. 
Seriously.  I understand that she is being elevated to a high position, that deserves a high degree of scrutiny.  But can we all agree that she didn't decide to waterboard anyone?  Why is no one asking any of these tough questions of our current or past president, both of whom rationalized and excused torture when it was convenient, and sacrificed the humanity of others to stay in power, to look strong.
It is so much easier to rest it all on the shoulders of Ms. Haspel, because even though she neither gave the orders nor took the action, she is the woman we can all turn to and ask if it is ever going to happen again.

I mean, do we all need a national mommy that bad?  Maybe we should elect one, then.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018


10:45 pm  Baby is crying.  Bring water, pacifier.  Snuggle him back to sleep, then stumble back to bed
12:45 am  repeat
1:55 am  repeat
3:50 am  Baby is crying.  Approach with water and search for pacifier blindly only to find pacifier is sitting in pool of chunky vomit.  Wipe hand on own pajamas, and reach for child, who is only damp with vomit.  Move child to clean, dry area.  Replace his pajamas, wipe vomit off of face, hair, and hands.  Give child cup of water to occupy himself.  Remove bed sheets, mop up vomit, throw offending items in a pile in the bathroom.  Lay a clean rag over the stain because you are too lazy to put clean sheets on the bed when there is only one more hour of sleep to look forward to anyway.  Bring child, sippy cup of water, favorite stuffed animal, and favorite blanket into bed with you and sleeping, snoring partner.
4:15 - 4:50 am  Baby rolls around in the bed, pretending to be sleepy while poking and kicking.
4:51 am Baby sits up to drink water
4:52 am Baby begins to throw up water.  Grab still-vomiting baby and try unsuccessfully to catch vomit in your hands, pajamas, anything but beloved stuffed animal or bed sheets.  Carry gathered bed clothes, pajamas, and vomit-y baby back into baby's room, wipe up vomit, change pajamas.  Sleepy partner puts clean sheets on mostly clean crib.  Snuggle now clean baby back to sleep, tuck in, close door.  Change out of own vomit-covered pajamas into new pajamas.
5:20 am Baby is asleep, you are awake but already behind schedule.  Make coffee, prepare alternate baby breakfast of simple oatmeal in anticipation of further tummy trouble.  Shower, and dress in robe.
6:15 am  Baby is crying.  Again.  The room smells like poop.  Baby is damp and smells like poop.  I lay baby down, then think better of it and grab a baby blanket to lay baby on.  Begin process of pulling wet, shit covered pajama pants off of resistant baby.  Baby cries more as I wipe feet, thighs, and mop poop into a pile.  I grab another towel upon which to lay the shit soaked pajama pants, nearly useless diaper and growing pile of wipes.  Being stripping poop soaked pajama shirt off of baby, trying to keep poop out of face and hair.  Realize poop traveled up back and into armpits, and begin mopping up poo.
Baby is clean, dry, and crying.  Dress him in optimistically chosen day care outfit, substituting sweat pants for shorts after imagining next wave of vomit or diarrhea streaming down bear baby legs.  Groggy partner takes baby to our bed to snuggle, possibly sleep.  Change crib sheets, begin washing large chunks of vomit and poop out of collected laundry, and start a washing machine load with lots of detergent and bleach.  Wash hands, thoroughly.  Smell robe for poop and add to laundry pile.
6:45 am  Baby is quiet.  Partner is quiet.  Pour coffee into cup, sit down at desk and begin answering work emails.  Text daycare back ups for availability. 
7:30 am  Baby is up, but not crying!  Timidly offer baby special breakfast of oatmeal and blueberries.  Baby eats four bites and then insists on more exotic fare.  Feed baby whatever he wants.  Bemoan options with partner; is he too sick for daycare or not?  Baby's temperature is take multiple ways for accuracy.  Nothing is learned.  Partner agrees to stay home with baby, I agree to come home early.  Day care rejoices.  Move laundry from washer to dryer.
8:30 am Finally dress for work.  Baby is crying, partner puts him down for a nap.  He cries, demonstrating a strong will, and then falls asleep.  Apply make up, arrange hair in what I assume is the style of a person who slept more than I did.
8:55 am Reheat leftover fast food burrito and eat it for breakfast while standing in the kitchen, debating making another cup of coffee.  Remind self to feel lucky for a schedule that allows for such a leisurely morning.  Remind self to be grateful for blessed child, despite his inability to keep partially digested food in his body.  Remind self to be grateful for leftover burrito, which is better than the granola bar under the front seat of the car.

9:08 am Leave for work, late.  Arrive at work, find decent parking space magically available.

Spend the rest of the day wondering if I missed a spot of vomit or poop, still somewhere on my body.  Or maybe in my hair?

Friday, March 09, 2018

Thoughts While Driving to Work

"How well did I wash my hands?"
That was the thought that occurred to me as I nibbled bits of bran muffin from underneath my finger nails and drove my son to day care.  How well did I wash my hands?  Because, about twenty minutes earlier, I was cleaning poo off his bottom.  And his thighs.  And his shirt and pants.  And his changing pad.  And his junk.  Oh why is it so hard to get bits of baby poop out of the tiny creases of baby testicles?!  It is the worst. 
And I washed my hands, but I was also keenly aware that the clock was ticking and I had about 70 minutes to finish up with the Poop-Apocalypse, get a clean and dressed kiddo into the car, and make the 50 minute round trip drive to drop him off and get to work on time.  Since breakfast time had been replaced by an early nap wake up and a surprise poo-splosion, I grabbed a bran muffin after cleaning up everything to the minimum level of acceptable hygiene and threw the kiddo and I into the car.
Finally in the medium-chill place of knowing that I was at least on the road and moving towards my goal I started scarfing my muffin down, savoring every crumb, including the ones under my finger nails until it occurred to me that it might not have been wise to both skimp on hand washing time and go after *every* crumb.

Oh well.

It's too late now.

And by too late, I mean both that the poo/crumbs are in my tummy now, and that I am late to work.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Aziz Ansari and Other 'Regular Guys'

So, the thing about waves is, the aren't exactly the most controlled of forces.  The ocean does not care what you had planned, and waves will wash over everything in their paths.  Waves will over reach.  What I'm trying to say is, it was inevitable that we would get to this point, where we'd have to have a reckoning between the folks who said, "yes, obviously, Harvey is a monster, but.." and the folks for whom there is no but.
And I think we're here.

Stuff is continuing to come about about less egregious forms of sexual assault, harassment, and dysfunction.  Grey areas are being wadded into, uncomfortable truths are emerging, and everything has gotten a whole lot more convoluted.  Most recently, or not, since I am by no means the most up to date, Aziz Ansari and James Franco have been pulled in for somewhat more complicated offenses.

And, to me, the crux of the issue comes back to a favorite winter song, Baby It's Cold Outside.  If you've never heard the song, hop on to youtube for the original, or any of the many, many, many, updates and remakes of the classic song.  I'll wait.  It's a lovely, controversial, date-rape-y song.  Recently, I was online in the midst of kitten videos etc. when I stumbled onto a more uplifting take on the song's origin.  The argument was that the song was not, in fact, date rape-y, but a woman making excuses to stay the night with a man she liked.  See, in the not-so-good-old-days, women lacked the freedom to make sexual choices on their own.  They were the brakes, and men were the gas (and everything was hetero-normative as hell....sorry about that).  Women were responsible for maintaining their chastity against the hoard of sex hungry, uncontrollable men that were their friends and neighbors.  Essentially, we pretended that everyone had the sexual norms of cave dwellers, but in snappy 1940s and 50s attire.  And we didn't talk about it.

But people are people, and sexual appetites vary, and some women, even back then, just wanted to get laid or fool around with the guy they liked, so they'd have to come up with a guise of being too drunk to go home, to play the part of unwilling but unable to fight prey, so that they could maintain their social standing to some extent.  Basically, the argument is, Baby It's Cold Outside is actually a ladies' anthem for repressed sexuality; she's playing the game with him, making excuses so she can spend the night.  Which is a much more pleasant subject for a song.

Here's the problem. 
We don't know if that's true, because she never gets to say, "hey, by the way, I want to stay, I am just playing this dumb game."  Because she's not allowed to because of social constraints on female sexuality.  Social constraints that persist to this day.  And this is the real problem we are all struggling with now.

Without women and men (and people of all genders) growing up in a nonjudgmental space of sexual expression and enthusiastic "Yes!" and "No!" responses to sexual advances, we can't even really know our partner's take on our own sexual encounters.  Women (at least from my not-that-long-ago, born in 1980+ generation) are still growing up with the idea that sex is something inherently gendered with roles on predator and prey.  I know I grew up with potent images of the romanticism of sexual dominance and violence, to the point where i fantasized about it with my friends as a child.  If you think you didn't grow up with the same images imposed upon you, thing about everyone's hero, Harrison Ford, who makes his way through Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises kissing women by force, against their will, until they submit, admitting it was all an act.

How the fuck are we supposed to learn about consent from that?

We didn't.  And Harrison Ford is just an easy target; think back to other movies, whether women say no when they mean yes, how violence is portrayed around sexuality.  One of my favorite dumb movies, Mr. and Mrs Smith, starts out with a battle to the death between spouses, and ends in a bloody sex scene.  Complicated.  I find myself searching media now, for signs that the people being kissed, trust upon, are actually into it.  It is a disheartening exercise. 

Herein lies the problem.  We have completed trained ourselves to not expect female consent.  All of us.  I feel like this piece of writing articulates the complication of it all very well.  And maybe it's changing, but these things take time.  Aziz and James are close to my age, so I assume they grew up with something similar to my cultural milieu, and I can tell you I've had tons of sex I didn't really want.  Bad sex, unpleasant sex.  Sex I had because I thought I was proving something to someone, or because I thought it meant something.  But for a very long time I had a lot of bad sex because I thought, truly, that I *should* say yes to every offer that came my way.  I was never cool, I never considered myself pretty, but I was funny and had big boobs, so I would attract some guys some times.  It took me a while to put my finger on it, but I didn't always feel like I had the right to say no, because who was I?  Who was I to turn these guys down, who were cool, or bought me beers, or seemed funny at first, or didn't care that I was on my period.  Who was I to say no?

If you've read the New Yorker piece Cat Person, you know what I'm talking about.  There are so many fine, grey lines in between what we all want for everyone, which is joyfully consented to enthusiastic sex, and what we are used to expecting.  I might be alone in the way I valued myself in my early twenties, but I know I am not alone in what I am seeing echoed throughout the world lately.  Scores of women have had sex they didn't want.  Sometimes, because they were forced, coerced, drugged, tricked.  And that is rape.  Sometimes, they had sex they didn't want because they felt it had gone too far to stop, or they didn't no how to say no, or their partner didn't think to seek an enthusiastic yes.  Sometimes someone screams no in their head, but smiles, and goes along with it, because that's what you do.  Because if you say no, it could go from a bad sex story to a terrible rape story, to a beating, to some other more heinous act that you can already imagine.  At least if you don't say no, you are holding on to some facet of control in the face of the looming culture that demands that women be the source and substance of sexual gratification for all, without necessarily taking too much of it for themselves.

What I'm trying to say is, it is complicated.  And we are all to blame.  If I had said no when I meant it, I would have brought the world a little closer to the enthusiastic yes that I believe we all deserve.  That is SEXY AS HELL.  But it took me a few years to learn that I was worth the no and the yes, and that both were part of my feminism and my sexuality.  As a society I see more enthusiastic "Yes!" moments in movies and tv, which is important. We learn a lot from media.  We need to teach ourselves and the next generation that sex is great for those who want it, and great to not have for those who don't want it.  That it is a complicated mismatch of flesh and feelings, and that respecting the other person you engage in it with is the most important thing.  We need to find a way to talk about this without jumping on each others' perceptions and experiences, and come at some of these situations with some empathy.

And we are talking about it, so that's a start.  We need to keep talking, and listening, and questioning.  Especially things that make us uncomfortable.  That's how we get out of this quagmire of grey.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

It's Not You...It's All Of Us

We're having something of a moment of reckoning right now; people are coming forward in droves, telling the stories of their sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault.  And they are actually (sometimes) being believed!  And the accused are actually (sometimes) admitting their wrongdoing, and ever apologizing!  And even (sometimes) facing consequences!

It feels like a scary, shifting zeitgeist moment of cultural awakening and accountability.  And it also sometimes feels like it is spiraling out of control.   Someone posted somewhere on social media that in 2016, every time a celebrity's name was trending, we had to worry they were dead, but in 2017 a trending celebrity name likely implies new allegations of sexual misconduct.  And that feels pretty true.

So where will this roller coaster of accusations and accountability stop?  Hard to say, but I am reminded of the once great 'Your Fav is Problematic'.  For the uninitiated, it basically spent time pointing out how every beloved cultural icon and celebrity had done or said something shitty to some marginalized group at some time.  Everything you love, it boasted, is problematic.  I loved that, because it was true, and it's good (and challenging) to face our own biases and shortcomings.  But it is a bummer to find out how flawed everyone is.


By which I mean that if we keep searching for guilt, we will end up pointing fingers at everyone to some degree or another, because we are all complicit.  You will probably have to face the fact that your fav actor/writer/business owner did something fucked up to someone else because they could.  Because that's how power dynamics and misogyny and toxic masculinity work.  That's how rape culture works, and we are all complicit in some way because we are all part of this system.  Even those of us fighting to dismantle the cis-normative, white supremacist, hetro-normative, capitalist abelist patriarchy were at some time not completely sure of ourselves and made some mistakes.  Because that's what being young is, especially in this culture.  Any time you told your friends you really didn't want to talk about rape culture at a party, you helped keep it in place.  We all did.

I know I have made mistakes.  I've been a bad ally to other women, to other victims.  I've held on to a bunch of internalized misogyny that was harmful in was I am certain I don't fully understand.  And I have made moral compromises to save myself.  I am part of this system, and when I wasn't fighting it, it was in me, working to maintain its self like the virus that it is.

So.  Where do we go from here?  Forward, of course!!

We are all to blame in some way, which means we can stop being outraged.  We do not need to stop holding people accountable, but if there is anything the #metoo campaign taught us, it is that this was happening all the time, to everyone, everywhere.  So, to some degree we were all involved.** 

So let's hold people accountable.  Let's change the way we view power and sexuality and sexual violence.  Let's make sure that there is diversity at every level of everything, so that diverse perspectives view these problems at every level.  Let's make sure there are consequences, and let's work to hear and believe victims, and take actions against perpetrators.  Let's appreciate those who come forward with honest and forthright recognition of what they have done, and hold to the highest level of accountability those who try to pass their shit off or blame someone else.  Let's change fucking power dynamic and the fucking culture.  Let's finally get together to dismantle this shit.

**I do not mean to imply that victims are to blame for their assault/harassment etc.  I mean only to imply that as a society we are all complicit in some small way.  No victim is ever to blame for being assaulted.  If I walk down the street with a $20 bill hanging out of my pocket, the decent person will tell me, not just take it.  There is NEVER an excuse to commit harassment or assault, sexual or otherwise.  I'm just trying to articulate the larger way in which society systemically creates space for these crimes and violations to occur.

Monday, October 16, 2017


In first or second grade, I'm not sure which, a boy in my class pulls me off the jungle gym and sticks his finger in my butt through my leggings.  He looks at my face as he does it, asking if I like it.  I didn't think of my ass as sexual yet, so I was very confused.  A teacher stopped him, but I don't know if anyone ever told my parents.  To this day, I wonder what was going on in that boy's home that he was mirroring with me.

In middle school I go to the movies with two girlfriends.  And adult man its next to me, and throughout the movie starts rubbing my arm and stomach.  I am embarrassed and confused; I say and do nothing because I don't understand what is gong on, and worry I'm imagining things.  I tell no one.

In high school I go to a sleep over new years party with my friend and her boyfriend.  The girl hosting, her mother, and her boyfriend are the only other people there.  At night we all sleep in the same bedroom, and I hear the host's boyfriend pressuring her to have sex while we sleep.  She says she can't because something is wrong with her vagina.  He tells her if she doesn't, he'll have sex with me.  They debate for what feels like hours; she whispers that I'm asleep, he whispers that he'll wake me up and rape me.  I lie perfectly still as she eventually gives in, and whimpers and cries through what sounds like painful intercourse.  I feel guilty, terrified, relieved, and disgusted.  I know I should do something, but I don't know these kids well, and I'm far from home.  I finally fall asleep.

 My college roommate comes home from a party, and tells me she slept with the guy she met, but didn't want to.  Her hesitance and confusion is common as she explains that it wasn't rape, she just didn't want to have sex at first, but was okay with it during.  I realize consent is confusing when men see tricking and badgering women as viable seduction tactics, and women are trying to explore their sexuality without feeling victimized.  I realize, looking back, how many times I have had sex because I didn't want to find out what would happen if I said no.

I go visit my friend at her university, and she tells me she was raped by a guy she thought was her friend.  She tells me it happened last semester, at night after she'd gone to her room to sleep, and that she woke up to him on top of her.  She tells me her mother is in the process of trying to shame his family into getting him to leave the school, because he's still there, still taking classes and living n campus.  She tells me she is getting married in a year.  All I can think is, she's trying to protect herself.  Married women are known to be off limits from male 'friends'.

In my first full time job after college, my 50-something year old boss makes sexually inappropriate jokes in the open office.  I laugh, because I think this is the way an adult should behave.  My supervisor, who is younger and female, stops us, reminds him he is being inappropriate, and later pulls me aside.  She explains that she has to work to keep these men in check, and can't leave any room for them to question what is appropriate.  I realize how little I understand.

I am working as a manager full time and going to school part time.  My boss says racist things to me, and asks prying, personal questions, but I need the job.  One day I come to work without make up on.  My boss calls me into his office to accuse me of being hung over at work, and I try to explain.  I never come to work without make up again.

In graduate school a female friend mentions she is meeting another to study.  She explains she's worried, because he is male, and so she'll have to be careful about how she dresses, or he will come on to her.  Other women in the room echo her sentiment; that most male peers will only want to meet up if it's a pretense for a date.  I realize that being in a relationship has shielded me from this, because my male peers see me as off limits.  Because I belong to another man already.  I feel relieved and deeply troubled.

I am called into the dean of the department's office, and I am nervous.  I hope it is about a research or work, and have prepared to talk about my qualifications.  Instead I am asked about sexual harassment and assault.  "Has any faculty member offered to change your grade in exchange for sexual favors?  Are you sure?"  Eventually I convince her, and we spend the rest of the time talking about how difficult it is to be a female department head.

I am at my first academic conference, and it's going really well.  I make friends, including someone who went to my school.  We have a mutual friend, and he is successful and connected, and offers to introduce me to other people in our field, so I follow him to a party in a hotel room.  We continue the drinks we started at the conference cocktail hour, and at the end of the night he tries to make a move on me.  I remind him that he is married, and I have a boyfriend, but he is unconcerned.  I do not like this man, but he is using time honored manipulations, and I realize he is better connected than me, and my rebuff has to be subtle and complimentary.  I escape from where he has me pressed against the wall and make an excuse about being too drunk, I run back to my hotel room.  He is charming and cordial in the morning, as if nothing unusual happened.  I suppose he is right.

I am teaching at a public university and a student meets me after class to discuss why she's struggling.  She talks about her financial troubles and her physical disabilities, which are new and she is struggling with.  Then she tells me she was sexually assaulted by her roommate, and currently looking for new housing.  I talk to her, we work out a way for her to pass the class with all of her constraints.  I ask her if there is anything she needs, but she remains confident, brave.  She doesn't want help, but she needs to find a new living situation, and in L.A. affordable housing is expensive.  I later relate this to another professor, an older mentor, and she says, "Well, that's our job."  And she's right, because University faculty get training on how to handle and report sexual assault; I am a mandatory reporter.  If I want to teach economics to adults, I also have to handle the abuse and assault of my students, because that's the world we live in.

This doesn't include things that have happened with friends, times I was physically assaulted in ways that weren't sexual, all the things that happened at parties and bars, including the time a buy set his drink on the edge of my ass while I was turned toward the bar, trying to order.  All the times someone grabbed my tits or ass, or rubbed up against me or my friends, all the times guys on various dance floors wouldn't take no for an answer, or the time I was mistaken for a hooker in Barcelona and had to fight my way out.  Those are just casual harassment, and happened when I was out at bars or parties or night clubs.

I don't consider myself a victim; I think I have likely lived a less-molested-than-average life.  I often barely remember that all of these things happened to me, that all of them are inappropriate.  That these things happened to me and the people around me because of our femaleness, or because of our perceived weakness, but mostly because of the culture of toxic masculinity that has convinced generation after generation of people that consent can be bought or pressured out, or is optional.  That conquest is all that matters, and the conquerors needn't worry much about the feelings of the conquered.

When a person comes forward about sexual assault or harassment, the initial response is disbelief.  But if you look out into the world today, the number of women (and men) standing up, saying 'Me, too.', it looks like everyone has a few stories in her past, a few experiences that reminded her she was not fully autonomous, that she was capable of being controlled or violated.

For fucks sake, can we start to believe people?

Friday, October 13, 2017

To my cousin, on her next step

I have two amazing cousins.  Actually, I have *several* amazing cousins.  Really lovely people.

One of these lovely humans is now in her first year at Harvard Law School.  Seriously, how rad is that?

She is a sweet, funny, and obviously hardworking and extremely bright young woman in her twenties.  Already some douche nozzle has called her a 'girl', as in "You girls better be ready to work hard!  I don't go to school here, but it's hard!"  Already she is second guessing herself and worried about raising her hand, while those who haven't done the readings are happy to give incorrect responses with vigor.  She's got a long fight ahead of her, because law school is hard, and I'm sure Harvard is hard, but being female (and from a middle class family) in a less traditional field is really hard.

So, I want to take a minute and type out all the things I wish someone had said to me when I was starting out in grad school, terrified and certain I didn't belong.

First, you are in the right place.  You belong here, you earned your place here.  There's this thing called an admissions process that determines who belongs, and you went through it, the same as everyone else around you.  You all passed, and now you are all here.  That's it.  Starting from the first day, you are all on equal footing, in that you are all qualified to be admitted to your program.  Do your best to stop wasting mental energy overthinking it.  You belong.

Second, find some people!  It is going to be hard, and everyone will freak out at the first few (hundred) assignments.  Being with a group of other people with whom you can admit how little you understand, or ask questions of, or be the person who has the answer with is going to be invaluable.  And I promise, all of those things will happen at some point, no matter who you group up with.  But find some folks and form a study group.  Or two...or four.  I had a study group of about five folks, and one person there was in two others, and would share the information from each group with all of us.  You can do things alone, but it is so much harder, and so much more isolating.  Get groups, get help, and get confirmation that you aren't the only one struggling!

And speaking of struggling, because you will, do your best to not feel dejected every time you do struggle.  You are doing something very difficult, that only a small portion of people ever even attempt.  Give yourself the space to struggle, to be challenged, and for that to be okay.  You went through a lengthy process to literally prove you were good enough to be there, and the illustrious university's People Who Decide picked you.  You belong, and you are right where you are supposed to be.  If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Since it's not easy, make sure you ask for help.  There is always help; clinics, boot camps, T.A.s , advisors, office hours, the notes of friends, dear sweet lovely google, study groups, people who've gone before.  Ask and accept all the help you need, please.  That's self care, that's efficient, and that's economical!  You want to take advantage of everything that can help you succeed, honey, because every little bit helps and you are paying for the privilege of it all.  So ask, seek, find help when you need it!  It's not weakness, it's intelligence!

Try to trust yourself, trust your instincts.  Part of what you are doing is being trained to be a confident decision maker.  Don't let other people steal or borrow your power, just hold yourself centered and still, and try to let the crazy that may unfold flow around you, like wild ocean waters around a calm stone.  And take excellent care of yourself.  Because, girl, you got this.

And when all else fails, call home, because we have got you.  <3 br="">

Sex with Jabba the Movie Producer

In the wake of the 'revelations' about Harvey Weinstein's decades of sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape and other abuses, one troubling idea continues to surface.  Actually, several troubling ideas continue to surface, like the claim from elites that they "had no idea"  when things like this and this were happening, or that conservatives are approaching the subject like drooling puppies, thrilled their party no longer has the market on abhorrent misogynistic behavior cornered.  What is most disturbing to me are sentiments like the one posted by a friend of mine on facebook.

The sentiment is basically one of reluctant agreement that something bad has happened, followed quickly by a call for women who benefit from the system to also be dragged down.  Or that this isn't that big of a problem, because some women's careers are improved.  Or that women are complicit in the harassment by being a certain, way, not fighting harder, using their sex appeal in other ways.  To me, this reeks of, "I get that this seems bad, but I'm pretty sure there's still a way to blame women".  also known as the usual.

Part of this is the toxic idea that women 'use' their sexuality to get things; money, power, jobs, friends, guys to help them move.  This idea is the basis for the "friend-zone" trope, the idea of a 'femme fetal', the reality and idea of sugar daddy/baby relationships, prostitution, and the whispered belief about any woman who makes the mistake of being both powerful or smart and too attractive.  If you think about it, a lot of media promotes this idea of women being able to separate themselves from sex as pleasurable and use it as a tool or weapon; even in sitcoms, the attractive wife will often begrudgingly agree to sex as a reward to the dimwitted or boorish spouse (I'm thinking of multiple episodes of King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond, The Simpsons, just off the top of my head).
I've thought about it a lot, and I think it stems from an essential way to think about women's sexuality as intrinsically different from men's.  Not long ago, women were reduced to mothers and wives.  The idea of a career, least of all a fulfilling, competitive, or challenging one, was laughable.  Women were relegated to the hoe sphere, as was their sexuality; they were supposed to be virgins until marriage, keeping their ravenous suitors at bay until god and country could sanctify their union.  Then they would submit physically to their husband for the rest of their lives, and sex was for having children and satisfying (or manipulating) your husband.  And that was the expected and perceived scope of a woman's life and sexuality, she would never have the space to consider sex for her own satisfaction, and it stands to reason that it became transactional in some situations.  If you legally bind a person to another, make them financially dependent, prevent them from working, making money, accessing credit, or having any traditionally determined power, what else are they left with?

Then women had the nerve to leave the house, pursue their own achievements, make their own money and determine their own sexual, financial, domestic futures.  We're still working on all of those things, by the way.  But it seems like a lot of men are still confused by the idea of women having the same desire- and satisfaction-based sexuality they enjoy.  It seems like many men still consider women as inherently sexless, who use their convenient vulvas and breasts to get what they want, because they certainly have no use for them.  Because why else would some men willingly, hopefully, enthusiastically believe that women are out in the world, being propositioned by aggressive men thirty years their senior at a business meeting and deciding, yeah, I'd love to let this guy ejaculate in my hair so I can work a little bit less hard.  Unless these guys are walking around, wishing they could trade degrading and disgusting sex acts for promotions, they have to believe that women just don't care about human dignity or sexual desire.  Because anyone with human dignity, sexual desire, and a sense of self preservation would find themselves in a situation like Harvey Weinstein's hotel room and realize they are the mouse in the lion's den, and have to find a way to survive with as much of themselves intact as possible.
And there is nothing sexual about that.  That is about power, and control, and dehumanization.  In that situation, the prey (not always but usually a young woman) is not a person the sexual predator wants to have a consensual relationship with, the prey is a toy, an acquisition, a masturbation tool, an object to admire and manipulate.  There is no consent in that situation.  A person calculating how likely it is they will have a job after the leave the room can enthusiastically consent to mutually satisfying sex acts, because they are trying to decide if their dignity and safety are worth more than their rent and career for the foreseeable future.

And if you haven't been there, you might not understand.  But try to be a human being capable of empathy for a minute, and imagine you are told to go to a room for work, only to find you are trapped in an unclear situation where you will absolutely risk offending someone who can make or destroy your ability to feed yourself for the next decade, someone who can physically overpower you and slander you.  Someone who is asking for one thing, but could ask for literally anything once you give in, because then you said yes.  As women, we are trained from a very young age to prepare for these times, because they are inevitable, so I get that some men don't understand.  They still see women as these mothers and wives, who have sex to get children, or get an increase in their grocery allowance, who couldn't possibly have their own ideas about what is sexually desirable and what is terrifying.

But, they should really try.