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On Privilege

This is a rant I went on a few weeks ago. It’s very angry and pointed – and I don’t mean it to offend anybody.  (It is also completely unresearched and missing a lot of actual words for things.)  I am not angry at the people to whom my arguments were aimed at any more; however, they remain my views, so if you are interested in some slightly heated musings on this thing called privilege, read on.

What do you think?

I’ve given it some good thought, and I’ve concluded: it is the most ultimate show of “privilege” if one spends the majority of one’s time and energy being “concerned about, talking about, and reprimanding the “silly, unaware, ignorant ‘privileged’” people about privilege and people’s attitudes about it.

Most people are hardly ‘privileged’ enough to know all of your fancy words and terms for different types of discrimination and insensitivity. And the people whom you reprimand for the sake of all the people like you who sit around whining and complaining about how victimized they feel by certain things people say (When maybe it is a good idea to be moving on now to just working on living meaningful, productive lives) – does it ever occur to you that perhaps these people you’ve now attacked for their “privileged ignorance” are people who have stories that you don’t even know?? Perhaps if you knew that they’d been through a lot of the the things you now attack them for being ignorant and insensitive about, and how they have simply come out on the other side with legitimately educated opinions – not because of privilege, mind you, but because as individuals with minds they made the conscious choice to not let something so minor as a “lack of privilege” get them down or hold them back.

And you might argue that “some people don’t have that option; stop being insensitive to those who are underprivileged with no encouragement, no opportunity to not be gotten down, not be held back.”

Well, you know what?

a) You don’t actually know these people; we’d be able to tell if you did. The only people you know are those who may have been in that position, but who have risen out by whatever means in whatever ways, though it sounds an awful lot like maybe they are now in your group of people-sitting-around-whining-while-pretending-to-have-intelligent-discussions.

b) By acknowledging these people, underprivileged people, as being any kind of “less than”, whether you do it with an air of concern or unconcern, you are practicing exactly against what you preach: you are, more than anything else, actually affirming and perpetuating these cultural stereotypes, limiting the individuals, heavily judging them, not thinking the best of them, and not giving them the benefit of the doubt that perhaps they will “rise out” and will achieve. You’ve also painted an incredibly limited picture of these people, so much so that anything that they do do to rise out of their personal ashes and achieve potential will be darkened and overshadowed by this stereotype you are eternizing in your efforts to dispel it; that perhaps if they were not underprivileged this wouldn’t be such a feat, or so small, maybe they could even be more – and/or you patronize them: “Wow, look at what that poor, underprivileged person ended up doing after all and despite all odds!” – Yes. YOU are the real racist. YOU are the real cultural-whateverist-that-I-can’t-remember. And YOU are the real one condemning and judging underprivileged people. I hope you know one day that you hurt more people than you help…

c) The product of A and B: it does not make you a better person to sit around and talk about how educated you are on your choice issues and got around trolling others whose stories you don’t even know – and informing them of their ignorance to your petty little concerns. No, what would make you a better person would be to HELP the people you claim to protect with your awareness campaigns. Why don’t you use your privilege, whether you were born into it or gained it with your own self, to help the people you feel so sorry for, if that is the way you truly feel?? Yes, by all means start with feeding the hungry or building houses for the homeless – surely you’ve seen Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, where it says people need food and shelter before they can get into things like trying to rise up in the world.

If you are more concerned with those having difficulty with things such as race discrimination, achievement of education (any type of education for whatever reason), sexuality discrimination, that cultural whateverism that I can’t remember the term for right now, then it is no less of a cause to help these folks with your obvious upper hand. I really doubt you can afford to simply pay for someone to get a college education, but that is thinking inside the box anyway, and ultimately maybe paying for everyone to have higher education isn’t going to solve the problem (though that is another rant).

What people – no matter who they are – need is encouragement and hope. What if you spent your whining, limiting-others time to give somebody lacking hope hope?? That is how everyone one of us has gotten to where we are today, because someone has given us encouragement to be ourselves and hope to achieve all we aim for and to rise out of our limitations, whatever they are, and you cannot deny that – unless you’ve been ‘privileged’ enough to never have needed that… which I hate to add, because yes, I am mocking you.

If you really cared enough about these issues, the way you would change them would be to help the people you’re concerned about rather than obnoxiously attempting to change the attitudes of everyone else you are perceiving as hostile towards these people. Don’t fight the symptoms: fight the disease.

I am not writing this because I am more or less qualified to have these thoughts than you. Maybe. I don’t know your whole story and you also do not know mine. I just wanted to take the opportunity to point out the fallacies in your constant arguments and rants on these matters, and I’d like to make sure you understand you are offending, hurting, and even making enemies of more people than you are actually helping. Please consider what I’ve said before you open your mouth to criticize someone’s words or actions again. We’re all just people here.

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Posted by on November 2, 2012 in Soap Box

 

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My Two Cents on Gender

Gender is a funny thing to talk about these days.  In some circles, it’s practically forbidden – they must adhere to the cultural expectations of our given sex that have been basically the same for the past 200-ish years, up until the 40s or so.  (please don’t quote me on any dates I give: I am by no means a history buff – but I think I’m fairly accurate.)    In other circles, it is talked about exhaustively – the elements of the subject are discussed to death.  And, in still other circles, it’s very much a nonissue and is rarely ever discussed – people just are who they are and have bigger fish to fry. 

Now, I would like to disclaim that, in case it wasn’t clear, the following are my thoughts and opinions only.  I do not claim to fully understand any perspective besides my own, because that is really and truly impossible.  I may generalize, and if I do I beseech that if it offends you to please know that I didn’t mean it that way.  I do not want to be judgmental and at the end of the day, even through ideas and suggestions I am only writing about this subject as it applies to how I live my own life in my own mind and body.
I also talk about male and female body parts, so if the mention of them makes you want to throw up… yeah. 
Gender, to me, is largely cultural.  Gender roles have evolved with the societies in which they operate.  People’s minds and bodies have evolved likewise to function thusly.  Now, I consider myself a follower of Christ, and/but I do not claim to know how the world was created or exactly how man came to be.  The bible illustrates how it happened, yes, but there are so many interpretations and theories even pertaining to a simple creation story that it is clear that wejust don’t know.  So I won’t waste anybody’s time on the miniscule details on how we came to be the evolving creatures we are.     
What I do believe, and what seems apparent by simple biology, is that men and women are made differently physically.  Men have always had penises, testicles, and the corresponding pelvic structure, have never had boobs, have greater muscle mass and ability to build muscle, and have this astounding ability to grow hair on their faces and extra hair where women just… can’t.  Women, on the other hand, have vaginas, uteruses, ovaries, and corresponding pelvises, mammaries that produce milk for the children they can bear, more fat mass, cannot grow hair on their faces, etc.  Not being a huge science buff either (though I really, really try), it mostly seems to come down to hormones (via the sex chromosomes).  Women have more estrogen, men have more testosterone.  These hormones do a lot.
Because of these differences, it has made sense for the men to be the protectors and the breadwinners in the past – let the stronger people defend the land and use their agility and brawn to hunt for food; and the women, who delivered the children and already have a bond forming with them seem most capable of continuing to take care of the children, and do the things that need to be done which do not so much require being super strong. 
This all builds on each other.  Some of you might want to point out that perhaps it was the other way around: the ones with the penises got all brawny because they went to do the hunting, and the ones with the vaginas got more pudgy and motherly (I know it sounds condescending, but remember how I’m not talking about feminism right now?) because of what they were usually doing.  And perhaps that is true, though you could go round and round with this a million times, but to me it seems that if you cannot ever settle something like the nature-nurture debate, then it must come down to both with very blurred lines. And, if that is the case, is the “which came first” question really relevant to us anymore?
The questions that do seem to matter to us now are those of cultural gender versus core gender. 
Cultural gender is what we have learned from the society we live in about what is expected of those who are sexually female and those who are sexually male.  These are mostly made up of stereotypes, such as women who like to cry over romantic movies, or men who like to build business empires.  They, like all stereotypes, have a good measure of truth in them because stereotypes spring up out of truth.  More women like to cry over romantic movies than men.  (I am not one of them.)  More men are business leaders than women.  Men who cry over romantic movies are looked upon as weak and feminine – not strong husband material.  Women who are business leaders are looked upon as tough and a little too masculine – not dutiful wife material. 
Core gender is what we, genetically, are.  This goes back to the primitive societies I was speaking of earlier where the men hunted and the women took care of the children.  The thing is, in Western culture today, we do not operate in a way that necessitates core, genetic gender differences.  The 21st century has such a wide variety of occupations that it does not matter what your physical or mental capabilities are or are not: there is something out there you can do to earn a living.  Brawn, particularly, is becoming less and less essential as more and more machines are invented to do the hard work for us. 
So, what are we left with?
A bunch of people doing things that people do. 
But what about the cultural gender?  What about all those stereotypes we weigh ourselves under each day?
There is no one pat answer for that. 
Some people are not aware that these stereotypes exist, or that they rule their lives – but then you have to question, do the stereotypes really “rule”?  Are these people victims of the box culture has put them in, or are they perfectly happy to live the lives they have being the people they are?   
Some people are too aware of the gender stereotypes – so aware that they are in danger of becoming victimized not by the stereotypes, but by the fear and/or detest of them.  Stereotypes limit them as much as they limit the people who are unconscious of them – because they tend to either live their lives as if they are threatened by people/society attempting to control and limit them, and/or they spend their time trying as hard as possible to not fit into a stereotype, so much so that they are at high risk of not being true to themselves and what they would really want to be doing, despite what gender stereotype it might fit in. 
(Watch “Benny and Joon”; that’s all I have to say.)

These are observations I have made about others and myself.  I never mean to assume that every person is like this: however, I always encourage that you do look at yourself and ask yourself whether you are selling yourself short in life, in any area, but especially by victimizing yourself to some circumstance or another.  I think and talk about self-victimization a lot, so you’ll see more about what I mean in future posts. 

However “aware” you feel, or however important of an “issue” the gender topic is for you, remember that you should never let anybody’s assumptions of you, or your assumptions of anybody else, get in the way of your genuine respect of your authentic self.  And I think that is the best way to put cultural gender stereotypes behind us: to forget them altogether and simply do what we like and be who we are.  If you don’t think and talk about something, it goes away.  The positives and negatives become neutral because actions speak louder than words.  The fact that people are people speaks for itself when we decide we no longer have to.    
 
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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Gender, Identity, Sexuality, Soap Box

 

Black Sheep Femininity

There are sometimes still that I legitimately wish I were a man. Of course, I have been attempting to discover for years what makes me think this, and it is really a lot of things. Sometimes practical little things, like how it would be safer to travel; but I think there are two main reasons that, distinct as they are in my mind, are also very hard to explain.
One is that I think men are easier to relate to now, and if I were a man, it would somehow finalize things. As in, it would not be Jessica plus The Guys. It would be me, a guy, hanging with the guys. (Not the beer and football all the time guys, but the more [I think] masculine creative types, the Gary Snyders and Tim Burtons of the world.)
And that brings me to my other reason, which is to have the subconscious cultured respect for my creative work that is simply not very often granted to women; I don’t even grant it to women very often, unless they are of the tongue-in-cheek variety, calm but authoritative, somewhat brooding but very bright and confident – traits that those men, such as I have mentioned above, possess.
When someone asks me who I admire most, my list is exclusively male; but when it comes to women, the type I just described inspire me more than anybody else, even as I often forget it. Their air far from that of a trying-too-hard feminist, I see myself in them: black sheep of the Gucci-sunglasses-pink-princess flock of girls in western culture. Often awkward when they are young, and beautiful when they’ve finally grown into that full bloom.  By then, though, they hardly care to realize it, much less show it off – somewhat “hiding” under hats and in darker, duller colors, nothing inherently complementing their face or figure, but in truth they look the most beautiful this way, subtly wild and fervent, doing the things they are best at.

They are the Elizabeth Bennets and Jo Marches and Anne Shirleys of the modern, real-life world: they make me proud to be a woman, as mismatched and discomfited and flat-chested as I am. I can’t name most of them, but when I seem them I know who they are in my heart. I don’t smile at them and they don’t smile at me and it is better that way; we don’t say but instead know that a pretentious smile is what it is.  And, in a moment, we smile real smiles, knowing we are kindred spirits.

(One person I can name is my Aunt Susan, and I know she is a huge part of my confidence in myself, whomever I may actually be.)

We have our girly friends and we love them and we have our guy friends and we love them in another way (and of course we have each other), and some of us find someone crazy enough to love us and, indeed, crazy enough for us to love; but I think most of us try romance for a long enough while and eventually find it trivial compared to the other invigorations we have found on this incredible planet.
All in all, these women are inspiring to me because they have embraced who they are, no matter what, without over-thinking what they should be in mind, body, or soul. They remind me that it doesn’t matter, no matter what “it” is, and that nothing further than “it” not mattering needs to be discussed – just get on with things and stop doping around.
Okay, I’m going to stop doping around, wishing I was a man. I don’t have time for this! I’ve got things to write, pictures to draw, animals to play with…
 
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Posted by on January 15, 2012 in Gender, Identity, Soap Box

 

What is "Socialization"?

I am rather hot and bothered at the moment, so I’m going to write about it.
There is a great number of poop-headed, ignorant people in this world who are a bit big for their britches and cannot ever seem to say anything of even remote value to society.  In fact, the only thing they do is make people like me very upset.  (Admittedly, I’m quite sure I have been this person before.  Oh, God, help me.)
I know I should not let unceremonious, obstinate bastards get to me: it isn’t as if what they say matters.  I guess I mainly have this urge to put them in their place; to culture and educate them in these areas they obviously have not been exposed to.  If someone assumes that homeschoolers are not “socialized”, but are amiable and willing to see that is not the case, then that is one thing.  But if one is barking around on public forums declaring that, basically, it is certainly a scientific fact that socialized homeschoolers are the exception, not the norm, and that all parents who choose to homeschool their children are irresponsible prudes bent on sheltering their children (which was not even the topic of the conversation), then it is very clear to me that you, sir, are the one who has not been “properly socialized.” 
A properly socialized person has been acquainted with a great diversity of people: people with different religious, spiritual, and philosophical beliefs; people with different upbringings and educational backgrounds; people of different races, cultures, sexual orientations; people with different life experiences that paint their own unique worldview and story.  And a socialzied person would take the time to listen and learn and love the people different from themselves.
Additionally, a socialized person understands social boundaries: they can recognize when is an appropriate time to say something and when is an appropriate time to keep the facehole shut.  They can sense when they want to say smoething and then don’t, because it actually isn’t something relevant to the conversation, or it would interrupt someone who is talking. 
Socialized people know good manners… they know it is rude and sometimes even hurtful to bash certain groups of people just because can. 
Of course, this makes me realized that most everybody in the world, I included, are probably not as well socialized as we really could be.
Oh, well.  Ima go work on that now.
 
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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Soap Box, Unschooling

 

Mentoring and Homeschool Leadership Retreats

From May 9th through May 23rd I worked on the inaugural trip of Homeschool Leadership Retreats, led by my friend Blake Boles. It went splendidly; even more than splendidly. We had 7 campers total – 4 girls and 3 boys ages 14-18. They spent the two weeks getting to know Ashland, Oregon; they created internships, audited college classes, conducted interviews, got certifications, and many other wonderful things, all on their own. We also took them to a ropes course, on PCT hikes, to plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a tango lesson, etc. In the evenings, Blake taught workshops on many aspects of self-directed learning and creating opportunities for oneself in the world.

In the end, I was able to see the campers walk away with copious amounts of confidence, direction, and tools to go out and achieve their dreams. It was a great experience, both for campers and staff. I will certainly never forget it. Here’s a photo album of some of the highlights of the retreat: HLR Spring Retreat Photos.

During the retreat, a friend contacted me and asked if I could write up something on Homeschool Leadership Retreats and my thoughts on mentorship (especially in the context of the aforementioned HLR) for a speech she was planning to give at the LIFE is Good unschooling conference last weekend. I did, and I thought I would post what I wrote up here as well.

Oftentimes when I think of the word “mentorship,” I see some old yogi master walking through some Eden-esque garden with his little follower, philosophizing about the universe and speaking in proverbs. However, these past few months I have come to realize that the word, in this day and age, has a completely different meaning, that is simply all too wonderful.

Mentors lead and challenge; but they also listen and understand. A mentorship can consist of two people of any age difference. It can be intentional or accidental, or anything in between.

When I was first asked to be on staff for Homeschool Leadership Retreats, I was excited solely that I would get to “learn to work with ‘kids’ more, and people in general,” as that, besides “working on camps,” was one of my many vague, ill-defined goals. As the spring retreat approached, this intention got rather lost in the hubbub of getting ready to leave and the traveling I did beforehand, but that was good to sort of clear my mind and give me a fresh outlook once the retreat started.

It was the first night the campers got there that I more fully realized why I was there. These kids – really not much younger than I am – needed and wanted direction and confidence. And I was in the position to both show and give those things to them in the course of the retreat. Suddenly – click! – there was my purpose, there was my reason for being in Ashland, Oregon on May 9th. To give of myself in these areas in the same way others have given of themselves to guide me before (and who continue to do so).

Of course, I will throw a dictionary definition in here for good measure. Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online defines a mentor as “a trusted counselor or guide” (italics mine). I see mentorship as something which centers on trust; it can’t function without it. I can say “oh, I want to be this great leader-person who sets good examples all the time and gives a crap ton of good advice”; or, as someone being mentored, I can say, “I want to be shown the ways of the world through this wise persons’ eyes and have a strong leader with good advice.” Well, those are great and all, but they really mean nothing if a trusting relationship between the two people in the mentorship has not been established. However, trust isn’t something that really consciously happens, though; and forcing it is not really a good idea.

Trust is a two-way street. Not only does the person I am mentoring need to trust me, but I need to trust them as well. For me, trust is built from being personable; being real, being true, etc. A mentor can admit to making mistakes. I used to think that was a bad thing to do – after all, I am supposed to set a good example, right? Therefore, admitting I screwed up somehow or another is simply out of the question, correct? No; I’ve found it to be the opposite. I can trust the person with the good and the bad. When I first discovered this, I was telling a younger friend about a big no-no I had done – afraid I would lose her respect forever. But, to my surprise, a big grin grew on her face when I was done telling what had happened, and she said “Wow… I just want you to know, Jessica, that I look up to you so, so much!” And she helped me feel respect for myself again, despite feeling like I had really screwed my life over.

Mentorship starts with friendship. Basically, mentorship is more of something that grows rather than something that just starts. Not to say that doesn’t happen; and if it does, friendship then grows out of mentorship. It’s really more of a cycle. It can begin with a single conversation, or an activity done together. Those sorts of things are inextricably conducive to building that essential trust – because trust is built from sharing… again, on both ends, not just the mentor getting a bunch of information out of the student (or whatever the “mentoree” should be called) so he can give advice, and not just the mentor pouring out copious wise words and quoting adages. Like I said, it is essentially a friendship, and friendships are developed with exchange of stories, thoughts, advice, musings, and shared activity.

Mentorship is such a wonderful gift for both the mentor and the one being mentored. They trust each other; they help each other along; there is a mutual respect; encouragement is exchanged. It is special, it is important, it is a lovely and wonderful thing. And being on Blake’s leadership retreat as a volunteer mentor/participant/dishwasher has really taught me so much about it that I do not think I would be able to understand before now.

On the note of College Rebellion, I think mentorship is very important at this age – both to have a mentor, as well as being a mentor of some sort. It’s like teaching; they say when you teach something to someone else, you learn it better yourself. I’ve found it is the same with mentorship. Leading and guiding another person, whether you are doing so consciously and intentionally, or unconsciously and unintentionally, helps you guide yourself and understand yourself better, which, in turn, helps you be a better mentor.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2010 in Soap Box, Unschooling

 
 
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