Archive | August, 2012

Body snarking: A DIY workshop

31 Aug

The other day I was listening to coverage of the Republican National Convention on NPR, and there it was: a DIY workshop moment.

You remember the protocol? I’ll share the scenario, and notice what your gut response is. Then you’ll have a chance to pause, reflect and brainstorm what you could say or do if this happened live in a situation where you could–and thought you should–stand up.

As context, you should be familiar with Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, Republican star and fat man. Notably, as his prominence within the Republican Party has grown, so has attention to his size. As women’s health and wellness site Blisstree reports:

One story [about Christie] on Newser begins,

“GOP conventioneers might have been transfixed by New Jersey Gov. Chris  Christie’s hard-hitting speech last night, but there was something else they  couldn’t help noticing: He seemed larger than ever. The portly politician has  said in the past he needs to do something about his weight, but he’s apparently  losing the battle.”

… And in case you think it’s just Newser, here’s a headline from the L.A. Times: “Chris Christie, the Republican heavyweight, is really heavy.” And Newsday: “Chris Christie’s biggest fight may be weight.” Let’s not even get in to all the Twitter comments because they’re downright horrible (http://blisstree.com/look/chris-christie-weight-fat-shaming-937/#ixzz252o2oi7r).

Blisstree‘s point? “Body snarking” about Christie seems, somehow, to be fair game anytime he steps into the spotlight.

Now back to NPR. When one of the commentators noted that you wouldn’t want to miss NJ Governor Chris Christie, one of the slated Republican Convention speakers, another commentator said, “Chris Christie? You couldn’t, even if you wanted to, he’s so big.”

So I ask you:

  • What’s your gut reaction?
  • Where does that reaction come from? Consider your size identity, your social experiences around and cultural norms.
  • What do you think the commentator’s motivation could be, in making this joke about Christie?
  • Imagine you were on air with this commentator: whom would you be concerned for–yourself? Christie? your fellow commentator? the listening public? What do you hope for those about whom you’re concerned?
  • With that intention in mind, what do you think you could say or do in this moment on air with this commentator? I’ll tell you what I heard: his colleagues collectively paused. Then there was nervous laughter from a woman and what I interpreted as a “bad joke” groan from another man. But it’s hard to say because no one said anything in response.

And if you have the opportunity, try it aloud. Maybe even with a friend. See how what you have to say sounds.

Thanks for practicing with me.

Upcoming Blink workshops!

29 Aug

Fall 2012 calendar:

A:  You belong here: Helping traditionally underrepresented students thrive in independent schools

Saturday, October 20, 2012; 9am‐12pm at SMART in San Francisco, CA

B:  “That’s racist!” Talking to students, families and colleagues about what is (and isn’t) really racist

Saturday, October 27, 2012; 9am‐12pm at Marin Country Day School in Corte Madera, CA

C:  “You can’t say that! (Can you?)” Facilitating inclusive conversations about social justice

Saturday, November 3, 2012; 9am‐12pm at Castilleja School in Palo Alto, CA

For more info, read on below…

A:  You belong here: Helping traditionally underrepresented students thrive in independent schools

Saturday, October 20, 2012; 9am‐12pm at SMART in San Francisco, CA

As a group, how are financially disadvantaged students of color doing at your school? And how is your school doing in its efforts to include traditionally underrepresented families in community life and school leadership? In this workshop, participants will explore common issues and experiences of lower income and racial minority students and families in independent schools. We will identify opportunities and effective practices to create environments where all children and their families can thrive.

This workshop is for middle and upper school (6-12) faculty, administrators, staff, trustees and parents/guardians who are committed to making their schools places where traditionally underrepresented students and families thrive. Co-facilitated with Nonoko Sato, Executive Director of SMART.

Takeaways:

  • Language for talking about inclusion and equity with students, families and colleagues
  • Frameworks for understanding institutional and community diversity dynamics, issues and opportunities
  • Practical “try tomorrow” (Pollock, 2008) tools and strategies to engage students and families
  • Guiding questions and lenses for assessing inclusion

B:  “That’s racist!” Talking to students, families and colleagues about what is (and isn’t) really racist

Saturday, October 27, 2012; 9am‐12pm at Marin Country Day School in Corte Madera, CA

What’s racist… and what’s not? Is it racist to have affinity groups? To consider race in admissions or hiring? To bring up race at all? Can only white people be racist? And how do you tell someone you think they just said something racist? These are some of the questions our students, our colleagues and we ourselves are wrestling with as we navigate a world that is confusing and confused about race. In this cultural-competence-in-action workshop, we’ll define bias, discrimination and racism, and identify useful, developmentally supportive tools and approaches for helping students, families, our colleagues and ourselves think about race, and the difference between what’s racial and what’s racist.

This workshop is for preK-adulthood faculty, administrators, staff, trustees and parents/guardians who want to develop the language and skills to speak up about and against racism.

Takeaways:

  • Language, tools and strategies for talking about race, racism and antiracism with students, families and colleagues
  • A framework for understanding racial awareness and identity development
  • Resources for teaching and learning and what is (and isn’t) racist

C:  “You can’t say that! (Can you?)” Facilitating inclusive conversations about social justice

Saturday, November 3, 2012; 9am‐12pm at Castilleja School in Palo Alto, CA

As a facilitator, how do you elicit your group’s best thinking and action around controversial social issues that are sometimes personal, as well? In this facilitate-the-facilitators workshop, participants will explore the challenges of facilitating conversations about social justice for the mutual safety and inclusion of diverse individuals and beliefs, when different points of view are not represented—or valued—equally. Participants will use scenarios and their own experiences to identify effective tools and strategies to facilitate for inclusion and equity not just as content or concept, but as an experience and process for groups.

This workshop is for preK-adulthood staff, administrators, faculty, trustees and parents/guardians who are interested in, or are already, facilitating conversations about social justice in their communities and work.

Takeaways:

  • Practical “try tomorrow” (Pollock, 2008) tools and strategies for facilitating inclusive conversations
  • Frameworks for understanding group dynamics
  • Guiding principles for having planned or unplanned challenging conversations

To register, go to: http://www.rethinkingdiversity.com/workshops.html to download the registration form.

Tweet a little love

27 Aug

Love it:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/wellness/story/2012-08-17/teen-twitter-cyberbullies/57120166/1

For those of you who have and/or work with kids, please share this story with them. It’s a great example of the change you can be, in 140 characters or less.

 

Quote of the day

25 Aug

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it  would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an  egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.

–C. S. Lewis

Lessons from Alex and other nongender-conforming boys

24 Aug

When Alex was 4, he pronounced himself “a boy and a girl,” but in the two years since, he has been fairly clear that he is simply a boy who sometimes likes to dress and play in conventionally feminine ways. Some days at home he wears dresses, paints his fingernails and plays with dolls; other days, he roughhouses, rams his toys together or pretends to be Spider-Man. Even his movements ricochet between parodies of gender: on days he puts on a dress, he is graceful, almost dancerlike, and his sentences rise in pitch at the end…  To Alex’s irritation, [when he wears a dress] people on the street often [mistake] him for a girl.“I just hate being misunderstood,” he told his baby sitter. When his parents asked if he wanted them to refer to him as “she,” he said, “No, I’m still a he” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/magazine/whats-so-bad-about-a-boy-who-wants-to-wear-a-dress.html?pagewanted=1&src=recg).

As I read the article “What’s So Bad About a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress?” it occurred to me that Alex is way beyond most adults. He understands the difference between sex (his biological identity, based on the reproductive organs he has) and his gender (his expression of himself across a spectrum of masculinity, androgyny and femininity that doesn’t have to be locked into his sex). And at 4, he has the potential to become someone who understands the difference between these aspects of himself and his sexuality (his emotional and physical attractions to others). Hopefully, he’ll have the adults and peers around him to support not only his journey of self-exploration, but that of everyone else’s, no matter how gender-conforming or nonconforming they seem to be. Because it can also be confusing, empty or devoid of self to fulfill all the traditional expectations of a boy or girl with all the protection and pressure  of staying within the pink or blue lines.

This is not to say that all kids face equal stress and threat around their gender identities. Alex, like other gender-nonconforming boys, is at-risk for particular scrutiny and outright rejection by various US subcultures. As journalist Ruth Padawer notes, “Gender-nonconforming behavior of girls, however, is rarely studied, in part because departures from traditional femininity are so pervasive and accepted.” The sometimes severe intolerance for diversity of boys’ gender expression is a sobering truth that we have a responsibility to factor in as we guide and counsel boys who love “lava and unicorns, dinosaurs and glitter rainbows” (in some cases, as much as they love football, trucks and superheroes).

But let’s not blame the canaries for the toxicity of the coal mine. In addition to shifting our focus from changing nontraditional boys to equipping them with skills to handle prejudice, we can find small but significant ways to encourage others to think and breathe more freely around questions of gender identity. Alex’s father invested in a pair of pink Converse. What could you do?

Are you having kids?

22 Aug

A recent NY Times article explores the increasingly equal opportunity pressure of the question, “Are you having children?” and it’s slightly more presumptive form “When are you having children?” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/10/us/gay-couples-face-pressure-to-have-children.html?src=recg), on gay couples who have recently gotten married.

While I agree with demographer Gary Gates that “[t]he definition of family is unquestionably evolving,” the automatic assumption that married couples–hetero and gay–have children (it’s just a question of when) seems to indicate that our ideas about why people get married may be evolving more slowly.

Not just one crazy politician

20 Aug

Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s careless, ignorant and by-the-way-flat-out incorrect statement about “legitimate rape” has had me stewing all day. Here, if you missed it, was what he said about abortion in instances of rape:

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said, referring to conception following a rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child” (http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-rep-todd-akin-no-pregnancy-from-legitimate-rape-20120819,7405823,5911283.story).

It’s not just the comment, and it’s not even just the lame mea culpa, well-addressed in this Washington Post opinion by Rachel Manteuffel:

… it is possible to tell when a man has legitimately misspoken — as opposed to accidentally uttered something inane that he really, truly believes. Rep. Akin does not pass this test. The person who has legitimately misspoken invariably secretes a substance — it’s called shame — that makes it clear he has truly and genuinely and accidentally misspoken. There is no hint of this substance in Rep. Akin’s remarks today, so we must regrettably conclude that he is pretending to have misspoken to avoid the consequences of his actions (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/post/postscript-todd-akin-and-legitimate-rape/2012/08/20/06ef1d86-eaf7-11e1-b811-09036bcb182b_blog.html).

What’s really getting me is that this isn’t a one-off. It’s not just the crazy talk of one nut job. It’s an admittedly wacko version of a very familiar tune, sung every day by many other, seemingly more reasonable and legitimate voices. As NY Timeseditor Andrew Rosenthal opines:

It’s tempting to dismiss Mr. Akin’s imbecilic comments. But he is hardly the first Republican to peddle the pernicious nonsense that women can “shut down” a pregnancy in cases of “legitimate” rape. And if you bracket his biological mysticism, Mr. Akin is not that far outside the mainstream of the Republican Party…

Lawmakers who oppose rape and incest exceptions say we shouldn’t “punish” innocent fetuses for their fathers’ crimes, thus prioritizing the rights of unborn children over the rights of their equally innocent mothers. Or they feign piety and point to a grand plan.

In 2011, for example, the Idaho legislature passed a law eliminating rape or incest exceptions because, as state Rep. Brent Crane put it, the “hand of the Almighty” was at work.

And earlier this year, during the G.O.P. presidential primaries, Rick Santorum said that if his daughter were raped and became pregnant, he would counsel her to accept the child as a gift from God. (At least Mr. Santorum was big enough to acknowledge that “this is not an easy choice, I understand that.”)

Mr. Akin merely took the grand plan logic a step farther, by suggesting that women play an active role in deciding whether or not to become pregnant (http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/20/rape-and-abortion/?hp).

Once again, we’re looking at a case of the canary in the coal mine. The issue isn’t just Akin; it’s a whole system in which women’s recovery from victimization (not that only women get raped; but only women can get pregnant from rape) is overwhelmingly in the hands of men for whom this issue is more theoretical and partisan than human.

So I encourage you: when someone brings up Representative Akin’s “imbecilic comments,” help connect the dots so we’re not all distracted with the sideshow while women’s reproductive and victim’s rights lost more ground.