Filed under: Uncategorized
Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat. -Audre Lorde
Occasionally I am asked for resources on feminism, the social roles of women and men, and stuff like that. So I decided to round-up my favorites into the list below*. If I didn’t make a note, the link is an essay.
*I did include a sexual violence section–it’s behind a click wall so as not to blind side anyone.
Rebecca Solnit: Men Explain Things to Me (Long and fantastic read. This essay was the basis for a book of the same name).
Things My Male Tech Colleagues Have Actually Said to Me, Annotated (A fun short read that questions commonly heard statements)
48 Things Women Hear in a Lifetime (Video–1:50)
The Shadow of the Lego (Essay by Emily Gubler)
Lily Myers – “Shrinking Women” – Video, 3:33
The Gutsy Girl: A Modern Manifesto for Bravery, Perseverance, and Breaking the Tyranny of Perfection (book review and good article)
Movie: Apache 8
Movie: The Mask You Live In (about socialization of boys)
On Moving In Together – Essay by Emily Gubler
Changing Your Sir-Name — Written by a man who took his wife’s last name when they married
In order not to blind side anyone, I’m putting this behind a link. Click here and enter the password “Change” to see these links to readings and movies about sexual violence occurring in our world and what people are doing to end it.
We Are #WomenNotObjects (Video–2:21)
TED Talk: We Should All Be Feminists (Video–30:16)
Filed under: Feminism
I’m a newly qualified crew boss with my twenty-person crew on a wildfire in Wyoming. My crew is assigned to mop-up an area—to slowly move through and extinguish everything that is burning. The command team is less worried about the fire at this point and more worried about how slippery the roads get after storms—morning briefing includes the warning, “When it rains, these dirt roads will be nothing but slimy mud. Be aware of the potential of getting the trucks stuck. Watch out.”
The sky is clear except for one tiny cotton ball cloud. I stay up on the ridge as a lookout and watch my crew drive down the rough road, park the trucks, tool-up, and start working.
I watch them for hours, keeping track of the squads and monitoring radio traffic and the weather. The cotton ball cloud is motionless, but it becomes an irritant, poking at me and not leaving me alone. Why? I don’t know. I can’t stop watching it.
I call my squad bosses and ask, “How’s it going?”
“Going well, working mainly on stump holes well inside the line.”
My hackles are up and I know the cloud is involved. The feeling won’t go away no matter how much logic my mind throws at it. You are being ridiculous, my mind claims. That is the smallest cumulous ever.
I look at the sky, the crew, and the steep dirt road. The trucks won’t climb the road if it gets wet. But the cloud isn’t building. It is a tiny, fluffy, beautiful summer day cloud. Why am I agonizing over it? I want to pull the crew up the ridge—part of me knows that, but another part is uncertain. I have no substantial reason, only a small puff of water vapor. The cloud is white, puffy, and innocent. Relax, I tell myself.
I consider the meteorological concepts I know. Statistically, how likely is it that cloud will turn into something? What if I’m wrong? If I leave the crew down there and it rains, they may not be able to get back up the road for hours. If I pull the crew up and it doesn’t rain there is lost work time and I have to explain why I brought them up—overreaction to one tiny cloud. I risk feeling overly cautious, ridiculous, out of touch with reality, certain I am an impostor in this job.
My gut will not stop urging me to bring the crew up. My brain is uncertain.
I call a squad boss, “Hey, load up the crew and bring them up the ridge.”
“Are you sure?” he responds. “Another hour or two and we can be finished down here.”
This doesn’t help.
“Come on up.” My voice is solid, but a part of me is now convinced that I’m going to regret this silly, nonsensical decision.
Gusty winds begin just as the trucks are cresting the ridge. The innocent cloud swells so fast I can easily watch it grow. Within moments rain and hail pour down. It’s a microburst, complete with heavy rain and strong winds. The road surfaces turn slick as snot.
“How’d you know that was going to happen?” my squad boss asks, just as the Division Supervisor radios to me, wanting to know if the crew is still down the hill.
“No,” I respond to Division Supervisor, “We pulled out just before the storm.”
My decision was correct in this instance—was I skilled or was I lucky?
I look at my squad boss, but I have no answer for him. How did I know to pull the crew up?
Is that confidence?
Here’s what confidence means to me: Confidence is simultaneously acknowledging that I have legions to learn and that I’m a capable and skilled person, and being able to hold both of these ideas without conflict. Confidence is not being oblivious to others’ pain or efforts; it is acknowledging that we all have hidden struggles. I want to challenge myself, yet I don’t want to assume that I know things I don’t. I pray to the gods of complex mountains, deep rivers, and sudden microbursts to help me tell the difference.
Confidence happens when we stand in the moment of uncertainty before the certainty of decision. There is no “I don’t know” choice—not acting is itself a choice. There may not be a right or wrong choice, only the decision that forms the future. It is easy to judge decisions after the fact, once the outcome is known. But it is in the uncertain decision point, the future-creating point, that we exercise confidence, acting on our reading of the situation and our decision. It is in this moment that we shine our flashlight into the fog of uncertainty and stand in our decisions, stand in our confidence.
Part I of this essay.
Continuing to explore confidence, I think of my friend Sarah’s experience. There are two cars in the river, an upside-down sedan and a right-side-up pickup truck, three people in the truck and four in the car. Most of the passengers get themselves out of their vehicle and out of the river, but two are stuck between the dash and the seats, unable to get out, unable to stay above the water.
Firefighters have stabilized the cars when black-suited divers wade in the cold snowmelt, breaking windows and tearing metal. They can’t get to the people fast enough. The air is bleak. In the back of her ambulance an EMT feels pulses, checks blood pressures, and asks questions in a quiet voice, her heart full of sadness and intimacy with these people, the ones who got out of the river.
The EMT was my friend Sarah. She told me about an encounter she experienced soon after the accident.
A few days after the accident, Sarah settles in the vinyl chair in front of a mirror, feet on a metal footrest, her wet hair dripping. The air smells of shampoo and hair spray and the stylist is combing her hair out when the door of the salon opens.
“Hello, I’m early, take your time,” says the woman.
She sits down in the empty barber chair next to Sarah’s and pulls a newspaper out of her bag. On the cover is an aerial view of the accident, the large black identification numbers on the roof of Sarah’s ambulance in the center of the photo.
“I don’t understand why on earth they say they couldn’t get those people out of that car,” the woman says, shaking her head and motioning towards the picture.
“The river is so low right now,” she continues, “I don’t think it would cover the wheels of a car, much less an entire car.”
Sarah remembers the divers standing in the river, water up to their armpits.
The woman continues on: what a poor job the fire department did, the river is practically dry right now, those people should have been out of the water within minutes, did the emergency crews try at all? Sarah listens quietly. Occasionally the stylist says appropriate nothings, “I’m sure they did everything they could,” and “it is very sad,” and mostly makes vague, possibly agreeable noises.
I’m horrified listening as Sarah tells this story. Have I unknowingly acted so oblivious to another person’s experience, I wonder? Sarah was there, caring for patients, everyone aware of the people who couldn’t get out of the cars, out of the river. Telling me about it, Sarah was both indignant and sad. “How could she say that?” she asks me. “I was there.”
I don’t have answers for her. Would this woman pick the “I don’t know” choice on a test? Would she claim to know the mountain well?
I read about the importance for women to speak in clear statements without using minimizing words. Strong statements convey confidence; overconfident statements unknowingly trample souls. How to differentiate between the two? Her words were without indication that perhaps other experiences existed. The woman in the beauty shop was confidently wrong, or perhaps, wrongly confident.
Can I make bold, certain statements without denying another’s experience, experience that may be more accurate than my own?
Is that confidence?