Thursday, April 30, 2009

Geek Love

I found this post on interesting:

The basic question is, "Why are there so few women in software development/programming?" I sent my husband the link, and we came to some very different conclusions.

Mr. Sharon: DHH is stupid
he misses the point

They ALL miss the point.

Mr. Sharon: the only sense in which gender is meaningful is that women tend to be more sensitive
alpha geeks are really hard to be around

It's still a society where women are subliminally discouraged from being interested in "male" pursuits like math and science.

Mr. Sharon
ergo, they irritate the fuck out of [other people.]

Girls are discouraged from playing with trucks and calculators and pushed toward traditional gender roles. It all comes back to the same root cause: Change the patriarchy, change the world

Mr. Sharon:
it's the same reason most social people aren't into programming. the people there are fucking retarded.

Okay, there's that, too. It's very isolating work.
But then, so is writing. So are many 'creative' and 'womanly' pursuits.

Mr. Sharon:
It's too bad, I think this article does a disservice to the subject

As you can see, there are two different conversations going on here. Since Mr. Sharon is himself an alpha programming geek, he has somewhat of an insider perspective. He has and does work with a number of women programmers, and he doesn't differentiate them from other 'alpha geeks.' Gender isn't important to him, Mad Coding Skillz are the benchmark against which all geeks are judged.

Yes, alpha geeks are totally annoying and can irritate the fuck out of others -- but both sexes are equally irritated by these infuriating alpha geeks. Women aren't going to avoid a career simply because of annoying people; I mean, if that were the case ... I wouldn't have ever held down a job. I don't even want to think about the annoying, vile, sick and downright illegal things I've put up with at various points in my working life.

Mr. Sharon says that programming is a field that attracts many loners and introverts, and that many women don't feel it's for them because women tend to be more social and sensitive. But fields like writing, dance, painting and other creative professions also have pretty high isolation factors. Speaking only for myself, as a professional freelance writer with a home office, I'm alone 90% of my day. Perhaps I wave at neighbors while walking my dog. Or maybe I chat with the teller at the bank or make conversation with the guy behind the counter at Starbucks. But the person I hang out with most isn't a person at all, she's my dog.

And I am a very social (and sensitive) person. Given his logic, I shouldn't want to be in this profession at all. Yet, I am. Take that for what it's worth.

I truly feel it comes down to how many women are raised and how they're still railroaded into traditional societal and gender roles. It can apply to the fields of science, mathematics, medicine, insert industry here. Just recently Harvard's president was crucified for making the statement that womens' brains simply weren't developed to do complex mathematics. C'mon! This is still a widely held belief in society! Sexism is alive and well.

You can't have a discussion about the lack of women in specific fields without discussing women's oppression by and exclusion from society in general! Any discussion (like the eWEEK article) that does so is omitting crucial background facts that solidly explain the issue.

It's very, very easy to say that discrimination against women doesn't happen, that women don't enter these fields because they simply don't like them. It's much more difficult (and threatening) to understand that there's an entire underlying patriarchal system that's been in place for thousands of years actively resisting any advances women have made into the workforce as a whole and these fields in particular. Duh! Shouldn't we all know this by now??


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sylvia & Virginia

For Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Anne Sexton and any woman (ourselves included) who has been mistaken for the definition of "crazy."

sylvia & virginia

they missed the point,
those professors who would have
wed & bedded you
dead & silent;
who dream of it still,
and mold you into models
for young girls gliding past their desks
from september to june.

unrequited men
seduced by the graceful sting
of your words
lay claim to your deaths,
careening past explanation
to simple loneliness
forcing heads into ovens,
rivers down
noose-addled gullets.

the wild smack of writerly doom
did not lead you down
those chilled paths alone.

it was not just the unfinished writing.

amnesia romanticizes
dashed promise and mad poets,
forgetting it was no good
to be a 21st century woman
in the 1900s.

no good to explain it, either—
they still smother you as
the old ones did,
& build you a room of your own,
shut away from the world
nipping at petite heels.

impossible, to choose
between love & art.
yet all our profound words
are short & clipped,
with no room for overlap.

we have no easy words
for complicated women
born too soon—

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Skinny: A Message from Scarlett Johansson

While training for an upcoming film, I've come to this conclusion: chin ups are near impossible and lunges suck. There is no magic wand to wave over oneself to look good in a latex catsuit. Eating healthy and getting fit is about commitment, determination, consistency and the dedication to self-preservation. While I've never been considered a gym rat, I have, in fact, worked up a sweat in the name of cardio before, and although I enjoy a grilled cheese as much as the next person, I combine the not-so-good foods I crave with an all-around balanced diet.

People come in all shapes and sizes and everyone has the capability to meet their maximum potential. Once filming is completed, I'll no longer need to rehash the 50 ways to lift a dumbbell, but I'll commit to working out at least 30 minutes a day and eating a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables and lean proteins. Pull ups, crunches, lunges, squats, jumping jacks, planks, walking, jogging and push ups are all exercises that can be performed without fancy trainers or gym memberships. I've realized through this process that no matter how busy my life may be, I feel better when I take a little time to focus on staying active. We can all pledge to have healthy bodies no matter how diverse our lifestyles may be.

Since dedicating myself to getting into "superhero shape," several articles regarding my weight have been brought to my attention. Claims have been made that I've been on a strict workout routine regulated by co-stars, whipped into shape by trainers I've never met, eating sprouted grains I can't pronounce and ultimately losing 14 pounds off my 5'3" frame. Losing 14 pounds out of necessity in order to live a healthier life is a huge victory. I'm a petite person to begin with, so the idea of my losing this amount of weight is utter lunacy. If I were to lose 14 pounds, I'd have to part with both arms. And a foot. I'm frustrated with the irresponsibility of tabloid media who sell the public ideas about what we should look like and how we should get there.

Every time I pass a newsstand, the bold yellow font of tabloid and lifestyle magazines scream out at me: "Look Who's Lost It!" "They Were Fabby and Now They're Flabby!" "They Were Flabby and Now They're Flat!" We're all aware of the sagas these glossies create: "Look Who's Still A Sea Cow After Giving Birth to Twins!" Or the equally perverse: "Slammin' Post Baby Beach Bodies Just Four Days After Crowning!"

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), as many as 10 million females and 1 million males living in the US are fighting a life and death battle with anorexia or bulimia. I'm someone who has always publicly advocated for a healthy body image and the idea that the media would maintain that I have lost an impossible amount of weight by some sort of "crash diet" or miracle workout is ludicrous. I believe it's reckless and dangerous for these publications to sell the story that these are acceptable ways to looking like a "movie star." It's great to get tips on how to lead a healthier lifestyle, but I don't want some imaginary account of "How She Did It!" I get into and stay in shape by eating a proper diet and maintaining a healthy amount of exercise. The press should be held accountable for the false ideals they sell to their readers regarding body image — that's the real weight of the issue. The NEDA goes on to say, "the media is one of our most important allies in the effort to raise awareness about the dangers of eating disorders...we strive to work with the media to produce accurate, insightful and informative pieces that will resonate with the public, while maintaining hope and avoiding glamorizing or promoting copycats." But how are we, the reader, to decipher friend from foe? How are we supposed to view articles highlighting celebrity cellulite and not sulk in the mirror, imagining a big red arrow pointing to various parts of our bodies? The media has packaged for us an unhealthy idea that one must suffer loss, be in the middle of a nervous breakdown, feel pressure from friends or coworkers, battle divorce or have a bitter dispute with an ex in order to get into acceptable bikini shape.

So why do these publications do so well? After appearing on the cover of US Weekly's "Did They or Didn't They? A Plastic Surgery Guide for Dimwits" issue and battling for a retraction, I learned that the magazine profited $1.4 million from the issue alone (money I felt should be donated to Operation Smile or an equally well-managed charity helping those in need of reconstructive surgery). The concept of 'Stars Are Just Like Us!" makes us feel connected to lifestyles that can sometime seem out of this world. Yes, celebrities are just like us. They struggle with demons and overcome obstacles and have annoying habits and battle vices. That said, I would be absolutely mortified to discover that some 15-year-old girl in Kansas City read one of these "articles" and decided she wasn't going to eat for a couple of weeks so she too could "crash diet" and look like Scarlett Johansson.

I'm not normally the type to dignify toilet paper rags with a response, but in this case I feel it's my responsibility to comment. In a way, I'm glad some dummy journalist (and I use the term "journalist" loosely) is banking on my "deflating" so that I can address the issue straight from my healthy heart.

For more information on eating disorders and/or treatment options, please visit:

Article found on:

Thanks for the message, Scarlett! You rock!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Motherhood, or, I Don't Care if I Smell Like Spit-Up Anymore

I never felt that I had a maternal instinct. Sure, when Sharon and I were kids we used to talk about that magical time when we were Grown Ups, who we would marry, what we would name our children. But when I hit the teen years my innate selfishness emerged (along with a whole lot of other things) and I decided children weren't my thing. I was too impatient, too aloof, to ever feel connected to some messy-faced screaming brat that would likely be just as awful as all the messy-faced screaming brats I saw other women dragging through grocery stores. Those poor women always had looks of desperation and resignation on their faces, as though they knew that they would never again be able to go away on a whim as I was wont to do, that their whole lives had been reduced to thinking up unique ways to spell Cameron and driving a minivan.
But then, at 18, I got pregnant, and everything changed. I wasn't a bad pregnant woman, I didn't run out and do drugs or anything, but I was pretty indifferent to the whole process. I was depressed and isolated from my family 3,000 miles away, and I didn't have anyone around me to council or confuse me about my impending parenthood. I guess I kind of figured things would go the way they would go, and left it at that. In retrospect, that's a pretty good attitude to take, actually. I know far too many first time moms who agonized over blood pressure readings or created elaborate "birth plans" only to realize that babies, unlike adults, don't care about plans and are going to do what they want.
So, after 34 hours of labor, a vacuum extractor application and an ill-advised mirror so I could see what was going on down there, Tatiana emerged. "Sunday's child is full of grace," declared the doctor, after sewing up the tears and trauma of her birth. He left us to our devices, two bewildered people on the brink of new life, both exhausted and unsure of one another. But she and I grew to an understanding rather quickly. She cried, I nursed her, and after several years we both caught up on our sleep.
Along the way we moved back east in fits and spurts, and our relationship waxed and waned as all parent-child relationships will. The first time she cried, "I hate you, Mama!" I burst into tears and explained to her how hurtful such declarations were, and she didn't really mean it, did she? After the 100th such outburst I had become immune and merely said, "Yeah, well, you aren't one of my favorite people right now, either." I had become a Parent.
Being a parent means, among other things, understanding your own parents better. I now realize that my mother was not just prone to histrionics, that your children really do break your heart again and again in a thousand little ways, from the inconsolable cries of colic to the unbreachable walls of emotional distance already being erected by my nearly 10-year-old Tatiana. I also understand, truly, the meaning of love. I love my children so ferociously it brings tears to my eyes. All the romantic love in the world, the love Paris had for Helen, the love Napoleon felt for Josephine, does not compare to the depth of emotion that rises in me when I bury my face in my baby's hair and inhale her sweet scent. Becoming a mother has changed me on such a fundamental level, made me feel my femininity for the first time, encouraged a compassion for suffering that I never had before. I can look at those glassy-eyed women in the grocery store and feel a connection borne of shared experience, even though I don't know them and we probably have little else in common. I can see pictures of mothers in Africa with their babies held to their breasts and I know the tenderness they are feeling, the protective instinct they have to ensure their child is safe in one of the most dangerous and sadly forgotten regions of the world. This mothering instinct I share with women all over the world is what drives me to social responsibility in the face of my recurring nihlism. This is what it means to me to have children, that I have an emotional investment in the future that will reach far beyond my own lifetime, into the lives of my grandchildren.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Heart Your Body

A friend of mine (who is an inspiration to feminists in her own right -- author, chef, journalist, food critic, mom and all around amazing woman) posted a link to her sister-in-law's new blog, called Heart Your Body.

Check it out -- it's absolutely inspiring in a world where most of the media can't mention Michelle Obama without referring to her fashion sense, slobbers over crotch-shots of Britney, still can't recognize Hillary Clinton as anything but a shrewd harpy and publicly shames Jessica Simpson for daring to add a few pounds.



Friday, April 3, 2009

Feminist Rant #286

Guest blogger Krista is a brilliant, gorgeous, incredibly accomplished and talented woman. And I just don't say that because she's my sister. Krista will join the roster of sometimes-bloggers here at Everyday Rebellion when she's not being Mom of the Year to her two beautiful daughters, wiping dirt off her husband's sneakers (long story), or kicking ass at her job for the State of Pennsylvania.

Feminist Rant #286

Every time I read an article about Michelle Obama, (such as this recent tidbit I found on the Huffington Post: it focuses mainly on what she's wearing.

Despite the fact that I am a fashion whore and she happens to have a pretty snazzy sense of fashion, this annoys me, for obvious reasons. It is not 1960 anymore, and the measure of a prominent woman should not be her dress label. Nor should the idea of a successful woman be limited to actresses and entertainers, as has become the norm.

Now, I know the article was featured in the website's Style section, but that just goes further to prove my point. ALL the articles I've read aboout Mrs. Obama to date have been Style pieces. Nary a mention of the fact that the woman graduated cum laude from Princeton, is a Harvard Law grad, worked for the mayor of Chicago and was an assistant dean as well as a vice president at the University of Chicago. No, all we are supposed to celebrate about her is that she can pick out a great Narcisco Rodriguez dress to wear to some shindig her husband is throwing. And, when she throws her own shindig that purportedly introduces teenage girls to "talented, accomplished women" that are supposed to be "example(s) of the types of success they, too can achieve" they meet Alicia Keys and Phylicia Rashad.

Really? If I'm super smart and do well in school I can fuck P. Diddy and be on Broadway (ed.--and appear in Weight Watchers commercials like Ms. Rashad)? I really don't think a great singing voice is something you learn at Harvard Law, Mrs. First Lady. Can we please see some real examples of what intellegence and dedication can get for a young woman? And please don't tell me it's a nice pair of Christian Louboutins.


Going to the Chapel

I'm already married. We 'eloped,' so to speak, on December 22, 2008, surrounded by our families, reciting state-sanctioned vows in front of a justice of the peace.

We'd planned on a slightly more traditional wedding in July, on our anniversary, but my lack of health insurance and my sporadic freelance work worried my husband, so we married, and I became his spouse.

The panic attacks started again on January 4, 2009. I hadn't experienced this in more than 4 years. I'd been discussing my sudden marital status change with a friend and suddenly I could not breathe. I felt as though the constriction in my chest would crack my ribs. I was terrified and sweating, my body flopping like a fish as I fought to take a breath. My tortured brain screamed an alarm: "Sharon, you're going to die. You are dying. Dying. You're going to die, right here."

In the hospital (paid in full now by Aetna), the doctors and nurses quickly ascertained that physically, I was in excellent shape. My heart, my lungs, my brain and my circulatory system weren't to blame. I was sent home, exhausted and confused, my hair and clothes still plastered to my body with sweat, rank with sickening terror.

The next attack woke me at 2 a.m. I choked out screams, dragged myself out of the bedroom and curled naked on the bathroom floor, pouring heat and sweat and fear. I covered myself with icy bags of frozen vegetables in a vain attempt to stop the pain. (I'm sure I looked both hilarious and mortifying when my husband found me that way.)

My doctor prescribed Zoloft and Ativan, diagnosing me with an anxiety disorder. I was grateful for the sweet, numbing relief, but I didn't tell her was that my anxiety was laser-focused on anything related to the party we were planning to celebrate our marriage. The party during which I'd wear an ivory dress and carry a bouquet, flanked by my best friends and my sister. During which I'd walk down a makeshift aisle at my in-laws' gorgeous home to meet my husband and repeat our vows.

I went last week to the bridal salon to have my dress (bought for $68 on eBay) fitted. I carried my shoes and a small hat. I looked in the mirror and saw A Bride. It felt as though I was looking at a Photoshopped picture of myself, my body layered over with heavy cream silk. I saw a terrifed girl peering out at me, at 7 years old, 12, 17, 23, shreiking in alarm that we'd ever give ourselves up so willingly.

I saw my mother shelving her dreams, trapped and morose, staying at home to raise two daughters in a tiny two-star town, only to be abandoned 35 years later for a woman who was everything my father had insisted she herself give up.

I smiled the smile of the condemned, and dutifully took pictures to send to my mother, my sister and my mother-in-law. Halfway to my car in the parking lot, the sweat poured out of me, my throat closed, and I doubled over as my chest collapsed in on itself. I burned and boiled, I tore off my sweater, my t-shirt and my shoes. I huddled in the car, gasping, choked down two Ativan.

I've already done it. I've already pledged to love this man for eternity, exchanged the rings, cut the cake. And truly, he is my soul mate. He knows me better than I know myself and he loves me in spite of it. He's just fucking incredible. I'm so grateful and blessed and full of joy every fucking moment.

Why, then, am I so afraid? Why does the fear take control? Why does going through these motions paralyze me? I don't have to repeat these patterns. I can create the marriage that I want, where two independent, self-sufficient equals share responsibilities and contribute to a whole, satisfying life together.

Yes, I do know the answer, believe me. I just fervently hope I can convince myself before I slide into that dress and walk down the aisle.