Biffle and I spent a while last night finding out how many of our friends have Wikipedia pages.  We have several friends who probably should have Wikipedia pages, but only one who actually has a page.  Well, and then there's one other friend, but I think that person might have created their own page, so that doesn't really count.

Since most Wikipedia pages are created by 25 year old white techie guys, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that my cohort isn't well represented there.  Some of my favorite scholars aren't there at all, or are only there in odd ways.  Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, for instance, one of the biggest names in feminist disability studies, appears in Wikipedia as a footnote for a page on Big hair.  No page on RGT, but of course we need a Wikipedia page on Big hair.

Perhaps Amber should create an RGT Wikipedia page as part of her summer research work.


Pedagogy failure

During a break in class tonight, a student used the word "retarded."  He used it as a joke--"To say this word correctly, you have to say it like you're retarded."  And I didn't call him on it.

I didn't call him on it!

My heart froze, and then I started class back up as though nothing had happened.

Why didn't I call him on it?  I think it's because I haven't had the chance to practice.  I have a million strategies for this!  I just haven't used them in the context of the word "retarded." 

When students in class say "That's so gay," or "Stop being such a pussy," or they refer to someone as a slut, I have strategies.  As soon as the word exits the student's mouth, I frame it as an opportunity to do a little analysis and examination.  A couple of years ago a student in my Intro to Women's and Gender Studies class made reference to something as "so gay," and I excitedly said, "Oh!  Great!  Let's take a minute and talk about this word!" 

The student immediately blushed, looked ashamed, and said, "I know!  I know!  I shouldn't have said that!", but I said, "No, you used a word that loads of people in our culture use all the time.  This is a really good opportunity for us to talk about why that's troubling."  It was a useful, quick conversation, and then we moved on.

There are several things that are important for this to work well: 

  1. My eagerness is crucial.  If I really do frame this as an important moment for conversation and analysis, then we can all get on board with that.  
  2. It also has to be a conversation about a term that's circulating in our culture, not a conversation that's in any way personalized around the student who said the word.  This student was just the lucky voice of our current cultural moment.  Any of us could have been that voice.  
  3. Finally, it seems essential that the conversation happen immediately.  The stakes are lower--the sense of blame and/or shame is lower--if I immediately say, "Great!  Let's talk!" rather than "Let's return to an awkward moment from earlier in class."  I think it's harder to achieve #2 if you come back to the point later.

I didn't do that this time.  Five students from my Disability, Power, and Privilege class were sitting in the room, and they saw me not say anything.  I feel like a pile of shit (God forbid we have a blog post these days that doesn't have some mention of shit in it).  Fortunately, I think the shit-pile feeling is functional, because it'll keep me from doing this again.

Perhaps it'll also help me to figure out a way to return to this topic in my class.  I emailed the student as soon as class was over, but I want the rest of the class to get to have this conversation, too.


Girl w/Pen info and the latest poo update

Perhaps it's inappropriate to have both these topics in one blog post...

The more academic information first:  Amber Cantrell, who's my research assistant this summer, has written a great post at Girl w/Pen about one of our initial observations about the research project we're undertaking.  Have a look, and leave a comment for Amber!

And now the poo update:  the good news from Dr. Sperry is that Maybelle does not have any of the following things:

  • ova and parasites
  • shigella
  • salmonella
  • giardia
Hurray for the stool samples proving that there's nothing seriously wrong.  She had three days of no poo (another hurray!) and happily attended school, but this evening she did produce some evidence that perhaps the diarrhea hasn't entirely disappeared.  Alas.  We're currently trying a gluten-free diet to see what that does--Sperry suggested three weeks of that.  We're on day four, and it's actually fairly easy given that most of Maybelle's favorite foods either don't contain gluten (Veggie Booty, for instance) or have gluten-free substitutes (waffles, remarkably).

More playing in the fountainWe'll see what happens.  Here's a happy photo from our afternoon so that I can end on a positive note.


Stool sample

For the past three weeks, Maybelle has had on-again, off-again diarrhea.  Here is the good news:

  • Despite occasional cramping, she's feeling just great.  Happy, enthusiastic, energetic, doing dance parties and requesting experiences like, "Go walk.  Go bike.  Go wagon."  Last night Biffle had a hard time getting her to choose which of these three she wanted.
  • Having a great deal of pooping going on means that she's had lots of opportunities to practice sitting on the potty.  We have a "Sit on the Potty" song that she now knows and can sing/sign along with.  Perhaps the first steps of potty training will be a beneficial side effect of this experience.
Here's the complainy news:
  • She's in preschool, which isn't cheap, and we've paid for the month of May.  However, despite the fact that it no longer appears that she's contagious, she's not allowed to go to preschool if she's got runny poo.  So we're paying for preschool, and then we're paying for very generous wonderful people (we love you all!) to come to our house at the last minute to take care of her when she poops at school and is sent home.  I recognize that this is just part of being a working parent, but it's a bit of a budgetary shock.
  • Not to mention a scheduling challenge:  two Sundays ago, I spent around 11 hours trying to find a sitter for Monday.  What we need is a person who lives in Charleston, who would love to hang out with Maybelle at the very last minute if need be--who would, in fact, consider it kind of a plus if Maybelle isn't able to go to school from time to time (hello, Nonny?).
  • Two words:  stool sample.  Biffle and I had to collect a stool sample for our pediatrician.  So this morning, while I was getting poo smeared all over my watchband and trying to wipe it off various parts of Maybelle's body, Biffle had to take the diaper and siphon its contents into several vials, which I delivered to our pediatrician.  He's testing her for everything--from parasites to giardia.  His idea is that she has none of these things.  He thinks that since she's healthy, not feverish, no low energy, that she's fine--she'll get over this.  And I think he's hoping he can make a case to get her back into school by proving all the tests she's passed.  We'll see if that works.


The universe

A while back on a friend's blog, I made the comment that the trouble with messages from the universe is that they're notoriously hard to interpret.  It's very easy to think, "Oh, the universe hates me!"  But in my life, I've rarely had that interpretation confirmed.

Case in point:  when Maybelle was born, I freaked out a bit.  I started looking for the message from the universe.  I will admit that I at least considered the option that maybe the universe wanted me to be a martyr, although I quickly regained enough good sense to decide I'd wait and see.

Damned mysterious universe.  If the universe could simply have sent me this video when Maybelle was born, I would have known that being Maybelle's mom was going to have moments of bliss perfectly suited to me.  Who, I ask you, enjoys terrible, free-form dancing as much as I do?  Maybelle!  And here she is, beautifully dancing and singing along with me to "I Want You to Want Me."  It's worth noting that, while this has long been one of her favorites, Biffle and I had foolishly and cruelly been playing her the original release, not the Live at Budokan version.  When Biffle put on the live version, her little body froze, her eyes wide, and she was clearly thinking, "This--this is what I've been waiting for!" And then she showed that she knows almost all the words.*

*The video gets a little less riveting as it goes along, so don't feel that you have to watch it all.  I mean, I want to watch it all, but you might not.
**Please notice my unintentionally appropriate t-shirt, and click here to learn about this fabulous summer event.


Prenatal testing: Alison's doing interviews

Alright, blog readers, the time has come to offer you this official, IRB-approved* invitation:

A student and I are going to begin a research project this summer about prenatal testing.  In particular, we want to learn about how individuals make decisions surrounding prenatal testing. Why do women choose to be tested?  What are they hoping to learn?  What information are they given that influences them?  What are the decision-making processes after the testing?

We’re interested in having conversations with individuals, either one-on-one or in focus groups, to discuss these questions.  This summer we’d like to talk with parents of children with disabilities.  Because there is a special emphasis on Down syndrome for prenatal testing, we’re particularly interested in talking with the parents of kids with Down syndrome.  We’re interested in talking with parents who decided to have prenatal testing as well as those who decided not to.

We’ll be asking questions about information not generally shared with people other than very close friends and family.  You can always let us know—up front or during the interview—what questions or topics you’d rather not answer or discuss.  We aren’t going to make value judgments about your choices or your life. We want to better understand the ways in which people make sense of prenatal testing as part of their pregnancy.

We’d like to know your story.  We will keep your information strictly confidential.  If you’re interested, or would like more information, please contact Alison Piepmeier at piepmeiera@cofc.edu or 843-953-2280.  (And we can do these as phone interviews or in person.)

*Approval code GJJQ-05-02-2011.


Maybelle Carter

If you've wondered why our daughter is named Maybelle, check out this great post from the Bitch magazine blog:  http://bitchmagazine.org/post/adventures-in-feminstory-mother-maybelle-carter

Thanks for the link, Amber!


Grading time

Final grades are due into the system by noon today, and let me tell you, this week has been rough.

Rougher than I expected.  I had a few moments here and there of thinking, "Has grading week always been this hard, and I've just forgotten?", but I know that for me, the answer is no.  It didn't used to be this difficult.  One of the things that's changed has been Maybelle.

Last week was her spring break, and I foolishly didn't plan well enough in advance for this event.  That meant that she was home most of the week, and Biffle and I were trading off time with her.  Maybelle is a delightful human being, but she doesn't gel well with my work.  I've taken her to campus twice in the past two weeks--probably the most she's been on campus during work hours since she was born--and with effort I've been able to do only the bare minimum I went to campus to do (yesterday that meant picking up two pieces of paperwork).

As a side note here, let me say that I'm doing pretty well at not letting Maybelle trigger too much codependence in me.  When friends and colleagues see Maybelle, they're generally enthusiastic, saying hi to her, squatting down, wanting to interact.  Very often she won't even look at them, implying by her behavior that her own fingers are far more interesting than this adult.  And then there are others who have a particular vibe that draws her, and she'll give them these luscious, gooey hugs.  Yesterday she saw a friend who has been part of her life since she was gestating--this person held her when she was just days old--and she became fascinated with the couch cushions.  A few minutes later she saw a colleague that she's now met twice, and she both hugged her and tried a little bit to feel her up.  I have no control over this.  None.  The most I can do is encourage Maybelle to say "bye bye," which she generally does with southern enthusiasm ("Bah bah!")

So Maybelle has entered the schedule.  And here's one way this complicates things:  30 percent of my work day consists of meetings.  Last week I had to reschedule virtually every meeting on my calendar because of the Maybelle-spring-break phenomenon.  And then Wednesday of this week, at 11:00, as I was sitting at my computer blazing through some grading and preparing for an afternoon of meetings, I get a call from preschool saying that Maybelle had diarrhea and had to come home.

Children and their preschool illnesses!  I had to reschedule meetings I'd already rescheduled.  Lord have mercy.  10 percent of my week this week has been rescheduling.

And where I used to be a person who, if necessary, could stay up late and get things finished, I'm no longer that person.  In his wood studio, Biffle has a great picture* of me from--what, 2002?  2003?--standing in the 24-hour Nashville post office**, putting my Out in Public manuscript in the mail at 2 am.  I'd stayed up, I'd finished the thing, and it was damn well going in the mail right then.  These days if I stay up late--like I did last night--that means 11.  And that feels late.

My days start earlier these days, too.  Today I got up at 4:45, took a shower and washed my hair (let's not talk about when was the last time I washed my hair), and while I was in the shower I thought of things I wanted to blog about.  So here I am, neglecting the 56 emails I should be responding to.

Fortunately Maybelle is just fine and will be going back to school today.

*It actually is a great picture, but I took this picture of the picture at 5:00 am, with my cell phone.  It's the best I could do.
**Oh, how I loved the 24-hour post office!  So many things--manuscripts, job applications--went in the mail around 2 am.  And then I had a sense of closure and could sleep well.


Joanna Russ (1937-2011)

I found out recently that on April 29, Joanna Russ died.  Joanna was an amazing science fiction author, and a woman who used science fiction in part as a way to work through her feminist politics.  She's probably best known for her novel The Female Man, but Conseula and I were interested in her because she was the first person to write a feminist assessment of slash fiction, her 1985 essay, “Pornography By Women For Women, With Love."  As some of you will remember, Conseula and I flew to Tucson in 2007 to interview Joanna, and in March (2011) our interview was published in the Journal of Popular Romance Studies.

In the time since we interviewed her, Conseula and I have both been pen pals of Joanna's, enjoying the chatty letters she typed (on a typewriter!) and sent us, and in return sending her gossipy letters of our own along with pictures of our families (she always asked about our kids).

I'm really sorry she's gone. 

Thanks to the bloggers at Teach Me Tonight for their shout-out to Conseula's and my interview in their post about Joanna's death.