Thus Spake Zuska

Jeebus, people, you have GOT to get some new whiney whines, you Whiney McWhinersons.

I’m talking about you, you whiney whiners. Those of you who get all whiney and defensive whenever anyone dares to point out that you have stepped in the dogshit. Stepping in dogshit is an accident and it is something that all of us do upon occasion. Now, when you step in dogshit, do you want to just go blithely prancing about the place, spreading the dogshit hither and yon, stinking up the place to high heaven? Or do you want someone to point out that, jesus h. christ, there’s a great big steaming heap o’ smelly dog turds trailing off your right shoe, why don’t you go scrap ‘em off? Or better yet, just get yourself a whole new pair of shoes, for sure Isis can recommend something stylish.

What you do not what to do, under any circumstances, is trot out that old whiney whine about “oh noes! a witch hunt!” Because now, not only do you have dogshit on your shoe, you have “I am an ignorant fool” tattooed on your face. Perhaps you are not familiar with the google? Try typing “witch hunt” into it. Your friend, Wikipedia, says:

A witch hunt is a search for witches or evidence of witchcraft, often involving moral panic, mass hysteria and lynching, but in historical instances also legally sanctioned and involving official witchcraft trials.

Crying “witch hunt” every time someone points out that you stepped in the dogshit is an insult to the horrific suffering and deaths of the thousands of women who truly were persecuted just because they were women. It’s also an insane mockery to liken people speaking up for diversity and social justice to killers of women.

Have you been burned at the stake? Drowned? Pressed to death with stones? Hung? Tortured? Forced to give false witness identifying other “witches” who will subsequently be questioned, tortured, hung/drowned/burned etc.? Is mass hysteria sweeping your local village or region, and hundreds of women are being killed? No? I do not think, then, that you are part of any “witch hunt”.

No. I think you have dogshit on your shoes. Which is a lot stinkier than some poor grad student who doesn’t share the U.S. obsession with showering, deodorizing, and perfuming away every last trace of normal body odor Real Americans find so disgusting. Still, stepping in the dogshit, as I said, happens to us all now and then. It’s not a measure of our character or our self-worth. How we react when it’s pointed out is a different story. Do we cling to our shitty shoes, track the shit all over the place, and then point at some foreign brown dude who, you know, you can hardly understand, and his food smells funny, and he just won’t use Axe body spray? Or do we stop a minute, lift our foot, and look at what we’re unintentionally dragging around with us? Oh shit.

Oh, I know. You’re just trying to help them deal with The Way Things Are. And those idealistic diversity nuts just don’t understand How Things Work Around Here. But the issue is not, how do things work around here. It’s how are you going to work around the things that are here.

You can help people negotiate their way through a treacherous, oppressive, racist, patriarchal hierarchy in a way that lets them come out the other side with some part of their soul still intact. Or you can apologize for the oppressor. Whiney “oh noes! witch hunt!” McWhinerson, are you aiming for the former? Or defaulting to the latter? Are you somewhere in between? Do you even know? Maybe you should take some time and think about it.

I wrote this all in English, the official language of How Things Work Around Here. I hope that’s not a problem for you.

Comments

  1. #1 skeptifem
    June 3, 2010

    Isis was really nice about the whole thing, too. Much nicer than I would be if someone sent me something that highlighted their privilege over me.

    She might just be defensive in the same way most people are when they get called on something. It takes some practice to not freak out over being called on privilege. It isn’t comfortable, especially not at first.

  2. #2 GMP
    June 3, 2010

    Hey, thanks for the exposure!
    It’s hard to get press coverage like this nowadays.
    - Whiney McWhinerson, whiningly

  3. #3 Anon
    June 3, 2010

    Just a note about this bit:
    Which is a lot stinkier than some poor grad student who doesn’t share the U.S. obsession with showering, deodorizing, and perfuming away every last trace of normal body odor Real Americans find so disgusting.
    Smelling like BO is NOT a normal custom of any particular country that can be excused on the basis of nationality. Upper-class folks from these countries will be happy to natter on about it, at length, whether you want them to or not, about how the smelly lower classes are making a bad name for them.

    Lack of bathing is common to being poor, because, as another thread pointed out, food stamps doesn’t pay for deodorant or hot water. In the poorer parts of many countries, there may be no hot water and no deodorant to purchase in the store anyway, even if folks had the money.

    Having been that poor, here is what you do, if you are a student/postdoc in the US: Go to the dollar store and buy a bottle of liquid dish soap (citrus-scented is good, lots of toiletries smell like citrus), a washcloth, and a plastic shampoo-type bottle or travel kit type bottles. Put the dish soap in the travel bottle. Find the school gym. All schools, however small, have at least one. Every workday morning, get the earliest bus or however you can get there, and do the lamest workout you can get away with and still look like you are there to exercise–a real workout will make you ravenous, so don’t do a serious workout unless you’re not so worried about food. Walking on a treadmill for a while is good, you can go a fairly slow pace and no one will notice much. Then shower in the school showers with your soap–liquid dish soap goes a lot further than regular soap, as it tends to be pretty concentrated, and you only need a half-teaspoon to wash your hair. Leave a little soap residue on the washcloth after you’re done washing though, and before you step out of the shower, rub that soapy residue, just a little suds, in your armpits and let it dry there. Then rinse out the washcloth, put on a fresh undershirt/slip and you’re good to go. If you’re someplace with hot weather, cornstarch is cheap and soaks up sweat without yellowing shirt armpits.

    Women who can get away with long hair, put a few drops of cooking oil in your hands, rub them together, then rub that into the ends of your hair for conditioner.

    Being able to pass for “middle class or higher” is, sadly, crucial to working and getting opportunities in the STEM fields. Wish I were kidding, but when I was a student I was seen as much more of an outsider weirdo (by both other students and faculty) because I was poor than because I had a weird accent.

  4. #4 Comrade Svilova
    June 3, 2010

    You’re just trying to help them deal with The Way Things Are. And those idealistic diversity nuts just don’t understand How Things Work Around Here.

    Oh. My. God. I don’t understand where people get off thinking that “diversity nuts” don’t understand The Way Things Work. There is no “White Perspective” or “Male Perspective” or “Abel-bodied Perspective” that needs to be explained.

    Heads up: diversity nuts are such because we are so aware of How Things Are.

    I want to make a vow that the next time a certain person in my life does this whole “you’re being idealistic because people will never change” that I will actually take him to task on that response. Really, what is the alternative? Complicity?!?

  5. #5 jc
    June 3, 2010

    Comrade “diversity nuts are such because we are so aware of How Things Are”

    That’s exactly it. I found myself nodding with Ambiv’s comments on GMP’s post. Pushing Others toward P2K-compliance in a it’s-for-their-own-”good” way is not being supportive of diversity. When diversity looks different and acts acceptably to the P2K (according to the Fair Use Governing Diversity Accord), status quo rests with a job well done pat for the day. When diversity looks different and acts (brace yourself) DIFFERENT and not complicit in status quo groupthink, it’s not an excuse to weed someone out of a group or suggest they ‘go with the flow’ and conform.

    Supporting diversity is directly at odds with the P2K. When you sign up to support diversity, much like announcing you’re a feminist, you sign yourself up for a whole new level of shit from the status quo. People do change, we’re proof of that. We all start out in the P2K flow.

  6. #6 Dave X
    June 3, 2010

    @jc: P2K?

  7. #7 kt
    June 3, 2010

    Honestly, you folks have gone over the deep end now. Did you even read GMP’s post and comments? Do you realize that she is an immigrant herself? Do you realize that immigrants can legitimately have different feelings about how to attain success in the US than you do? Do you realize that for immigrants gaining facility in the English language and learning cultural norms are of real importance? Do you realize that immigrants want to succeed, in general, more than they want to become cultural studies analysts?

    I think it’s a huge mark of of privilege that you can afford to ignore the real difficulties that immigrants and poor people can have in trying to adjust to the culture of US science. You can afford to ignore it because you’re already there. PIs can afford to ignore their lab researchers’ English proficiency and use their foreign students labor and then send them back home jobless — keeps the market better for Americans and gives cheap hard-working labor in labs! PIs can afford to ignore how their students adjust to cultural norms — if everyone avoids them because of bathing habits, you still get that hard-working lab labor!

    I find it appalling that people here are more interested in a political idea of “diversity” than in helping students who want to succeed in the US. You are basically suggesting that immigrants not talk with each other and learn to adjust on their own terms — you seem to want them to remain ignorant of the norms of the US for some fairy-tale PCness reasons while sacrificing their hopes and dreams for employment and success. For you it’s all “diversity” and “respect,” but you don’t give a shit about what these “oppressed peoples” really want.

  8. #8 Comrade Svilova
    June 3, 2010

    For you it’s all “diversity” and “respect,” but you don’t give a shit about what these “oppressed peoples” really want.

    If GMP’s lab workers wanted to only speak in English, she would not have had to institute a rule. Nu?

  9. #9 kt
    June 3, 2010

    Yes, Svilova, just as we graduate students balance our teaching to research ratios for optimum appeal on the job market, write steadily and turn in drafts of everything on time, use technical jargon consistently and correctly, know how to politely address professors both male and female, know procedures in the lab without having to be taught… we practically advise ourselves! Whether our dad and grand-dad were both professors at Harvard or whether both were farmers in a land that didn’t get electricity until 1950, we know what we need to do to succeed and how to do it, and we start at the beginning of our graduate careers instead of figuring out in July of the year we’re applying for jobs.

    I am looking around at my unemployed fellow grads who were unable to compete in this tough market because they haven’t got the attributes that will get them hired and I feel their advisors have failed them. It is too bad they weren’t all brilliant and self-directed enough to realize that they needed to focus on developing English and teaching skills right away, even though their advisors told them teaching doesn’t matter, it’s just the research that you do (and someone else can help write it up). Those of you who are in a moral panic about diversity (because this *is* a moral panic) need to think about more constructive ways to deal with this than saying that PIs who insist their trainees learn to communicate effectively are tools of the patriarchy while still refusing to hire people who can’t speak English well enough to teach.

  10. #10 Comrade Svilova
    June 3, 2010

    I guess for me it seemed that what GMP was talking about was different from mentorship/advising, especially since she framed it as how she was dealing with diversity and different cultures in her lab. Again, as Isis pointed out, it’s more about her framing of the question than whether grad students should speak a common tongue / bathe / store food properly.

  11. #11 ambivalent academic
    June 3, 2010

    kt – as has been said before, there is a big difference between:

    1) Making it clear to trainees that proficient English skills are practically necessary to future career success in academic science, and encouraging them to practice their English and presentation skills via presentations to the lab and conversations in English with lab mates, and pointing them towards more resources for improving their English such as professional ESL courses

    and

    2) Forbidding conversations in non-English languages full top.

    In the second case, people who are still acquiring proficiency in English are not allowed to resort to their first language to clarify what is meant, nor are they allowed to converse comfortably about non-safety-or-science-critical topics with people who may share their first language.

    I know that if I were working in a setting in which I my first language was not the common language, I would make every effort to get up to speed with the common language (and have done so)…but forbidding me from resorting to my first language for clarification or just the occasional comfort when I’m feeling stuck, does not make for a working environment in which I feel like a welcome member of the team (hi, diversity!).

    OTOH, if I were struggling with the common language I would definitely hope that the person in charge might be able to point me towards classes or suggest some other resources that would help bring me up to speed. If for some reason, I were not aware of how critical it is to be proficient in the common language, I would absolutely hope that someone would point that out to me. However, there’s no need to go beyond that. Making it clear how critical the common language is, and providing resources as necessary are all that is required. Forbidding other languages is just way over the top and really patronizing.

  12. #12 Zuska
    June 3, 2010

    Perhaps I stepped in it a bit myself, through bad word choices? When I said “poor graduate student”, I wasn’t thinking literally economically poor, I was thinking more “this poor person who has to work with someone who wants to micromanage their bathing and laundering, and then write posts conflating immigrant status/skin tone, food choice, laundry, body odor, and supposed concern for diversity. I hope the poor souls who’ve been mocked under the name of a post about diversity don’t accidentally discover that PI’s blog post and realize it’s their own PI laughing away”. But as Anon @ #3 points out, such students may be literally economically poor as well, confounding the issue. It’s heartbreaking.

    I was fortunate, during the course of my active research career, to get to spend substantial amounts of time in some non-U.S. countries, mostly in Europe, but one place outside Europe as well. Those experiences led me to reflect on the U.S. mania for showering, deodorizing, and perfuming away any trace of normal body scent quite differently than I otherwise would have. There are, in fact, normal scents to the body that are not malodorous.

    These days, it is over-perfumed bodies – heavily scented lotions, sprays, body washes, soaps, perfumes – that are likely to trigger a migraine for me. I’ve never gotten a migraine from sniffing anyone’s natural body odor. My neurologist’s waiting room has a sign reminding people not to use perfumes or heavily scented lotions as a courtesy to other patients. It doesn’t say anything about “please wash away your body’s normal odors”.

    kt wants to remind us all the GMP is herself an immigrant, as if that somehow makes everything in her post okay. I’m not buying it. I’m a woman, and I come from the working class, and neither of those things is sufficient to keep me from being 100% non-sexist, or never having a classist worldview. The more we move into inner circles of power, the more we are rewarded for fitting in and conforming to dominant discourse, the more we are encouraged to shed identification with our shameful Other selves and forget what it is like to inhabit those selves further out on the edge. Why, I cut off my big toe to fit in this glass slipper! and my sister here, she chopped off the back part of her foot! Never you mind the prince didn’t actually pick us, the important thing is this is the size and shape of the slipper and here’s a knife, and you’d best get chopping ASAP.

  13. #13 kt
    June 3, 2010

    As you know, AA, GMP clarified her language policy in the comments after the post.

    Svilova, I would like to see your response to GMP’s most recent post. It directly addresses the framing question.

    And perhaps Zuska and Dr. Isis should note that someone who did not grow up in the US might not be knowledgeable about American cultural norms regarding how enlightened liberal people talk about language and hygiene… and you certainly haven’t been shy about letting her know how we think you’re supposed to talk about it!

  14. #14 kt
    June 3, 2010

    Sorry, my comment appeared at the same time as Zuska’s. Here’s my question for Zuska, then: I am a woman with an immigrant background and I want to succeed in science. That’s what I really want. I want to be recognized for being good at what I do. If I have to learn Chinese, I’ll do it. I already learned French and a bit of Russian. Fine. If I have to be a stellar teacher, I’ll do it. I’m working on the research part, because I know I need it. My advisor is ripping apart my thesis as we speak because he does not feel that it is written in good technical English. Unpleasant, yes, but it’s fine: I want to be able to communicate effectively and have my work recognized. I realize there are plenty of strikes against me in our patriarchal classist sexist system. I realize it’s a struggle to climb to the top in my field and also make time for family, culture, keeping up my first language (not English), all these things. So, what am I supposed to do?

    Am I supposed to not strive to learn to write technically because it’s not natural to me?

    Am I supposed to not learn how to talk with my male colleagues after a seminar in a bar? Yes, I’m doing my part to broaden the culture by also talking with male and female colleagues in less-gendered locations.

    Am I supposed to ignore what I’m going to get rewarded for and fail to get jobs for reasons that don’t have to do with my research abilities?

    You’re right, we’re rewarded for learning to fit in a certain way. Are we supposed to opt out of that entirely? Where are we going to work? How are we going to support ourselves? How are we going to change things for others? It sounds like you want me to retain my identification with the Othered self so far that I can’t succeed, because Othered means unsuccessful.

    It is up to those with power to change the system so that there is space for this diversity. It is not useful for anyone if graduate students are misinformed about the realities of life. I’ve learned a lot about the realities of being a woman in science from the blogosphere, and discussing those realities leads to strategies to work around them. It doesn’t help anyone to pretend that in science people who can’t speak English are hired all the time at American universities and people with different hygiene standards are definitely accepted everywhere because we all actually do love diversity.

  15. #15 Comrade Svilova
    June 3, 2010

    @kt

    I understand the value in helping people who face similar discrimination as oneself understand how to better conform to a system that discriminates. However, it’s something that I personally try to avoid, and as Zuska writes, it can become a problem as people leave their “other” selves behind and start perpetrating the same kinds of discrimination. (This is not to blame the victim; it’s the power structure that is at fault, not the individuals.)

    I read through the discussions on GMP’s blog, and I appreciate her position. However, as was discussed above, there can sometimes be too much emphasis on “this is how things are” and “this is why the world is what it is.” One reason I haven’t been part of the discussion on GMP’s blog is that I don’t really know that much about the specific situation of being a foreign student in the sciences. But I do know what it’s like to be continually told by women (and to find myself telling other women) that women’s clothing, hygiene, language, posture, and other choices are “incorrect” because they put us at a disadvantage in our P2K society.

    Zuska’s Cinderella metaphor speaks to my reaction. Yes, there are many things that oppressed classes of all kinds must do in order to get by. But these sacrifices to the dominant culture should never be celebrated as ways of dealing with diversity. Rather, they are the terrible compromises required by power.

  16. #16 Zuska
    June 3, 2010

    Those of you who are in a moral panic about diversity (because this *is* a moral panic) need to think about more constructive ways to deal with this than saying that PIs who insist their trainees learn to communicate effectively are tools of the patriarchy while still refusing to hire people who can’t speak English well enough to teach.

    This is just bullshit.

    Who’s in a moral panic, here? People who want to change The Way Things Are Done Around Here – or those who insist that can never happen and what you need to do, see, is tell the smelly brown folk how to use fabric softener?

    Who is refusing to hire people who can’t speak English well – diversity advocates? Or the people in a moral panic desperately trying to make sure The Way Things Are Done Around Here never changes? Really, seriously, just how many goddamned diversity advocates do you think are running the show in U.S. labs? Because, kt, if we were in charge, The Way Things Are Done Around Here would already be going down a whole lot different.

    Who, among PIs, is insisting that their trainees learn to communicate effectively – the ones who forbid them the use of their native tongue in the workplace, thus effectively alienating and shaming them? Or the ones who don’t make arbitrary rules about who can say what when, and instead make sure their trainees are enrolled in ESL courses, have opportunities to present in English for practice in safe spaces like lab meetings, help them practice for departmental seminars and professional meetings, review their writing, include them in social gatherings where they can interact informally in English, help them learn the social ways of the culture, etc.? Yeah, all that shit takes a lot more work. Banning foreign tongues is a whole helluva lot easier.

    If your fellow grads are unemployed, maybe your PIs did fail them. Maybe the fucked up economy and the unwillingness of the U.S. to adequately support the university system failed them, too. It’s just laughable, however, to pretend that diversity advocates had anything to do with that, or that wanting foreign students and postdocs to be treated more humanely is a bad thing, and just likely to result in their being unemployed.

  17. #17 ambivalent academic
    June 3, 2010

    kt@14 -

    I hear your frustration. It does often feel as if conforming to the dominant culture of the system is the only option for success (and many times it is). I would not be so presumptuous to suggest to you personally what you should or should not do in order to succeed in this system.

    That being said, I think it is a false dichotomy to insist that one must *either* give up the right to speak their first language at work *or* fail to learn good technical English and go on to succeed in science. That one must forbid their trainees from speaking non-English languages *or* fail to prepare them for the expectations of their future career.

    I think a *lot* of people in this discussion are seeing these things as mutually exclusive. They’re not – finding the balance between the two is just harder work than making blanket prohibitions and washing your hands of the issue.

    As I said above, it does often feel as if conforming to the dominant culture of the system is the only option for success (and many times it is). But it is possible to do TWO things about this: 1) help people get the skills they need to navigate a biased system and succeed, AND 2) work to change the system so that it is less biased.

    Doing both is a lot more difficult, and so more people are invested in maintaining the either/or model. But if *real* diversity (not just appearance of) is the goal, then we really have to push for both success in the current system, and change towards a better system. Hard work, but worth it.

  18. #18 Alex
    June 3, 2010

    It is not at all clear to me that GMP’s attempt at teaching communication skills is limited to a blanket ban on other languages. In the post being discussed she says things like:

    “I therefore insist that students for whom English is not a native language work tirelessly on improving it, through English-as-a-second-language courses, reading a variety of literature (from technical to popular), watching US programming, and — most importantly — through opening up to become friends with native English speakers.”

    This sounds similar to Zuska’s suggestion that a PI should “make sure their trainees are enrolled in ESL courses, have opportunities to present in English for practice in safe spaces like lab meetings, help them practice for departmental seminars and professional meetings, review their writing, include them in social gatherings where they can interact informally in English, help them learn the social ways of the culture, etc.”

    It is unfortunate that she views shilling for the deodorant-soap-industrial complex as a way of helping people to “learn the social ways of the culture” but nobody is perfect.

    She also makes it pretty clear that she values having students work together and learn from each other, that she is interested in an environment of sharing amongst the students:
    “But, challenges aside, having a culturally diverse group is much better than having a culturally uniform one. For instance, often I have students who have excellent technical training but have been schooled in a system where initiative and independence are discouraged; I have others who are very independent and creative, which their school system fostered, but may lack, sometimes significantly, in math and physics skills. Together, the mix enables all of them to become much better young researchers overall, as they learn from each other.”

    “It has also been quite heartwarming to see how friendships forge, sometimes between people whom you would never expect to bond, with origins very remote from one another. It is interesting to see how often students who are good friends end up coming up with very original research ideas; I have had several student-initiated papers, where it was always two students, from very different backgrounds, who became good friends in grad school and came up with an idea that meshed their expertise and resulted in cool new science.”

    She even talks about kicking out a student who spent more time sneering at foreigners than collecting data, and it sounds like his lack of productivity and his inability to work with a diverse group carried equal weight in her decision.

    GMP sounds to me like a person who values her students as people and wants to help them. She is somebody who understands that there is not a sharp line between the personal and the professional, as made clear by her line “I remember thinking whether this was really part of my job description as their research advisor, but I suppose it is, because I see no one else volunteering…” She could have sneered at personal and social concerns and said that her sole job is to drive them to get more data, but she has embraced a wider view of a mentor’s job. She certainly sounds like somebody who would be willing to help students with personal problems rather than say “Not my job, now go get more data!”

    Could she have said some things more carefully than she did? Yes. However, she’s a good prof who’s doing a good job for her students, and she could use constructive suggestions rather than a pile-on. Some will say that being called out isn’t supposed to be fun, but since we’ve just talked about safe and constructive mentoring environments we might pause to consider whether there are nicer, more constructive ways to discuss this with GMP. Is it that science mentoring supposed to be safe and constructive but mentoring on dealing with people is supposed to be harsh and uncomfortable?

  19. #19 Anon
    June 3, 2010

    Give me a break! What people complain about GMP’s post is nothing but liberal self-righteous blather. That is correct—liberal, self-righteous blather. In order to show everyone how PC they are, they do not recognize that they advise something that actually goes against interests of the same people they supposedly care about.

    What is incredible to me is that GMP’s post was entirely about professional concerns and the things that influence such concerns. She clearly limited herself to her trainees’ professional development, and what can be actually done in in the lab order to facilitate that (and also, her research activities in her own lab—isn’t that why she has the job after all?).

    “Those experiences led me to reflect on the U.S. mania for showering, deodorizing, and perfuming away any trace of normal body scent quite differently than I otherwise would have.”

    Perhaps have you asked yourself if you are spending time around wrong type of people? At my university, I know many people who smell like just showered in the perfume, the chances of them being American are just the same as being non-American.

    “kt wants to remind us all the GMP is herself an immigrant, as if that somehow makes everything in her post okay. I’m not buying it.”

    There, that is the problem. Somehow, this very self-righteous thought that there always must be something inherently wrong when someone tries to give minorities a very valuable and practical professional advice. Yes, that must true, because we—the enlightened elitists—–believe that is true, and we are the only to have the moral right to judge that. Did you even read GMP’s post carefully? Granted, not all immigrants treat other immigrants nice, but the failure of separating good advice from bad one because everyone had pulled the garb of PCness only hurts the same minorities.

    I am an immigrant myself, and going to be a PI in a few months. And you know what, I completely agree with what GMP said in her post, and I am going to implement the rules myself. I wish my advisor was as thoughtful in giving career advice as GMP is. We are smart, very hard working, and we do not need your self-righteous sympathy. All we need is a good professional advice, so if you do not like to give one, fine, but please at least do not trash the person who takes efforts to give one.

  20. #20 kt
    June 3, 2010

    Zuska, your implication that GMP is telling the smelly brown folk to use deodorant and alienating and shaming her students is more telling about your own views and experiences than hers. I am not slamming diversity advocates. I am slamming the people who are upset that one PI makes sure her students are prepared for How Things Are and seem to think it’s more useful to not prepare students so that they can maintain their pristine native selves.

    I want to do both, as AA said: know the system so I can work it and change it so that others can. It is hard work, and worth it.

  21. #21 Alex
    June 3, 2010

    Is regular showering an oppressive thing that needs to go? I mean, I’m OK with changing most of the system, but on the topic of bathing I guess I’m willing to side with the oppressors and send the tanks to mow down the unwashed masses.

  22. #22 SKM
    June 3, 2010

    I guess I’m willing to side with the oppressors and send the tanks to mow down the unwashed masses.

    This is the kind of “harmless joke” that’s not nearly so funny if you come from a place where the government or government-funded paramilitary groups actually do mow down the masses, with or without tanks. You’d be surprised at the number of such “jokes” I’ve heard made in front of folks who come from such places and are working as hard as they can to fit into the lab.

    I’m privileged in this respect, so I’ll be the humorless tightass who points out that not everyone in the audience here or at our places of work comes from peaceful backgrounds where they are reasonably certain of getting through the day without police, paramilitary, or civilian brutality.

    The issue at hand is intercultural communication. Considering one’s audience is key.

  23. #23 Rev Matt
    June 3, 2010

    Unwashed masses or Axe Body Spray? Unwashed masses are preferable any day.

  24. #24 Alex
    June 3, 2010

    Rev Matt does have a point. Given a choice between working with an unshowered foreign grad student, or working with a guido from Jersey Shore who’s covered in Axe body spray and hair gel, I’ll take the unwashed grad student any day.

    Also, being part Italian-American, I apologize to myself for the guido reference. I would just point out that being a sedentary guy I lack the Muscle-American privilege of the buff guys who party at the beach.

  25. #25 SKM
    June 3, 2010

    @Rev Matt: I concur!

    Take home message: humor is funnier if it is aimed up , not down, the privilege hierarchy.

    Also, Anon has gone into some detail about how regular showering is indeed a socioeconomic class issue, so yeah, requiring it is an oppressive thing, actually.

    Not exactly to the point: the two stinkiest scientists I have ever worked with were both middle-class white American men, and both totally brilliant.

  26. #26 Alex
    June 3, 2010

    I might note that the smelliest grad students tend to be males from ethnic backgrounds that are well-represented in science. Perhaps their decision to not shower is a way of waving their privilege that they feel welcome enough in science that they don’t need to worry about how they affect others in their surroundings?

  27. #27 Dave X
    June 3, 2010

    Pong! — geekmommyprof doesn’t link your post but she discusses it.

  28. #28 Rev Matt
    June 3, 2010

    And to throw my own anecdote along with SKM, I work in IT in an org that has extensive biological testing labs and there are a ton of ethnicities in our part of the building (Indian, Arab, a variety of Asian backgrounds, Hispanic, Black, etc) and a broad spectrum of socio-economic backgrounds (I include the janitorial staff who are ever present here). The two smelliest guys are middle aged middle class uber-white guys and seriously they DO NOT shower regularly or apparently own more than two shirts each.

  29. #29 Anon @3 (not the other one)
    June 3, 2010

    May I humbly request, Zuska, that you do a post about how to adapt to middle classishness, given your background? I know that after decades in science, some shit my colleagues say still kinda renders me speechless because I simply never thought of life that way. Not in a good way, more in a “seriously? you are that naive?” way.

    Example: new VP of company had a luncheon where we were asked to introduce ourselves and say what we would do for a living if we weren’t scientists/engineers.
    Me and one other guy: “Hi, my name is X, I work in Y’s group, and I would probably be working at (crummy unskilled blue collar job).”
    The other 98 people: “Hi, my name is X, I work in Y’s group, and I would be (some airy-fairy hobby that pays starvation wages or done on volunteer basis).”
    Bad luck that me and the other guy were sitting at the end of the table where we had to go first. We didn’t realize that the upper/middle classes really don’t know how much the various occupations pay, and were raised to Follow Their Dreams. It’s a bit like accidentally admitting you’re an atheist at your cousin’s church wedding in the Bible Belt, people just look at you funny after that.

    In a similar vein were the attitudes in academia that it’s OK to exploit people’s labor because Science, like Art, is something worth starving for. Like it’s all romantic and stuff.

    Reading the Puritanical literature (John Edwards–the 1600s-era preacher, not the scam artist guy–William Bradford and John Winthrop) helped a lot. I didn’t realize why, and how unconsciously, I was being hated on until then, it was all like spring weather, not too predictable. It’s just a strange-ass experience to deal with the constant crazy-making of someone pissing on you and telling you it’s raining gold, day in day out. When you read the mythology that the upper classes are raised on, it makes a lot more sense and becomes slightly easier to cope with; you can figure out a strategy instead of it being completely mysterious and unpredictable.

    I wish there was a “Stuff Middle Class People believe” blog like the “Stuff White People Like” blog. It would have been helpful. One that goes the other way would likely be helpful to anyone who has to manage or run a company where they employ poor people, but of course that one would never get read.

  30. #30 Isabel
    June 3, 2010

    Anon, Alfred Lubrano interviews a couple hundred people for this book, including many academics and professionals, about their experiences learning to navigate the upper-middle class worlds.

    http://www.amazon.com/Limbo-Blue-Collar-Roots-White-Collar-Dreams/dp/0471714399

    I agree with those who say this is largely a class issue masquerading as a race or xenophobic issue.

    How do you all think the unwashed masses of Americans learned to shower and use deodorant and gargle with Listerine every day? It’s a fairly recent phenomenon as far as a wide-scale cultural thing. There were thousands of films made on the subject, as well as books and other efforts not to mention paranoia-inducing TV commercials from the 1950′s onward.

  31. #31 Zuska
    June 3, 2010

    Anon @ 3, I will think about how to share some of my experiences. In the meantime I can recommend many of Thomas Benton’s essays in the Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as an old classic, The Hidden Injuries of Class.

    Just this evening at a book club meeting I attended it was made clear to me by the other members – most of whom can lay claim to better and more cultural capital than I can – that I most assuredly do not know how to parse a reference to a Shakespeare quote. Even though I was 99% certain I was right, I stopped talking, because I never got to formally study Shakespeare in any way. Later in a conversation with a friend who knows quite a bit about Shakespeare, I found I was likely right in my understanding. But in that room earlier this evening, all I could feel was my class (of origin) showing, despite all the fancy degrees. They are never enough to paper over the gaps at times like these.

  32. #32 SKM
    June 4, 2010

    I agree with those who say this is largely a class issue masquerading as a race or xenophobic issue.

    It isn’t either/or–it’s both.

  33. #33 Cath@VWXYNot?
    June 4, 2010

    “the U.S. obsession with showering, deodorizing, and perfuming away every last trace of normal body odor Real Americans find so disgusting.”

    Interesting. So you think there are cultural differences in hygiene norms?

    When I moved to Canada from the UK, one Canadian did say something about not liking having Europeans around because “you Europeans don’t shower every day, right?” (based on one experience with an Italian grad student). My Kiwi friend (who most definitely did not smell) was told by a different Canadian that it was inappropriate (and gross) for him to wear the same shirt to work two days in a row (considered perfectly normal in the UK and apparently also in NZ). So you might be on to something there with a North American hygiene obsession!

  34. #34 dhex
    June 4, 2010

    lubano’s book is ok, but it’s definitely more of a personal memoir than anything else and his mom was kind of a headcase about the whole thing, which never helps. some of his experiences parse and some seemed to be the product of unnecessary paranoia on his part.

    you are what you are, whatever that may be, unless you’re something else.

  35. #35 Zuska
    June 4, 2010

    Is it necessary for me to clarify that crying “witch hunt” is something that happens ALL THE TIME whenever anyone gets their feelings hurt over someone noticing they stepped in dogshit? In other words, while this post was inspired by one particular instance of Whiney McWhinersonism, there is not just a single one Whiney McWhinerson? Whiney McWhinerson is legion, and he/she is ever crying “witch hunt” when someone is, in their opinion, gauche enough to notice they have dogshit on their shoes. It just drives me batshit insane. I want the Whiney McWhinersons of the world to find SOME BRAND NEW AND MORE CLEVER way of whining when they aren’t happy about the dogshit attracting attention, if they can’t quite pull themselves together quickly enough to say “oh shit. Dogshit. Better do something about that.” Or failing that, just keep quiet, go off, and think about it a bit.

  36. #36 Isabel
    June 4, 2010

    “I agree with those who say this is largely a class issue masquerading as a race or xenophobic issue.

    It isn’t either/or–it’s both. ”

    Could you explain specifically how it is, your opinion, a race issue? And I mean specifically “racist”, and something white people specifically do, not just a human reaction (for example many cultures think “white people” smell like wet dog).

    How is it any different from saying Itaian peasants/immigrants smell like garlic, etc?

    Lubrano’s book isn’t perfect, but he does discuss many other people’s experiences. There is just not alot out there. I found a couple about working class women in academia but I haven’t had time to read them yet.

  37. #37 Comrade PhysioProf
    June 4, 2010

    I agree with those who say this is largely a class issue masquerading as a race or xenophobic issue.

    What a fucking shocker, Isabel.

  38. #38 Luna_the_cat
    June 4, 2010

    Racist: That would be one of my co-workers saying “Oh, I hope they don’t hire someone else from India. They always smell funny.”

    The issue is not saying that grad students or postdocs or whoever need to pay attention to basic hygeine. [Insert deity-substitute of choice here] knows that I have dealt with seriously, horrendously stinky grad students (the worst of which were middle-class white boys, incidentally) and having a sort of “hygiene counselling meeting” is a GOOD!!!! thing. The issue is to lump it in with the “dealing with diversity” issues which, on the face of it, makes the implication that hygiene issues are automatically something that needs to be a concern with other-culture students or postdocs, and that it is part of dealing with the multiculturalism not the generic basic hygiene-of-all-workers issue, and that if you weren’t dealing with these “foreigners” you wouldn’t need to worry about that issue. I’m perfectly prepared to believe that GMP did not intend that implication, but nevertheless, that is pretty much how it came across to me, too, in that first post that Isis discussed. And the implication is insulting.

  39. #39 Anon @ 3
    June 4, 2010

    I don’t get it. Why should any discrimination tactics be exclusive to each other?

    Example: Male PI offers to improve a grade and provide a department lab tech job if female student shows him some boobies, maybe gives him oral sex. This actually happened @ my undergrad institution. (Guy was fired, but not without a big legal fight whereupon it was explained that “tenure” does not protect one from criminal and civil damages in a court of law. Little words apparently had to be used.)

    The sexism bit is hopefully obvious, but to some of the working-class students who paid their tuition by sex work and exotic dancing, the reaction was, “eff that, he should pay in cash like every other john, the cheap bastard.” Translated into middle-class, this would be the equivalent of going into a fancy restaurant in your pajamas, eating a few hundred $$ worth of food, then offering to pay with this highly collectible stack of Enron stock certificates.

  40. #40 Luna_the_cat
    June 4, 2010

    Anon @3 — It’s my experience that discrimination tactics are NOT mutually exclusive; in fact, they often seem to travel in packs. But Isabel often seems to have a reflex reaction that “classism is the biggest baddest problem and white men face it too and why are you paying attention to anything else?”. Since despite her protestations of what a good person she is, reeally, this often ends up coming across as a silencing or belittling tactic towards those who are discussing racism and/or sexism, a lot of people here have a built-up impatience towards her already.

    Speaking of which, @Isabel, yes, the “foreigners smell funny” is something that other nationalities do too. In fact, in Japan I was startled by coming face-to-face for the first time with the complaint that they didn’t like working with people from the UK, because people from the UK smell like sour milk. Here’s what you don’t seem to get: this doesn’t make it not racism. Other groups than white men can be racist. Japanese, for example, are hugely racist. The issue is, the “majority” group in power passing judgement on different ethnic identities as a group, because of uncomplimentary and automatic assumptions about the nature of the members of that group. In fact, it’s any sort o f automatic judgment on people because of racial or ethnic group membership — minority groups calling all whites “evil” or “devils” because of the membership in the group of “people with white skin” is racist, too, or (another thing I’ve encountered) members of the Micmac tribe being contemptuous of “lazy Hispanics”. But that doesn’t generally carry as many pernicious effects, because of the power differential. Nevertheless, it is racist, not classist.

  41. #41 Kea
    June 4, 2010

    As someone who has been both insanely rich (I had the best possible education … I know what ‘class’ is) and starving poor (decades as a student and now unemployed) I can add to the advice of anon at 6.37 … oh, I can offer ALL kinds of advice …

    There is no need to do fake workouts. Many university science departments have showers in them, for lab workers and people who like to run in the park. These are generally not advertised, and are often hidden away on the upper floors. Find one to use, and go there around 4.30am in the morning. A little later and you will run into too many cleaners; a little earlier and you will run into the night owls.

    If you are a grad student or postdoc you can also sleep in the department, because your security card will probably allow you to. The heating may be turned off at night though, so find some warm blankets/clothes (second hand, won’t cost much) and stash them somewhere near where you are going to sleep. Learn the security patrol schedules. Usually they just walk corridors and don’t enter individual offices. If you don’t have your own office space, a good place to sleep is on the floor of a large lecture room, away from the door. Security may take a peek in the room, but it is unlikely they will look around if it is dark and empty looking.

    Departments also have all sorts of stuff you can borrow, like scissors to cut your hair, and of course free food, as all students know. Dare I say that you can even borrow their dish soap.

  42. #42 Isabel
    June 6, 2010

    “Isabel often seems to have a reflex reaction that “classism is the biggest baddest problem and white men face it too and why are you paying attention to anything else?”.”

    Hey asshole, I just spent a week leading an argument about sexism at Pixar over at the Frontal Cortex blog. I only bring up class when it is being ignored to the detriment of lower class people. As when “white” is used instead of “upper class white” when that is what is actually implied.

    For the LAST TIME stop putting words in my mouth. I NEVER said or even implied that we shouldn’t pay attention to anything else. If you are going to claim to be such an expert on my posting PAY FUCKING ATTENTION.

    I have been on the sexism / ant-racism bandwagon for decades okay? I GET IT.

    I am trying to bring class into the discussion because it is generally ignored in discussion of privilege. This is mainly because academia and social activism movements are generally populated by those from the upper-middle classes whose own privilege is invisible to them.

    Everyone around here says “Oh Isabel we get the class thing! You must not read my blog! etc etc.”

    But I don’t see the evidence.

    Either you 1) deny class is as important as race and gender, or you 2) discuss it as often as the other two when posting about “unpacking your privilege” or else you are a hypocrite.

  43. #43 Luna_the_cat
    June 6, 2010

    Isabel, in any and every interaction I’ve seen you involved in, in the past, where the discussion starts out being about endemic, institutional sexism or racism, you have cropped up with “but poor white boys/poor white immigrants had it just as bad!” and engaged in behaviour which seemed designed to minimise the experiences of other groups of people and individuals, in favour of winning recognition for those po’ white boys. The Pixar discussion does seem to be an exception to this, but I hadn’t seen it before now. If you have changed your tack and I’m not giving you credit for it, then I apologise.

  44. #44 DuWayne
    June 6, 2010

    Give me a break! What people complain about GMP’s post is nothing but liberal self-righteous blather. That is correct—liberal, self-righteous blather.

    Wow, that is fucking insightful. I haven’t ever heard that one before.

    I am always rather curious why advocating for the respect of your fellow humans is some sort of liberal ideal. I mean while I have a lot of liberal attitudes about many things, I also have somewhat conservative views about other things – mostly I am pretty moderate. Yet I am all about considering my respect for other people – even people I don’t like, when I talk about them.

    For example, I wouldn’t, in the same post, complain about those damned furriners not speaking English and then complain about the stench of grad students. And if, because my brain was melty, I did make such a blunder without making it clear that I was not talking about the same persons – I would really be grateful that the response was like that of Dr. Isis.

    This is not about being liberal or self righteous. I could be mistaken, but I sincerely doubt anyone around here actually believes they are free from biases that sometimes lead to a bigoted attitude. This particular discussion is ultimately about accepting criticism (criticism that was clearly meant rather kindly) without getting all pissy and whining about witch hunts. The self-righteous prattle, is coming from whiner, not the inciter of the whining.

  45. #45 Isabel
    June 7, 2010

    “poor white immigrants had it just as bad!””

    As bad as WHAT? PLEASE cite or quote something (a real quote please). Not just a link.

    Just as bad as African Americans? In this country no, except in the earliest days in the colonies, when both blacks and whites were brought over as slaves and endured similar hardships.

    Just as bad as current Latino immigrants? Sure.

    Or you could actually argue the positions I have taken. What a concept!

    How have I marginalized anyone? When there is a sexism discussion going on and someone points out that there is a racist element that is being overlooked, no one screams at them for marginalizing anyone and judges their comments as sexist.

    And no I haven’t changed my tack. At least not recently.

    “engaged in behaviour which seemed designed to minimise the experiences of other groups of people and individuals, in favour of winning recognition for those po’ white boys”

    AGAIN with the inability to handle three main privileges – why can you only handle two? Is class privilege not “endemic, institutional” enough for you? Please explain.

    and AGAIN with the MRA crap. All the posts at IBTP were about lower class (not just poor) white WOMEN. And generally I am posting about lower class white PEOPLE.

  46. #46 Isabel
    June 7, 2010

    “poor white immigrants had it just as bad!””

    As bad as WHAT? PLEASE cite or quote something (a real quote please). Not just a link.

    Just as bad as African Americans? In this country no, except in the earliest days in the colonies, when both blacks and whites were brought over as slaves and endured similar hardships.

    Just as bad as current Latino immigrants? Sure.

    Or you could actually argue the positions I have taken. What a concept!

    How have I marginalized anyone? When there is a sexism discussion going on and someone points out that there is a racist element that is being overlooked, no one screams at them for marginalizing anyone and judges their comments as sexist.

    And no I haven’t changed my tack. At least not recently.

    “engaged in behaviour which seemed designed to minimise the experiences of other groups of people and individuals, in favour of winning recognition for those po’ white boys”

    AGAIN with the inability to handle three main privileges – why can you only handle two? Is class privilege not “endemic, institutional” enough for you? Please explain.

    and AGAIN with the MRA crap. All the posts at IBTP were about lower class (not just poor) white WOMEN. And generally I am posting about lower class white PEOPLE.

  47. #47 Katherine
    June 9, 2010

    Normally love your blog (since being helped by your d00dly outreach project (not a man, but was d00dly)), agree with your overall point here, but I hate your analogy due to personal reasons of my own.

    Once at primary school it was pointed out by the teacher in front of the entire class that I had stepped in dogshit, and my bullies decided that was a rad thing to bully me about for the rest of the week, including after school when I was trying to wash the dogshit off my shoes so I could go home. That shit needs a trigger warning or something :’(

    I guess the bad part of the analogy is that if someone stepped in real dogshit you wouldn’t call them out in front of a bunch of people if possible, but on the internet if someone steps in metaphorical dogshit you want to make sure that none of their followers step in the trail they’re leaving behind, or something.

  48. #48 Cara
    June 9, 2010

    Everyone around here says “Oh Isabel we get the class thing! You must not read my blog! etc etc.”

    But I don’t see the evidence.

    Either you 1) deny class is as important as race and gender, or you 2) discuss it as often as the other two when posting about “unpacking your privilege” or else you are a hypocrite.

    Isabel, I understand (though I don’t have personal experience, so forgive me if I’m wrong) that it’s not difficult to start one’s own weblog. I’m also told that it’s a surefire way to have the discussion one wants to have, because one essentially controls the comments.

  49. #49 Cara
    June 9, 2010

    FYSB. Let’s try this again:

    Everyone around here says “Oh Isabel we get the class thing! You must not read my blog! etc etc.”

    But I don’t see the evidence.

    Either you 1) deny class is as important as race and gender, or you 2) discuss it as often as the other two when posting about “unpacking your privilege” or else you are a hypocrite.

    Isabel, I understand (though I don’t have personal experience, so forgive me if I’m wrong) that it’s not difficult to start one’s own weblog. I’m also told that it’s a surefire way to have the discussion one wants to have, because one essentially controls the comments.

  50. #50 Isabel
    June 10, 2010

    “Isabel, I understand (though I don’t have personal experience, so forgive me if I’m wrong) that it’s not difficult to start one’s own weblog. I’m also told that it’s a surefire way to have the discussion one wants to have, because one essentially controls the comments.”

    What an condescending and pointless thing to say! How fucking rude can people get?? I never cease to be amazed. And you probably call yourself an enlightened progressive.

    If I wanted to start a blog I would do so, and anyway that would do nothing to improve the distorted, pervasive classist attitudes I despise. So shut up asshole, I know what I am doing and it’s none of your fucking pathetic business anyway.

    I know it’s hard to understand, but I am not here desiring to have a ‘particular kind of discussion’ like you are; I am not that needy. I am concerned about telling the truth and social justice. So STFU.

  51. #51 Cara
    June 10, 2010

    Isabel, I didn’t tell you to shut up.

  52. #52 Isabel
    June 10, 2010

    WTF does that mean?? I didn’t say you did but I DID tell YOU to STFU PLEASE.

    You condescendingly suggested I get my own blog because you are so sure you know better than I do what is right for me. Mind your own fucking business. Why is that so hard to understand?

  53. #53 Dedj
    June 10, 2010

    Yet Isabel freely attempts to tell other people what they should read, what their knowledge base should be, what they should be concerned about, what their areas of interest and focus should be, and what they should talk about on their own blogs.

    Sadly, I doubt she even realises that this is what she is doing. As long as you do not follow her – and only her – idea of a rigidly distributed discussion, then you aren’t just focusing on the wrong areas (god forbid other people might have different interests to her) but you are failing as a person.

    I shouldn’t even have to say “Mind your own fucking business.” for people to get what is utterly and totally wrong with her arguement.

    Responses are unlikely to get a reply, unless they contain non-self-contradictory discussion, which is also unlikely.

  54. #54 Endor
    June 10, 2010

    “I DID tell YOU to STFU PLEASE.”

    Anyone else get a mental picture of a five year old yelling at her teddy bear?

    You don’t decide who is forced to shut up on a blog you don’t run. It’s not condescending to point out that YOU don’t run this space and therefore don’t get to control it.

  55. #55 Isabel
    June 10, 2010

    “It’s not condescending to point out that YOU don’t run this space and therefore don’t get to control it. ”

    Hey Asshole,
    explain to my poor widdle 5-year-old self how I was trying to control anything. And include in your explanation evidence that other people around here are not trying to control anything with their arguments.Good luck with that.

    The comments that seem to have led to all the rude, condescending attacks on me are comments #30 and #36. I await your analysis of these comments. How are they so much more objectionable than anyone else’s?

    Now look at all th comments directed at me. Tell me how these are examples of NOT trying to control. Good luck. You’ll need it.

    Also how it is obvious, unwelcome, advice to tell me to get my own blog just because people are uncomfortable with my ideas NOT conndescending? Good luck with that one also genius.

    “Yet Isabel freely attempts to tell other people what they should read,what their knowledge base should be,”

    No one on science blogs ever does this except Isabel Hahahahahahah.

    “…what they should be concerned about, what their areas of interest and focus should be, and what they should talk about on their own blogs. ”

    So you disagree that class is an important category of privilege? You feel liberal progressives only need to talk about it if they FEEL LIKE talking about it? Please explain. I’m all ears.

    “and only her – idea of a rigidly distributed discussion, then you aren’t just focusing on the wrong areas (god forbid other people might have different interests to her) ”

    WTF are you talking about? OMG people become COMPLETELY UNHINGED when class is brought up!

    “I shouldn’t even have to say “Mind your own fucking business.” for people to get what is utterly and totally wrong with her arguement.”

    WHAT is wrong with my argument that we should unpack various privileges? Do you think it is perfectly okay to blame “unenlightened” lower class whites for the sins of upper class whites? Do you think class differences do not exist? Do you thing that all a person has to do is work hard and they will be rewarded with a place in the upper classes, so therefore lower class white people are lazy? What exactly IS your argument? Do tell. I can’t wait to hear it, though I doubt you have one.

  56. #56 Isabel
    June 10, 2010

    On second thought, Cara/Endor/Dedj, you win. I won’t post on the subject anymore. I leave you with a repeat of this question from #46 above, which as usual went unanswered. Think about it okay? Goodbye.

    “How have I marginalized anyone? When there is a sexism discussion going on and someone points out that there is a racist element that is being overlooked, no one screams at them for marginalizing anyone and judges their comments as sexist.”

  57. #57 DuWayne
    June 10, 2010

    From temper tantrum, ala “SHUT UP” to temper tantrum ala, “I’m going home and never coming back.” What is especially sad is that given past experience to draw on, this isn’t true.

    “How have I marginalized anyone? When there is a sexism discussion going on and someone points out that there is a racist element that is being overlooked, no one screams at them for marginalizing anyone and judges their comments as sexist.”

    Because when someone brings up race during a conversation about sexism, they don’t generally start talking about racism towards men. Likewise, when conversations about racism touch on sexism, they don’t generally start talking about white chicks.

    I seriously doubt you will take my advice, as you seem bent on playing this part over and over again, but I strongly suggest that you seek help. There are plenty of great therapists out there who can help you deal with obviously strenuous issues, that cause you to mimic in all to many ways, a petulant child. My two year old has rather more reserve than you show (though I suspect he is a crotchety old man, in a toddler’s body).

    Unfortunately, I am sure you will be back to this discussion right suddenly. Probably on this very post.

  58. #58 Comrade Svilova
    June 11, 2010

    I may be alone in this, but while I definitely understand the arguments that Isabel’s intersectionality sometimes seems misfire (as DuWayne described), I am not at all comfortable with rhetorical tactics that seek to metaphorically describe her as a child. It’s such a common way of dismissing women’s voices to say that they are hysterical or petulant or childish. It doesn’t seem like the best way to conduct a dialogue on a feminist blog; I hope I haven’t overstepped in saying this.

  59. #59 SKM
    June 11, 2010

    I may be alone in this, but while I definitely understand the arguments that Isabel’s intersectionality sometimes seems misfire (as DuWayne described), I am not at all comfortable with rhetorical tactics that seek to metaphorically describe her as a child.

    You’re not alone–I second this.

    There are lots of ways to take issue with a woman’s ideas without resorting to traditionally gendered tactics.

  60. #60 Endor
    June 11, 2010

    Comrade Svilova, SKM – I admit I don’t quite grasp how that crack was a “gendered tactic”, but regardless, I apologize then for using it. Certainly wasn’t my intention, but intention is irrelevant. My mistake, I’ll own it. Apologies. Consider it retracted.

  61. #61 SKM
    June 11, 2010

    Endor, by using the phrase “gendered tactic“, I implied conscious intent on your part. Poor word choice of mine–sorry.

    As for not grasping why it’s sexist/gendered, I think Comrade S. says it pretty well:

    It’s such a common way of dismissing women’s voices to say that they are hysterical or petulant or childish.

    It’s pretty standard in the culture as a whole to undermine women’s credibility by likening them to children. That eternal-child status is also what has kept women disenfranchised and powerless for much of recorded history, and the common belief that women are mentally/emotionally child-like compared to men is what gives the comparison its sting. So, it’s different than telling a man that he’s like a child in tantrum, for example.

  62. #62 Endor
    June 11, 2010

    Ah, I see what you both mean now. I should have seen that myself. I was intending to say she is acting extremely childishly, but you’re right – I def should have recognized the sexist slant to stating as such. Again, apologies. I def retract it.

  63. #63 becca
    June 11, 2010

    Ah, but what does that say of our treatment of children?

    In my personal experience, we do not effectively encourage emotional self control in others through ridiculing them.

  64. #64 Isabel
    June 11, 2010

    DuWaynne you ass, I said I was not going to post here on the subject of class anymore, and I won’t. Although I did leave one more message on your brother’s site – the latest racism thread there was too perfect an example of the scapegoating I am against. And yeah, if I can’t post on a subject I will probably soon get bored with reading. Anyway every time I have left a blog I didn’t come back. I made no other promises. And your message is ridiculously nonsensical. You are the most arrogant and entitled quasi-ally I have ever encountered on the blogs. What a windbag.

    Yes the attacks on me are obviously sexist. I have pointed this out before. Actually the petulant child label is fairly new, the main way I have been dismissed is by CPP and others calling me a loon (as DuWaynne does here) with zero evidence. Maybe a little playfulness now and then and a bit of eccentricity but no I am not crazy. Duwaynne has repeatedly called me a ‘fucking moron’, with no evidence for that either.

    And it’s so funny how everyone is against my ideas or say I misfire but very little detail about their opposition ever emerges. I asked a number of questions on this thread with only one nonsensical answer from DuWaynne.

    Obviously my ideas are not mainstream, even (especially actually) for the alternative crowd. So I do not expect to change perceptions overnight. But I am very confident and my ideas are well thought out. just as Jill at IBTP recently described her epiphany which led to the emergence of Twisty, I had a similar epiphany, after decades of hanging with progressives, that led to the emergence of Isabel.

    Don’t worry, unless you’ll all get there eventually if you try – just let my ideas percolate for a while.

  65. #65 Isabel
    June 11, 2010

    Sorry for the typos, I am exhausted and should have previewed my message.

    And the last line should be:

    “Don’t worry, you’ll all get there eventually if you try – just let my ideas percolate for a while. ”

  66. #66 DuWayne
    June 11, 2010

    Comrade and SKM -

    I am not mocking her for throwing a fit because she has an innie instead of an outie, I am mocking her for throwing a fit. I don’t care what one’s gender happens to be, when they act like a child that is the response. I will note that I run across a lot more men who act like that and believe me, I do not hesitate in the least. When nominal adults act worse than my two year old does, they are going to get criticized for it.

    Isabel –

    Anyway every time I have left a blog I didn’t come back.

    Of course not, you just like to come back repeatedly after you say you won’t. You’ve done it multiple times at Greg’s and CPP’s blogs.

    And your message is ridiculously nonsensical.

    Don’t blame me for your reading comprehension issues.

    You are the most arrogant and entitled quasi-ally I have ever encountered on the blogs.

    You mean I have CPP beat, on your “people who have no tolerance for my bullshit” list?!?!??!

    Yes the attacks on me are obviously sexist.

    No, I just really don’t like you and find your little mind games repulsive. Don’t be surprised when I mock you for throwing a fit. I expect that is what garnered that reaction from others.

    …calling me a loon (as DuWaynne does here) with zero evidence.

    While I have called you a loon in the past, I have stopped because based on the commentary I have seen from you, I believe you honestly need help. I don’t accuse people who are mentally ill of being loons, that kind of stigma pisses me off. I don’t like you and I will not let your bullshit lie, when it is in my face. But that is not a tactic I will use.

    Maybe a little playfulness now and then and a bit of eccentricity but no I am not crazy.

    Your “playfulness” has pissed people off, when you have called it that. Not because of the content, but because you felt it was ok to play with people’s heads who haven’t chosen to play with you. You have persisted in that behavior, when you have been asked to stop. I sincerely doubt you are being playful. Your behavior taken as a whole is pathological. That is a values neutral assessment, made by someone who is considered, as our society considers such things now, mentally ill. The difference is that I am getting help for it.

    The funny thing is, my neurological issues sometimes influence my behavior rather negatively. When it does I admit it has and apologize – apologies that are accepted sometimes, other times not. But I admit what has happened and accept the consequences.

  67. #67 becca
    June 11, 2010

    “That is a values neutral assessment, made by someone who is considered, as our society considers such things now, mentally ill. The difference is that I am getting help for it.”
    With respect, perhaps you need more help before engaging Isabel. Or perhaps more help would alter motivations to do so.

  68. #68 Comrade Svilova
    June 11, 2010

    I don’t care what one’s gender happens to be, when they act like a child that is the response.

    I’m perfectly willing to believe that you do dismiss both men and women when you feel they are being immature. However, you can’t control the fact that another 75% (approx?) of humanity does use the woman-are-children or women-are-crazy rhetorical tactic to dismiss women’s voices. Therefore, when a woman is called hysterical, petulant, loony, crazy, childish she is likely to hear it as a sexist insult. You’re perfectly free to continue to use “childish” to describe both men and women, but you may want to know that when you use “childish” (or any of the other words listed) to describe the way a woman with whom you disagree is acting, you may be seen by others as a sexist.

    Intent and one’s own history of using a word matter little. Though we have freedom of speech on the internet, we don’t have the freedom to control how our speech will influence how others see us. And the use of gendered words can definitely leave a negative impression in its wake.

  69. #69 Isabel
    June 12, 2010

    “I’m perfectly willing to believe that you do dismiss both men and women when you feel they are being immature.” That’s right, believe him and take his side. He is special, an ally, not like all those other evil redneck-type men.

    Just because he barges in on any conversation he desires to and claims to be the expert, treats me abusively (he called me a fucking moron a dozen times in a single comment once, and obsessively follows me around and completely mis-characterizes my messages and ignores my corrections) to the point where I’ve had to leave conversations, thinks most rape is about sex and promises to explain this to rape victims, etc, he knows how to say all the right things so, like CPP, so he’s okay, an exception.

    Hey Zuska, this post is pretty ironic considering how you reacted (EXACTLY like GMP) when I called you out for ignoring classism. And no, posting about the poorest of the poor is uncontroversial and doesn’t count for much. Why don’t you do a series on The Hidden Injuries of Class?

  70. #70 Cara
    June 12, 2010

    Why don’t you do a series on The Hidden Injuries of Class?

    Isabel, (and please understand, this is not mocking, condescending or “rude”), why don’t you do that?

    You know what you want to say. You know what messages you want people to receive. You have a firm grasp of the subject. Why assign Zuska homework on her own blog?

  71. #71 Isabel
    June 13, 2010

    “Isabel, (and please understand, this is mocking, condescending and “rude”)”

    Fixed that for ya.

  72. #72 Cara
    June 13, 2010

    One more time.

    Why assign homework on someone else’s blog, when you’re the one who’s the expert and could (ostensibly) do a better job?

  73. #73 Isabel
    June 13, 2010

    Jeezus fuck Cara, having an epiphany did not make me an instant expert – it’s a fucking huge subject that needs lots and lots of discussing by everyone concerned with issues of inequality and unearned privilege. Imagine someone trying to point out some racism on a feminism thread and everyone telling that person to go start her own blog rather than bother them about it, as she’s obviously the expert on the subject, etc. It’s totally rude and offensive.

    Honestly I don’t post nearly as much as many other commenters around here. When the time is right to start my own blog I will no doubt do it. I have repeatedly stated I do not need any advice on this tired old topic.

    And I didn’t assign any fucking homework, just made a suggestion. In fact someone else already made it upthread, and Zuska recommended the book to the commenter. So it was a normal, reasonable follow-up suggestion, and I really feel you are being a pain in the ass here. GOMB. Go harrass the person who made the original suggestion.

    Telling me that if I want class discussed I should go elsewhere and discuss it because obviously everyone here is not interested in the subject and it is MY very own special subject is akin to telling me to get lost and marginalizing my concerns.

    You could always just ignore me you know. It’s much more effective than telling me that my ideas are not valid which just gives me an excuse to repeat them;)

  74. #74 Endor
    June 14, 2010

    “Intent and one’s own history of using a word matter little. Though we have freedom of speech on the internet, we don’t have the freedom to control how our speech will influence how others see us. And the use of gendered words can definitely leave a negative impression in its wake.”

    Exactly. which is why I retracted my statement. Bad blunder on my part. I still think she’s behaving like an insufferable troll, but the way i expressed it was completely wrong.

    Intent doesn’t matter as other people, particularly on an internet forum, when others don’t know you and can’t gauge subtext.

    So, Duwayne, I’m with you in one respect, but Comrade Svilova, et al, are completely right. It’s how it will be received that matters.

    Cara – at this point, why bother? You’ve tried altering everything to suit her. She’s clearly uninterested in anything other than what’s she’s been doing. Save yourself.

  75. #75 Yvonne
    June 14, 2010

    I’ve had epiphanies that made me act like an insufferable troll before. I had one about sexism, one about classism, one about gay rights, about Christianity (leaving it), and racism. Everytime I went through a phase where I believed I’d found THE answer. Isabel: class is one issue. It is not THE issue. Either is sexism or any other “-ism”. These are all different expressions of kyriarchy. Any of the individual -isms can look like the fundamental power imbalance, but really they are all just expressions of it. And yes, a lot of people who have had epiphanies about race and gender have not yet had one about class, but a lot of the people you are fighting tooth and nail against here have. But I don’t want to discourage you from fighting tooth and nail. You have obviously tapped into something that gets under people’s skin and if that’s your chosen way to fight against the injustice you see, then I say keep fighting. If you get under my skin, I’ll thank you for it.

  76. #76 Endor
    June 14, 2010

    “If you get under my skin, I’ll thank you for it.”

    I say “ramen” to that. When arguing in good faith, that is.

  77. #77 Funky Fresh
    June 14, 2010

    It’s good to see that Isabel is still trolling up the blogosphere, one blog at a time.

  78. #78 Cara
    June 14, 2010

    You could always just ignore me you know. It’s much more effective than telling me that my ideas are not valid which just gives me an excuse to repeat them;)

    I don’t recall ever saying your ideas were “invalid”.

    MY only point was that if you want something done to your satisfaction, it’s easiest to do it yourself. ;)

    (Especially since the ‘suggestion’ was made in the midst of a rant at the OP; I know I’d be less likely to take any suggestion from someone who was flailing at me on my own blog).

  79. #79 Isabel
    June 15, 2010

    “It is not THE issue.”

    I *never* said it was. Why do people keep making this claim? That in itself is a sign I am getting under their skin.

    I only think it should be included in the discussion, and aside from my “trolling” (fuck you all) it generally is not.

    After the revolution can I live on a nature preserve and buy me some horses and quit my job like Jill Psmith?

    Cara I have said repeatedly that your advice is unwanted. You are being creepy by repeatedly posting it as if I don’t get it.

  80. #80 Isabel
    June 15, 2010

    Also how were my original comments #30 and #36 on this thread “acting like an insufferable troll?” Why was I attacked for them?

    Most of my posts are just me defending myself from attacks. Even including those, the amount of posting from me is absurdly exaggerated.

    Chill people. Let other voices be heard.

  81. #81 Barn Owl
    June 15, 2010

    After the revolution can I live on a nature preserve and buy me some horses and quit my job like Jill Psmith?

    Careful what you wish for – it’s expensive to keep horses in Central Texas. You can’t just turn them out in a field to eat grass, sunflowers, and mesquite beans, because there isn’t much grass (sometimes none at all), and the other two items are seasonal and in short supply (horse snacks, really). At the very least, you have to provide coastal hay year ’round, and in most cases supplement that with grain and/or alfalfa hay. The majority of horsey places in the US aren’t Kentucky bluegrass, and even if you have your own hay field on your property, you’re still going to have to pay to water it, fertilize it, make sure it’s free of blister beetles, and likely hire someone to cut and bale it. People are giving horses away right now, because it’s so expensive to maintain them. I board my two horses on my friends’ ranch, pay a bit over cost of feed and hay each month … and I definitely need a full time job to manage even a deal that good. Plus I have to endure listening to crap from my colleagues about how “privileged” and “rich” I must be, on pretty much a weekly basis.

    Just sayin’. :-)

  82. #82 Cara
    June 15, 2010

    Nobody cares if you talk.

    Again, my only reason for posting was to address the fact that you were behaving as if you were entitled to rant at the blog owner for not posting what you think she should.

    Also, I didn’t give you advice. I said if a person got their own blog they’d get to control the comments and the posts.

    And that’s all. Please, do go on. I, for one, have no desire to stop you from being heard.

  83. #83 b.g.
    July 19, 2010

    the U.S. obsession with showering, deodorizing, and perfuming away every last trace of normal body odor Real Americans find so disgusting. … the U.S. mania for showering, deodorizing, and perfuming away any trace of normal body scent

    I am proud to be an Ugly American on this matter. Really, I don’t want to inhale anybody else’s stank. Also, “normal body scent” = more bacteria on your skin. I’d say that an aversion to it and a desire to wash it away is hygienic, overall.

    I SO hope that this doesn’t become the next batshit cause of the Critical Studies crew, the way complaining about the word “stupid” or insisting that children have the “right” to scream and throw food in public.

  84. #84 b.g.
    July 19, 2010

    “The deodorant-soap industrial complex…” Jesus fucking christ, Alex. I bet you absolutely pong.

  85. #85 skeptifem
    July 19, 2010

    Where do you get the idea that it means more bacteria? BO doesn’t work at all like you assert it does, the smell of sweat is the smell of waste from bacteria, not the bacteria themselves. Even if it was true, more bacteria on your skin doesn’t mean more HARMFUL bacteria on your skin. There are many beneficial bacteria, it shouldn’t be tossed around like a bad word.

  86. #86 Comrade Svilova
    July 19, 2010

    And in fact, some of those harmful bacteria might be good to have around, because the typical human immune system developed to combat more harmful bacteria than we tend to encounter in this excessively-hygenic era. Some scientists are exploring whether the uptick in auto-immune disorders like food allergies is a result of the immune system having too little to fight against from the outside — which leads the immune system to attack non-harmful things like gluten etc.

  87. #87 b.g.
    July 19, 2010

    That’s nice. I still don’t want to smell anybody’s pong, thanks. Jeez, I can’t believe I’m seeing this shit defended.

  88. #88 Dedj
    July 19, 2010

    “Jeez, I can’t believe I’m seeing this shit defended.”

    Why not?

    Surely you don’t seriously believe your cultures opinion on socially acceptable physical and olfactory presentation is the only correct and defensible one?

    You do realise that hygiene and personal grooming are not always directly exchangeable terms?

    Seriously, it’s nice that you gave us your opinion, but it’s not so nice that you refuse point blank to even contemplate the idea that your opinion is only your opinion and not a rigid statement of fact.

  89. #89 Comrade Svilova
    July 19, 2010

    b.g., it’s not really about whether you personally want to get up close and personal with someone whose hygiene habits lead to a smell you find distasteful. I don’t think anyone here is saying that you, personally, should do or change anything about your choices, habits, and preferences. This thread was more of a systemic, cultural, historical look at the significance of different hygiene practices and how differences in hygienic practices have been presented through racialized lenses. And then Skeptifem and I were pointing out a couple of questions from the scientific side about whether the West’s extreme commitment to hygiene is really necessary, or if it is potentially overkill.

    It’s an interesting question. It’s not “shit” to those of us who find it interesting, but if it is to you, perhaps you shouldn’t read a thread that bothers you so much?

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