ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Monthly Archive: February 2014

Thursday

27

February 2014

0

COMMENTS

Start With Why

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Two Stars

During a training on equity and social justice, the leader showed a bit of Simon Sinek’s talk on “Starting with Why”. She only showed a couple of minutes, but I was intrigued enough to buy his book.

[ted id=848]

The Good
The underlying concept is interesting and I think pretty useful. While the book is focused on success in the business world, I think the concept is sound when applied in other sectors and even one’s personal life. The theory is this: most companies can say what they do (build computers), and most can communicate how they do it (using great technology, sturdy resources, intelligent staff), but the truly successful companies can say WHY they do what they do. ‘Starting with Why’ means looking beyond the traditional ‘I do it to make money’ concept to pinpoint what your real reasons are for doing something. Once that’s been identified, you should make choices that align with your ‘Why.’ The big examples he uses to illustrate this are Southwest Airlines, Apple, and Wal-Mart (before the founder died). As far as concepts go, it’s not bad.

The Bad
But the bad is so bad. On my e-reader version, the book is 246 pages long. It wasn’t until page 108 that a woman appeared. All of Mr. Sinek’s examples were of cis men who started businesses or were leaders; the vast majority of them were also white men. Martin Luther King Jr. does get discussed, but other than him? It’s like a nightmare – a bunch of white dudes talking about how awesome they are.

The first mention of a woman is a woman in the military, too. So he didn’t find a woman who had started a company that fit his theory; he had to look in the military. Hmmm. His second reference to a woman comes another fifty pages later, and it’s not even a reference to an actual human. You know how sometimes authors alternate the generic pronouns they use when illustrating a point? “If someone wants to do x, he should…” or “If someone wants to do y, she should…”? Well, only once did I catch Mr. Sinek using a female pronoun … and it was in a situation describing being emotional. REALLY?! Dude. It’s like satire at this point. Very few women mentioned, and when mentioned it’s focused on non-business work or on emotion.

There are also some fairly white-savior moments, like when he was describing an organization founded to ‘help’ kids in the Middle East ‘realize they can do more.’ Um, hmmm. Perhaps that organization was different than described, but in reality it sounds like a pet project a rich white kid decided to do without really looking at what the community needed. Not exactly something to shout about. He also uses such demonstrably false phrases as “Working hard leads to winning.” Sometimes is does lead to winning, but sometimes (many times, depending on where you start in life) it does not.

Overall
As I said, the concepts aren’t bad, and I actually plan to apply them to my working life. But I definitely do not recommend the book. Watch the Ted talk. Maybe see if he has an article out there you could read. But save yourself the headache of plowing through an unintentionally whitewashed, male-centric version of history as told by Mr. Sinek.

Thursday

27

February 2014

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – February 27, 2014

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

A week of ups and downs … and a whole lot of obnoxious writing on feminism. Let’s take a look!

Gay Rights:

– I like this trend of not attempting to defend the indefensible: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/oregon-defend-gay-marriage-ban-lawsuit-22603097#.UwaSdOMT6G0.twitter (h/t @MsFoundation)

Racism:

– Good grief people. Arabic is a language. People will write it. Even on airplanes. Security scare delays EasyJet flight for two hours because schoolboy saw another passenger ‘writing in Arabic’ (h/t @irevolt)

Problems with Mainstream Feminism: 

– One woman’s experience with ignorant white people has lead to this. Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race (via @renireni)

– Tired of talking about the problems with mainstream feminism? Too bad! This is stuff us white women need to read: Toxicity: The True Story of Mainstream Feminism’s Violent Gatekeepers (via @BlackGirlDanger)

– Another take on the issue: From One White Salon Writer to Another: An Open Letter To Michelle Goldberg From Across the Pond (h/t @scATX)

Rape Culture:

– Good response to an awful article: Safety for Survivors (via @Shakestweetz

Reproductive Rights:

– Debunking the propaganda: The Seven Most Common Lies About Abortion (via @LaurenARankin)

Awesomeness:

– BRILLIANT. Girl Scout Sells Cookies Outside Medical Marijuana Clinic (via @nprnews)

Thursday

20

February 2014

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COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – February 20, 2013

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My kittens are the best.

– Long, good read on mental health care at colleges: How Colleges Flunk Mental Health

– Yup, TED really shouldn’t lie to a journalist who does her research and keeps her emails: TED Backpedals on Abortion Stance After Outrage (via @JessicaValenti)

– Allison Kilkenny on war and what it can do to people: The Poster Boy For Unending War (via @AllisonKilkenny)

– HOLY SHIT KANSAS “If a gay couple calls the police, an officer may refuse to help them if interacting with a gay couple violates his religious principles.” Kansas’ Anti-Gay Segregation Bill Is an Abomination (h/t @EdgeOfSports)

– Awesome post on the problems feminists have created for the trans community: It’s Time to End the Long History of Feminism Failing Transgender Women (h/t @thewayoftheid)

– On the benefits of paternity leave: Daddy Track: The Case for Paternity Leave (h/t @MsFoundation)

– Once again, a black teen was killed by a white man, and the white man was not convicted: On the Killing of Jordan Davis by Michael Dunn (h/t @LaurenARankin)

– More on the murder of Jordan Davis: Michael Dunn Verdict: Hung Jury (via @shakestweetz)

– Rolling Stone article on the murder of Jordan Davis: Stand Your Ground’s Latest Victim

Saturday

15

February 2014

0

COMMENTS

Why Have Kids?

Written by , Posted in Childfree, Feminism, Reviews

Five Stars

download

I reviewed another of Jessica Valenti’s books (“The Purity Myth”) for last year’s Cannonball Read, and she actually acknowledged my review on Twitter. That was a very happy day. I knew about this book but hadn’t read it; I discovered it on Audible on Friday ended up listening to it pretty much straight through.

Ms. Valenti is a feminist author and mother of her young daughter Layla. Layla was born SUPER early, spending her first weeks in the NICU. Ms. Valenti spends time talking about her feelings of helplessness when her daughter was in the hospital, and definitely shares many anecdotes, but her parenting experience isn’t the main focus of this book. Nor is the book an attempt to convince the reader they should or should not have kids. The book instead is focused on all the ways society has made it challenging to parent (and, specifically, to mother) children, while society also pushes the idea that of course all women should both want to be mothers.

I am not a mother. I am childfree by choice, choosing instead to live my life with my husband and whatever animals we have (currently two awesome cats). I covered this issue in my review of “I Can Barely Take Care of Myself” (good book!), so I won’t spend my review focused on that topic, although Ms. Valenti covers it adeptly. Instead I’m going to focus more on the political issues she raises. From breastfeeding (or not) to working outside the home (or not) to women being treated merely as vessels for children, Ms. Valenti provides strong, interesting and often disturbing facts that reiterate how generally shitty it can be to be a mother. The lack of acknowledgement of how hard it is, the hardline critics who believe there is only one right way to parent (I found her section on attachment parenting to be especially interesting), and the fact that women are sometimes hardest on each other all comes through in pretty vivid fashion.

She shares a story about giving her daughter a bottle during their first outing to a café (pretty big deal, considering she spend the first couple of months of life in the NICU), when a stranger literally said to her “Breast is best – if you’re having trouble I’d be happy to help you out.” The FUCK? Who thinks that is even a little okay? Her point being that what’s best for you might not be best for the mother over there, and that politically we need to fight for the ability to do what works best for our families. Mandated paid maternity and paternity leave, medical coverage of lactation counselling AND breast pumps, etc. What I like the most is that even when she’s presenting the different positions and possibilities (and sometimes expressing a strong preference for one option over another), she’s making strong arguments for the right to make these decisions ourselves, as families.

That’s not to say that she believes that “I choose my choice!” is always going to be the best. She talks about the anti-vaccine movement, and also about studies suggesting that it’s better for the whole family if the mother works outside the home (part time or full time). But her main focus is always on women not being so hard on ourselves, and on society giving mothers the benefit of the doubt, especially each other. Motherhood shouldn’t be a competition, and lately it seems to have evolved into that.

Ms. Valenti also acknowledges that certain mother stereotypes definitely play to the benefit of white, upper-middle-class women. For example, society (and conservatives especially) say women should stay home with the children, but if a single mom wants to provide that type of home for her children? She becomes a “welfare queen.” I would have liked more on the different mother experiences of women of color, though, and I think through the years (this book came out in 2012), she has recognized that she needs to work more on presenting those perspectives.

Finally, one of the more disturbing part of the book came somewhere in the middle, where she talks about how women are treated as worthless if they aren’t currently or planning to become mothers. One example is the now-common suggestion that women always act as if they are pre-pregnant (think about all the medication commercial voice-overs that say you shouldn’t use something if you are pregnant “or may become pregnant”). She shares the story of one woman who had zero plans to ever have children. She needed some medication, but her doctor gave her the less-effective version because it can cause side-effects in pregnancy. Umm, what? Nope. Treat ME as the human, not as a possible vessel for some hypothetical fetus. Please. It takes an even darker turn when you learn about woman arrested MID CHILDBIRTH because she was attempting a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section). They literally cuffed her, dragged her to the hospital, and held a trial to force her into a c-section. Her fetus was appointed an attorney; she was not. Yeah, that happened. Like I said: dark.

Motherhood looks to me like a ton of hard work. I see my friends with kids and they are doing amazing things. And so far none of them seem to have just disappeared into their kids, replacing their own identities with ‘mother’ across the board. I have so much respect for what they do every day, and I wish that society could catch up and make it easier for all of them.

Saturday

15

February 2014

0

COMMENTS

Intuitive Eating

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

I’ve been on lots of diets, and have made many attempts to change up my eating to try to lose (or keep off) weight. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been reading more nutrition books (like last year’s “Good Calories, Bad Calories”) as well as a lot of articles and blogs about Fat Acceptance and Healthy At Every Size. The later repeatedly points out both how society has created all kinds of fucked up issues with food, and how in the US and other cultures we’re conditioned to value appearance (i.e., thinness) over actual health (which really cannot be determined just by weighing someone).

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I heard about this book on one of those blogs, and while it’s definitely written in a manner that’s a bit more ‘chicken soup for the soul’ than I’d like, the message the authors (both professional dieticians who work with people with eating issues) are putting forth is interesting, empowering, and something I wish I’d been able to figure out on my own at some point.

The basic premise of the book is that, as the evidence points out, diets just don’t actually work. They don’t work for lots of different reasons, but in the end people blame themselves or their ‘willpower,’ and this leads to a cycle that, if you’ve been on more than a diet or two in your life, will seem pretty familiar. You decide to diet, you decide to cut out certain foods, you lose weight (or don’t), you eventually stop, and gain weight back, decide to diet, eat the forbidden food one last time, etc., forever. Now, of course there are people who diet, keep the weight off forever, and possibly enjoy saying things like “if I can do it, so can you!”, as though that’s somehow motivating as opposed to serving to make others just feel like they are weak or bad at life. This book is for the vast majority of us for whom diets won’t be the answer to being healthy.

So beyond pointing out the obvious, what does this book do? It seeks to help the readers to develop a health relationship with food, with the goal NOT of losing weight but of actually treating food as it should be treated. The authors want us to view food not just as fuel, but as pleasure as well (shocking, I know!). The authors want the readers to stop using food as a way to punish ourselves (carrots are good for you damn it, even if you hate them, EAT THEM) or to cover up our feelings. It’s a pretty radical approach for those of us who have struggled with food issues (although for those of you who never have, I’m willing to bet that it all seems extremely natural, which could be WHY you’ve never had food issues).

How does it purport to work? There are ten ‘principles,’ but the focus is not on perfection or failure; instead it wants you to focus on the process of slowly improving your relationship with food. As you go through this process, if you’ve had an unhealthy relationship so far, your weight should normalize, and part of the process is recognizing that a normal weight for you may not be the weight you’ve always dreamed of, and that’s OKAY. Again, kind of a radical thought, especially in a culture that spends so much time saying “if you work hard enough, you can do anything!” I can tell you right now, that unless I stopped eating for a year, removed some ribs and somehow shrunk the width of my pelvic bones, I’m never going to have they body of Gwyneth Paltrow. So why torture myself to get there?

The principles are: Reject the Diet Mentality, Honor Your Hunger, Make Peace with Food, Challenge the Food Police, Feel Your Fullness, Discover the Satisfaction Factor, Cope with Your Emotions Without Using Food, Respect Your Body, Exercise – Feel the Difference, Honor Your Health – Gentle Nutrition.

The book goes into much more detail, but the main points are that you should eat when you’re hungry, eat what you actually want to eat, stop when you’re full but enjoy your food, manage your emotions in other ways, and use exercise for health and movement, not for weight loss. Again, pretty straightforward, right? Except I’ve been working on this for just a week, and I’ve already started to recognize some things. I’ve really been tasting my food, and realizing that some things I eat because I’ve gotten used to them, not because I actually like them. I’m starting to actually eat when I’m hungry, and eat what I want, and I find that I’m eating more often, but usually eating less, and being MUCH happier with my food. Will I lose the 15 pounds I’ve gained since a stressful family event last summer? Maybe. Or maybe this is my normal weight. But I feel pretty confident that if I actually employ these suggestions I might actually be on the way to having that enviable healthy relationship with food some others already have.

Thursday

13

February 2014

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COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – February 13, 2014

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Happy Valentine’s Day? Maybe?

– A flip on that whole “women make $.77 on the dollar” concept: Whenever I hear …

– The NCAA is just horrible: 10 Points About College Hoops All-American Marcus Smart’s Pushing a ‘Fan’ (via @EdgeofReason)

– The power of Twitter Activism: The theme has now changed: The Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Yellow(Face) PerilWinnipeg Art Gallery Relaunches Art & Soul Theme (h/t @SueyPark)

– Mychal Denzel Smith writes the best things: How to Create a Thug (via @MychalSmith)

– Go Ms. Sarkeesian! GDC Awards to honor Feminist Frequency, League of Legends (h/t @femfreq)

And finally, this cover is AMAZING.

Sunday

9

February 2014

0

COMMENTS

The Fault in Our Stars

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

fault

Still on vacation, a friend mentioned this book and I was reminded that I wanted to read it. I’d heard about it a lot (although wasn’t clear on what it was exactly about), and much like the Hunger Games trilogy, I figure if I’m going to end up seeing the movie, maybe I should read the book. I started it at 10AM, and with the exceptions of stopping for lunch and a trip to the pioneer cemetery, I read non-stop until 6PM, when I finished it. It’s good. It’s not my favorite book, and it’s not without issues, but I think it’s a good book.

It’s a little easy to predict what’s going to happen in it (I thought), and some components are super fantastical to the point of absurd, but maybe that is how the world of wish-granting works? Either way, I appreciated the fact that the parents were treated as humans and, more importantly, these young adults were treated as humans. They have complex thoughts and feelings, are forced to be mature without necessarily wanting to be that mature, and have inner lives that aren’t just focused on their CANCER.

I’d be interested in the perspective from kids who have actually gone through the things outlined in this book – is it a realistic portrayal of some of their lives? If it isn’t, it still is an interesting story, with some moments that really resonate. I didn’t finish it thinking “I must change my life forever, and live for the people who can’t,” but I did finish it with the reminder that things are shitty and things are great but most of all, that things ARE and I need to continue experiencing these things even when I just want to curl up in a ball and sleep for days. And while I’m not the target for this book, it certainly is something I needed right about now.

Sunday

9

February 2014

0

COMMENTS

Etiquette and Espionage

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

etiquette

So, I screwed up. Somehow I managed to read the second book in this series before reading the first book. On the one hand, I’m bummed as I know what happens after this book, but on the other hand I was happy to get some more background on the characters. However, having read them out of order, I’d probably say that there’s now no excuse for the super quick wrap-up of the plot in the second book. I thought it was because the author was taking her time introducing the characters; turns out that’s not the case.

This book is a fun, quick read. I’m on vacation right now and between naps and big meals I read this book in one day. I enjoyed the introduction to the character I came to like in the second book, and I liked getting some explanation about the other girls at this school, which is ostensibly a finishing school set in steampunk England, but is also an intelligencer training program.

One really odd component, though, was the introduction of the only character that the author felt it necessary to assign an ethnicity, making me think that the author suffers from the same color-blindness that so many authors have – her characters are white, and she assumes everyone will think they are white, so she only really needs to offer descriptions of the ‘others.’ I do not like that, and really wish more authors would create richer, more diverse worlds. If you’re writing fiction, especially fiction with an alternate view of the universe, there’s no need to default to the racial stereotypes and heirarchies that exist. Or, if you’re going to, spend time dissecting those hierarchies and how problematic they are. But describing the one Black character by saying he was covered in soot and then having the main character express shock that he was from Africa once she realized that his skin was also a darker tone? That’s weird and comes across as super ignorant. If the character making that observation were one we weren’t supposed to like, or who didn’t have any complex view of the universe, or if there were any more exploration of the racial structure of the society, maaaaaaaaybe it would work. But it really doesn’t work in this book, and kind of pulled me out of the book for a while as I tried to figure out why the author thought that was an appropriate.

I think having read both books I still would recommend the series with that caveat; I think I might explore her adult stories set in the same type of world and see if she builds a more complex and diverse world there.

Sunday

9

February 2014

0

COMMENTS

Cursies and Conspiracies

Written by , Posted in Reviews

 

 

 

Three Stars

curtsiesI’m currently in the middle of reading Book 4 of A Song of Ice and Fire, but once again I made the mistake of trying to read it right after finishing the previous book. It just doesn’t work – I need a break. So I asked my friend Jen, who is an author (and the maker of these amazing literature-themed perfumes) and an overall fun woman, for some recommendations. She suggested these YA novels by Gail Carriger.

 

I’ve heard of but never read any steampunk, but it’s possible that I’m going to become a big fan, assuming this book is a good representation of it. Set in a floating finishing / spy school, this book follows Sophronia as she tries to figure out what’s going on at the school, which is run by an oblivious head mistress and has both a vampire and a werewolf on staff. Is this what steampunk usually is? Because AWESOME.

 

The book is YA and a pretty quick read; 300 pages took me about two days to get through. At times I was a little taken out of the story because the names of the technology are absurd, and some of the character names sound a bit like ones I would have come up with when I was writing short stories in elementary school. But beyond that, I think the characters are interesting and the setting is pretty cool. The writing is fine, although the plot took a while to develop and then suddenly was done. However, the book is the first in a series, so I think a lot of it was about developing the characters and the background of the school to set the tone for the next book. Which I will be reading, possibly starting tonight.

 

[Note: This review was written before I started the ‘second’ book and realized that I’d read them out of order. Um, whoops.]

Sunday

9

February 2014

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – February 9, 2014

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This is a little late because of an awesome weekend away that involved snow, hot chocolate, and lots of good friends.

-Eve Ensler is not doing good work, despite what we may have though. Open Letter to Eve Ensler: A Lesson for Haitians (h/t @ChiefElk)

– Irony. On Seeing Dan Snyder at an Event to Promote Racial Justice (via @EdgeOfSports)

– Related to the ridiculous “Nation” cover article this week: In Defense of Twitter Feminism (via @SueyPark)

– Finally, a lot has been written (much of it disgusting) on Dylan Farrow’s statement regarding the abuse by her father, Woody Allen. Here are some great resources if you’re interested in the story (and why “innocent until proven guilty” isn’t a useful response)

Dylan Farrow, Rape Apologia, & Rape Culture 101 (via @Shakesville)

Nope (via @Shakesville)

Choosing Comfort Over Truth: What It Means to Defend Woody Allen (via @JessicaValenti)

Don’t Listen to Woody Allen’s Biggest Defender (h/t @EdgeOfSports)

10 Undeniable Facts About the Woody Allen Sexual-Abuse Allegation

Visualization of Rape Accusation Statistics (h/t @Dr.JaneChi)