Camille Reyes

Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

She’s Got Eggs (with <3, ?, ! to Clay Shirky)

In Culture on April 22, 2010 at 2:44 am

I backed into this rant from technology professor Clay Shirky through a super response from Gabriella Coleman, also a professor at NYU (a great one, I hear).  Shirky tells a story about a request for a recommendation wherein the student self-promotes in hyperbolic fashion.  Shirky asks his readers to guess the gender of the subject, as if the answer is obvious.  However, if it weren’t for his foreshadowing headline or the way I found the post, I literally would’ve flipped a coin.  Where he sees as “duh” difference between young men and women, I see no stereotype within the context of the story he delivers.

Perhaps this is because I’m exactly the kind of arrogant jerk man he describes except that I am a woman, and I prefer to use words like passionate and confident.  I have what I call a giant case of “exceptionalism,” and we should thank my parents for this healthy fact.  When I’m met with a challenge like “only four people are accepted to Stanford’s PhD program in Communication every year,” I apply anyway, reasoning that I could just as easily be one of those four people.

This is not blind optimism or arrogance.  I do my research.  After reading their work, I emailed incredible professors at Stanford and promoted my ideas.  I received encouraging, yet sobering responses (only take students with prior funding, going on sabbatical next year, etc.).  I applied.  I “failed.”  I was not supposed to be there (yet?); I found my right place for now at NYU.  However, if we are to believe Shirky, I am an exception among women, a group too meek and mild to enjoy success.  He’s right.  He’s wrong.

People who take risks are by their very nature, exceptional.  It wouldn’t be a risk if it were the norm.  One point for Shirky.  However, exceptional hearing and behavior is not a gendered trait.  When I “fake it until I make it” (something I had to do frequently for the likes of Microsoft), I am not behaving like a man.  I find this characterization mildly insulting.  Minus ten points for Shirky.  Or am I just an exception to my gender?  The trouble here is with the definition of success.  The better question here, and one that makes his rant moot, is: Do men and women define success differently?  I’d wager that they often do define it differently, but not in a systematic sort of way. The ingredients that go into this determining process are shaped by societal forces much larger than gender.

Shirky’s experience “lying” to the professor to get into a class reminded me of the time I walked into the office of the artistic/managing director of the theater where I worked.  I was a pup of 23, and tired of the revolving door position above mine, that of marketing director.  The thought of winning the trust of yet another boss annoyed me.  I summoned that exceptional voice loud enough to say, “hey, I can do that job.”  I asked my departing boss if she thought I could do it.  She said no.  The truth is, it didn’t matter what answer she gave me, I was going to go for it anyway.  This drive had zero to do with my genitalia.

I made an appointment with the big boss and asked him to make me the interim marketing director, and to promote me fully once I’d proven I could do the job well.  Arrogant?  Maybe, but notice I saw things from his perspective too, and limited his risk with the trial suggestion.  Manly?  Hardly.  Womanly?  Uh, why does Shirky make these distinctions?

I do want to say that the road to my full promotion was ghastly at times.  I remember typing under a program deadline early on and watching as red drops appeared on my white keyboard, a surreal, cinematic yet all too tangible reminder that risk taking sucks.  The nosebleed said so much for “success.”  Yet the first mainstage production I marketed broke the theater’s 20-year box office record.  I did not achieve this feat by myself, and this is where humility comes in; we had a giant cast making this happen.  Are women more humble than men?  Again, this is the wrong question.  It’s just silly.  Gender is expressive; gender is fluid; gender is often not important.

Am I advocating for some sort of post-gender reality?  Hardly.  Shirky brushes sexism aside in  his rant, as some sort of inconvenient truth, something real, but something outside of his argument.  Shirky never had to stare at someone across a desk and be told he would be paid a fraction of what his work was worth according to the market simply by virtue of the contents in his pants, not his resume.  Sexism in this country is pervasive, not something to be treated as a red herring.  It is institutionalized in the research supporting one very common definition of success: salary.  Until women are paid the same as men for equal work, I’d rather like to talk about sexism.  Gender certainly matters, but in my humble opinion, not in the way Shirky thinks it does.

P.S.  I’ve tried “acting like a man” and asking for the going rate (a.k.a. the man’s salary) at the negotiation table.  Funny, my “arrogant self-promotion” has never worked in this department, but sexism isn’t really the problem, according to Shirky.  If only I could grow a pair, right?  W….T….F?

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Behold the man who thinks himself kind, as he marginalizes you with a smile

In Uncategorized on April 4, 2010 at 5:14 am

A friend just passed along a link to a disturbing blog post by Orson Scott Card re: the gay marriage debate.  I promise I’ll get back to non-sexual-political-religious topics in the media soon enough, but I must, in good conscience, respond, even as it delays my considerable grad school work.  If you can stomach the piece, it is worth a full read.  I address his particularly insulting conclusion here.

Dear Mr. Card,

“What’s the hurry? Why the hostility toward even the slightest opposition? Can’t our opponents wait to get their way until they have persuaded a clear majority? Can’t they listen to people with ideas that are different from theirs?”-Orson Scott Card

While you wrote these sentences, I’m sure a same-sex partner somewhere was denied visitation rights (afforded by marriage) while their dearest died.  How dare we be in a rush?  How dare we seem upset?  How dare you, a member of a faith subjected to violent persecution in history, a fellow minority, seek to disguise your prejudice and justify your political gamesmanship in the name of religious freedom?  Your ancestors fled to Utah to build your own community away from the tyranny you found in Missouri.  Now you seek to actively interfere with a different community in California.  Where would you have them go to seek equality under law?  I’m afraid I already know the answer to that, and I’m not a fan of your brand of heat.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.  Thou restoreth my soul.  -Psalm, 23:5

While you execute your own brand of tyranny in the name of majority rule, you ignore your own history and the countless examples of minority triumph in American politics, often gained through the courts first, and later society at large.  I would still not have the right to vote were it for people espousing the kind of arguments you make.  Black people would still not be a part of your congregation, I venture to guess, had the courts not first established that such prejudice was unlawful.  The Southern states, most notably, made similar pleas about their autonomy with religious zeal and even violence, yet through the courage of a few and the slow moral hand of the law such offensive bigotry (notice I do not say intolerance) is at least somewhat pushed to the fringes of our society.  The KKK wears veils now less for the attraction of a secret club, and more out of fear of discovery, less they be lynched in the court of public opinion.

Anything that can be used for good, can also be used for harm.  The law is far from above this basic fact.  To suggest that we homosexuals, of ALL people, should be keenly aware of this, seems silly, especially coming from a Mormon.  Mormons have found themselves on the “wrong” side of the law for their beliefs throughout their history, yet you still fight for your freedom with all urgency, as you should.  I accept that I will not change your mind about homosexuality, and I acknowledge your right to public dissent.  What I object to is a religious organization throwing around financial weight in a civil matter, especially with funds largely from Utah, a far cry from the community of California.

I realize the LDS church is not alone in such manuevers.  Catholics have intervened in health care/reproductive law time and time again, for example.  You claim the lack of majority in California as some sign of societal norm, yet by flooding Prop 8 with Utah/LDS dollars you showed little faith in the majority opinion you so prize.  You obscure the actual will of Californians.  I am sure many other groups, including pro-Gay ones, pour money into questions outside of their jurisdictions, too.  Yet I would expect you to stop pretending like your church dollars do not hold sway in the majority when you actively seek to control that majority.  If the majority in California has spoken, it is partially because the LDS church in Utah tampered with the majority.

On Easter, I am reminded that our, yes our, Lord and Savior Jesus Christ rolled the stone away from his tomb, overcoming the ultimate persecution, on this you and I no doubt agree.  He preached a gospel of love, teaching us to go after the lost sheep, not fence them in, preventing them from leaving in the first place.  This is what you seek to do by blocking, through political/religious rhetoric and cold hard cash, the benefits of a legal contract to a different kind of family.  I happen to think I am not a lost little lamb, but let’s say you’re right and I am wrong; why not follow Christ’s example and allow the freedom I seek?

Expanding the definition of marriage does no harm to your reproductive agenda, anymore than a new bar opening in San Francisco hurts your ability to teach your flock to “choose the right” and eschew alcohol.  To say otherwise is to bear false witness against your neighbor, and frankly, sir, you should know better.