Monday, August 31, 2009

Just wanted to share this with you...

... my insurance coverage expires tonight. So I made sure to refill my prescriptions yesterday (not just because I would not be allowed after today; I was actually out).

I got my first paycheck from New Job on Friday, so I could afford to buy my meds. (Insurance from New Job won't start until November 1st, even though I started working there August 3rd.)

I paid 10% of my (monthly) paycheck for my (monthly) meds. I found that interesting, so I thought I'd share those numbers with you.

(Also, new insurance covers "the pill" and Norplant. Not Nuvaring, which is what I use. So, either I pay $70 a month for my birth control, or I go back to the less-reliable, more-prone-to-human-error daily pill. Can you tell how thrilled I am about all this?)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Some thoughts and clarifications on yesterday's post; race v. racism

I want to make sure this is clear, because I want to make sure I don't imply the wrong message: how we classify "race" and "ethnicity" on forms, how people choose to classify themselves, is arbitrary. There are no clear "rules" or guidelines to say who is what, and so many people are mixed races anyway, the whole thing is rather silly.

However, racism is, sadly, very real. I did not mean to imply, when I was talking about race being arbitrary and construed, that racism was not a real problem. We have certainly taken giant leaps, but few still have far, far to go. Yes, we elected a black President. But we're carrying assault rifles to town hall meetings were said President will speak -- would we do that if he were white? I think this Tweet asks a very valid question.

Racism is about what you look like. Most of the time, especially now, you can't really tell what a person "is" by looking at him or her; you can tell if the person is "different" -- non-white -- but how often are people of Hispanic and Middle Eastern backgrounds taken to be the other? But racism doesn't bother with those details anyway, as long as you're "different" you're fair game.

Race and ethnicity are about where you come from. How you grew up. While we can come up with a few general guidelines, there are no rules for this, because we are people not robots and we're all different. So, what you put in those boxes? Arbitrary and contrued.

First of all, "Hispanic/Latino" is not a race, it's an ethnicity. Which is why you can have Hispanics/Latinos of all colors, as Danine pointed out in yesterday's comments. They finally started updating the boxes, where you are black (non-Hispanic) or white (non-Hispanic) or Asian (non-Hispanic), but we still don't have enough boxes to fit everybody.

Then there's all the mixed races (which, I guess, technically, is what I am -- Chilean dad, USian mom, so I grew up with both cultures). Some people look more "mixed" than others, but here's where we stop talking about race or ethnicity as background/your personal history and start getting into... not necessarily racism, but the side effects of it. The mentality it had bequeathed us. (I know racism isn't dead, but think of it as a living will. Or wishful thinking.)

If you "look" black, then we're going to call you black. Because that's what we see. Even if your mom's white. If you look, shall we say, "less" black, then we'll call you bi-racial. Or mixed. Or something.

Hopefully we're moving into an era where we're all going to be so mixed up, we're going to stop worrying about all this junk, and just be "people," and comment on skin color the same way we comment on hair or eye color: just something that's there. Neither good, nor bad, just there.

For further reading, let me direct you to Raising My Boychick's post on sexual orientation and gender v. race.

(Part 2 of yesterday's rambling thoughts to come tomorrow. Or thereabouts.)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Some thoughts on race, ethnicity, and what I am

A few weeks ago, I saw this video on Literanista's blog:

Last year (and the spring semester before that) I taught at a high school that was over 50% Hispanic. The six years before that, I had been teaching in the rich white kids' schools.

One of the first things a student said to me, when I was being presented to the Spanish classes at the mostly-minority school, was "What's up with all the white Spanish teachers?" Which was a valid question -- the three other Spanish teachers in the school were white (this kid was in the Spanish IV AP class, where everyone but the teacher was Hispanic).

The kids later found out I was a little weird. Because I spoke Spanish without an accent; I was from Chile, so I was "Hispanic." But I looked "white." This was cause for great confusion from the students: "Miss, what are you? How come you're Hispanic, but you're white?"

Being in an environment where white was the minority (at least when it came to students) was definitely a new experience for me. In the other schools where I'd taught, we didn't talk about race. Because if you talk about race, it means you notice it. And if you notice race, well, that means you're a racist.

But at my last school, the kids talked about race. It was there. It was part of their lives because it was right there -- if you didn't notice it, then you were stupid. It wasn't generally qualified; it wasn't "good" or "bad," it was just there.

I don't have anything else to say about that. I just found it different. Something that stood out to me, and I thought I'd share it.

In Chile we didn't talk about these things either. When my mom and siblings moved to the US, my brother and I filled out our own school forms while my mom worked on my sisters' stuff. Name, address, phone number, date of birth...

"Mom, what 'race' are we?"

Because we looked white, but we were fresh off the boat plane from Latin America.

After thinking about it for a second, my mom said, "Put Hispanic/Latino. That way you'll be eligible for more scholarships."


At fourteen, I didn't take notice of this. Enough to remember the conversation, so my subconscious must have known this was something I'd want to blog about later. (I'm not one of those people who remembers details of her youth. At all. I can give you the names of maybe a whopping two of my elementary school teachers. That's it. So, me remembering this convo? Significant.)

Maybe this situation started me on the path that finds race classification (on government forms) so arbitrary and construed. When I taught third grade, the first year students take the almighty Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, we had to go through our class rosters and make sure each student's race/ethnicity was entered properly. I wondered how I was supposed to know each student's race and/or ethnicity, since I was not each student's parent and therefore did not know each student's genetic history. Also, what about the two girls who'd been adopted from China? Were they Asian, because they looked it? Were they White, because they's grown up in white, upper-middle-class US suburbia?

(And, while I'm at it: race and ethinicity are not interchangeable, they are two different things. But those forms treat both words as if they were synonyms, which is further proof that these classifications are arbitrary and construed and the people making these forms and trying to classify us into checkboxes have no clue what they are doing.)

When I was in college, my mother's words came back to haunt me. Because I realized that my not-impressive SAT scores and my not-impressing GPA were not likely to be the reasons why I'd made it into the prestigious and overcrowded University of Texas at Austin: my status as a Hispanic female, a subgroup that needed me to fill its quota, was much more likely to be the culprit.

This royally ticked me off, on several levels.
  • I am a person of my own, I am not a checkbox. There is a lot more to me than my ethnicity and/or gender.
  • I had no reason to be in college. My first semester I made four Fs, a C and a D. And two of those Fs were in dance classes. I had not meet the entrance requirements, and my performance proved I did not deserve to be there. I was taking a hard-working, non-minority student's seat, just because of the box I'd checked.
  • Affirmative action by race ignores the current problems: race no longer automatically designates socio-economic status or presence/absence of priviledge.
I grew up in a Latin American country. I am fluent in Spanish, and I can dance to salsa music.

But I'm white. With freckles. I sunburn like the dickens. (No, I'm not sure what that expression means either, but you get the point.)

I went to a private school. I've been upper-middle-class my whole life. I've never been rich, but I've never wanted for anything. No, I didn't get a brand-new truck for my sixteenth birthday (and complain to my parents they the truck didn't have a CD player... but I'm not talking about my drill-teammates...), but we always had what we needed.

I don't have an accent. The faint accent I had when we first moved to the US faded within the year, but even that, I was told, was "cute," "interesting," "sexy."

I'm tall, thin, and pretty.

I've lived a life of priviledge. I've never had the minority experience. So can I really call myself "Latina"? Can I claim that? I don't have any of the life experiences that most Latinas growing up in the US face. The only thing I share with the brown-skinned girls in my classes is that we can both sing along to Mana's songs and don't need to turn on the subtitles when we watch Almodóvar films. (See my point? None of those girls watched Almodóvar films!)

I'm going to be working with minority students again this year (different job, but similar student population). I want to be a role model for them, but I know my looks are working against me. I want them to see me as one of them, but not only do I not look it, I'm not it.

(Yes, I know -- poor little white girl, troubled by her life of priviledge. Boo-hoo.)

More on this tomorrow, because this post has gotten long enough as it is.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Trust women!

Dr. LeRoy Carhart should be your hero. And you should let him know.

Today and tomorrow, big stuff is happening in Nebraska. Quick background and run-down, courtesy of Rachel Maddow (who, apparently, is another one of my heroes...):

(PS: Rabid anti-choicers: assasination is not a "peacefully and legally" way of doing anything. FYI.)

Okay. I had a rant written, but I've ranted on this so many times before, it just gets old. So I deleted it.

Tonight and tomorrow, please pray for Dr. Carhart and his staff. Please pray for the women who will go to his clinic tomorrow, seeking his legal medical services, and will have to face these terrorists. (That's what they are: they are using terror, threats of violence and violence itself, to intimidate and oppress the doctors, nurses and patients.)

Also, though it almost hurts to write this, pray for those terrorists.

(And I'm going to end it there, because I'm about to start ranting again.)

Trust women. Stand up against anti-choice extremism.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

[Belated] Happy Women's Equality Day!

Okay, I admit it. I kind of blew it.

I didn't post anything on Women's Equality Day. I totally meant to, but today was rather busy. Away-from-my-computer busy. And when I did sit down at my computer, I didn't sit down to write the post I'd been thinking about.

In my defense, I was joining forces with fellow awesome feminist bloggers, planning secret conspiracies we plan to soon unleash on the unsuspecting patriarchy. Notice the new fancy "Criss is what a Feminist looks like!" blogroll over there, on the right? Those are my new friends. Go visit them, read their inspiring words, and leave nice comments for them.

So, on to Women's Equality Day. This is the day, in 1920, when we were first given a recognized political voice by being granted the power vote. A good day, all in all.

This morning, a thought struck me, and I realized it coincided nicely with today's date.

[Warning: shameless self-promotion -- oh, wait. I'm on my blog. Isn't the whole concept of a blog "shameless self-promotion"?]

Yesterday, my second guest post was published on's Women's Rights site. (Psst! That's your cue to go read it and comment on my brilliance. Then come back here, so we can finish this.)

My Equality Day thought: Barack Obama is a huge role model for minorities, especially African-American males. I remember reading or hearing someone point this out during the campaign, that if Obama won the election, for four (hopefully eight) years, black children would see The President of the United States, the Leader of the Free World, doing all those important presidential things, and he would be a black man. Someone who looks like them.

I don't know if you saw this photo when it happened, but it made me tear up. I think this is a huge thing.

Well, chicas, we have one of those now (and she even comes with her own catch phrase!) We have Justice Sotomayor. I don't care what your color or nationality, she's yours, too. We are all Wise Latinas.

The problem is the Supreme Court doesn't appear on TV quite as much as the President does.

Going back to the Equality Day train of thought (can you tell I should have been in bed a while ago?): I don't know how much of your high school US government class you remember, or how often you think about all that, but remember the system of checks and balances? We have three main branches of government: executive (President), legislative (Congress), and judicial (Supreme Court).

These three have the same power. They are equal. They are there to cancel each other out, or to keep each other in check, if need be.

Therefore, the President is not THE most powerful office, because the Supreme Court has the power to override what he (or she) says, if the issue is brought before the Court. Congress has the power to veto. The President has the best PR, but really, these three branches are equal.

Let's go back to Justice Sotomayor, and let's not forget Justice Ginsburg. They are expremely powerful women; they are in a position of extreme power. We need to recognize this, and remind ourselves of it. And remind those around us, who may not have taken great notes in their US government classes.

(I always thought I'd much rather be a Supreme Court Justice than President. Yes, I know the case has to come before the Court before the justices can have their say, but when they do have their say, it is The Last Word. And I am quite a fan of The Last Word.)

[Because I didn't want to blow it, even though I opened this window exactly at midnight, I did change the time on the post, so it shows as being posted at 11:59 on August 26th. So sue me.]

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Make sense, not death threats"

(I really should have posted this last week, or whenever the 40th anniversary of Woodstock was... but I still want to post it and use my clever title. Because I'm so proud of my clever title.)

I don't really have any words for this whole health care debacle. I don't even watch the news (gave that up a long time ago; there was no point since they've stopped worrying about that whole "providing information" thing), but I do click on links via Twitter and Facebook. Maybe I shouldn't, especially when those links lead to debates with racist Republican uncles (don't worry, I've blocked him. Smartest move I've made in a long time).

This video really made me want to pack up and move to a more civilized country (it's not the best quality video; you can read a transcript of the show instead, if you prefer).

EDIT: And, of course, who could forget Joe The Plumber? Of course he has something intelligent and elocuent to add to the debate! How can people stand behind a party whose prominent members are resorting to death threats instead of discussing the facts and issues, like rational, intelligent, sane people?

The few debates I have unfortunately engaged in leave me dumbfounded, because the people opposed to health care reform MAKE NO SENSE AT ALL. I don't understand the words coming out of their mouths. I understand the individual words, but the way these people string them together... I'm baffled.

I should know better than to expect logic and reason from right-wingnuts, but they are really outdoing themselves this time. Case in point?

Michelle Bachmann:
I mean, SERIOUSLY? How can you possibly not realize what you just said???

Are they from another planet? Am I?

There are teeny-tiny rays of hope in this whole thing, like's Healthcare Truth Squad: Everyday Heroes, Busting Myths, Spreading the Truth!

It would be nice of we could talk about the actual points of the bills. If we could deal with facts, without yelling, and without assault rifles. Is that too much to ask of a civilized nation?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

An Interview with Criss (part 3)

This is the third and final installment of our ongoing series, An Interview with Criss. Relish this post, because it's the very last one in the series.

Criss, glad to have you back.
Thanks for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

Has anything of note happened to you in since our last interview?
Yes. Yesterday, the ankle strap on my shoe broke, and I had to spend the day with my left shoe flopping about my foot. It was slightly irritating, since I had to walk with this weird step-kick move to keep the shoe from flying off my foot.

What a riveting story!
No, not really. But you asked.

Tell me, how has feminism influenced your life? Have there been any unexpected repercussions?
Funny you should ask that. Without really meaning to, my Twitter friends list has acquired a strong feminist presence, and every day I have more links that I know what to do with.
See? I'm so excited about this, I've ended a sentence with a preposition.
I've seen how my vegetarianism fits in with my feminist beliefs -- if I believe that no one has the right to control my body, how can I feel justified in controling an animal's body? (While I'm not vegan, I'm working to take steps to become more vegan, because it's hypocritical of me to fight for my right to control my body while I abuse an animal's body merely for my epicurean pleasure.)
An unintended and... unusual side-effect of this, is that I don't feel righ picking up one of my cats anymore.

Princess Vespa, the youngest before we got Gus, is rather finicky when it comes to humans. If she's in the mood, she'll allow you to pet her. Sometimes she'll even come up to you, or sit near you (not next to you, just near you) on the couch or the bed. But most of the time she just wants to be left alone. If you dare pick her up, she'll howl and make all sorts of I'M NOT HAPPY noises... and thinking of my right to my body, and my right to not have my body treated in a way I do not agree with... well, now I can't pick Princess up anymore. She has a right to have us respect her body, and her desire to not be picked up.
Which makes me sad, because she is a cute little kitten.
(Ironically, when Gus -- boy kitten -- makes noises if we pick him up, I don't mind. Now, most of the time we're picking him up to stop him from attacking one of the girls, but still. The fact that he's a boy makes the situation different, I guess. Which means I'm cat-sexist... drat!)

That's very... existential...
Or something.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with us, before you leave?
Not at the moment. But I'll let you know if I think of anything.

Great! Well, thank you so much for your time. Our readers really appreciate this insight into your life.
It's been my pleasure. Thank you.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

An Interview with Criss (part 2)

This post is the second installment of an ongoing series where we interview the charismatic, brilliant, utterly talented Criss -- yes, that's right. She needs neither last name nor introduction.

Criss, thank you for joining us once again.
Oh, my pleasure. I'm sorry we were not able to continue our conversation earlier, but you must understand I'm a very busy woman. I had a lot of sitting that needed to be done, you know.

We're glad you were able to give us this time, we understand you have a very hectic schedule. Now, tell me, has anything else irked you since the last time we spoke?
Funny you should ask. I was reading through the education blogs on my Google Reader subscriptions, and I came across this post on Frank Chalk's blog. I don't know if he meant to open the can of worms he did, but the comments section will make you vomit.
I do have to point out this guy lives in the UK, where they DO have such a thing as maternity leave (and from my very limited understanding of it, it is quite generous), but that still does not give those Anonymous bas-turds any right to say the things they do.

Well, then again, can you expect much from people who leave anonymous comments?
No, you're right. The fact that they are too ashamed to put their name to their misogynistic ranting tells you they have at least enough sense to be ashamed, but, Beavis, that's no excuse.

Thank you so much for giving us your time today -- I understand you have an appointment to get to.
Oh, yes, thank you. I'd almost forgotten! Yes, I have to run. Let's continue this later, shall we?

Monday, August 10, 2009

An Interview with Criss (part I)

I know you are all anxious to hear what Criss has been up to lately, since she has not been blogging because she is way too busy leading her glamorous, fascinating life. In order to catch you up quickly, we have decided to offer this special interview right here, on Criss's blog, for your reading pleasure.

Criss, thank you for joining us, here on your blog. It truly is an honor.
The pleasure is mine.

So, tell us, what have you been up to lately?
Oh, not much. I started my new job, which is very nifty. So far, I'm liking it a lot (it's only been a week and a day, but I still feel confident saying that).

It's good to know the job's going well.
Thanks. The only thing that irks me is that this job, as is the norm in the US, apparently, does not offer any sort of maternity leave pay, and I can't even take the Family & Medical Leave Act until I've been there for a year. It's kind of depressing to realize now that I should have had a kid last year, while I was at my last job, where I had 30+ personal and sick days saved up (so I could pay myself to take six weeks off). So Freddy's and my plans to start a family will have to be pushed back a little, but I guess it could be worse.
Of course, I've got my fingers crossed that we get some sort of decent health care plan passed soon!

How's the writing going?
I've been working on a couple of stories for contests. I've been neglecting my novel, but I will be getting back to it this week.

Have you had any run-ins with borderline psychotic characters in the last week or so?
Funny you should ask! I had a... well, shall we say an "interesting" exchange with a complete random stranger at Borders the other night, when I was with the members of my critique group. We were discussing another writer's story, a male writer's story, and a female colleague and I were pointing out how his satire could go unnoticed and be taken as gospel by people such as George Sodini. This led to tangential discussions of the concept that women are not baby-making machines, and that -- gasp! -- we are independent, thinking beings. Now, I was not the only one voicing these thoughts; there was sarcasm used (which might have been this bloke's problem, perhaps it was beyond his grasp), and, again, this was all being discussed in the context of the story, and how it could be misrepresented especially with the recent events in mind.
Anyway, out of nowhere this guy comes up from behind me and shows me an iPhone (encased in a very pretty purple cover) showing a photo of kids sitting on some railing. He asked me what I thought of it, and since I had no idea what to think of it because I had no idea what he was showing me or WHY, I eventually said something along the lines of, "Uh... cute." He then said he was glad his wife didn't think like me, that my ideas were outdated by 200 years, and that people who think like me are going to be responsible for the downfall of society.

Are you serious?
Yes -- as the members of my writers group! I tried to ask the guy exactly what it was that I thought, since, you know, he knew me so well. But, of course, he kept his tail tucked tightly between his legs and yelled gibberish at me as he left the store.

What a loser.
I know. You wanna know the best part? The guy left his wallet on the table [at the Borders Cafe]. I was tempted to do something, if nothing else to take it out to him and make him talk to me, for lack of a better expression, "like a man" before I gave it back to him, but one of the other guys in our group jumped to action before I could. The loser just said "Thank you," didn't say anything about disrupting our group with his caveman babbling.

There's just no reasoning with some people.
No, there's not. I wish that group were smaller than it is, though.

What do you mean?
Well, just today, for example, I read this post on Feministing, about the backlash against organizations that are calling the Pennsylvania shooting an act of misogyny. The commenters quoted say that there is no culture of misogyny in this country, because we allow women to walk outside on their own and we don't force them to cover their face and women can go to school and get jobs and stuff.
It seems I've heard several times this week -- okay, I've read, really -- this idea that "we don't need feminism anymore because we've fixed it already." I agree we've come a long way from June Cleaver and all that, but we're in no way "done." That things are much better doesn't mean they're "fixed." That's like saying we've "fixed" the problem of racism because Barack Obama is President. Sure, it's great, and a long way from the days of separate water fountains, but we still have a long way to go. Maybe you aren't racist, or you don't see its effects in your neighborhood, but the problem is still there, and we have to keep fighting.
Not an hour after I read the Feministing post, I clicked on this story, about Hillary Clinton being asked what her husband thought of the growing influence of China. The guy didn't dare ask HILLARY CLINTON what HILLARY CLINTON thought, he asked her what her husband, "through Mrs. Clinton" thought. She responded by saying her husband was not Secretary of State, she was. She could tell the kid what SHE thought, but she was not going to "channel" her husband.
As you can see from the article, they use a photo -- FROM ANOTHER EVENT -- where Hillary is caught in mid-word, making a weird face. That's disrespectful; I know that's a game the media plays, but let's not ignore that it is a game they play. Then, the text of the article talks about her "losing her cool" and how she "finally had enough" -- implying she exploded in frustration -- and that she "snapped" at the student, adding "Clinton wasn't done" again, giving the impression of a long beating and the bully coming back to kick the guy in the gut while he was down just one more time.
There's not a culture of misogyny? Then how do you explain that a woman asserting herself and stating a FACT is protrayed this way? And let's not even get into the comments section of that article. Of course, how could we talk about a woman acting in any way that could be percieved as less-than-submissive and NOT make a comment about it being "her time of the month."
If you want to see the actual exchange, I'll post it for you below. So you can see that ALL SHE DID was assert herself. HOW DARE A WOMAN DO THAT. You wanna see someone REALLY "lose her cool"? Come ask me about this issue.

I see what you mean. Watching the video, you can tell she feels insulted, as she should, but she very much keeps her cool and tells the student that if he wants to ask her about HER opinion she'll be glad to answer, but that she's not there to speak for her husband. She's composed when she says this.

Well, it's getting late, and I know you have to be up early tomorrow, so I don't want to keep you. How about we continue this tomorrow?
Sounds good to me.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Web Side Story

Is it sad that this IS my life? (Except for eHarmony, because, you know, meMarried already.)

(Stolen from Moonrat's blog, btw.)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009