I was locked out of my WordPress account for a while, so the only recent posts are the one I had scheduled months in advance for Ask A Stupid Question Day and the post I reblogged about how men don’t suck. I’ve been meaning to write a quality post, but I have midterms next week, and just general university stress from taking too many courses, so that’s probably going to have to wait a while. I’m not abandoning the blog, though, just taking a break until I catch up on schoolwork.
It was so painful to watch a person I love struggle so much with possibly being a trans male because certain social justice circles tell trans men that accepting and embracing their gender is tantamount to choosing to be oppressors.
A friend was wonderfully sensitive and supportive when I told him about something that was incredibly painful and difficult to talk about. Then later he said, “I’m a straight, cis male and I’m not going to apologise for that” and then looked at me as if he was expecting me to want him to apologise for something that he has no control over.
The person who has had the largest influence on the path I ended up taking with my life was a male teacher. The parent I’m closest to is my father. My younger brother always makes me feel so incredibly lucky to have him in my life.
I simply cannot imagine what my life would look like without those men. They don’t suck at all. My life has been made immeasurably better by the part they’ve played in it.
It was for this statement that I felt I had to unfollow a Facebook friend recently. It wasn’t the only thing that made the absolutely screwball, back-asswards social justice discourse on Facebook unbearable during the week in question, but it was kind of a breaking point with regards to my ability to not say anything about it.
And according to some people, if I were really enlightened about sexism and oppression, or had the right belief system about those things, I’d know I was supposed to take it someway other than at face value, but I’ve never been any good at tests like that, where I fail some ideological standard by taking people seriously for what they say.
And according to certain formats of discourse about feminism and privilege and stuff, it isn’t supposed to bother me. But it does, and this is only part of the reason why.
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“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” -Abraham Lincoln
I find all too often people are afraid of asking things because they don’t want to appear stupid, which is why I consider Ask A Stupid Question Day to be one of the most important non-holidays of the year. I’ve had way too many of my classmates tell me they are afraid to ask a question in class or answer one of the teacher’s questions because they don’t know absolutely everything about the subject and they don’t want to look stupid. It’s okay to not know something, and it’s okay to be wrong. What’s not very okay is to be afraid of learning because you don’t want to admit you’re not omniscient and infallible. This doesn’t just apply to students in schools. Everyone runs into situations where they don’t know something and they’re with someone who does. And it’s okay to ask a question. And if you’re in a situation where you’re talking to an expert and you’re not sure about something, say it anyways, and maybe mention that you’re not sure about it. If you’re wrong, the other person will say so and you’ll learn something and that’s always good.
So although Abraham Lincoln might have said that it’s better to stay silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt, I think he’s wrong. I think it’s better to speak out, because that’s the only way you can learn something and stop being a fool.
Happy Ask A Stupid Question Day!
Tomorrow is my graduation day. I’ve been in this school for six years now. I could write an entire blog post about how I’ve changed and how my life has changed in this school, but I think I’d rather make this a light-hearted post.
The first week of school was orientation week for all of us, because although most of my classmates had been in the school for more than six years already, we were starting secondary school and there were a lot of changes. One of the activities was an exercise in leadership. We were divided into groups and the designated group leaders had their hands tied behind their back. The object of the activity was that the leader had to direct the group to build something using only words. Partway through the activity, my group leader’s trousers fell down. I didn’t want to say anything, because I didn’t know him that well and expected one of the other group members, all of whom had known him for years, to do something. He turned to one of the girls standing next to him and asked her to help him, while the boys in our group stood back and laughed. We were 11. If this had happened in our senior year, maybe someone would have helped him. I hope we would have been more mature about someone’s trousers falling down (which honestly isn’t as big a deal as it seemed at the time), yet at the time, I was impressed that nobody harassed him about it afterwards. They laughed when it happened (out of awkwardness, not malice), and his closer friends gently teased him about it, laughing with him, but (as far as I know), he was never bullied for it. That really struck me, because in my previous school, they would have.
Fast forward five years and a girl in history class realises she has her period and needs a pad. She uses hand signals to try to communicate with a female classmate, but the (male) teacher notices and asks what she’s saying. Despite the entire class being five years more mature, they still can’t talk about menstruation without blushing.
Later the same year, the school announces that everyone will be having sex education classes. During the first class, everyone tries to sit at the back of the room and silence reigns supreme. It soon becomes clear that only myself and one other girl are willing to discuss sexuality. Many of my classmates still will not say the word ‘sex’, despite the fact that we’re all 17 or 18 years old and above the age of consent.
This post honestly doesn’t have a point, I just wanted to talk about how although we’ve all grown so much, we’re still children and not very mature.
The following email exchange happened a while back. I realise that I probably overreacted, but what he said still does bother me because a lot of guys do somehow think that an appropriate or relevant response to a girl expressing her low-self esteem is to assure her that they still find her attractive… I’m just going to leave this here without expressing any further opinion on it. You are free to come up with your own conclusions on this.
Me: “My initial response to “I can be beautiful at my healthy weight” was “wtf, no, you need to have a BMI of less than 17 and have visible hip-bones and a thigh gap to be beautiful”.”
Him: You are beautiful now and I absolutely believe you can be beautiful at your healthy weight. And maybe I would fall in love with you then… You know my enthusiasm for girls at/a little heavier than their healthy weight.
Me: I don’t even really care whether [my love interest] finds me beautiful at my healthy weight, and if his opinion on this doesn’t matter…I’m sorry, but yours doesn’t really either. The thing about my issues with weight is that it’s not even about weight. To me, skinny=self-control=beautiful. That’s why I do it. It’s not even about society or media or anything else saying skinny=beautiful, and it’s certainly not the opinions of men! And if you fall in love with me for my body, you need to stop. Love is not lust, and if you think they’re equivalent, you need to seriously re-evaluate how you see women. Also, the world does not revolve around men. Women’s self-esteem does not revolve around men. Women’s desire to be thin is largely based on the fact that this is what other women judge them on, not based around what men judge them for. If men’s opinions were at all important in this discussion, the standards for beauty wouldn’t be as thin as they are. A very large number of men prefer curvy women because they’re biologically programmed to do so, curvy women are more fertile, favouring them favours the passing on of any particular man’s genetic material.
Him: Why is it that you this sensitive over topics that have to do with how men and women interact with each other (I’m not sure that one was brought up here)? I do notice that whenever I say something that has to do with women (I don’t know what exactly about women is it anymore) you do start telling me about how evil and unworthy men are. Do you hate men? And do you believe women are superior to men or something like that?
PSA I posted on Facebook a while ago:
Don’t touch someone without their permission. Do not grab someone without their permission.
If you have already grabbed someone, and they try to pull away, let go; they clearly don’t want you touching them. Someone pulling away is not an invitation to grab tighter.
Some people will not verbally tell you to let go. Some people find it difficult to assert boundaries. If you are obviously making someone uncomfortable, you need to stop, even if they haven’t explicitly told you to.
This happened to me. I would have been less bothered by the whole thing if:
1. They’d let go when I pulled away. That they didn’t tangibly demonstrated that they had no understanding of the notion that many people are unable to establish or assert boundaries. Since I’ve struggled with establishing boundaries before, this is something really important to me.
2. It was the first time that they’d displayed inappropriate behaviour or the first time they’d been called out on it. The fact that this person consistently only ever does it to girls and that this person tends to treat any girl’s objection to this behaviour as not-to-be-taken seriously bothers me. I can understand ignorance, especially in a society that fails to show people what boundaries look like, but when someone has told you before that your level of aggression makes people uncomfortable and that it’s inappropriate, the correct response is to look at your own behaviour and your own attitudes towards other people’s rights to see what needs to change, not to ignore the other person because girls just overreact.
3. If this wasn’t part of a pervasive attitude held by people, particularly guys, in our society. I wouldn’t have posted it on Facebook if I was directing it at the person who grabbed me. I would have settled it privately (I did, actually). By posting it on Facebook, I was trying to tell a wider group of people that this is an attitude that needs changing (in hindsight, I should have hid that Facebook post from the person involved…but what’s done is done).
Long story short, though, for all the people who think feminism isn’t an issue, this is why it’s important. Because women want to be safe in their communities, and they aren’t. I was lucky, this person only grabbed me. But people need to be taught that other people’s right to personal space and to not be made to feel uncomfortable by another person’s actions are important. People need to be taught that women don’t actually overreact, and that if a woman says no, she means it.
…it won’t work.
In case you need proof, here it is.
With a month left until my IB exams, I find myself relating more and more to this post.
“I fear failure. Probably more than anything else in the world… Because, to me, failing a thing is being a failure. As a person. If I fail a thing, I am a failure, and therefore I am worth nothing.”
If you’re wondering why I’ve been quiet, it’s this: I have an important exam coming up in a month. I am extremely stressed out about this. So any spare minute that I’ve been calm enough to study, I’ve been studying, and when I haven’t been calm enough, I’ve been playing video games to try to calm down enough to study.
So I figured I’d post about procrastination. Because it’s relevant. And because something on Tumblr gave me an aha moment.
Procrastination is not and has never been a matter of laziness for me. I can and am willing to do the work. Usually, I like the work and find it fun. I have a strong work ethic. I have worked till 3 AM on experiments, then gotten up and arrived at work on time the next morning. Hard work is not alien to me.
It’s not a matter of…
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Today it’s one of my favourite holidays (for my absolute favourite, you’ll have to wait until September).
I’ve always loved numbers. In first grade, I read a book in the library about magic squares and was hooked. Fast forward eleven years, and I still love the beautiful intricacy of mathematics.
I had to write the BMAT for university applications, and this year’s paper included several questions involving the four-colour theorem. I really, really enjoyed working on those questions and researched the four-colour theorem on my own afterwards (and in the process came across a pretty awesome book called “Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities”, which I highly recommend to anyone who likes doing mathematics for fun). During my mock exams, I actually spent some of the leftover time doodling in the margins of my biology exam trying to use graph theory to figure out how many colours could colour a 3D map.
I also enjoy reading posts on a Tumblr blog called visualisingmath; here is a post I rather liked.
Anyways, mathematics is fun, and having nerdy holidays like pi day is even more fun, so Happy Pi Day!
Also, look out for Pi Approximation Day (22/7), Fibonacci Day (1 1/2 3), e day (2.7, February 7th), or if chemistry is more your flavour, try Mole Day (6:02 am to 6:02 pm on October 23rd…for 6.02*10^23).
I recently found Hershele Ostropoler’s absolutely wonderful analogy for consent in a comment and wanted to share that with you.
If you step on my foot, you need to get off my foot.
If you step on my foot without meaning to, you need to get off my foot.
If you step on my foot without realizing it, you need to get off my foot.
If everyone in your culture steps on feet, your culture is horrible, and you need to get off my foot.
If you have foot-stepping disease, and it makes you unaware you’re stepping on feet, you need to get off my foot. If an event has rules designed to keep people from stepping on feet, you need to follow them. If you think that even with the rules, you won’t be able to avoid stepping on people’s feet, absent yourself from the event until you work something out.
If you’re a serial foot-stepper, and you feel you’re entitled to step on people’s feet because you’re just that awesome and they’re not really people anyway, you’re a bad person and you don’t get to use any of those excuses, limited as they are. And moreover, you need to get off my foot.
See, that’s why I don’t get the focus on classifying harassers and figuring out their motives. The victims are just as harassed either way.