Occasional Link Roundup

I know we’ve been slacking on the advertising front, but the second FtBCon is coming up in…less than a week. Literally. (It’s January 31 – February 2.) The schedule is up (but subject to last-minute additions) and I’ll do a post of blurbs about my panels soon. If you want updates, keep checking our Twitter, Facebook page, and website for updates. I hope to see you there!


1. First of all, a brilliant post about the myth of “self-care” in social work. This post puts words to something I’ve felt for the last few months, that cringing annoyance whenever professors and supervisors preach on about “self-care,” as though chocolate and bubble baths are supposed to dull the fear of having to pay off a six-figure student loan debt with a $35k salary, or the stress of trying to help clients who can’t really be helped because there are no resources available to help them and nobody gives the slightest fuck. It also applies to many other fields.

Within the social work world, many members of the profession (especially supervisors) explicitly promote “self care.” That’s great, and appropriate. We should encourage professionals to put on their own oxygen masks before they help others with theirs.

In fact, some people conclude that the high rates of turnover within the profession are specifically connected to insufficient self-care. However, this conclusion is incorrect. The drop-out rates within the field of social work have less to do with individual social workers’ abilities to self-care, and more to do with agencies’ abilities to promote self-care as a culture.

2. On Shakesville, Melissa has a great post about the internet and “real life” that is definitely true to my own experience, as well:

The internet has made disappearing easier, in the sense that I don’t totally disappear. I can maintain the necessary indulgence of my introvert nature and still be the one doing the reaching out. Sometimes, it is during a disappearance that I write the most meaningful emails, have the most wonderful tumbling conversations via text, give my friends the biggest laugh by posting some elaborate Photoshopped monstrosity of their favorite things on their Facebook walls. Dispatches from the shell.

3. Apophemi wrote a post about how they feel excluded from the rationality/Less Wrong community due to its frequent dispassionate discussions of really triggering material, and the elevation of that dispassion as the ideal state. Scott wrote a dissenting but extremely compassionate response. Ben responded to Scott, attempting to bring these two viewpoints together cohesively. Any quote I give from any of these three posts will not do any of them justice, so if you have time and care about inclusivity within rationalist circles, I recommend them. I feel like a smarter and more empathic person for having read all three of these perspectives.

4. A person with a serious illness wrote in to Captain Awkward and asked if there’s any way to ask people to support them in tangible ways rather than posting vague memes on Facebook about supporting people with illnesses. As usual, CA has lots of great advice, and says:

Chronic illness/disability sucks in SO MANY WAYS and one of the worst is having to go through this sorting process. It is totally ok if you decide your time and energy are too limited for this crap and just cut those people free. You don’t have to be their way of demonstrating to the world how cool and awesome and caring they are with these meaningless public displays of glurge. There are other awesome people out there, and yes it is possible for us to find them.

5. [older, but so necessary] Trudy explains why she’s tired of people responding to her personal tweets or posts with meta-humor of the “I hate photos of spiders”/”HERE HAVE A PHOTO OF A SPIDER LOLOL” type. I’ve often tried and failed to draw boundaries around this sort of thing, which I also can’t stand.

These are the responses from people who simply cannot handle the idea that I am human and I am not going to perform happiness for them 24/7. I don’t believe in positivity culture where I am not allowed to fully experience sad or angry emotions (or when I do, I am told that “angry” is my “personality” type) and have to perform superficial joy. Thus, they think being abusive and engaging in the exact behavior that I mentioned causes me stress is somehow supposed to “cheer me up” since they are being “funny” by being “ironic.” Why can’t I stay upset if I choose to? Further, why would more of what upsets me magically please me just because they say so?

6. At Feministing, Veronica writes about calling out in the feminist movement:

I am so ready to let go of the America’s Next Top Radical model of social justice; it’s unsustainable, unproductive, and frankly a pretty bad strategy. It seems as though some of us – us being folks invested in the advancement of social justice in some way or another – are calling folks out sometimes not to educate a person who’s wrong, but to position themselves a rung above on the radical ladder. What’s worse, both in real-world organizing and online, this behavior is often rewarded: with pats on the back, social status, followers. We’re waiting and ready to cut folks out when they say the wrong thing. We’ve created an activist culture in which the worst thing we can do is to make a mistake.

7. People often object to the term “privilege” because they think we’re trying to suggest that it means they’ve had an easy life. Not so.

Privilege means that, because of your membership in a non-marginalized group, there are things you don’t have to deal with. And because you don’t have to deal with them, you don’t have to think about them, and may not be aware of them.

[…]I can’t imagine that if you’re a man, reading this evokes something you’ve long felt as an extra advantage you have. It’s an absence that is likely invisible to you until someone points it out — just something that you don’t have to worry about. It doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get hired, it doesn’t mean you didn’t have to compete for your job, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person for not thinking about it.

It just means it’s a challenge or obstacle that you didn’t have to overcome, or even think about.

8. The Belle Jar Blog, on virginity as a social construct:

One problem with the idea of virginity is that there’s no hard and fast way of deciding who’s a virgin and who isn’t. Many people would define loss of virginity in a very heteronormative sense – a sexual act where the penis penetrates the vagina. But does that mean, then, that a queer woman who has only ever been with other women is a virgin? Is a gay man, who has only ever had anal sex, a virgin? Most people, when pressed, would agree that no, those folks aren’t reallyvirgins, even if they’ve never had penis-in-vagina-style intercourse. The flip side of this is that many rape victims don’t feel as if they have lost their virginity even if they’ve had penetrative intercourse forced on them. They consider themselves to be virgins because they don’t consider what happened to them to be sex. So taking all of that into consideration, how do we then define virginity?

9. At Youngist, Suey Park interviews Dr. David Leonard on white “allies”:

First and foremost, [terms like “white ally”] presume that struggles against injustice are the responsibility of someone else – those who are subjected to the violence of racism, sexism, homophobia – and that the “allies” are helping or joining forces with those who are naturally on the frontlines. The idea of white allies also reinscribes the idea that whites have a choice as to whether to fight racism, to fight white supremacy. And while this may be true, it turns any agitation into a choice worthy of celebration. At the same time, it turns struggles against racial violence and injustice to a discussion of “what people are” rather than one focused on what people are doing in opposition to white supremacy.

10. Aoife writes about why potential fathers should not have a say in abortion decisions, and why it’s wrong to demand that pregnant women consult their partners about such decisions:

When it comes to abortion, our right to choose to carry a pregnancy to term or to terminate does not exist because of our genetic relationship to the fetus inside us- forcing a surrogate mother, say, to carry to term is abhorrent. Our right to choose exists solely because the pregnancy is in our body, is part of our body, sharing our blood, our food, water and oxygen. The right to choose is, at the end of the day, nothing to do with pregnancy. Pregnancy is simply a time when that right is contested. The right to choose is about our right to self-determination, nothing more.

11. Laura Lippman writes about being a woman in public:

Of course, the ultimate moment of being Female in Public comes when a woman, deep in thought, is told by a strange man to SMILE. (And this happens only to women.) Gentlemen, let’s get this straight. There is no part of my body that belongs to you, not even my facial expression. Stop trying to stake out territory there, whether by legislation or verbal imperative.

12. Leopard writes about low-paid doctors in Russia, who are mostly women, and the argument that women “just happen” to do the jobs that are devalued in society:

What this illustrates perfectly is this — women are not devalued in the job market because women’s work is seen to have little value. It is the other way round. Women’s work is devalued in the job market because women are seen to have little value. This means that anything a woman does, be it childcare, teaching, or doctoring, or rocket science, will be seen to be of less value simply because it is done mainly by women. It isn’t that women choose jobs that are in lower-paid industries, it is that any industry that women dominate automatically becomes less respected and less well-paid.

13. s.e. smith writes about people with mental illnesses and how we have to put up a facade for our friends a lot of the time:

We spend a lot of time being told that bottling up emotions is unhealthy and we should express ourselves and I cannot even begin to tell you how many of my friends have said they’ll ‘always be there for me’ and ‘are happy to talk any time.’ Those things are said with love, with a genuine desire to help, but with all due respect, they’re also said with a total lack of understanding about mental illness and how it works. Those friends don’t really want me to drop the facade and be real with them, even though they think they do, and they definitely don’t want to be providing amateur counseling services.

What have you read/written lately?

Occasional Link Roundup

12 thoughts on “Occasional Link Roundup

  1. 1

    11: I get told to smile fairly often by strangers and have had coworkers tell me I don’t make myself appear happy enough at work (these aren’t customer-facing jobs) more than once. I’m sure it’s a different experience for women, but I’m also sure it happens to men and that it annoys me for basically the same reason as given.

    1. 1.1

      I’ve had a few men mention similar things (though not nearly as many as women). I think it’s a reflection of the fact that cheerfulness is sorta mandatory in our culture regardless of gender; it’s just that the demands made on women get filtered through those additional expectations of them as women.

      I do wonder if the people who tell you that are generally older than you. It seems like the emotions of young people are something older folks sometimes feel entitled to dictate.

      1. I hadn’t really framed this in terms of age before, but I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone within ten years of me tell me to “look happier”. This is a useful perspective!

          1. I also used to hear it a fair bit as a teenage male, and it always bugged the hell out of me; but it’s become much less common since my early 20s (I’m upper 30s now). The last time I remember it happening was a couple years ago when a TSA agent checking my ID at an airport told me I should smile. Needless to say that also bugged the hell out of me, especially given the context.

      2. I think age is an important factor. Or rather, I think there are some older people who think that younger people owe them something the same way some men think women owe them something.

        I’m a male in my 30s, and I’m always very warm, and I’ve repeatedly had strangers on the street tell me to put my coat on. They’ve all been much older than me, definitely over 50 and probably over 65. All the ones I can remember right now have been women.

  2. 2

    The smile thing I find really annoying, mostly since I’m naturally very, very deadpan.

    Odd thing, even women I know have gotten on me for not appearing enthusiastic enough in some settings, even when we all agree that we hate being told by men to smile. I mean, in a sense, complaining that I wasn’t laughing *enough* at the comedy show, or wasn’t *getting into* the music enough at the show feels like the same thing for me.

    On 8, I think the sooner we throw virginity out as a concept the better.

    I learned about 13 in a very bad way. I was having an episode of major distress and I called a friend and I just wanted them to come to my place so I wouldn’t be alone. In a very patronizing tone of voice, the person said “I really think it’s better if you check yourself in.” They couldn’t even come over and evaluate whether I was okay or not in person and then decide, no, I had to agree to check myself in, and when I told them to piss off they called 911 on me. Instead of an evening with support, I got the isolation of being stuck IN somewhere for a week or so.

    That person is no longer a friend, and I since then did better screening with friends on what the plan was in case I was having issues.

  3. 3

    Yes, I have also been told by strangers of both sexes to “SMILE” before, so I’m going to go ahead and say that person doesn’t know what they’re talking about. It happened more often when I was younger, but it still happens once in a while (I’m 20). I’m shy and smallish and I have a young-looking face, so maybe that’s part of it. I suppose that’s probably also why I get hit on and leered at by gay guys way more than most other men I know. I’ve even gotten groped a few times! Exciting stuff.

  4. 4

    Holy crap, that post about Less Wrong triggered quite the discussion. Daymn.

    I really liked the concept of privilege when it was described to me. It’s a very useful term. I remember that as a Jew, I was surprised that I knew things about Christianity, but my friends didn’t know anything about Judaism. And I could tell that they didn’t really notice the asymmetry. A minor example, but having a word to encapsulate that sort of invisible asymmetry is very useful. I’m surprised it gets railed against so much.

  5. Bob

    Number 8 bothered me a bit:

    Virginity is not a thing. Not really. It is a social construct meant to make people, especially women, feel badly about their sexuality and sexual experience. It is a way of policing other people’s bodies and passing judgment on how they use them. It is, at its very core, a way of controlling and subjugating women.

    My first problem is with the assumption that women have it worse. It may affect more women in more complicated ways (its actually very simple for me, social pressure started to build when I was 16 and just uh….didn’t stop) but that doesn’t make it necessarily worse. I’m a 27 year old romantically unsuccessful dude and that has been a damn heavy load on me emotionally. I’ve cycled in and out of episodes of depression my entire adult life over this. I’m sure plenty of people, men and women, have it worse but this doesn’t need to be a pissing contest. Virginity is a harmful concept so lets put an end to it, its that simple.

    My second gripe is a more general complaint about how people treat social constructs.The author seems to conflate ‘social construct’ with ‘not real’. Lots of things like race,class, even gender are social constructs and are, obviously, very real with very real effects on our lives. ‘Social construct’ just means the idea is created by culture not nature. Its still real and treating it like it isn’t makes it sound like I’m expected to think: “Oh its not real? What a relief, I guess I can feel perfectly happy now.” That would be awesome but, unfortunately, social conditioning is a hell of a drug and its gonna take a lot more than that to get free of the weight of my V-card.

    Anyway, I actually liked the piece because I despise the concept of virginity so its awesome it resonated with so many people. Thanks for linking it, Miri.

  6. 6

    The idea of white allies also reinscribes the idea that whites have a choice as to whether to fight racism, to fight white supremacy. And while this may be true, it turns any agitation into a choice worthy of celebration.

    It’s not?

    1. 6.1

      No, opposing racism is the bare minimum of being a decent human being, right up there with not raping people. Also, celebrating and glorifying “white allies” encourages people to do it for the glorification, which means that they’re usually the first ones to jump ship as soon as a person of color critiques their approach.

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