Friday, November 27, 2015

Gender equality, 1870 style

In 1870, Henry Parker gave a speech arguing the women should be admitted to the Massachusetts Agricultural College.  That sounds like it would be in keeping with today's view of gender equality.  But if you look at what the speech says, it's not really how we think today.

He argued that just as men were learning farming at the college, women should also learn housekeeping.  A woman should learn to handle all the housekeeping on her own, so that she would be be "helplessly dependent on Celt or Chinaman."  She should learn housekeeping so that instead of "gossiping about her neighbhors' affairs," she can think about the chemical reactions involved in baking.  She should learn housekeeping so that instead of discussing "where this or that person buys sugar...and who does like sugar in tea and who doesn't, and whose aunt does and whose doesn't" she can instead think about the chemical properties of sugar.

Guess what.  I was educated, and I don't want to think about the chemical properties of sugar.  I want to think about humans, not necessarily my neighbors' affairs and who likes sugar in the tea, but such things related to humans and are more in keeping with my interests than

It reminds me of the story about when my great-grandparents first got married.  My great-grandfather knew that my great-grandmother had studied Latin, but had not studied Greek.  He thought she would enjoy it if he taught her Greek.  Turned out she would rather go for walks and see flowers.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Unusual path to a career

The Fall 2015 Collete of the Atlantic alumni magazine profiles Gabriel Willow.  After being homeschooled in rural Maine and then graduating from the College of the Atlantic, he spent three years in the Yucatan Peninsula doing environmental education and conservation.  He then moved to New York City to go to art school.  While looking for a bathroom, he stumbled across Prospect Park Audobon Center.  They hire him.  That sounds like something that would happen to my sisters.  Not to me or my brothers.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Living with chronic fatigue

For the past year, I have been more tired than the preceding four years, although overall, I’ve been tired for 10 years, and in the past year, there have been some weeks here and there that were not so bad.

At times, I am so filled with being tired that it’s hard to talk about anything else, but I don’t like to talk about it, so mostly I just don’t associate with people.  Of course, the other reason I don’t associate with people is because I’m too tired to do anything.

There are two reasons why I don’t like to talk to people about it.  One is because of what people say.  If you google “what not to say to people with chronic illness” you’ll get many different articles that all say basically the same things, and these are the things that people have been inundating me with for the past decade.  Except I’ve managed to cut it back some by not talking to anyone.

The other reason I don’t like to talk to people about it is because it’s not what I want to be.  It’s not who I am.  I am outdoorsy, energetic, adventurous, and playful.  I love skiing, hiking, rollerblading, and dancing.  I have intelligence, wisdom, and compassion.  I have good ideas.  I do things to make the world better. 

At least, that’s who I thought I was, but maybe that person is dead now.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Chronic illness

If someone is blind, we don't think it a reflection on their character when they say they don't drive.

If someone has no leg, we don't think it a reflection on their character when they say they don't ski.

Those with conditions such as celiac disease, multiple chemical sensitivities, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, post traumatic stress syndrome, depression, and attention deficit disorder don't always get such understanding.

"You need to snap out of it."

"You need to get outside your comfort zone."

"You just need to eat more spinach."

"You're depressed."

"Don't be so picky."

"Take a chance."

"You value your time at home."

No, it's not that I chose to be a homebody. 

I used to love mountain climbing.

I used to love rollerblading.

I used to love going to concerts and festivals.

I used to love dancing.

I used to love skiing.

Now those things are too physically uncomfortable to enjoy.  Yes, I can still do some of them for short times once in a while.  But the fact that I don't do them very much is not something I chose.

The fact that I enjoy my time at home, reading, listening to music, practicing tai chi -- yes that's something I chose.  I chose to enjoy what I have.  But it wasn't my choice to cut back on other activities.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Believe me

I wish that people would believe each other.  Sure, some people are not truthful, but I wish that the people who know me well enough to trust me would believe me.

There's an article, "I’m the one who will believe you – the transformative power of trusting our kids’ emotions" by Alissa Marquess  at  That article says instead of telling your kids to calm down when they get upset, acknowledege their feelings and be present with them.

In writing this article, Alissa Marquess took the ideas from Men Just Don't Trust Women" by Damon Young at and applied the ideas to parenting.

Damon Young said that when his wife is upset about something, before she even tells him what it is, he thinks, "she is probably over-reacting."

In my experience, it's not just because she's a woman, it's because she's his wife.  What I see is that people think that their spouses, significant others, and offspring couldn't possibly know something they don't know.  It's as if the people close to us must have the same pool of knowledge they have, so if they come up with something that doesn't fit with our pool of knowledge, it must be that they are making it up, not that they know something we don't know.

Damon Young says that a similar phenomenon occurs with racism: "only "facts" that have been carefully vetted and verified by other Whites and certain 'acceptable' Blacks are to be believed."

To  me, this ties in with how people treat people with chronic illness.  In the article "28 Things Spoonies Wish Others Would Stop Saying to Them" at, Elisabeth Brentano lists the things that everyone with chronic illness has heard many times:
  • Stop being a hypochondriac.
  • If you eat all organic foods and a balanced diet, you won’t need to take medications.
  • Get more exercise.
  • Why don't you want to go out?
  • You don't look sick.
  • Have you tried thinking positively?
There are many articles like this. Just google "what not to say to someone with chronic illness" and you'll get lists of the thing people say to us all the time. 

When I was in fifth grade, they took the girls aside to teach us about what to expect with the arrival of puberty.  They just told us what would happen to us.  They did not tell us what would happen to the boys.  Similarly, they took the boys aside to them and told them what would happen to them.  Anyhow, they showed us a movie and gave us a booklet.  The booklet explained that while some women complain of cramps, no physical cause has been found for such symptoms.  It explained that the cramps are probably caused by the stress of worrying that you might have cramps, so if you just relax and don't worry about it, you'll be fine. 

Then when I was in sixth grade, the doctors announced they had discovered a physical cause, so now cramps were real after all. 

So that's the medical profession for you: don't believe the women until the male doctors validate what they say.


A week ago today, on the radio I heard Scott Simon say, "I'd hoped to persuade my daughters to dress up as Angela Merkel and Terry Gross for Halloween tonight. But they've decided to be a goddess and a princess." 

A few hours later, I was looking at some of the catalogs I get in the mail, and I saw one selling a book called Warrior Goddess Training

That's what we women feel inside ourselves -- we are warriors, goddesses, princesses, vampire slayers, Amazons, heroines.  We are strong, brave, and beautiful.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Potash Hill Fall 2015

Some notes from the fall 2015 issue of the Marlboro College alumni magazine:
  • Politics professor Meg Mott is teaching an intensive this semester which looks at addiction from the perspective of politics, economics, culture, race, and communication.  The course considers how addition is presented in public debate, and how else it could be looked at.  Meg Mott says, "The questions being posed in the current debate tend to ignore the larger structural reasons for drug use: in a town with no jobs, selling drugs is far more lucrative than panhandling.  In a nation with reduced social services, using drugs dulls the pain of losing custody of one's child, not getting a callback on a job interview, or having to wait through the winter for a Section 8 voucher."
  • Alumnus Randy George and his wife own Red Hen Baking Company.  They were recognized by President Obama as one of 12 Champions of Change because they offer good pay and benefits to their workers.  Randy says, "There is actually a self-serving side to it too.  I want to sleep and take days off knowing that the people who are working for us at those times are experienced at what they do and truly care about doing the best job they can.  You're not going to find people like that if you just pay them the bare minimum."
  • Alumnus Scott Williams was elected state attorney in Vermont's Washington County.  He says that "responding to crime as a public health issue is, in the long run, a more effective approach than the traditional law enforcement model."
  • Alumnus David Skeele is working on "an iambic pentameter political thriller/rock musical."