succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Gender Issues

Today's Times had a pretty good article about gender issues in little kids (as in, pre-school and early elementary school kids). It is, at times, heartbreaking - “It feels like a nightmare I’m a boy.” And certainly not a dilemma I would wish on any parent - are four year olds really aware enough to decide which gender they are? Is it more damaging to fight with your kid about gender identity or to risk your kid getting humiliated at school? I know Dr. B has covered some of this ground with PK (who likes to wear nail polish and keep his hair long). But it occurs to me that this is perhaps one of the few areas where women have actually made more progress than men. A large focus of the article was cross-dressing, since that's obviously the most outwardly public display of gender and the one that can set a kid up for bullying and other traumatic events at school. And yet, I can't think of any level of 'cross-dressing' for which a little girl would be really picked on. Girls can wear boots and pants and even ties and suspenders! They can wear their hair short or long. Oh sure, tomboy little girls are still sometimes mistaken for boys (I certainly was up until I was 12 or so) but I have a hard time seeing this as potentially resulting in the sort of violence that seems to crop up whenever a boy decides to put on a skirt or dress.

Sure, this isn't actually progress, since it just means that emulating the acceptable gender norm of male is good whereas choosing the 'weaker' female form is 'bad.' But still, it means little girls have more freedom to play with their identity before settling in to one.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Mmmm...James McAvoy. A - maybe you could transition out of your brit phase by switching over to Scots?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Another mental health day

I was talking to AWB the other day about one of her friends who is having a tough time adjusting to life after recovering from a non-trivial physical ailment. This friend used to be an athlete, and I was saying that I wondered if part of the trouble was the athletic background - feeling betrayed by a body you once trusted. Since my stress and anxiety manifests itself in such wildly physical ways, that's how I feel - like I used to have this body that I knew really well and could rely on, and now I never know when it's going to go haywire. And the thing is, I may talk about good days and bad days, but here I am, 17 months out, and, frankly, I still feel broken. I don't know how to get back to feeling un-broken. Many of us, with mental health problems, talk about how you're never 'cured' you just have longer and longer stretches of time when you're not thinking about your particular issue. So I don't know if it's even attainable, to get back to un-broken. But I'd like to get back to trusting myself.

So what brought this on? Scheduling for spring semester. My advisor wants me to take a class on spatial statistics, and I want to take the class - it's being taught by a prof I really like, and it covers material that I both 'should' know (in a professional sense) and want to know (in a dorky, curious sense). would be the first serious class since the qualifying exam. It would include weekly homework assignments that require deriving equations with Greek letters. And for months after the exam I just lost all those abilities - I couldn't bring myself to think about math or read journal articles or anything. Sure, some of that was certainly just burn out, but some of it was also this sense of being broken. And since I still feel that way, I still feel like I can't trust myself to be able to sit down every week and work through it. I've gotten back to where I can think about math, to where my research is interesting and motivating again, to where sitting down and thinking about a problem for which I don't know the answer doesn't immediately freak me out. And I don't feel like I can afford to lose that again. I'd rather hang on to my ability to work on my dissertation, and pass up a class, than risk it. But maybe it's a growth opportunity? I can't be scared of classes + work for the rest of my life, even if I am mostly done being a student.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sigh. Finally back in my own bed. Not that I'm complaining. But it's been a whirlwind 48 hours. Early yesterday morning I had breakfast with Dad, in WV. Then I drove 8 hours south, got in to town just in time to empty the car, turn around, and drive to bowling. (played the third game, got a 98, just missing the 100 I needed to raise my average) Then back home to pick up pizza and beer and over to the boy's place for an impromptu viewing of Dune (mmmm...scantily clad Sting). Awake at dawn this morning (the boy has one of those annoying real world jobs), back to my place and a short nap, then grocery shopping and gymnastics with the kiddies and working out and various urgent work e-mails and more pizza and beer for my roommate's birthday. Whew! Since I've just been tossing things into my room since emptying the car yesterday, I should probably do something about the various piles that have accumulated...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Math is Hard!*

AWB left this for me in comments, and I've been avoiding it. She predicts it will send me into fits of righteous anger, but mostly it just makes me sad. I'll spare you the linking and reading - it's one of these gee isn't it cute that my fourth grade daughter knows more math than me? articles. Written by a (presumably) middle-aged woman. While I suppose I have to begrudgingly applaud the author's dedication to go back and hire a tutor and learn several years of math in several months, everything about the story, and the way it is told, just makes me sad. The author is very honest about how little math she knows, and includes this 'funny' passage about her husband's reaction to said lack of knowledge:

One night, my husband asked to see the packet I was working on.

He flipped the pages and asked, "This is hard for you?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Seriously?" he said, eyes widening. When I assured him it was, I realized I was looking at the face of a man staring into the evolutionary abyss. I could see he was regretting that he had allowed his DNA to be carried into the future merged with mine. Luckily, our daughter is good at math.

But the the article inevitably maintains the status quo that innumeracy, unlike illiteracy, is not only acceptable, but common, and fruit for an entertaining article in Slate. Just reinforces my desire to invent a time machine and go back and fix the way math is taught. I'm unconvinced that the Japanese method mentioned in this article (taking away the applications and just focusing on math for math's sake? who would hang in there long enough to learn anything?) is the answer, but I know whatever we've been doing to generation after generation is wrong.

In other math-related news, my hand-me-down Bitch magazine draws my attention to this t-shirt from Alloy - "I'm too pretty to do math" - which is curiously no longer available. Dad suggested I wear it in an ironic fashion, which I said I would do only if I could take a laundry marker and insert 'not' - turns out Yellow Ibis beat me to it. They also make one that says, "This is what a scientist looks like."

*my family provides this quip as the punchline to nearly any action, ever since that horrid talking Barbie made the scene years ago. we now have a new one - during the opening to Numb3rs my Dad insists on saying, "deedeedeedee math!" which I will now adopt as my 'thinking' noise whenever solving problems.