Month: December 2014

On proof and progress in feminism

The Accidental Mathematician

The recent allegations against several celebrities have led to a broader conversation on how we, as a society, don’t believe women. In a “he said, she said” situation, we trust the man and assume that the woman is either mistaken or lying. “Taking us seriously” means that we are advised of such and offered an explanation for our dismissal instead of simply being dismissed outright. It’s not only personal bias, conscious or not; there are institutional mechanisms perpetuating this state of affairs. No proof is ever sufficient if it comes from a woman. Should she present multiple affidavits, all signed and notarized in triplicate, she’ll be informed that they do not prove her claim; she, on the other hand, probably violated multiple rules and procedures by collecting and presenting her evidence in the first place. She should stop before she gets into more trouble.

Meanwhile, there’s a growing crop of…

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Christian Solidarity

Bishop Tutu and Dalai Lama

This little post isn’t really about religious tolerance per se, but now and then, images are fun.

Yesterday’s post was about the solidarity that is noticeably lacking among some minority groups and women. But what actually motivated me to begin writing was this so-called insight article. Several months ago, I moved to a new neighborhood. Ever since, whenever I drive somewhere to the south (which is 98% of my trips), I can see from the highway a sign for the Creation & Earth History Museum in Santee.

To be perfectly honest, I believe the theory of evolution, the Big Bang, and an earth age of at least 4.5 billion years jibes just fine with Creation. The more complex and elegantly functional the world seems, the more I believe in my glorious God. But my purpose isn’t to write about why I rather believe in evolution+Genesis instead of either/or.

All this time since I moved, I have been vaguely curious about the Creation Museum. It has a dinosaur statue on the outside, so apparently the people at least acknowledge that dinosaurs were probably real creatures. My first feeling toward the place was, “Oh great, more science denying Christians making us all look bad.” Maybe my curiosity simply stemmed from my effort to overcome my initial, unfair judgment. For a few reasons, I wanted to go alone, not with my husband, and since the semester finally ended this week, I decided yesterday was the day.

I was naturally up way before the museum opened, so I decided to read up a bit on their website. I was intrigued by a list of 800 scientists (I don’t think they’re all scientists, but mostly) whose names were attached to a somewhat vaguely titled declaration that “more investigation needs to be done into the theory of evolution,” or something like that. But as Law & Order taught me early on, you can always find some scientist or doctor to go along with your side of the story. I kept looking. That’s when I found the article I linked above. That’s when I got upset and decided to write.

Do you know why I’m Catholic? Of course there are many reasons, but one of them is that perhaps despite what people who have never even met a priest will say, the church is so welcoming to reason. To keep on topic, I’ll just stick with evolution. As a Catholic, you can believe God created the earth in precisely six 24-hour days, measured and defined just as we measure and define them today. No problem. Or you can believe God created the universe in six impossible-to-define days, and set in motion a wonderful, long (to us) natural history of neutron stars and asteroids and planets and amoebae and you and me. Also no problem. You’re not accused of not being a true Christian for having one belief or the other.

That’s the main problem I have with many Creationists and fundamentalist Christians. You’re not a “true Christian,” or “really” a Christian unless you agree with every little thing they believe. The moniker “fundamentalist” is quite funny in this way because these people rarely argue about fundamental beliefs—the Trinity, Resurrection, Incarnation, Virgin Birth, grace, etc.—but have this aggravating tendency to argue that every belief is fundamental…

But it’s really not. Honestly! Look up the word “fundamental.”

Anyway, let me take a deep breath and refrain from detailing my aggravation with my more Pharisaic brethren. What matters?

If I had to guess, which I do, because God has not been talking to me clearly from a burning bush, I’d say that what matters is faith and love and holding onto these as motivation for everything else. But what motivates arguments? Is it faith or is it pride? Is it love or is it the will to impose your own way upon others? Has anyone been saved because they were persuaded to believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis? Perhaps. But I would venture a guess that far more have been saved because they have heard the Good News that Jesus gave himself up to save us, and that brought them new life.

We Christians have enough reddit atheists to defend against. We have enough temptations on a daily basis, or at least I know I do. We have enough people around us who genuinely need help: people who need food and shelter and someone to look into their eyes with respect—not who just need us to change their minds about whether God created the universe in a literal or a figurative six days! What is wrong with us? How can we busy ourselves writing articles and arguing both in person and on the Internet, amongst ourselves, about every little thing? I do not think that’s the will of God. I think we have mixed up our priorities, and it is to the detriment of the whole church.

To stand in solidarity with the poor and suffering, mustn’t we also stand in solidarity with one another? I’m not even saying the entire church needs to unify under the Nicene creed. I’m saying we must unite in purpose, intention, and charity. I don’t see any room in that for accusing fellow Christians of “not really” being Christians.

I am saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, not by my best guess on how God made everything.

Some little joys

I miss living in a place with seasons. I suppose it’s because I like novelty. I love experiencing the newness of each season, and honestly, I enjoy the little changes in habit that accompany the seasons. Summer means I get to meet my sandals and tank tops again! Winter means layering cozy, dark colored scarves and shirts and sweaters and things. Spring means drinking light bodied wine, and eating lots of food from the grill. Fall means it’s time to start keeping soups and stews in the house. Living in San Diego again, I haven’t been able to enjoy these changes in season as much, but today I had the little joy of wearing my winter boots because it was finally cool enough.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I hate commuting. Actually, I hate driving in San Diego in general, because it’s just the norm here not to use turn signals, side mirrors, you know, courtesy and caution in general. But yesterday, driving to school, I had the little joy of letting someone squeeze in front of me—after he almost hit my car—but then him giving me the wave! I can forget about all the world’s a-hole drivers for one blissful moment whenever some good soul gives me the wave*!

Even though I am about to receive the lowest grade of my college career in physics, when I think of things like the curvature of spacetime, I have the little joy of a feeling… a feeling that this is what I really want to do: study the magnificence of God’s creation. I don’t expect that we have very much really figured out as humans. I’m not convinced there is even such thing as knowledge, except in the soul. But it is still a pleasure to ponder everything, to try to describe it, to see if you can understand something at least well enough to predict a thing or two about what it will do next. It’s wonderful to think about a benevolent God who created all that is, yet loves us in all our simpleness.

I have the little joy of coming home, knowing there are leftovers in the refrigerator**. It’s so awesome when you’re hungry, on the way home, and man, could you go for some Burger King! But there’s no need for greasy fast food that you’ll regret—not when you know that there’s something healthy and delicious right at home, and all you have to do is nuke it. No one thinks, “I can’t wait to go home and start dicing and chopping and preparing my meal!” That is why I love leftovers, and don’t understand anyone who doesn’t eat them.

That’s it for now. I should go do responsible stuff, right?

*If you don’t know what “the wave” is, you’re part of the problem! The wave is like saying, “Thank you,” and/or “Excuse me.” It’s the polite thing to do sometimes!
**One of my best friends, God knows why, cannot stand the word “fridge.” Since she and I were once roommates, and often the subject of the “fridge” would come up, since we shared one, I got into the habit of not using that word. Who am I, the queen of England, saying fancy words like “refrigerator?” Nope, not fancy. Just a habit leftover from appeasing my friend’s little neurosis. 🙂

Oh, wait! I also have the little joy of Christmas music! Yessss!

Why I don’t identify as a “military wife.” (Part 2)

I definitely got carried away yesterday, writing nearly 1,500 words. To summarize those ideas, I don’t identify as a military wife partly because I have found it very unpleasant to socialize with 9/10 other military wives I’ve met, and also because I still identify more as a military service member than a military family member.

Another big reason I don’t call myself a Navy wife is because I think men and women are equal. I think my accomplishments and daily duties are just as important and interesting as my husband’s. I’ve met many people since leaving active duty who find out that I’m both a veteran and a spouse of a military member, and do you know what they ask? They don’t ask what I did in the Navy, or for how long, or why I left. They don’t ask what I do now, or if they do, they stop paying attention when I say, “I study,” and couldn’t care less about what I study—and I study physics, so since when is that boring to talk about?

What people ask is what my husband does. Where is he stationed? Is he on deployment? What’s his rank? Is he going to retire? Thank him for his service. Is it because I’m a woman that my service doesn’t matter? I think.

I love my husband, and of course I am proud of him. He’s not an American hero. I know his job way, way better than most women know their husband’s jobs. I’m proud of him mostly because I know he could get away with doing way less work with way lower quality—but because he’s just that kind of person that doesn’t half-ass, gun-deck, or jury-rig (unless ordered to, which does happen sometimes). I’m also proud of him because he gets shit done. He doesn’t like the military, but he has yet to do something to purposely get kicked out. He doesn’t just sit around waiting for his contract to be up. He doesn’t refuse to get qualifications occupy leadership roles because, “I’m getting out anyway,”—which civilians may not know is actually a pretty common thing to happen among enlisted people who realize they don’t want to do twenty years. In short, I love my husband, and I’m proud of his work because in it he shows his integrity as a man. Also, I’m proud of it because it’s how he shows his patience as well; it takes a patient person to deal with some of the inept superiors he has had.

But my husband’s hard work, integrity, promotions—I should mention that he’s probably going to have to try not to get promoted next time up, if he truly doesn’t want to become a First Class—are not my own. My military service record speaks for itself. My grades speak for me. The way I handle myself speaks for me. Being married to a great person doesn’t make me a great person. When I call my husband “my better half,” I really mean it.

So when I say I’m not a Navy wife, it’s partly because I have my own accomplishments to be proud of—but it’s also because it’s not my business to take credit for my husband’s accomplishments. We are married, and we are one in important ways, but not in every way.

I think that’s all I need to write on this topic for a while. I do have strong feelings about it, and there are many misconceptions that civilians have of military people (some of which are definitely perpetuated by military people, such as the lie that we are not paid well). I wish people did not ask questions like they do… or I wish they would put more thought into those questions. I hope in my lifetime I will see women get paid the same as men for the same work, whether in the military or outside of it, and also receive the same respect. I also wish people would get over the military worship in this country, because we’re not all heroes, we’re not all saints, and most of us joined for economic reasons, not “to fight for your freedom.”

(The economic inequality that leads to more poor people going to war and dying versus rich ones is another topic entirely.)

Anyway, I feel a little better writing down some of my thoughts.

Why I don’t identify as a “military wife.” (Part 1)

After I separated from active duty (you can still call me Petty Officer though, because I’m in the reserve), I spent several months traveling, and then I married a fellow Sailor who was (is) still active.

We met when we were both E-nothings in the Navy, stationed on shore duty in San Diego. He got orders to sea duty in Japan while I was considering a career transition from avionics to the legal field. We’d been together for six months when I had to choose a path:

-Left at the fork meant taking orders as a third class calibration technician to Japan a few months later.
-Right at the fork would’ve meant waiting several more months in San Diego, going to school in Rhode Island during winter, a guaranteed promotion, and my boss’s word that I’d get orders to Japan after that.

There was plenty to it, and much happened personally and professionally in the years that followed my decision to go ‘left.’ Eventually, I decided to leave the military and go back to college. There were many factors to this decision as well, but so it happened. My then-fiance was still in Japan when I got out, and he chose his next orders (to the extent that we choose our orders, of course) based on where he could go that had a good university reasonably close. Here we are now in San Diego.

When we moved here, we had limited time to find a place. At first, we completely ruled out living in military housing either on or off base. Why? Because the stereotypes of badly behaved military families are based on something—and I’ll just leave it at that. We lived in a really nice neighborhood for a while, although we did get tired of the many dogs in all of our neighboring apartments. We were going to stay as long as the rent didn’t get raised to a certain level, but after our lease was up, it was raised past that level. It wasn’t worth it to us to stay there, so we looked for another place. Looking for a new place is such a pain in the ass that I’m not going to detail it. Basically, we opened our minds to the possibility of living in military housing, and then were offered a deal we couldn’t really refuse. A way bigger townhouse style unit than we could afford outside of military housing, and for significantly less money every month than anything else we’d seen. It wasn’t even in a ghetto! And utilities were included! So we jumped on it, and now I’m really not sure if I regret it or not.

Oh, you’re in the Navy…

Without detailing why I hate my neighborhood, and the disagreements I have with some of my neighbors, I can just say that I don’t fit in with military wives. I damn certainly don’t fit in with the Marine Corps wives who make up the majority of this area’s stay-at-home assholes moms. I’ve read a lot on the Internet, and had conversations with friends in and out of the military, and the few friends I have who are also married to men in the military, about women who try to “wear their husband’s rank.” The idea is that one woman considers herself superior to another on the basis of her husband having a superior rank. It’s actually an especially ridiculous behavior for Sailors’ wives because in the Navy, pulling rank is really….

How do I explain this? It depends on the unit, of course. But there’s the saying, “You attract more flies with honey.” I have observed in other leaders, and experienced while holding leadership roles myself, that saying, “I’m your superior, and that’s an order,” is far less effective than being the kind of person that your subordinates want to follow. Rank is quite a complicated thing in a social sense, in the Navy, at least, and so I will leave it at that for now.

Anyway, there are the rank pulling wives. But as a Navy person in a mostly Marine neighborhood, I wonder if there isn’t a similar thing going on with women considering their husband’s branch as superior as well. There’s absolutely a swinging dick mentality going on. I’ve trained with and known Marines. I go to school with many Marine veterans now. Everyone has a reason for joining the military, and everyone has a reason for choosing a branch. And I’m not saying every Marine is the same, but plenty of them choose the Corps because of ego. Marines are thought of as elite, as a more difficult force to join than the Army, as a more masculine force than the Air Force or Navy. “The few, the proud,” and all of that. It’s hard to get along with people who seem to think they’re better than you for some reason. For me, it’s especially hard to get along with women who have never served in the military, but seem to think that their husbands’ service in the USMC is superior to my service and my husband’s service in the Navy.

Not to mention the Navy is absolutely without a doubt the greatest military branch in all of history anyway. But I digress.

We never see you…

In one of my exchanges with some of my neighbors here, I told them to talk to me during the day some time. It was ten at night, and I think I was reasonably in not wanting to talk to them at that time. They responded emphatically, “We never see you!”

I guess they don’t see me. I don’t have kids, so I don’t hang out at the playgrounds (though I do go to the playground nearest my unit to do pull ups on the monkey bars). I don’t sit in a lawn chair in my driveway socializing because I don’t have time. I don’t go to neighborhood events because I don’t want their shitty free hamburgers, and again, I don’t have time. Three days a week, before 1600, I’m in my garage with the door open, working out. I run and bike in the neighborhood when I can. I check my mail almost everyday around 1500. I frequently drive in and out, and see the neighbors and their children out and about. I frequently have to stop my car while they yell and drag toys out of my driveway so that I can pull in. They don’t see me? No, they do see me, but they don’t see me at a time when it’s convenient for them to gang up on me and tell me what they think.

The thing is, even though they definitely see me and have opportunity to talk to me, and even though I do spend many hours at home during the week, I am a busy person. Very few of these women work, though some have small children they care for all day. Hell if I know what the ones do whose children are all in school until 1500. They don’t see me because I’m busy. If I’m home, I’m working. I may just be a student, but I generate income from being a student, and I put in my 40 hours a week. In a very real sense, I have a job. My job happens to be preparing for another job (partly).

Work is what I’m getting at. Work is an amazing thing. I have a desire to work. I have a desire to do work I consider meaningful too. I am not satisfied simply to support my husband in his meaningful work. It is difficult for me to identify with a group of women of whom so few women are driven to do their own shit. Being a mother is one thing, and it’s more than I am ready for right now (well, ya know, unless God decides otherwise). But of all my friends who are mothers, I really don’t know any who are satisfied to stay at home. Some have taken time off for the baby years, but all have put great efforts into home businesses, education, or plain, old-fashioned, earn-a-paycheck jobs. I guess that’s just who they are. That’s who I am. Maybe someday I will have a greater ability to click with someone who is happy putting 100% of herself into other people, but for now…

I simply don’t know what to talk about. << 5 / 12 / 14 I’ll continue this post another day.  >>

The people you meet.

As much as I sometimes hate Facebook, I do think it can be illuminating. Yesterday was the second of December, and when I saw the date, I thought, What’s today? I know there’s something on this date…

It’s the birthday of someone I used to call a friend. This girl had grown up in the same neighborhood as me, and while our home environments weren’t the same, we did both witness some types of abuse–and when I say “some types,” it’s because I don’t like to talk about some things. My friend, on the other hand, was never particularly reserved on the topic of her terrible “father.” Now that we no longer speak, and only now that I have realized that what I grew up with was not normal, I wonder if she ever even knew what I was dealing with. Sometimes people become so obsessed with their own suffering that they end up venting about it to someone who is also suffering in a tremendous way, but handling it more gracefully. I don’t mean to emphasize my suffering at all, but I know this is true because it happened to me.

When I was on the ship, I found out I’d be going TAD, Navy speak for, “working in another shop for a while.” Some of my friends already knew the man I’d be working with in the other shop. They told me he was a really cool guy, but they felt so bad for him because he had a toddler son who had been born with a heart defect. I told myself I had better not gripe and complain and get wicked pissed about Navy BS with this guy. The truth is, however, that in a year or so working with that man–someone I highly respect, and still keep in touch with on Facebook–of course I did gripe and complain and get wicked pissed about Navy BS.

I don’t think it’s really right to even anonymously write on a public forum about the things this man told me about his life. But I can say that many things he told me shocked me and still weigh on my heart–and not a thing did he say seeking pity or feeling sorry for himself. The wrong things that happened to him are not lost on him, but he does his best, enjoys life and family and friends, and gives thanks. He never talked about his problems with the sick sort of pride that sometimes people do, as though they think they’re better than you for having been victimized or screwed over somehow. That is one man I’m glad I met.

Back to my friend whose birthday was yesterday. We met in middle school because we rode the same bus, but we were not friends. We didn’t like each other, but we did get teased by the same boys. To be honest, I can’t remember how we really became friends, but we did, especially in high school. The two of us would often sit on the bus together. Almost every lunch period, she and I and another friend or sometimes more, would sit outside and eat. Three of us would sometimes go out on “photography days,” and just find some secluded or abandoned spot to shoot. We’d go to a stream or a large cemetery or a botanical garden. We had some really great times that I truly miss.

Both of us had been in a program to graduate high school in three years, but both of us decided only weeks before graduation that we wanted to stay in school for the fourth year after all. We had to appeal to the school board or something like that, but stay we did; and it was during that year that we grew apart. There’s no need to detail it. We were both teenaged girls, and we both did and said stupid things, and had generally shitty attitudes. Both of us. I went away to the Navy, and I don’t know what she did for a while… I just remembered that even though she was a great student, she delayed going to college. I had a bad feeling that she would quickly end up a young single mom with no car and no time for an education, just like a lot of girls in our old neighborhood.

Anyway, she didn’t end up that way. We eventually reconnected, and she graduated college. Now she works, is married, has a bunch of cats, and lives in Canada. Sounds like a good turn out to me. We met the one time I went back to Florida on leave, but it wasn’t as enjoyable as I’d hoped it would be. Her then boyfriend was there, who I didn’t know at all. A mutual acquaintance was there… who… I have had good times with, but find to be unappealingly dramatic (at least back then). I also was smoking cigarettes at the time, and when I look back on it, I can’t imagine the three of them wanted to be in the car with my stench, although nobody said anything. (I didn’t realize at the time that cigarettes stink. I grew up with people who smoked inside, and people told me it stank, but to me, it was normal. I began to smoke, and it was nothing to me. Only when I quit smoking did I begin to find the odor as disgusting as most people do.)

Over the years, we exchanged some cards and photos, talked online a few times, and planned to see each other again, whenever work made it reasonable for one of us (or one couple of us) to be in the other one’s area.

But it all disintegrated over time, and on Facebook. We never said, “Goodbye.” We never said, “Buzz off.” We never said anything. She unfriended me I don’t know when, and I only realized it because one day I think there was something in the news I expected her to post about, but I didn’t see any post. I was a little sad because I still remember the fun we had, and you don’t meet someone with a lot of the same passions as you everyday. But I was also okay with it. I had considered unfriending her myself, but it had seemed petty, and I didn’t want to burn a bridge or act hastily. Facebook makes it so easy to throw a friendship in the trash, it seems like.

It’s sad to lose a friend, but it happens. Sometimes people or circumstances change. I’ve seen friends who were in love with people before, and weeks or months or years later, couldn’t see anything in that person to love. I can still see a lot to love in my old friend, but I can see some things that very much annoyed me that I do not miss. Maybe she feels that way about me. Maybe she just thinks I’m 100% asshole. Maybe she hasn’t thought a moment about me since she clicked, “Unfriend.”

The people you meet. That’s what the second of December was about. Friendship, I guess. And Facebook aside, because it really isn’t the same as “real life,” though it is certainly real, I wonder how things are going for the woman, in terms of friends. She lives in a foreign country now, and as long as I was in touch with her, she never mentioned a Canadian friend. I know she has many friends in Florida and probably elsewhere, but… I also know from experience and observation how those long-distance relationships go. Even when you vow to stay the best of friends, keep in touch via telephone or letters or email, and promise to see each other as often as possible…

How do I describe it? Life happens. Even when you speak with someone everyday–someone back home, when you’re living overseas–they’re not telling you everything. You’re not telling them everything. You’re not seeing the same programs on television, being appealed to by the same advertizements on the street, or even seeing the same fashion trends in magazines. Distance doesn’t just kill relationships. I’m not saying that. My husband and I have had to spend months thousands of miles apart, and it has worked so far. My best friend and I only see each other every few years, and there have been a couple of times where we went months without saying much to each other. I don’t know if a lot of people realize it when they leave town and make all the promises of loyalty, but even when and if you do see your old friend or loved one again, even if you spoke with them everyday you were away, it won’t be the same. It might not be like meeting a stranger–but sometimes it is.

So how is she doing? I don’t know. Will she come to understand some of the things I’ve seen and been through? Granted, she’s a civilian artist, while I was a Sailor and sometimes just a civilian traveler. I don’t know. Part of the reason I think of it is that here I am in San Diego. I used to have many friends here, some I thought I’d have forever. Most are gone. Some are very different. I am very different. Some are very busy. I am very busy. Time and chemistry are also necessary to make new friends, and maybe luck… The story is the same in my home city in Florida. Who would I return to? My mother, yes, but even she is completely different: taking medications, married to my stepfather, raising a little boy, living in a house I’ve only spent about three weeks of my entire life in. I don’t have a great sense of “home” there, and I most of my friends are gone.

You can’t hold onto people. At least I can’t. Maybe if I didn’t travel. Maybe if I didn’t join the Navy. Maybe if I hadn’t left home. But in this world, even if I hadn’t left, I’d probably have been left behind. My best friend, for instance, she’s no longer where we grew up. She lives in Tennessee, of all places. Even when you know you can’t maintain a friendship because of practical reasons if nothing else, it is still sad when they end. Still, you never know what the people you meet will teach you. You never know how long it will last. You never know they’re a rabid Republican until you add them on Facebook (joking). You never know where you’ll be next year, let alone them.