Saturday, October 29, 2011

Feminist Quasi-Rant

Question: Why do you write strong female characters?
Answer: Because you're still asking me that question.

--Joss Whedon

"Wait," you say. "You have an entire blog on Joss Whedon. Why do you quote him here?!?" A) Because my love for Joss Whedon is great, and I only post on Let's Get Jossed once or twice a month. B) Because this post is going to be a little bit about Joss Whedon and a little bit more about feminism.

The little bit about Joss Whedon is to say, Joss Whedon frequently kind of stinks at feminism. Yes, he has amazingly strong female characters whom audiences learn to love with a passion. But his "feminist" episodes tend to be very second-wave, elementary, not-complex versions of feminism, and in Buffy especially, his women characters' power overshadows the male characters somewhat frighteningly at times. But, all that being said, this quote is fantastic. It's a great reminder that feminism is still needed in some form or another.

Every time I teach gender issues to my students, I talk through the three waves of feminism. Most people's understanding of feminism is strictly second wave. And often they pick up on the worst moments of second wave feminism, too. They think feminism means "women can't stay home with babies," "women are as good as (subtext: better than) men," and "women can/should have abortions." Many people would be confused to hear me say, "I'm a feminist," and then hear me also say, "I'd love to stay home with my kids when I have babies," or, "I want my husband to be a spiritual leader," or, "I'm pro-life." (Admittedly, some of these people are feminists themselves. I just say they're a different kind of feminist.)

Joss Whedon's failing feminist moments aside, this quotation says something that needs to be heard. It says, "Feminism's battle isn't over." It points out the ways in which culture still assumes a double standard for men and women in the fact that we see a strong female character as something unique and, perhaps, unusual.

I've mentioned the fact that I think that one of feminism's most important battles-not-yet-won is the issue of being able to be a mother and be a professional. I spoke to a professor at Union who said that she didn't think you could be a full-time, 100% mom and a full-time, 100% professor. She also told me that most of the people she's known who have stayed at home with their kids when they were first born have a really hard--or impossible--time re-entering academia. I don't think that this should be the case. I think professions need to make room for women--and men!--who want to work part time and be a parent part time. I don't think that it should work to your disadvantage in the hiring process if you've taken 4 or 5 years off to be a full-time parent. And I think that those who work full-time deserve understanding that sometimes your family comes before your job.

So that's my Joss-inspired feminist rant of the day. Sorry if it's not as rant-y and bra-burn-y as you expected :-)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Long Absence

I've been away for a long time. Well, at least it feels long. 12 days, almost two weeks--that's long, right? The last three weeks have been a roller coaster of craziness. It started with my eye problems three weeks ago. Then it moved into new eye problems, trouble pronouncing words, and crazy balance issues (and I'm used to being dizzy!). Then, just to spice things up, we added an intermittent headache on top of it all. Somehow (well, by God's grace), I got through it all while still mostly keeping up with teaching, grad school, and work.

I've had 11 doctors and/or test appointments in the last three weeks, averaging around 2 hours each. We poked at my eye (yes, literally--yuck!), took an MRI of my brain (it's still there!), did an angiogram, and threw a chiropractic adjustment in there for good measure. At the end of it, it turns out I have a somewhat rare form of migraine that originates in the basilar artery (the one that goes to your brain in the back of your head). These can become scary because, especially as you get older, they can cause things like strokes and TIA. Thankfully, I haven't had either, and if the medication I'm starting works, I won't have TIA or the dizziness, lack of coordination, embarrassing pronunciation issues, or eye pain.

I've learned a lot about trusting God through this all. The last few times I've gotten major diagnoses, I've gotten angry and frustrated with God, inadvertently shut him out for a little bit, and then realized I needed him and turned to him. Going into this, though, I was at a really good place with God and was praying that he would do whatever it took to help me grow to know him more and not lose the awesome closeness we had. I definitely felt like the last few weeks were tempting me to pull away, try to become self sufficient, and maybe even sulk a little bit. But even though it's sometimes been harder to turn to God, I've felt like it's been a little easier to trust him this time than it has been in the past when I've gotten frustrating diagnoses.

I have a conference next week, but after that, I'm planning on being back on the blog full-blast. I'd like to talk about some TV shows I've been watching, share some things God's been doing in my life, and discuss the awesomeness that is books. And there'll probably be plenty of other great stuff too!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Why I Love Teachings: Reasons 52 and 58

Me: So, because we had a sub on Monday and cancelled class Wednesday, I haven't seen y'all for a week! I'm very sorry; I'm sure it was very traumatic for you. I had some crazy health stuff going on, but I think we'll be good and you won't have to go this long without seeing me again.

[Pause]

Student: Is there going to be a baby Benhardus?

---

Of course the answer was no. But it made me laugh for a week. In other teacher-related news, I had a dream the other night that my grocery budget was subject to all the rules of FERPA. Therefore, I legally could only discuss it with official employees of Hy-Vee.

Teaching does strange--but sometimes wonderful--things to one's subconscious.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Let Me Tell You About My Eyes

I thought of another kind of post I do on this blog, one I haven't done in a little while. The random health-related post. I'm sure they're probably not why everyone comes back to this blog day-to-day, but the "dealing with my health journey" posts were what originally started it. The fact that even through all the hard and difficult things going on with my body, I believed that God was working it all for good and that others might be encouraged by the story.

This last week's adventure might work toward the encouragement purpose. Last Friday, at the end of the day, I thought about everything that had to happen before the month of November and I freaked out. Majorly freaked out. So much so that I had to take myself on a walk through Iowa City, buy myself a comic book, check out the next Harry Potter book (I'm still not finished) from the library, and sit down with an iced tea and some tortellini salad from Bread Garden before I even allowed myself to head home for the weekend. Saturday was a little better as I mapped out the next two weeks hour-by-hour. "Okay," I thought. "As long as my health doesn't do anything unexpected or crazy in the next month, I'll be okay. And this is the best I've felt at this point in the semester in a few years. What are the chances of new health problems?"

Fast forward to Tuesday. I wake up and put on my glasses. I walk out of my bedroom and sit on my couch. I can't read any of the titles of my DVDs only a few feet away. Check my face. Yep, glasses still on. This is weird.

An hour later (I obviously can't drive to campus until I can see straight), my left eye can see just fine. But when I cover it and look out of my right eye, the world becomes a blur. I made my way to campus with some very careful driving, but all day, reading is insanely hard and driving home at night is even harder.

All day, I did well not freaking out. "It will clear up," I told myself. "It's probably something really silly that the doctors will laugh off when I go in tomorrow morning."

Wednesday morning came, and my right eye was significantly better. I called my mom because I couldn't decide whether or not to go into the doctor. We decided I should. And man, did she not laugh it off. In fact, after spending an hour being check out by the technician and my normal ophthalmologist, I found myself canceling my entire day so that I could do a vision field test and be checked out by a neuro ophthalmologist.

I was at the hospital for over 7.5 hours. I discovered the cafeteria. Something that was fun to discover . . . in the past, hospital cafeterias always made me think about my family members having surgery or visiting sick family members in the hospital. I can picture the cafeteria at Northwest Memorial really, really vividly. And that's what I always used to think when I thought "hospital cafeteria." But, this time, I instantly imagined that I was at Princeton General or Sacred Heart. One made me feel smart and awesome, the other just made me keep my eyes out for something silly. It was great.

At the end of the day, the doctors basically told me that they couldn't give any definite medical explanation for what had happened. But they did tell me that they could rule out any bad and scary eye problems after their test and examinations. I'm suppose to go in if anything happens, but at this point, I check out okay.

I took two things away from the experience . . .

First, when I called my mom on Wednesday morning, she told me that she emailed Grandma, aunts and cousins and friends to ask them to pray. I had texted two of my close friends to ask them to pray the night before. When there's no medical explanation and they're surprised to see that you're eye has recovered so quickly, it makes you think that God really answers prayer and sometimes heals us so that we can see how awesome he is as the Great Physician and give him lots of glory.

Secondly, I lost at least a day and a half over all of this. Maybe more. But I'm totally not freaking out right now. I'm having one of the most restful evenings I've had in awhile. By destroying any chance of "keeping up" with my plan, I feel like God was encouraging me to trust in him. I don't need a perfectly kept schedule. I just need trust and perseverance. He'll take care of the rest.

Also, if you're reading this, please do keep praying for my eyes. They're mostly recovered now, but I'd like them to keep moving in that direction, and I'd love to never have to go back to the neuro ophthalmologist again!