That’s Offensive!

There was a very interesting email thread that went around the workplace the other week. It started with a thread about everyday sexism in the workplace.

Now, being in a male-dominated field, you’d think I’d get comments about my gender all the time. I’ve gotten them, but they’ve usually come from outside people in my field. All the ones I remember can, anyway. I’ve dismissed that as ignorance, and that’s been that. I know that there’s no truth to girls being worse at computer science than boys, or that girls who go into science just want to be guys.

It was about everyday sexism. You know, not the big things, like people explicitly saying “But girls just don’t DO computer science!” or “Why don’t you get back to the kitchen? Hurr hurr hurr…” (Like most offices I’ve been to, we have a small kitchen, sans stove or oven. It is kind of relevant…) But the little things, like “the wife test” (How would you explain this to your wife, who we assume knows nothing about computer science because she’s a woman?), or telling an audience of women that bit about how a good report is like a woman’s skirt—long enough to cover the essentials, but short enough to be interesting, or the guy who apparently compared the life cycle of an order to a woman’s reproductive system, and in quite vulgar terms, again, to an audience of women.

I think we can all agree that those are, more or less, things one should not say if one wants to encourage women in the workplace. However, there was a subtle one that raised a lot of controversy. We’re talking a couple hundred fired up emails, here. (Okay, about 25% of it was me and a few others being moderate and asking why we can’t just all get along.) It was about the term “guys”.

It’s hard to say whether American culture at large is making the shift towards gender-neutral language. It certainly has its benefits. Several trans women (male-to-female, just so I’m clear) joined in and said that to use “guys” to address a group of people they are in is a complete undermining of their gender identity. Many cis-gendered women agreed. There was a lot of talk about how language has always been slanted toward the male gender, and a pretty huge debate over if and how the use of “guys” is offensive and exclusive to women.

I can see their point. However, (and I say this no matter whether the woman is cis or trans) it seemed like some of them were looking for a reason to jump down people’s throats and say “That’s offensive and you should never use that word to address anyone ever again!” A few went so far as to say that they correct their colleagues every time because that’s how you change language.

They’re not wrong; that is how you change language. But only if the speaking community wants to change it. I really don’t mind being addressed with “guys” in a group. I use “dude” with some of my closer female friends, and they do with me. These are terms we grew up hearing as more or less genderless, and so they don’t bother us. That, in and of itself, shows a shift in language.

And more than that, it really doesn’t help a cause to harshly police people who many be unaware of it. It’s one thing to have someone purposefully and maliciously ignore your wishes as to how you like to be addressed. It’s quite another when someone addresses you with a word they have been using all their life that has never been presented to them as derogatory or unfavorable. How are they supposed to know that it’s wrong if they’ve never been told that this is so? Furthermore, “wrong” is a bit subjective in this case. (Case in point: some of the trans women felt that they were speaking for all trans women, and even all women. While several cis women jumped on them for that, there was one trans woman who also indicated that she thought wiping out the use of “guys” was going a tad overboard.)

Obviously, if someone says “Hey, I don’t like it when you use that word to address/describe me. Please use _____ instead”, I’d gladly do so. If I got yelled at for using a word that I didn’t know was offensive, however, though I probably wouldn’t use it again, I’d be a lot more defensive about it. It’s a nature thing.

I treat others as I would want to be treated: with respect. However, I don’t want to live in fear of hurting someone all my life because I choose one word and not another. You can’t please everyone all the time; you just can’t. And really, the whole crux of this argument is that people need to speak in order for change to take place. So, I’ll speak. And if people don’t like the way I’m speaking, I’ll change it. Usually.

As for my experience, my team’s been amazing. It’s not that I’m one of “the guys” (although I’ll willingly admit that I am that at times and I thoroughly enjoy it); I’m one of the team. We all afford each other the same respect. Earlier today, one of my male co-workers was telling the only other woman on our team (Yeah, an eighth of our team is female… In some respects it sucks, but since we’re a fairly gender-blind team, it’s honestly hard to remember and get worked up about it.) “Well, you’re the one with the doctorate in computer science. I couldn’t do that!” He wasn’t building her up because she’s a woman; he was building her up because she’s a great developer in her own right, and that has nothing to do with gender. In another incident, a former member of our team (who wasn’t former at the time and was teaching me to take over one of his tasks) joked that three columns of data would overwhelm me. When I (jokingly as well) fired back “Oh, little white girl can’t handle it?!” He actually looked horrified and said no several times, just to make sure he got his point across. (For reference, this was three columns of data out of about 75. As a new hire, that really would have overwhelmed me.)

The company I work for also has a lot of outreach programs for women. We have our society of women engineers, and a lot of workshops dedicated to women. I’ve met a lot of guys who are passionate about having more women developers. (A rather casually dressed, middle-aged British guy who works on my floor pretty much spearheads the movement from the male side of things, and he is adamant that anything he can do, women can do.) There are places where we could use improvement. In fact, there was a lot of debate about some of the company’s core tenets and how they encourage more stereotypically male competitiveness and just going with whoever’s in charge versus how those same tenets actually also encourage collaboration and speaking up when something’s wrong. It was fascinating.

This is another one of those issues for which I don’t have the answer. I have my own answer, as I’ve explained. I’m content to go with it for now. I’m secure in my own femininity, and also in the parts of me that are more masculine. I am who I am, and calling me a dude or a lady isn’t going to change that. Telling me to get back to the kitchen won’t, either, unless you count me turning into the Hulk.

But that’s another story.


Watch In a Weekend #1: Princess Tutu

I know what you’re thinking right now: Oh God, this Princess Tutu thing again. What is she—obsessed?

(To be said with a slightly insane, but affable grin:) In the worst way!

You see, Princess Tutu is your typical magical girl anime: It’s short… ish. (Clocking in at 26 30-minute episodes, it amounts to about 13 hours of watching, unless you skip the intro and outro.) It has transformations. It has a silly schoolgirl in love.

But it’s so, so much more than that. It is actually a very powerful, emotional exploration of not only love, but of the human condition, specifically emotion. It’s an exploration of how feelings surprise us, how they confound us, and how, at the end of the day, they are so much of what makes us human.

That said, it is full of humor and so many freakin’ ballet scenes it is not funny. In fact, it’s pretty beautiful. I have a younger cousin who dances, and watching this show always reminds me of her. (And the physics of ballet do actually stay pretty real, for the most part.)

So, what’s this all about, really?

A duck.

No, I’m not kidding: a duck. She sees a prince dancing (yeah… who’s who and what’s what and why everything is as it is is a bit hard to follow for the first few episodes), and falls in love with him. She wishes to be with him, and that’s where Herr Drosselmeyer (who cranks the insanity of his Nutcracker counterpart up to eleven) comes in: a writer, Drosselmeyer grants Duck (yup, that’s the name she sticks with) a magical pendant that, depending on the circumstances, changes her into a “regular” schoolgirl, or into the heroine Princess Tutu. (The catch: if she loses the pendant, she turns back into a duck.)

She attends school with the prince (Mytho, pronounced mew-toe), the prince’s… paramour, Rue (Also Kraehe, daughter of the Raven who is trapped by Mytho’s sacrificed heart… I did warn you it was complicated! She’s also Princess Tutu’s arch-nemesis.), and the prince’s knight protector, Fakir, who is also a writer. It’s a ballet school, so the only instruction you ever see them getting is ballet, but it’s obvious that they study other subjects, and ballet is kind of central to the plot, so… yeah.

If this all seems incredibly confusing and jumbled, it’s because there’s so much going on. Duck/Tutu is trying to win Mytho’s heart, Rue is trying to keep it, Kraehe is trying to feed it to the Raven, Fakir is trying to protect it… and that’s just the main plot!

Speaking of plot, fate is central to the story, quite literally in a “your book has already been written” way. To say more would give a key point away, so I won’t. But there is at least one powerful line directly concerning this idea: Drosselmeyer’s puppet (Oh, the symbolism/shoutout! Puppets figure quite heavily into the story.) Edel says “May those who accept fate find happiness; those who defy it, glory.” For the first half of the show, the central theme is how integral our feelings are, how they make us into who we are, and it does actually carry through the rest of the show, as well. It’s also a show about being who you are (duh…), and about finding those who love you and will be there for you, even if you’re a (literal) awkward duck.

The other great thing? The Japanese dub is well done, and the English dub is on par with (if not better than in some places, I think) it. It really has an all-star cast.

To introduce you to the series, here are a few music videos, each showing a different aspect of the show:

Creepy: “Hall Om Mig” by Nanne Gronvall

Touching: “You’re Not Alone” by Savage Garden

Deal with the devil: “Devil’s Dancefloor” by Flogging Molly

Chickadoodle’s Dinner for Two… err, the Family #4

So, the boyfriend and I staged a meeting of the parents recently. No, we’re not getting married anytime soon, but people get curious after two and a half years. The boyfriend’s mom had met my parents after a series of unfortunate events last summer (though the meeting was not one of them)—long story short, the boyfriend’s car broke down in a really scary part of town at midnight, so my mom came to rescue us, only to deliver the news that my dad had been in a nasty bike/car (he was on the bike) accident earlier that day and had suffered what turned out to be a type V or VI AC separation. He was otherwise relatively unscathed, and his helmet undoubtedly saved his life (See, kids? Wear a freakin’ helmet!), but he was bruised for months afterward and recovery was not pretty. The boyfriend’s mom picked him up the next morning, and we bribed her to stay and sit a spell with Betty Crocker’s French breakfast muffins. It worked. Nobody can resist French breakfast muffins!

ANYWAY, neither of my boyfriend’s parents had encountered my parents when my parents weren’t a) preoccupied with a husband with an AC separation and b) hopped up (well, just really mellowed out, actually) on painkillers for said AC separation. My parents mostly knew the boyfriend’s parents by reputation. (True story: the boyfriend’s dad was part of a segment on the radio program “Marketplace” about a year ago. My dad, upon hearing the boyfriend’s dad’s name, popped around the corner from making dinner and grinned at me. My mom walked in the door 10 minutes later with a “So guess who I heard on the radio?” Marketplace is kind of a big deal in our house. So sue us.) I’m not entirely sure what the boyfriend’s parents knew of mine other than what I’d told them.

BUT REALLY, I wanted to cook to impress. Having just come across a pretty awesome recipe in our local blood center’s “Give Twice” cookbook (give twice between June and the beginning of October; get a free cook book!), I thought, “you know, this is a really good idea!” The boyfriend, who’d already had the fortune of sampling the dish, rather agreed.

So, I present to you, Chicken Vesuvio à la Chickadoodle.

The original recipe calls for 4 halves of boneless/skinless chicken breasts cut into bitesize pieces. To feed 6 people somewhat heartily, it took about 6. (There was a little left over, but not much, I tell ya!) You also need:

*~2 lb red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bitesize chunks as well.
*3-4 tbsp dried parsley
*1 tsp garlic powder
*3-4 tsp oregano
½ – 1 tsp crushed rosemary
~2 tsp dried basil
a pinch of dried bay leaves
~1 tsp lemon juice
*3-4 tsp table salt
*½ – 2/3 c. olive oil

(*original ingredient, except that the garlic powder was garlic cloves)

In a skillet, brown the chicken. If you are cutting still semi-frozen chicken while browning one batch as I did, a boyfriend is rather helpful in making sure the chicken doesn’t burn, catch fire, or otherwise explode. The original recipe says to toss that and the potato pieces into a bag with the other ingredients to coat them, but I just stuck them in the dish I baked them in and coated them there (making sure to put the coating on top, as opposed to creating it beforehand, which you can do with the bag method).

Cover and bake at 325 F (or maybe a little higher…) for 1 hour, or until potato pieces are soft (read: edible).

Serve with crusty French bread and salad, paired wine optional. (A nice cab sauv will do.) Follow it up later with some two-topping peach crisp, the recipe for which I may or may not post later. The boyfriend and I couldn’t figure out which topping we wanted to use (mine was shortbread-like, his more of a brown sugar-y, oatmeal-y masterpiece), so we halved each of our recipes and had a contest. They both won.

Hell, the whole dinner was a win, both in terms of food and company, and I’m glad of it!

The Social Bus

The half-hour or so on the 70 from work to the apartment after work is my time to decompress; to think about my day, or forget about it, if I have the need.

The bus is usually packed, since I hold roughly normal-people hours. (I prefer getting in and out a little earlier, but there are plenty of people going home at 4:30, believe you me.) A lot of the time, though, I usually wind up heading out around 4:45, just in time for the social 70.

The driver is young—he looks 17, and is 27 (I was audacious enough to ask), and always tells you when the bus is going to start moving, what’s near the stop the bus is approaching, and when he’s going to close the back doors. He’s a chatty young fellow, and very bright, both in terms of disposition and intelligence. Apparently, it’s always been a dream of his to be a bus driver, though he says that’s not all he wants to do with his life; he simply enjoys the interaction that being a bus driver allows.

Almost every time I’m on the bus, without fail, someone (usually middle-aged) will tell him sincerely, “When I grow up, I want to be like you.”

He recognizes a lot of the passengers, especially if they hold conversation with him. He remembered me the second time I hopped on his bus—a week after I’d last been on!

This driver loves his social bus. He says that, for most of his shifts, people just don’t talk. They’re all too busy or tired or engaged with their electronic devices. Granted, there’s only so much talking one can do with people at the back of the bus, but I’ve been drawn in as far back as the middle of the bus. It’s like chatting with old friends, but we hardly know each other. I guess there are some people who just inspire that in others, and I think it’s wonderful.

In other news, I got a corset! Yup, a bona-fide (it’s funny ‘cause it’s steel-boned) corset! It can reduce the waist by up to 5 inches, but I wear it laced very loosely, so it doesn’t take off much at all, especially because I ordered a size up from the recommended sizing. It’s more of a fancy back-brace than anything. (Try bending over in a steel-boned corset. Does. Not. Happen. I can slouch a little, but it’s not comfortable to do.)

It’s fashionable—meant to be worn over clothes rather than under them. I certainly wouldn’t wear it to work or to anything semi-formal or better, but I think it looks nice enough. Judge for yourself: