Neither steel nor iron, but flesh and blood

As humans, our beautiful bodies are made up of 70% water. Prick us, and we bleed plasma and cells. And although a few of people hardly get sick (note: this is not me, but I’ve heard of you magical unicorns before), no one body is indestructible. We all need a break from time to time.

I say this to remind everyone: Black women’s bodies are not unbreakable.

Three weeks ago in North Carolina, a Black girl, a middle schooler, was caught fighting. Or she was caught trying to break up the fights. There are different accounts. What I do know, what we all know, after seeing footage, is that a school officer came over, lifted her off the table, and slammed her to the ground. That is not an exaggeration. He slammed her like she was a rag doll, an item in the war against middle school fights. She later suffered a concussion.

It’s been 24 whole days, but I haven’t been able to put that image out of my head. It plays in my brain–this grown man, slamming a child to the ground. It reminds me of the Black women who, a few years ago, was thrown to the floor from her desk by a cop. And it disgusts me to my core. Even if this girl was the most frustrating shit-talker, even if she was leading the modern-day French revolution at her middle school..for what? That man has a good 75 pounds on her at least. Picking her up alone was not okay, but he could have done only that. Why did he feel the need to slam her?

Unfortunately, this isn’t new, and we know this will continue not to be new.

We live in a world where our bodies are disposable, casual objects. When we face police brutality, we may not only be murdered, but others will forget to say our names. If we don’t die, we are chased at pool parties and sat on. If we are sexually assaulted or harassed, we are mere Jezebels, our bodies “asking for it,” especially if the perpetrators are White men. God forbid if the perpetrators are White men. We are kicked in grocery stores, ignored when we need help in public places but shoved when we are “a nuisance.” Our hairs are chia pets, yankable in the eyes of non-Black folk. We are spat on or spat near for wearing a hijab or a dashiki or for speaking our languages. We are grabbed and pushed and pulled up–and this starts in elementary school. Hands are laid on us, and not just in church. And if a woman is Black and trans, we know violence is more likely to happen- 17 reported times in 2016, to be exact.

Often, and always, the breaking moves past our physical bodies: We will speak up against injustice, online or in person, either in the most blunt or passive way, and people will find a way to invalidate our experiences, or call us “irrational” or explain “what is or isn’t a big deal” (in fact, if someone does this with this article, congratulations: you are the annoying prophecy I predicted). We will be told we are untrained, or thieves, or dumb, even if we’re actually doctors (no, really, yes, we are). Or just trying to shop peacefully in Victoria’s Secret. Or demanding to be seen for our brilliance. We will be told we can walk home alone because “Black women are un-rapeable,” we will be called everything but n****r in college (and I do mean everything), our names will be stripped away from its native tongue and butchered and we’ll be told our beautiful string of consonants and vowels are “hard to pronounce” or “too ghetto.” 

And yes, to anyone ready to question–some of this, from the physical threats to the emotional dismissal–includes me. Although I am “soft,” I, by virtue of being Black and being woman, I know what it’s like to be seen and treated as “unbreakable.”

At times, we may be loud, angry, tired, sleepy, strong, sassy, and/or upset, but that doesn’t give others licence to treat our bodies like trash. These are, in fact, human emotions and traits that everyone possesses, demonized in us because it is easy to demonize Black folks and it is easy to demonize women, so naturally, “the most disrespected person in America is the Black woman.”

We have got to do better. I think about the work I need to do, from making it a point to #SayHerName (and be active on Kimberle Crenshaw’s #SayHerName site), to constantly working against my cissexism and remembering trans and non-binary Black women in the fight for honoring our bodies. But I, and other Black women, are not the only ones who have to roll up their sleeves. Beyond recognizing this country is built on the backs of Black women, non-Black folks and Black men need to do the work with us, and give us space to tell our stories. And damn, we need justice for Black girls in schools, girls who are not only seen as problems but are manhandled instead of the humans they are.

But could we all vote, though?

Women’s Equality Day is creep creep creeping around the corner, a date I almost forgot until I saw a post on a Facebook page. According to the National Women’s History Project, August 26 is “the date was selected to commemorate the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote.”

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That’s cute. First, of all, the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18th, so I don’t know where this new date comes into play. But besides that, I want to make something very clear:

  1. Women’s Equality does NOT celebrate the right for all women to vote. Let’s get this right. The minute the 19th Amendment was passed might have”legally” been for all women, but it was truly not the same minute, day, year, or decade all women of color could vote in this country. Thanks to some awesome disenfranchisement methods, it is only when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed that more people in our country could vote. Check out this handy dandy U.S. Voting Rights Timeline if you don’t believe me.
  2. Additionally, the suffragettes of lore were hella racist. As in, they were proud White supremacists. Proud White supremacists that forced Black women to march in the back. But of course, depending on where you go to school, educators won’t bring this up when you a baby glimpse of it in Iron Jawed Angels (it’s almost like the U.S. school system is run by White supremacy and privilege or something).

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I say this because I’m sure, like last year, Facebook is going to create a cutesy graphic with women of all races celebrating August 26, without acknowledging that only White women could vote when the 19th Amendment passed. And without fail, some White feminists will add some sort of pro-Women’s Equality Day post, and then get mad when someone calls it out. I can already see the “why are you dividing the movement?” comments, and it makes my blood boil. Girl, I’m not dividing the feminist movement; your refusal to name the exclusivity of the 19th Amendment and voter laws is doing the job!

I also say this because this is yet another blatant reminder of how WhiteFeminism™ refuses to acknowledge any intersectionality in the feminist movement, and SAYS THAT WE’RE THE ONES CAUSING TROUBLE when we critique the “equality for some” notion of feminism. And then refuses to stand up for anyone who, well, isn’t a White woman. For example, I think about the misogynistic hate crimes Leslie Jones is receiving, as her White co-stars sit in radio silence, with nary a mention of solidarity. I’m not saying the ones most responsible are not the racist fuckboys who are sending her hateful tweets and hacking her website (because White masculinity is so fragile, they  can’t handle a reboot of Ghostbusters. It is amazing how quickly racism and sexism comes into play when men feel their “nerd space” is “threatened.”) But I’m also asking… Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon. You self-proclaimed feminists. Where you at?

#sorrynotsorry if you think I’m being hateful. I think it’s hateful when one doesn’t want to admit to the whitewashing of history. And just know that if you can’t stand for all women (women of color, poor women, undocumented women, queer women, trans women, women with disabilities, womyn/womxn, women who fit all and any of these identities and more), and then get mad when we point out the inequalities in your feminist movement, you didn’t really want equity, did you? In a marginalized group, you just wanted to be on top. You just wanted things to be equal for those that look like you.


Shout-out to those who still cannot vote, such as undocumented individuals, those who are convicted of a felony, individuals in U.S. territories, those who do not have access to polling stations, those suppressed by voter ID laws, and more. In the spirit of what I just wrote, if I am forgetting a group please let me know. Also, shout-out to the baddest b, Ida B. Wells, who refused to march in the back during the 1913 suffrage parade and instead slipped into the Illinois delegation after the parade started. For the person who wrote the Wikipedia page for Iron Jawed Angels: I hope you meant the way Wells and Paul had the conversation during the 1913 march is fictionally portrayed in the movie, and not that Ida B. Wells marching into the Illinois delegation is fictional. If you meant the latter, know that Ida B. Wells is giving you side-eye from the grave, and is better than you.

White Thug Lochte, Super-Human Gabby Douglas, and the Dominant Narrative at the Rio Olympics

For this blog post, we had the amazing Bianca “Call me Beyonce” Bellot write her thoughts. Bianca, who was a member of our SAHE cohort, is one of the wokest people we know, and we’re so excited for you all to read her piece! 

The Olympic Games in Rio were packed with both sexism and racism. As a queer woman of color, I felt both excited to watch the games unfold, and I had a shield up for good reason. I sat with my computer, angered as I read the initial coverage on white thug Lochte’s fake robbery. I grew angrier when the media laughed at his criminal activity and overt lies. And I really lost it when 20 year old, three-time Olympic gold medalist, Gabby Douglas, was made to apologize for not smiling enough.

I am tired of entitled straight white men stealing the spotlight in sports. I am also tired of women of color being held to different standards and expectations in U.S. society, and in the Olympic arena. So to give credit where it is due, Gabby Douglas is an incredible super-human gymnast. She is unapologetically beautiful. She is unapologetically strong. She has been on the U.S.A national gymnastics team since she was 13, has three Olympic gold medals, three world championship medals, and several national medals. I am tired of journalists critiquing her African American hair and make-up and distracting the larger audience from her accomplishments. I am tired of the requests for her to apologize.

For those who are not bothered, you are not paying attention. Let me be real, white privilege is when a white male enters a foreign country, kicks down a bathroom door in a gas station, pisses all over the place, breaks the soap dispenser, gets into a belligerent fight with a security officer, attempts to leave without paying for the damage, and creates a detailed story about being robbed at gunpoint. An Olympic spokesperson (Mario Andrada) referred to Lochte as a kid who made a mistake. No.  Lochte is a grown 32 year old man. If Gabby needs to smile more, Lochte has a lot of work to do.

Lochte will not be held accountable. He is busy tweeting about what color he should dye his hair next. In his less than weak apology, he did not apologize for his actions. Lochte referenced his experience as “traumatic” and said he was sorry for taking attention from other athletes. I am not okay with his criminal behaviors, sappy story, and all the privilege that will afford him to go on and live a luscious life.

Racism is when Gabby Douglas did not put her hand over her heart during the national anthem and is ridiculed, bullied, and put to shame in casual conversations and in the wide-spread media. She needed to publicly apologize for being perceived as jealous of her teammates. Her apology may have saved her fame as some viewers felt she owed it to her country. White privilege is when two white male Olympic shot-putters (Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovaks) also did not put their hands over their hearts during the national anthem, and no one batted an eyelash. No one noticed. People were waiting for Gabby to make a mistake and they found an unreasonable opportunity to put her down instead of celebrating her successes. This is not a person of color’s issue. This is not a woman’s issue. This is everyone’s issue.

While I struggle to understand ways we can dismantle a long standing history of racism and sexism in this country, I believe we need to stop being complacent. I do not want to hear another excuse for a white man acting thoughtless or criminal, unless that is a set standard for all. I will not laugh at Lochte’s “childish” behaviors. I cannot stand watching people of color be torn apart as we inch towards success, while the stories of white individuals are consistently celebrated. This is everyone’s issue.

Bike locks, hate crimes, and the casualness toward Black bodies

I came across a Washington Post article titled “No hate crime convictions for white San Jose State students who clamped black roommate in bike lock.” If you think I almost flipped over a table before I finished reading, you’d be correct. It’s been a while back, but I’m still in a table-flipping mood. I have two separate thoughts, and the other piece is here: BIKE LOCKS, HATE CRIMES… AND DATING? 

During Fall 2013, Donald Williams Jr, a Black, then-freshman student at San Jose State University, was heavily harassed by his White roommates. And when I say “heavily harassed,” I mean they did things like put his neck in a bike lock. Among other things. Yes. Among other racist things. Including, but not limited to:

  • Williams’ roommate calling him “three-fifths;”
  • Williams’ roommates hanging a Confederate flag in his room;
  • Williams’ roommates mocking him in a letter that was signed “the Beloved Revered Doctor Martin Luther King.”

Recently, the Santa Clara County Jury found the roommates guilty of a misdemeanor, but decided not to find them guilty on a hate crime charge. Because, of course, these nice young men’s actions have nothing to do with race! They’re just friendly pranks!

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People often want to talk about how we’re in a post-racial America, or how “Black privilege” is a thing now. I honestly don’t understand how they can make these arguments when White supremacy is alive and well. And this is White supremacy at its finest. How in the world did three college students think it was okay to chain their Black roommate up in a bike lock, that they could tease him in such a racist and hurtful way, that they could touch him in such a way? Because White supremacy. Because these men, in their privileged mind, thought they could do these things, and laugh it off as a joke. Because they weren’t thinking of Williams’ feelings, or agency, or right to live in his residence hall in peace, because why would they consider those things? Privilege is being able to not think about those things, and not see the historical connection between putting a Black man’s head in a bike lock and chaining Black men together during slavery.

Reading that their lawyers call their hate crimes a “prank war” made me furious, but not surprised. Processing that the jury did not declare their actions a hate crime made me cry.

Misdemeanor battery is obviously nothing to scoff at. The three men who received these charge were already expelled, and will serve 30 days in jail, be on two-years probation, do community service, take a cultural competency course, and pay restitution (this linked article also talks about student protests over the decision and their campus climate, which is awesome). However, it’s important to recognize the jury gave this sentence because of “offensive touching,” a legal term that, while certainly true in this case, does not speak to the fact that the offenses are clearly also a hate crime. It’s also important to recognize the jury acquitted one of the three men.

I would like to take this time to point out that if a group of Black college students put a white man’s head in a lock, all hell would break loose. Not only would this story reach all corners of the United States faster, but all parties involved would probably face more than a month of jail time. Think pieces around reverse racism would skyrocket. The men would be seen as hard criminals, not “dumb prank[sters].”

Which brings me to the point of the casualness toward Black bodies, the treatment of Black individuals as less than human. Putting Williams’ head in a bike lock served a message: Black bodies do not need to be respected, don’t need to be treated with dignity. The use of the Confederate flag, even after Williams expressed issue with it, served a message: Black bodies do not need to be made comfortable. And the jury refusing to charge the three White roommates served a message:  it’s not a hate crime when hate crimes are committed. William’ story and word does not matter. White feelings trump Black bodies.

This casualness is what fuels police brutality against Black people. It’s what allows society to look at Black women as “strong” and “unbreakable” as an excuse to ignore accounts of violence and assault.  It’s what leads to racial disparity among the prison population. It’s what makes me nervous for my brothers’ experiences in college: Will they feel like they belong? Will someone make them feel less than human? Will they be okay?

It’s what allowed three White men to chain a Black man into a bike lock. Among other racist things. And officially, it was still not considered a hate crime.

Bike locks, hate crimes…and dating?

I came across a Washington Post article  titled “No hate crime convictions for white San Jose State students who clamped black roommate in bike lock.” If you think I almost flipped over a table before I finished reading, you’d be correct. It’s been a while since I read the article, but I am still boiling mad, so here you go. Also, I had two separate thoughts, and the other piece is here:  Bike locks, hate crimes, and the casualness towards black bodies.

During Fall 2013, Donald Williams Jr, a Black then-freshman student at San Jose State University, was heavily harassed by his White roommates.And when I say “heavily harassed,” I mean they did things like put his neck in a bike lock. Among other things. Yes. Among other racist things. A few weeks ago, the Santa Clara County Jury found the roommates guilty of a misdemeanor, but not a hate crime. Because, of course, these nice young men’s actions have nothing to do with race! They’re just friendly pranks!

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One of the arguments in the case? One of the roommates, Colin Warren couldn’t be racist, because he was “dating an African American woman and did not want his relationship to end.” Yes, this was an actual sentence in the article, an actual ARGUMENT in the case. Although you, Warren, called your roommate multiple racial slurs and put him in a LOCK, you’re obviously immune to racism because you have a Black girlfriend. Go ahead, Warren! Assume you’re not guilty.

Dear White suitors near and far (and, I guess, attorneys of White suitors): We, your significant others and/or dates of color, are not your free pass to perpetuate your ignorance. Please don’t use us as mere pawns to defend your racism, as excuses to say ridiculous things and be extremely offensive. Just stop.

Dating us will never make it okay to say racist slurs. Being with us does not mean you’ve evolved, that you’ve done all the self work, that you’re now the perfect allies to all people of color. And for God’s sake, being our partners does not mean you’re “basically ____” or “pretty much ____” or “____er than us!” Sleeping with us doesn’t grant you an understanding into our struggles, just as me sleeping with a neurosurgeon does not make me qualified to operate on brains. Your privilege does not disappear. Please own this.

We are not your free pass to perpetuate your ignorance. We are not badges you can wear, not a get-out-of-jail card so people can ignore your prejudice. You cannot do something, such as, I don’t know, LOCK YOUR BLACK ROOMMATE IN A U-LOCK or WRITE THE N-WORD ON HIS WHITEBOARD, and expect not to be held responsible for your hate crimes because you happen to take us out to dinner. No, no no.

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Honestly, the argument Warren’s attorney presented in court is baffling (and upsetting, and just plain dumb), but I’m honestly not surprised the attorney tried to use this. Claiming Warren couldn’t be racist because he had a Black girlfriend has the similar distinct melody of  “I’m not racist, I have Black friends, ” or “How can I be racist when my second-cousin’s best friend’s Asian ex-boyfriend is great and we’ve talked three times and I’m planning on inviting him to my book group I’M A GOOD PERSON.” As if being kind to one person or knowing one person makes you immune to racism towards anyone else. Not only does this make sense, but it also tokenizes your boo/friend/squash partner of color. You’re saying that they are some kind of trump card to distance yourself from the word “racist” without examining the impact of your actions.

But we’re not trump cards. We are human.

We are not your free pass to perpetuate your ignorance.

For an on-point article with a similar topic, please read “F*cking a Black Person Does Not Mean You Fight For Black Lives.” As the title suggests, no. No it does not.

Ayesha Curry, and the business of false equations

(Photo Credit: Instagram/ayeshacurry/)

So. Ayesha Curry took to the streets of Twitter to let everyone know her views on life, liberty, and pursuit of covering up yourself for your man.

I don’t know why Ayesha had to tear others down when talking about fashion trends and modesty, but she did, and here we are.

 

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Ayesha’s comment suggests women need to wear their clothes a certain way in order to please their man (“the one that matters” in her tweet alludes to her husband Stephen Curry). Obviously there’s nothing wrong to dress up for a significant other, but we shouldn’t ignore the million other potential reasons people adopt a certain style. Creativity and personal expression. Dressing for self confidence. Quickly finding an article of clothing because it’s frowned upon to go to WalMart naked.  And speaking of heteronormativity, sometimes women dress up to impress other women, either flirtatiously or professionally or just because they know their friend will get jealous of their bedazzled tiger sweatshirt. Some people don’t want to dress up to sexually arouse anyone. The list of possible combinations of why we dress modestly or minimally can go on. And, to be honest, I’m sure Ayesha knows this, but her string of tweets don’t do her justice.

I think what bothers me the most, though, is the respectability politics at play here. Ayesha’s assumed formula is dress modest = get respect. Unfortunately, this equation doesn’t always work out, especially for woman of color. The truth of the matter is, when you take in any clothes women wear + a good dose of sexism + other isms that relate here= lack of respect. We see religious discrimination come into play when women, covered up by wearing a hijab, face Islamophobia in the work place and assault in the streets.  We’ve heard that tired phrase a “woman is asking for it,” regardless of what she’s wearing, a phrase that has yet to die out when we talk about rape. Dressing modestly or not wouldn’t have saved the 13 women from Daniel Holtzclaw, or Kiesha Jenkins (spoiler alert: men not raping or murdering trans and cis women of color would have protected them). And: catcalling, catcalling, catcalling.

Covering up doesn’t magically save us, or make us better people. In this world, misogynoir and misogyny makes it very clear what our place in society “should be,” whether we’re dressed up in sweatpants or a miniskirt. In an ideal world, women wouldn’t be attacked in any form or fashion. Because clothes, or lack of clothes, shouldn’t assure our safety; the fact that we’re human beings should. However, we live in a world that attacks women, regardless of what they’re wearing. And then, on top of that, has the audacity to tell us that dress modest = get respect is a real rule, even though we’ve seen otherwise.

We even saw it today, through the Tweets that came after in support of her statement. Many people felt comfortable not only defending her, but attacking women who disagree with them as “hoes.” One article even wrote that “while plenty of people agreed with Curry’s sentiments, there are those that felt she was shaming people (THOTs, maybe? No disrespect.) and are actually offended.” Thank  you, HipHop Wired, for letting us know that those of us who fight for the right to be respected, regardless of what we wear, are only to be dismissed as hoes. It doesn’t matter that a) you don’t know who we are or what we wear, or b) wearing booty shorts, heels, crop tops, or any other pieces of clothing you may deem “offensive” doesn’t define who we are or make us any less of a human. Nope.

@Nettaaaaaaaa is 100% right. The misogynoir was strong today.

I refuse to add anymore, because even simply posting them here fills me with the hot burning rage of a Colorado forest fire, but this article does a pretty good job collecting some of the tweets, and HipHop Wired’s article has more of the so-called “hilarious” responses. 

Ayesha’s three or four series of Tweets might seem like a small thing, a way to state her clothing preference. And I respect that modesty is her thing, and I respect that she likes to cover it up for everyone but her husband. To police the way she wears her clothes is also not a solution.

However. These tweets brought up the fact that people love to come out of the woodwork and attack who they think are barely dressed. And this isn’t a problem that’s the sole fault of Ayesha. Her tweets and general attitude are merely vessels, solid representation of society’s views on women they perceive to be “hoes” and “thots.” Honestly, the scariest part of this whole ordeal is that Ayesha’s thoughts are not isolated. Today, and always, we have seen that people of all genders (because yes, women can perpetuate misogynoir and misogyny as well) feel comfortable disrespecting women who don’t cover up. We have seen respectably politics come into play, and have been told if we don’t buy into the “dress modest = get respect” equation, we’re just jealous hoes with no future. We have seen the “Ginger v. Mary Ann” debate (or more accurately, the Amber Rose v. Ayesha debate). It doesn’t matter that both women are good at what they do in their own right. Apparently Amber Rose= doesn’t wear enough clothes= a bird who shouldn’t get the time of day. P.S., what does “enough clothes” mean? Were is this invisible line drawn? And who gets to decide that line? Of course. MEN DO.

To close off, I want to post a tweet from Ayesha Curry, just hours after her original string of tweets. I don’t know if someone had a coming-to-Jesus talk with her, or if she doesn’t care that this tweet contradicts the previous ones, or if this whole response was a secret way to troll us all and collect responses for her dissertation on slut shaming and the role of clothes in society’s judgement of women (PLEASE GOD LET THIS LAST THEORY BE REAL). I’m still mad at her actions. But whatever is happening, this isolated comment, on it’s own, is good advice:

Things that bring me joy: Gender Equity Book Group

One of the great things about where I work is that they take quality in-house professional development seriously. Case in point: in early October, Human Resources emailed everyone about starting a “book group that focused on gender equity and higher education.” The book in question? Disrupting the Culture of Silence: Confronting Gender Inequality and Making Change in Higher Education.

Um. YES YES YESSSSSSSS.

Me and bae, TOGETHER AT LAST

Me and bae, TOGETHER AT LAST

Believe me when I say I signed up for this so fast. To be placed into one of the five groups, the main organizer asked for an explanation on why we’re interested and how it would benefit us. I think she was looking for a blurb, but I busted out an essay about working in a male-dominated field and wanting to examine what gender equity looks like when you add in racial identity. I would have done tap dances and back flips (read: probably not, as I am as nimble as uncooked pasta) to get into that Book Group, because it has two of my favorite things: discussions about gender with other people, and reading. My inner nerd was all about this.

After I got in, I started to read the book and look at the book and hug the book. Because HOLY BATMAN, Disrupting the Culture of Silence is awesome. By no means does it tell the story of every identity within a gender lens (at least, I think. I am on page 65), but there is some variety. The selections on being a women of color in academia and student affairs are vast and plentiful. Do you want to talk about work-family politics, or queer facility experiences? Done. And there are CASE STUDIES, YA’LL.  Case. Studies. Case studies are personal narratives with a learning-centrist twist. I. Love them. Emmergawd. May my workload never keep me too busy to thoroughly read and process this book, please please please.

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And I am so glad the university created this Book Group, because it is absolutely needed. My work community is great, but no school can escape the realities of gender inequality in higher education, and we need to talk about it. As you look up in the student affairs ladder, the number of women in leadership positions get smaller and smaller. According to 2014 data, only 26% of college and university presidents are women, which is interesting when you consider that 57% of college students are women. Female Chief Student Affairs Officers are less likely to aspire to university presidency than their male counterparts. And this is just looking at data that’s exclusive to VPSAs and presidents, not to even talk about the personal anecdotes I’ve heard from trusted mentors, or some of the (to be honest, horrific) experiences told by members of my book group last week.

I have been very lucky to work in environments that, for the most part, get it. And sometimes, people don’t get it. And I need this space because I want to both make sure I don’t perpetuate inequality through my actions, and because I want to fight for gender equality in higher education. What does that work look like when I have limited control over institutional oppression? Some days I don’t know, so I’m glad that for now, I have this Book Group, this space, to help me figure it out. Because I personally need a space to talk about gender inequality in student affairs as well.  Continue reading