Sunday, March 4, 2012

Don't Call A Woman A Slut

I'm going to digress for a bit from my usual banter about my life and school to bring you...

Rush Limbaugh

What he actually said:

“What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her?” Limbaugh said on his radio show on Wednesday. “It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.”

What he wants us to think he meant based on his "apology":

"I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone's bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level."

I'm not an English major, but these two statements have very little to do with each other. The first is a sad man's attempt to entertain or be humorous in a way that is crude, misogynistic, and inappropriate. The second statement could be a well articulated social commentary if you ignore the fact that it uses straw man arguments, logical fallacies, inaccurate information, and completely misses the subtle nuances of the debate. Never mind that he clearly has no idea how hormonal contraception works or what else it is used for. Limbaugh would have been better off using that second statement if his goal had, in fact, been to make a social commentary. But that wasn't his goal. His only goal is to maintain listeners who for some reason like to hear his big mouth flapping. And it's sad that in this day and age that sort of things sells. We really are that unsophisticated as a society.

This isn't about being or not being politically correct. This whole thing speaks to a deeper issue about how our collective perception of women is still in the dark ages. What Limbaugh said is appalling, but what might be even more disturbing is that some people actually came to his defense. You can't justify what he said without conceding that it's okay to be verbally abusive. He used this woman. He used her to boost ratings for his show. When you use someone, you dehumanize them. And when you dehumanize someone it makes it that much easier to keep abusing them. I suspect this is why he initially double down on his comments and didn't apologize until he started losing sponsors from his show.

Based on the content of his "apology" Limbaugh is giving the impression that he wants to talk about personal responsibility and accountability. If he wants to be responsible he can start by not promoting misogynistic hate speech. And if he keeps it up, he should be held accountable. Here is a reddit posting with his list of sponsors, you might not want to buy their stuff if they sponsor such trash in the media:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Soul Searching

This is kind of a weird post to be putting up on a blog about getting a PhD. I've actually been second guessing whether or not a PhD would actually be a good idea for me or not. This might seem like it's coming out of nowhere, but this has been nagging at me for a while now. In the past I've jokingly made long lists of all the things I could feasibly do if this doesn't work out. Some of the things on that list are silly, like being a dancer at a club (haha); still, other things I could see myself doing. More importantly, I can see myself being happy and less stressed out doing them.

I can do research. I understand research. I like learning new things and I actually enjoy teaching people quite a bit. I've talked in the past about how I can't imagine myself doing anything other than being a college professor. Lately, though, I've been questioning 1) whether I'll get the satisfaction out of it that I thought I would and 2) if I have the personality to be constantly vying for grants and publications and status. If I'm stressed and worried now, that's not going to change if I graduate. If I become a professor I will be doing that for the rest of my working life. I want to be more laid back than that.

I sometimes think I'd be happier with a regular job where I have time to pursue other interests. Where my entire existence doesn't revolve around one thing. Some of the people I go to school with just seem like they're always "on", always talking about work. I have other interests besides my research and I'm really frustrated that I feel like I have no time for them. And I don't know how to tell people that I don't want to talk shop all the time.

Maybe I want a career where I feel like I'm making a tangible difference? I can sort of relate what I'm doing now to real world problems... but it's so far removed that I'll never be able to pin point a single event or person and say "Yes, I helped!" Other jobs are much more directly in contact with the real world, like doctors, nurses, paramedics etc. Stopping someone from bleeding to death... yeah, that is pretty direct. I'm not even sure at this point that I want to be an academic. Maybe a government or industry job would be more fitting for me, but there aren't too many jobs like that for paleontologists. I just know that right now I feel like I don't want to be at a research university forever.

I have two degrees, I've been in school for almost 9 years, not counting the one I took off. I hated what I was doing during that year off, it was a crappy job. But a lot has changed since then and I have more experience doing other things. Surely I could find something that makes me happier than what I was doing then? Maybe I need to do something completely different. I know plenty of people who went to college for one thing and then ended up doing something else that was unrelated.

I'm not making any decisions right now, but I am re-evaluating what I'm doing with my life. I'm going to stick it out for the rest of the semester, think about my options, and then just take it as it comes. My philosophy going in to graduate school was that if it doesn't work out it isn't the end of the world. And I don't want to waste my time being unhappy. I believe there are very few instances where we can't change our trajectory. I'm freaking out now and feeling really badly about all this, but I have to keep this all in perspective.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Duck Sex

For those who don't know, mallards are pretty aggressive this time of the year. They're kind of mean jerks most of the time, but late winter/early spring they are particularly bad. The reason for this increase in obnoxiousness is, obviously, because it's time for the ducks to start pairing up and mating.

I've been attending college for the better part of a decade. All of those campuses I've been at have duck ponds, with a ton of mallards, yet somehow I've never seen "the deed" being done. I'm not a wildlife voyeur mind you, but as someone who is interested in nature and spends a lot of time outside I just think it's kind of weird this has never happened. All that changed yesterday.

I went out for tea yesterday morning and wandered down to the bridge at the duck pond. I was pondering the mysteries of life enjoying my London Fog, and as I was standing there my friend Lee walked by and we chatted for a bit about ducks and Pleistocene fauna. As we were standing there I noticed something weird; I thought I had been observing two ducks, but for some reason I now only saw one duck sort of struggling in the water. It turns out that there WERE two ducks, but one was under water, beneath the other duck. It was a strange moment, one where it probably took me longer to figure out what was going on than it should have. Awkward.

The whole incident probably took all of 5 seconds, so the female wasn't in any real danger of drowning. But the most ridiculous part came at the end, when the male bit the female in the head and then did a victory lap around her.

I told you mallards were jerks.