Hey! You!

If you’re still subscribed to this blog over here on WordPress, you’ll want to change the address to ethecofem.blogspot.com. All content and comments have been moved over to that site, and we’re up and running.

We won’t be updating this one anymore.


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New site

We’re up and running over at the Blogger site. It should be ethecofem.com again soon,
but in the meantime, please update any subscriptions or reader feeds to http://ethecofem.blogspot.com.

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We’re moving

I’m moving ethecofem to Blogger so I can better customize the layout of the blog, and we’ll be using Disqus for comments over there, so sign up if you aren’t already registered! It’s really, really simple and easy. We should be up and running over there in a little while! I’ll have this blog redirect traffic over there, but the new site (for the time being) will be at ethecofem.blogspot.com, until I can get the domain transferred from WordPress to Blogger. If things are slow or kinda wonky over here, that’s why. I’ve also deleted some unpopular, irrelevant, or very old and dumb posts, and you can find all of the rest of ethecofem content, with original comments, at aprilstreich.com, but keep in mind, while the comments all imported over to that site, it’s effectively an inactive site. I don’t want any continuations of ethecofem discussions to happen on their mirror posts at aprilstreich.com, because it’s just too much to pay attention to. Please use ethecofem.blogspot.com’s posts and comment threads to continue any ongoing discussions. I’ll be turning off comments on the WordPress site shortly… probably after I am able to successfully import the remaining ethecofem posts over to the new site.

If you check out the Blogger site, and it looks like poo, don’t be sad. It will look better soon.

Posted in Uncategorized

We don’t need no education

Well, I don’t really believe that. At all. But I am starting to wonder if it is at all necessary to participate in said education in a brick and mortar building. Of course, lots of people before me have pondered and resolved that very question, taken online classes, and gone about their lives. I, however, naysayed online classes for a while, figured they were all a big cop out, probably not challenging, hardly even “real,” etc. I also failed to stay put in any standard brick and mortar school longer than a year at a time after graduating high school.

This year, I’m back in school again, and taking two online classes. As I noted a little while ago, my online classes pretty much consist of forum-based discussions about assigned readings, a few short quizzes, and a couple of essays or projects. Essentially, stuff I’m already doing. It’s only the beginning of the semester, but I’ve noticed some pros and cons to both on-campus and online classes. Online is great for some obvious reasons: I took a quiz yesterday at 9pm in my pajamas, with a glass of wine in my hand. While showing up to an on-campus class with alcohol is certainly not unheard of (in fact, I’d almost call it common), it’s usually quite explicitly grounds for punishment of varying severity, depending on the circumstances.

One definite benefit to being on-campus is doing your learning and working in a place that is both designated for those very things, and is largely free from distractions like Facebook, Nintendo, your Netflix queue, or the rest of the bottle of wine you’ve just corked. I also personally get a lot of benefit out of talented instructors’ lectures.

The arguments in favor of taking online classes over on-campus classes tend to revolve around convenience, in one way or another, but I think we may be missing a vital piece in this dialog. In my current online classes, I am usually, at minimum, at least aware of the general information we’re learning about. American Radicalism, for example, incorporates the history of oppressed and marginalized people in the US since 1492, and the radicalism each of these groups used to gain equal social, economic, and legal power. It’s a fascinating class, and for it I’m reading A People’s History of the United States and The Radical Reader, both very interesting and illuminating for someone who usually finds history to be a challenging subject in which to remain engaged. What I’ve noticed, though, is that I already knew about a lot of the things I’m learning about, and what I’m benefiting from most are two things: someone with authority telling me I need to read something or I will suffer negative consequences; and my instructor is a great lecturer who puts things into perspective in that really great-teacher sort of way. Otherwise, though, what I’m learning isn’t anything that can’t be learned in ways that I’ve already been getting an education: from the internet.

That’s the best and most amazing thing about the internet. If you can afford an internet connection, or have regular access to the internet, you can learn just about anything you want. Even given Wikipedia’s occasional criticisms, or the elitist nature of the blogosphere, one can find a wealth of information if you look hard enough. All you really need these days is one of those obnoxious Facebook friends (cough, sorry friends) who constantly posts links to topical stories, blog posts, talks, and petitions to get you started. And I’m not even talking about reading links people post and agreeing with them; mostly, I think that following links to blogs is vital, because people always have blogrolls, and you can go nuts with all the access to all the information you could possibly ask for to find counterpoints, opposing arguments, new and exciting ideas whose existence you were, until that very moment, unaware of… the list goes on.

I’ve spent a while feeling somewhat inferior for not having a degree, so, every couple years, I attempt to remedy the situation by enrolling in some school or another. Since getting a grownup job and having more responsibilities and all that good stuff that comes with being an adult, I’ve also found that I have less and less patience with what “going back to school” actually means. Right now, it means driving 36 miles round trip and walking what feels like miles in wickedly frozen wind and snow two days a week, acquiring several tickets for expired car tabs, and dealing with the rowdy, inconsiderate, loud masses of people in the common areas. I look at my more academically-inclined friends and family, and I feel a mix of envy and awe. For one thing, they’ve usually been in college since the fall after graduating high school, so they aren’t 27, stuck in community college classes with 19-year-olds who still think the White House is in Washington State, doing assignments on things they already learned on their own in the blogosphere two years ago. Also, they’ve stuck with it. They have managed not only to get their asses out of bed and to a class at the right time, but also to focus their energy on completing assignments, learning material, and engaging in the learning process.

Realizing the redundant nature of my current “official” education is making me feel strongly about democratizing our education. An article in the Washington Times, while a couple years old, remains relevant in its theories:

Abraham Lincoln did not attend a formal law school, yet he practiced law. While I do not advocate going backward and allowing just anyone to put up a shingle, I suggest people might be able to meet certain academic goals and objectives through nontraditional means, at less cost, and be able to prove their level of education without receiving a degree from a traditional institution. It is worth exploring.

Why not allow people to prove their knowledge and experience in a way that does not require money, or access to money, or prestige, or access to prestige? It’s elitist snobbery at its finest, and I am officially opposed to any such thing. In the meantime, practically anyone, practically anywhere, can learn practically anything, by just looking.

Some of my favorite places:

TED.com and PBS’s Forum Network for lectures and talks about new ideas about anything you can think of, from religion, scientific breakthroughs, current events, philosophy, and more;

Netflix, obviously, because there are scores of documentaries from reputable sources about everything;

Bankers Online, which I realize is a little industry-specific for me and my job-related experience, but seriously, it’s an amazingly valuable resource to learn about anything banking-industry related;

GovTrack, which will inform you of everything Congress is up to, summaries and full text of pending legislation, etc.;

Wikipedia! Of course! The place where no one can visit just one page.

Wikileaks, too, if you understand WTF a “cable” is;

Google! Where it all begins!

MIT Open Courseware. I have yet to try this, but I think it’s fantastic, and I hear other schools are climbing aboard this trend. And it raises the question, yet again, of why someone completing MIT courses and possibly coursework can’t get professional recognition for their work just because they aren’t paying anyone.

How Stuff Works, which also has a podcast that I used to love listening to at work, is great. It’s basic-but-interesting information on topics you wouldn’t otherwise have a reason to understand, like How Quicksand Works, among many, countless others.

Of course, if education as we know it now were to become easily accessible to everyone, how instructors and professors earned a living would dramatically change, as well. That is a complex issue in itself, but the idea of democratizing education is a powerful one, and worth really digging into.

What are some valuable educational websites or forums in which you participate? Do you think there is a value to maintaining the prestige of Ivy League schools? How do you feel about easily and affordably allowing people who are largely self-taught to receive academic and/or professional credit for their work?

Do you see any benefits to maintaining the educational system as it exists right now, thereby restricting access to certain people who are unable to meet certain demands, like tuition?

Posted in Economics, Education, Higher education, Links | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments

Women and Wine: A Feminist-Friendly Pairing?

This post is from Most Wine Is Good.

I’ll answer the question first, and expound second.  Yes.  The world of wine is certainly an exemplary account of women breaking barriers and uniting for positive change.  The examples are numerous, and I’ll get to some articles in a second which really flesh the issue out well, but I want to give an unusually informal mini-essay on the matter.

Firstly, I want to impress upon the reader that I am deeply concerned with social justice, and in the pursuit of a meaningless college degree I have had ample opportunity to study and analyze major issues and events which the United States has seen.  Slavery, freedom of religion/speech, capitalism (it wasn’t the only option on the table), sexual equality, temperance, gay rights, etc., etc.  I’ve also had the honor of studying women’s issues under the former National Women’s Studies Association president, Judith Roy.  So the context I’m framing this whole issue from is one of historical struggles and triumphs.  (NERD ALERT: skip this post and read THIS instead… more facts)

With that said, wine was once a gentleman’s club.  Actually, even that generalization is too modern.  Wine was once a disgusting, muddy, tart and somewhat rancid indulgence.  The refinement of which finally saw the courts of kings.  With financial backing from these kings, wine-makers began perfecting methods of producing more pleasurable and elegant wines.  As wine became a full blown commodity, monasteries grew eager (ctrl+F : monks ) to realize some of the profits, and began introducing wine-making as one potential life path for monks.  Since monastic life provided an abundance of time and a devoted workforce, monasteries began informing wine-making methods in general and came to produce some of the most sought after vintages.  Even though monasteries are strictly inhabited by men, this would certainly not be the peak of wine’s patriarchal days.

Skipping ahead, grape vines from all over the world began traveling.  News of the greatness of a particular vine and it’s geo-climate needs would spread and, with money, so would cuttings of the vine.  If successful, these traveling cuttings would yield brave new worlds in terms of blended wines and wines that could cellar longer due to increasing acidity levels and better fermentation practices.  As humankind around the globe began to clash and civilize, wine came to rule supreme (beer makes a comeback in the mid-1700’s).

Colonial forces, primarily British, are somewhat to thank (though in no sense of nobility) for the further cultivation of what were becoming increasingly “fine wines”.  I credit the British colonialists hesitantly as this occurs during a particularly dreadful time for the British in terms of human rights violations and all-out greed.  Their Empire ever-expanding, the British aimed to bring fine wine to any place Her Royal Army should lay base (this generously parallel’s with the history of Tea and black pepper, to name a few).  This promulgation of wine across the British empire was the peak of wine’s patriarchal days.

That we now have a Robinson for antiquity’s Parker is clearer than a windsock indicating the feminist winds that have blown in since the dark days of male dominated wine-making.  In fact, vocal and respected female wine critics are more of a symptom than a condition.  The overall trend in wine today is that of a veritable takeover.  Some of the most important wineries in the world are run and maintained by powerful women.  Over recent decades women have become so influential in the world of wine that marketers now see that they have no choice but to bring on top paid female executives.  Women in today’s wine industry can fill any role they desire with enough hard work (sure, maybe even harder work than men put in, but there’s only anecdotal evidence of this), yet the wave only crests there, the full expanse of the social body of said wave is depicted very well in this article published by Food & Wine.

While it’s true that women have proven to be both effective and innovative in the world of wine-making, evaluating and selling – like all other struggles women are currently engaged in, there is still a distance to travel to flat equality.  The nature of the struggle will likely vary by setting, but in each setting there will undoubtedly be a struggle.  For example, males and females in my local market are equally open to wine suggestions from either male or female retailers (exceptions exist), yet male servers (in restaurants or bars) are seen as having less culinary/wine-pairing authority as their female counterparts (exceptions exist).  Additionally, males tend to act as though price is less of a concern when choosing a wine than females.  Females are typically quick to name a price point and are usually suspicious of bottles costing more than $30, while males respond positively to higher priced wines and hesitate to name their cost-ceiling.

Those last couple of examples are fairly porous, but I trust you can see the point.  How men and women interact varies by setting, and this invariably affects the speed at which social roles change, as well as the impetuses that can cause such changes.  All things considered… make no mistake: women have an upward momentum in wine that is reaching a stronghold, and I think that’s fantastic.  We’ve heard enough from men who declare sentiments such as, “Pinotage is as untenable as child rape (ctrl+F : pinotage)”.

If I’m off on my historical lineage, citation or analysis, by all means email me at mostwineisgood@gmail.com.  I’ll happily give you credit for any corrections I make, and would rather not have a public argument over it.  My take is: if your research is better, let’s go with that!

Posted in Consumerism, Gender, Pop culture | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Girls and their gas stations

When I was 19, I worked as a cashier at SuperAmerica. It was, by far, the most obnoxiously boring job I have ever had in my life. That is, until I got my very first Gas Station Stalker.

You see, if you’re a gas station employee and female, you are guaranteed at least one stalker. The Stalker is someone who comes in to buy his daily 3.2% alcohol 40oz malt liquor and two packs of Marlboro reds, and notices the new cashier– you! He kindly informs you that he finds you pretty (swooooon), and on the spot declares you to be his favorite cashier. You smile and say thanks as you take his smelly, wadded-up singles and give him his change. He leaves.

Cut to the next week. Since your first meeting with your new stalker, he’s managed to memorize the days you work, and which shifts. He now makes sure that he waits until you’re there to buy his smokes and watered-down booze, and stands off to the side while you ring up other people, to ensure that he gets some face time with you. You still naively think it’s a little cute, and maybe he’s kind of gross, but mostly, he seems harmless, so you just deal with it.

Cut to a month later. Dude no longer gives a shit that you don’t want to give him your number, or that you have a boyfriend. He continues trying his best to convince you to go on a date with him and his Marlboros and 40s. You complain about this to your coworkers, who tell you about their own stalkers, who are nearly identical to yours. Next time you see Stalker Man coming up to the store, you announce to your coworkers, “I’m going to hide in the cooler! If he asks, I’m dead.” Your coworker complies. You do the same for her when her stalker comes in an hour later. You notice, resentfully, that your male coworkers lack stalkers.

Sometimes, you’re a girl who doesn’t work at a gas station, but instead, you’re a girl who goes to a gas station on a regular basis. Maybe you’re my sister, who lives half a block away from a gas station and has a reason to go there nearly every day. And maybe the slimy douchebag who seems to be the only one working there won’t leave you the bloody hell alone, to the point where you refuse to go to this gas station unless you know for sure that he is not there. Maybe you ask your sister to go for you.

So. That’s where I come in. I frequently go next door to the gas station to buy my sister a pack of cigarettes, because Slimy Douche has made her that uncomfortable by repeatedly trying to get in her pants (which, had he been successful, would have been the second pair of pants in our town-home complex into which he’s managed to get). This does not fool Slimy Douche, who has memorized my sister’s preferred brands of cigarettes and soda, so he asks where she is. “The Girl,” he calls her. I politely tell him she’s busy, not wanting to make things awkward for her if she were to come in again later when he’s working. He says “aww, that’s too bad.”

This continues on a frequent basis, as me, my mom, and husband trade off buying my sister cigarettes. See, he doesn’t bother me, because I come into the store with my husband on a regular basis, so he knows I’m already someone else’s property not likely to be interested. One night, I go in to buy her smokes. She’s waiting in the car, as we are about to go out. He is finally fed up with this and asks why she won’t come in. Is she scared of him? For the most part, he seems like a decent enough guy, if not utterly fucking clueless, so I figure I’ll try to help him out a little. He seems to feel genuinely bad. I kindly explain that his frequent flirtatious behavior started to make her uncomfortable, so she prefers to avoid him. He kind of laughs, and explains that he wasn’t trying to be serious, he just liked to get a rise out of people. He seems nervous, and keeps rambling. I interrupt him to politely explain that most women tend to get hit on just about everywhere they go, or whistled at, or rudely leered at, so it may be something she’s very tired of dealing with. He doesn’t let me finish, but instead interjects to inform me that he would be thrilled if he got hit on every day by women. Not wanting to go into a Feminist Theory 101 lecture with him about street harassment and how insulting and ridiculous it is to expect women to take all this shit as a fucking compliment, I smile tightly, take my purchases, and say ‘bye.’

Yesterday, I go into the gas station. I changed my hair (got bangs), and he noticed. “You did something… your hair? Is your hair different?” I tell him it is, I just cut bangs. I smile, because I’m always so damn nice to everyone all the time, especially people who don’t deserve it. He is about to say something, but stops himself. He then restarts, and says in a frowny-face voice I hadn’t yet heard from Slimy Douche, “well, I would tell you it looks nice, but I wouldn’t want to offend you.”

Motherfucking son of a…

Posted in Street Harassment | Tagged , , | 41 Comments

Is refusing to date interracially racist?

Nadra Kareem Nittle of Bitch Magazine recalls a friend who is Latina who only wishes to date men who share her ethnic background.

Would my friend’s dating pool expand if she chose not to solely date Latinos? Probably. Is she racist for dating solely Latinos? No. And before I say more, I want to point out that I know Latinos can be of any race. The friend in question is mestiza, however, and she typically dates others who share her combination of Native American and Spanish heritage. So, why isn’t she wrong for making this move? Because wanting to pass on one’s cultural heritage to children isn’t racist, nor is wanting a mate who understands what it’s like to experience the same kind of oppression you have.

I don’t think it’s racist to choose to only be romantically involved with someone of the same race or ethic background… necessarily. Really, it depends on the reason. Clearly, if the woman discussed in the article were going to only date others who shared her ethic background because she doesn’t like white people or black people or anyone else who doesn’t share her ethnic background, that’s racist. But there are a lot of reasons someone might make this conscious choice. For example,

It’s common knowledge that in this society, people of color have the burden of educating others about their culture. They have this burden at school and at work, so some want a reprieve from this in their intimate relationships. They don’t want to spend family functions explaining customs to a mate or translating from one language to another. They also don’t want to have to explain why it’s important for children to partake in certain cultural practices.

Also mentioned is the common belief that if a white person were to make the same decision, they would likely be viewed as racist. Well, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Again, it depends on why the person is deliberately limiting their dating pool to only one race or ethnic background. And the reasons that white people may choose to do this can be very different than the reasons why a person of color might, as described above.

But why would a white person only want to date other white people? Well, first we have to break that apart a little. Is it that those white people only want to date other people with the same color skin, or are they only looking to be with someone who shares a common cultural heritage? I can’t think of a good reason to deliberately decide never to be romantically involved with someone who has a different skin color, if there is chemistry, shared values, and all of the other things people use to decide who to be involved with.

On the other hand, say I am of German heritage, and that cultural heritage is important to me, and I want someone to share that with, who understands the importance I place on my heritage. That wouldn’t be racist, and obviously, there are people of all racial backgrounds in Germany, so if all I was looking for was someone whose ancestors came from the same country, there isn’t a “racial” element to it.

Ultimately, for white people like myself, whose ethnic background is much more varied than simply German (there’s also English, Irish, and Native American, among others), it would be practically impossible for me to find someone whose ethnic background is identical, or even nearly identical, to mine. And this is sort of embarrassing, but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what makes up my (white) husband’s ethnic background. I think he mentioned something about Bohemia once, but, also embarrassingly, I really haven’t the slightest idea of what that means (although I think I’ll go figure that out in a minute). So, obviously, this isn’t something that’s very important to me, personally.

Mostly, I’m willing to bet that most people don’t genuinely care, aside from concerns over potential family drama for dating inter-racially. My half-baked theory is that we just date people we are interested in who we find in our social circles, and in my experience, social circles tend to be pretty homogeneous, depending, at least, on where one lives, works, goes to school, etc. My high school, for example, was pretty diverse, and a lot of people dated inter-racially. It was largely no big deal. Ten years later, most of my friends are white, and dating or married to other white people. I wouldn’t say this is intentional, but just a product of our social circles’ demographics.

What do you think? Is the choice to only date a person who shares a racial or ethnic background with you racist, or not?

Posted in Race | Tagged | 29 Comments