Monday, December 3, 2007

Stop the gender insanity!

Hey, did you know that Sen. Hillary Clinton is a woman? Who cares?

Yes, now we've all seen the Mikolajczak comments, but yet, this topic of gender bias keeps being thrown out there: the boys are piling on Hillary, she's being attacked because of her gender - can we really bypass this hurdle?

You know what, I'm going to look like a chauvanistic asshole by saying this: I don't care. I've never looked at Hillary Clinton as a woman, I've looked at her as a politician (which has far more negative connotations than any gender stereotype). Can any of us really say that we thought that Clinton, if elected, would spend her days gardening and putting on makeup? Come on, this is not only a Senator, Yale alum and ambitious politician, but probably the most influencial first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt - does anyone think she's going to get in the Oval Office and start crying?

If you do, please step forward so you can be chastised for your ignorance.

There are concerns about her ability to negotiate in the middle east, but after seeing the ad naseaum rebuttal of "but look at Bhutto, Albright, Merkel, etc." it would be a farce to assume two X chromosomes are going to lead to the downfall of this nation.

So, with opinion piece after opinion piece rebutting this idea of a gender bias and no real legitimate counter-argument, why the hell do people keep bringing this up? AND WHY DO I KEEP PRINTING IT?

I suppose the latter makes sense - if it is really on people's minds, then we should discuss it. However, one thing did strike me, although it's not that surprising - the Clinton topic saw a real surge in opinion pieces from female students on campus - more than I've seen in a while.

And then Kate Maternowski wrote this piece and got me thinking with this part:

At this newspaper, for example, I am the only female columnist on the opinion staff and, admittedly, had to be coaxed into committing to weekly column inches. Indeed the opinion editors here are open to taking on female writers, so my solo presence indicates that other females on campus might share my reluctance.
It would be difficult to dismiss the possibility that the newspaper statistic and this reluctance stem from a tendency in women to not want to put themselves — their opinions — out in the path of potential critique, dissent or attack.

So, when you have a woman that really puts herself out there, in front of the multitude, women may be encouraged, but are they still so reluctant that they only support her candidacy rather than making some arguments on their own behalf?

Obviously, any discussion of women in this respect is going to be a heinous generalization, so I decide not to go any further. Obviously, people like Ms. Maternowski and Suchita Shah counter this idea of female sheepishness in the opinion arena, but I must say that I'd like to see more women sound off in this paper - and on something other than Hillary.

As Maternowski said:

Why would an all-female panel be any less relevant to an issue not related to women? Or, more generally, why do women feel more safe, more confident, more compelled to write and opine primarily about women’s issues, and why is it often expected that women will do just and only that when they indeed choose to be vocal and opinionated?
An individual’s gender is simply not relevant when discussing many of the major political, economic and social issues affecting modern society, and women have as much a stake in the conversation as do men.

Here here. Now I just wish more women would realize the same thing and come write for us. I mean, after all, women are the majority on campus - for them to be relegated to the position of vocal minority is a shame. We've made some leaps forward, but we can always make more strides.

So let's be clear - I welcome the idea of women finally taking the baton and standing up and voicing their opinions, but defending a politician who, I assure you, has no problems with her gender security is a waste of column inches.

So let's stop it, shall we?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

David Lapidus not running for Dane County Board of Supervisor

Also posted at Muckrakers:

Just announced: David Lapidus has decided to bow out of the Dane Co. Board of Supervisors race.

I apologize for taking a few days to decide. The reason it has taken a lot of thought is that my reasons to run are irrational, abstract, and unquantifiable (yet carry a ton of emotional weight), while my reasons against running are very rational, tangible, and quantifiable. Thus, it has been very hard to weigh things in the proper framework, but I have done so and reached a final decision.
First, my thought processes…

The primary reason to run:

Maybe it is arrogance, but I think I would do a dam good job as a county supervisor. Thus, I feel a duty to run and better serve the community, and something close to guilt if I do not.

The primary reasons not to run:

The burden it will put on people I care about on campus who would support me. Some of them sincerely reassured me it would not be a problem (both of the CDs who had kind words for me in CB’s “seriously considering” post included) so it is not because of them, but because of my concern over negatively affecting others who were more unsure.
The opportunity costs affecting my schoolwork, job, extracurricular activities, and social life next semester.
The opportunity costs of not getting my preferred summer internship (which may not be in Madison) next summer.
The opportunity costs of not serving in the military and getting the job I want immediately upon graduating college (since doing these things will not allow me to stay in the Madison area for one year after college, while serving on the board).
The alternatives to running will still allow me to serve the community, although perhaps to a lesser extent. I will still be active with Vets for Vets and People Opposing Prejudice and I am exploring ways to get more involved at the county or city level of government irrelevant to running or not.
The electability factor… would it be worth all these guaranteed costs to try win something that might not even be possible to win? This factor does not concern me too much having thought out all the possible contingencies, but it was still a major part of my analysis.

While my reason to run is significant and carries a ton of “gut instinct” weight, the reasons against it, after A LOT of thought and self-reflection, are too many. Although I would love to campaign for and be the fifth district’s next county supervisor, the costs outweigh even the tremendous passion I have for the position. Therefore, I will not be a candidate in next spring’s election for the county board.

In light of this fact, I am open to meeting with any potential candidates in the race as a resource on what campaigning to win requires and what knowledge of policy is necessary to understand county issues. Otherwise, if time allows, I intend to pursue at least some of the following campus projects next semester:

-starting a value investing club
-starting a military history/appreciation for veterans club
-working on student veteran’s issues at the campus and state level with Vets for Vets
-getting pluralistic spirituality and student development events setup during welcome week through People Opposing Prejudice
-getting a good public speaker on the Middle East to come speak on campus
-getting a debate organized between the College Democrats and Republicans on federal, state, and local issues
-getting more involved in policy making at the city and county level
-getting an occasional column going on a couple of student blogs or possibly in a student paper

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who offered his or her sincere support for my potential candidacy, despite the great costs and risks of doing so. Putting your ass on the line for someone else you believe in is a quality I will not easily forget, even though it is now for something that just “might have been”… Keep showing such principled character as you venture into the future and you will go places.”


David Lapidus

So the question here: With the two potential favorites, David Lapidus and Suchita Shah completely out of this race, has this just become a free-for-all? If some of the most qualified individuals are bowing out, then what exactly does this race look like? Those “dark horses” might just want to start coming out and making a run for it. Because at this point, it’s a free for all.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Reworking Diversity: Take two.

During The Badger Herald's "Exploring the Issues: Race" week, I wrote an article detailing my experiences as a House Fellow at Sellery Hall and the way in which we were taught to deal with "diversity." While there were a certain number of comments that were both critical and encouraging, two stuck out. First:

First off as someone who has been through the house fellow training (all 2 weeks of it)I can tell you that there is not a "rigorous boot camp of diversity training" In fact I think the diversity training was inadequate in that there is not enough of it. Unless you have been a house fellow yourself I doubt that you would know what exactly training entails thus what you report is merely hearsay.

Perhaps I didn't make it clear, but I was at training. I understand that some of the training is not repeated or is altered, but let's not make assumption that I don't know what I'm talking about. Believe me, if there is some ambivalence, I'll let you know. now, calling it a "rigorous boot camp" might have been a little overstated. It would have better to treat it as an extended interrogation. At least, for a white student, it was. I can see how the minorities involved might have felt it was really cheap considering the compressed nature of such discussion and how it seems like a surface discussion rather than frank dialogue. In this case, good - let's extend it over the whole year, but not compartmentalize different groups or discussion. It needs to be an ongoing evaluation of how those tensions operate on campus and in housing - not a three-day free for all where House Fellows are taught to brace themselves.

The people you talk to in small discussions, groups, presentations they are not all experts, they were not elected to be there, they are merely individuals with personal experience, perhaps training that like yourself would like to create dialog and work to challenge discrimination and prejudice on our campus. And as a white male I doubt that you can fully understand the pressures and inevitable shortcomings of having to represent ones entire race or sexual identity.
You're right, I can't fully understand that pressure. Whether that pressure is put upon minorities by housing or is simply internalized I also can't evaluate. So in this case, I'll mark that as a valid point.

I also think that you are perhaps unaware of how often we have speakers and community leaders come in so perhaps what that is telling me is that we need to do more advertising because the programing, the speakers, they are there.
On Nov 2 we had Student Diplomats of South Korea come to speak, we had Dr. Mae Jemison come to speak, Thomas A. DuBois came to talk about his new book, "The World Beyond Our Borders presents", Civil Rights Legend, Joanne Bland came to speak on Nov 12, we had Cinefest, American Heritage month events, and last week was Transgender awareness week where we also had speakers and trailblazers working to make a difference. Those are just a few of the recent programs, speakers, and community leaders, that you claimed weren't available.

Well, good. I didn't have that experience in Sellery. We tried to get speakers to come discuss these sorts of issues with Sellery Hall, but ended up with Housing employees who made up presentations on such broad topics as "Culture of Fear." Go figure.

Lastly in regards to your assertion that "it hasn't worked" yes, there are still sexual, racial, ethnic slurs written on doors, there are still people who are ignorant, who ask ignorant questions. Sorry for not ending racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, ect. Do you really expect that we can in one or even four years undo more than 18 years of socialization, learned stereotypes, biases, and racist and homophobic attitudes passed down by family and community leaders throughout someone entire life thus far? You set the bar awfully high.
No we are not perfect, we will not end racism or homophobia. Not all of our programs will reach everyone but we are doing what is within our capacity as people, citizens, and students to help to fight these prejudices and if not change minds at least open them.
If I was arguing that Housing should eliminate the -ism's, I'd argue for my own redundancy, as well. I know that's impossible. However, if we are discussing what is within our capacity, the way we try to change our community depends on our approach. In my opinion, treating people as individuals rather than members of factions is a good plan. As it stands, housing guilts white house fellows into realizing what "they" have done to minorities through the passive burden of "white privilege." They tried this on us during training and it was probably one of the most insulting things I have ever sat through. I will agree that being a white male affords me an easier status in society than some minority groups, but to try and shame me for it is only going to push me further from the goals of housing. You have to bring the white majority into the discussion - placing blame may be the worst way to do it.

I appreciate that you wanted to take a hard look at diversity issues on campus and that you yourself have tried to create dialog, that is important. obviously you do care and have good intentions however I feel that you are also misinformed about the role and capacity of UW housing diversity programs and if you have suggestions, comments, programing ideas please let us know.
However, there seems to be a change in the works. The second comment I got via email was from the new director of Diversity programs for housing, Magpie Martinez:

too have had feelings at times of being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things that can and do happen on this campus and in the halls on a daily basis.  I am very unnerved by your comments about not being able to open your mouth and speak your mind.  I am very disheartened that you felt shut down and asked to carry forward a political ideology that you didn’t’ believe in.

I am on a mission this year to END THAT.  I agree that there needs to be diversity of thought and that only through these conversations (1:1 with real people) will things change.  I don’t ever want to hear HF’s tell me that they put on a program that they didn’t believe in.  I want our efforts to be real, and to effect change. 

I met with Ms. Martinez yesterday, and the chat was very encouraging:

-She has talked with campus partners at the Office of Equity and Diversity, who have emphasized their frustration with the Housing diversity initiatives and the way in which they have stifled the opinion of house fellows. Housing employees seem reluctant to embrace change.
-She told me that this isn't the first time she's heard claims like this. She related one story of a house fellow who sat down with her and said that he was afraid of how his political leanings would prevent him from doing his job. "He sat down and told me he was a Republican. I was waiting for some sort of groundbreaking news, but that was it."
-Thankfully, certain programs won't be repeated, such as the awful Halloween program where we lectured students on what costumes they probably shouldn't wear. We got into a huge fight over that one with our residents - could have been a dialogue, instead it was a disaster.
-While she is trying to implement a new approach that treats students as individuals rather than members of separate minority groups, it's likely to meet from some resistance from the rest of Housing. We'll see how well that works.

As it stands, I think Housing could benefit from more specific discussions on issues of racial tension in America or on campus - have roundtable discussions or debates on immigration, Plan 2008, Muslims in America. Housing has to stop leading groups to social justice conclusions when those administrators can't even create a working definition of social justice among them. If we're going to encourage diversity, we need to explain it first.

So, what do you think? What are student's experiences with diversity initiatives on this campus and how should it work?