12 July 2008

Wrapping up the week

I'm feeling a hole now that my house guest is gone. I really do like having people around, even though I ultimately like living alone. Those who know me will remember a certain incident a few years back that make roommates a slight phobia of mine. However, maybe it's time to reconsider it.

Tip of the day: You should call your bank for a chat. You never know when they'll offer you enough money to refinance your debt in such a way that saves you more money than you could possibly spend. Or maybe they'll try to beat the living crap out of you, but that fact is that they want your money more than anyone (no matter which bank you're with) so I highly recommend trying to strike a bargain.

In other news:

Hey! I like debating! I'd forgotten that fact for a long time. It turns out that I just prefer the style that uses real world examples of concepts and theories as opposed to lateral theorism that can't be applied to anything that ever has or ever could happen(ed). It's funny how that kind of debate can lead you to believe that you're stupid and should just concede so you can curl up to lick your wounds.

Along with this particular revelation, I realized that people who use their intellect to beat others down are generally cowards. They fear looking like idiots, which is ironic because they certainly come across as idiots. Or assholes. And not to beat a dead horse, they are rarely convincing and tend to just make other people either not want to talk to them or just fear (interaction with) them. In short, they are bullies. They think, "So-and-so doesn't like me because I'm so smart" or "I hate people because they're all so stupid and can't keep up with me." In reality they are alienating people to fit a perception, usually one of self-loathing. Then, when they do find someone to connect with, they turn to sarcasm and a mix of self-aggrandizing (mocking others) and self-deprecation (mocking self) as comedy to cement that friendship.

Lest anyone think I'm picking on anyone in particular, I'll be candid. I am not targeting commenter "Buddy", whose anonymous comment of sarcasm and derision sparked some anger. Admittedly, it's easy to draw a link to what I'm saying and what he posted. However, I'm speaking about a deeper revelation I had this week and sorting through the feelings attached.

Over the past couple of years, I'd come to believe that I hated debating because I was "no good at it." I honestly and sincerely believed that I was too stupid to keep up in an intellectual debate. And while I should probably have a chat with my self-esteem for giving up so easily, I came to see how that is directly related to the people I was debating and their methods. I won't equivocate; I honestly believe that I was bullied to a point that I became afraid to express my views because, those times that I did usually ended with circular arguments that wore me down, insulted my intelligence, and generally left me a tearful pile of shame. Unfortunately (fortunately?), my independent (stubborn) streak is too well-developed to have let me avoid the confrontation altogether. Plus, my beaten-down intellect was constantly looking for recognition that it wasn't as stultified as it was being led to believe.

But since I decided to take this blog in a new direction, let me link this to a larger phenomenon: Women aren't valued for their intellect.

Women are not widely seen as stars of academia, and in fact their contributions have traditionally been overlooked or outright dismissed. There are many blogs about women and their juggling of academia with motherhood. One of my own undergrad professors did her PhD while raising children. It's not easy. This is a world that was not constructed with women in mind, certainly not women of young children. So, it's easy to say that women can't hack it and dismiss the amazing and enlightening things they have to say. Even while observing women go home to cook for their families and men going home to eat their prepared meals.

Yes, that's a simplistic stereotype. But I'm using it to illustrate how traditional gender roles get in the way of females fully participating in academia. A relative-in-law (aunt's niece) told me about how she was reconsidering doing her MEd because of having to look after two small girls, yet she didn't see that her husband had a similar problem. She counselled me to get mine done before I start a family or otherwise I'd have no time.

This is not a full-out man-bash. There are lots of great men who are dedicated, focused parents. But that's usually seen as a product of his ultra-sensitivity, not an archaic idea that he "has to" effectively parent on top of his studies.

That's the kind of attitude that leads a lot of people to believe that women don't have ideas of value to the same extent than men do. I don't necessarily think that my experience speaks to that (in fact, I'd say it has more to do with the individual's own insecurities and neuroses). I just find it hard to accept the portrayal of women with strong opinions or ideas as butch, or that their ideas are less worthy if they don't have the looks to go along with it. Meanwhile, Bill Gates is hardly a stud, yet he's revered as a highly intelligent person who has changed society.

What do we have to do to erase the double standard? How can we change society to make ideas valuable, regardless of their source?

Related stories or comments welcome.

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