Liz’s Hot Takes: International Women’s Day 2018

It might be International Women’s Day today, but don’t wish me a happy one. I won’t be happy until we don’t need a day to recognize women because we should be doing it every damn day. Last week’s rant burned through most of I’d planned on blogging about today, but here are a few additional bullet points I missed.

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This blog is a bit of an escape for me and my posts lately are a reflection of that. We might still be living in the Darkest Timeline, but I’m not really writing about it anymore. Quidditch is an escape. Appearances are an escape. But if this week has a theme, it’s that shit’s gonna get real for a few posts.

I wish I could say that my Year in Review series is ending on a high note, but (spoiler alert!) the ups and downs of my professional life aren’t exactly the most uplifting or inspiring content. But hey, I learned some things, and there’s something to be said for that. Read about that on Tuesday.

On Friday, I’ll be driving down to SoCal for a small quidditch tournament that you probably haven’t heard about and isn’t worth mentioning. You’ll be reading about a moment from last week brought to you by yellow tights and #metoo.

For another take on #metoo and how to consume content you love created by problematic (ugh, I hate that word) figures, check out my friend Cupcake’s post on that very topic.

Don’t worry, I’ll get back to the harmless escapism soon. Promise.

Professora Elizabeth and the Carnation Revolution

Most days, I’m happy if my Portuguese students retain enough from the one night a week I have with them to be able to speak to their grandparents. I hope that they remember how conjugation works for when they take other foreign languages. And maybe, if I’m lucky, I have a few that fall in love with the language like I did.

Yesterday was different. Yesterday, I terrified them. Then, I made them think.

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Sass + 1: Women in Quidditch

I spent some time with one of my favorite YouTubers, Sequoia Simone, before US Quidditch Cup 10. Between us, we have over a decade of quidditch experience and we’ve held every organizing and officiating role in the sport. We had a great talk about what it’s like being a woman in the positions we’ve held in quidditch and how that’s impacted our view on the sport and society as a whole. While it’s definitely not the definitive conversation on the topic, I hope it sparks more discussion on the subject.

Tangentially related: Frozen bedroom we spent the week in was hella adorable.

Guest Post: I Didn’t March (but Wish I Could Have)

I kicked around a couple drafts about this weekend’s Women’s March, but I couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t sound too self-congratulatory. I marched, I’m glad I marched, and I’m pleasantly surprised by just how many people did the same.

But I worry that the momentum will fade. Will people stay angry? Or will they feel like they did their part by marching and lose interest?

The 10 Actions / 100 Days campaign is a great start in keeping that momentum going. I hate to say it, but people tend to be lazy about their activism unless they are constantly. actively threatened. The organizers of the march did a great job of making things easy for people. Even if your representatives do support the agenda and goals of the Women’s March, follow along anyway. We can’t flood the streets every day, but we can flood inboxes and mailboxes to make our words heard and seen.

As for me, I was approached by a friend who couldn’t march. She wanted to share her story, but not at the cost of her anonymity. She asked me to share her story here and I immediately said yes. I have a platform here and I’m going to use it. Please share it if you feel so inclined.

I sat in a bar Saturday night, having not marched due both to an injury and a fear of crowds. A man who had gotten sloppily drunk in the past in my presence (and also made condescending comments about college students needing coloring books when Trump won) asked me about who I thought was smarter, Hillary or Trump.

It is very possible that he thought I was going to agree with him (despite said previous condescending conversation, where I told him that I, who was sexually assaulted and had developed PTSD I still struggle with years later, had had a flashback/breakdown when Trump won due to memories of my attacker getting off, so did not find him funny in the slightest—he sarcastically apologized, by the way). I have a good life—no student loans, no outstanding debts. I graduated without a job and I could live at home as long as it took to find a job that didn’t make me want to kill myself (I’ve had offers I’ve turned down to that effect). I am White Privilege, apart from that pesky fact of being female. He probably thought I’m one of Them.

However, I told him Trump managed to convince a sector of the population he was smarter, but at the same time showed every sign of at least one personality disorder. He demanded my proof, then insisted that I agree with him that it was wrong that someone called Trump’s inauguration speech Hitlerian. I haven’t read it, so told him I couldn’t speak to that, but that comments he said were indeed similar. Whenever I brought up evidence, citing things Trump said, my “sources” were judged as being at fault. So I gave up. I never liked that guy to start off with.

But it was a woman at the bar who really upset me. She was talking with the bartender about how she had never felt safe in the past eight years, and was looking forward to the next four. How the women’s march was stupid, and as a female in oil and gas she had never felt any kind of problem with sexism.

That was the point where I stormed out, because it was that or start a shouting match I could never take back. I don’t know what position she had in oil and gas, but if she’s an engineer, she’s either lying to herself or completely oblivious.

My first experience with overt sexism happened when I was a sophomore in college. There was a week-long program for students to help them understand industry, full of teambuilding and networking practice and random exercises. One of those exercises involved making a decision on whether or not to build a pipeline in Alaska with data that didn’t say how a component would perform in certain temperatures, though the lowest piece of data had it failing. I argued that after the BP oil spill, the public would not forgive an oversight like that again. I convinced my team, and we were one of two groups out of maybe thirty that chose not to go ahead with it.

Our call was the correct one. It was the Challenger o-ring data—we watched the video of it exploding. But I didn’t get to feel accomplished and intelligent. My table’s supervisor kept insisting it was my “woman’s intuition” that made me make that call, rather than the facts as I saw them. He made several more comments like that throughout the week—I posted one on Facebook, and my father made me take it down. He didn’t want me to be seen as rocking the boat.

I’ve continued to worry constantly about being seen as too female in engineering. No emotions, can’t be too opinionated, can’t risk being seen as bossy. I was second choice for a major company for a job—when I asked why I didn’t get the position, an inside source told me I was their strongest technical candidate, but a “minor group project problem” made them decide I couldn’t work in a team. I have no proof, and maybe I’m wrong, but I wonder if I had been male, like all of my interviewers, what could be seen as “bossy” would just have been seen as assertive and goal-oriented, since without what I did the group would have failed. I’ll never know. Maybe I’m just looking for an excuse of why I failed at that job. But it’s always in the back of my head.

That’s not even going into my worst times of being female—like when I was sexually assaulted and brought the guy up to the college committee and had a male professor try to coach him on what to say to get off (never mind the letter he submitted saying I was incapacitated). All the times I was afraid to say I was assaulted, because I was so embarrassed from the stigma, even though I never did anything wrong besides trusting the wrong person. Because somehow it’s my fault, and I should be ashamed. And I still fight that problem on a daily basis.

But, no, it’s the little things. It’s how I have to wear my hair up and back every interview so I don’t look too feminine but also wear makeup so I don’t look unprofessional, even though I almost never wear any kind of makeup on a daily basis. It’s making sure I don’t say my opinion too loudly, or risk upsetting people. It’s a man earlier this week in this same bar telling his friend not only was I intellectual, but I was so pretty too. And then telling me I could find a job, but there was nothing wrong with just finding a nice banker husband.

And that’s why I wished I had marched. Because I’m tired of smiling and nodding like a good girl should. I’m tired of pretending the things that happened to me didn’t, to make men feel more comfortable. I’m tired of putting up with sleazy guys and understanding my opinion will mean nothing no matter what I say, and of women who have never dealt with certain issues so refuse to believe they exist.

I’m just so goddamn tired.

The Darkest Timeline: Day 2

The last time I posted here, my biggest fear was that Hillary Clinton would barely squeak out a win, crippling her ability to be as effective a president as she could be. I was steeling myself for a historic presidency that would be tainted by latent misogyny and Republican obstructionism.

Welp, at least we don’t need to worry about Republican obstructionism anymore?

Tuesday morning, I jumped out of bed early. I walked around the block to my neighborhood polling place. I had tears in my eyes as I thought the ballot I turned in would help make Hillary Clinton, one of my role models, the first female President of the United States.

Wednesday morning, I stayed in bed. I woke up hoping for a miracle. I broke down and wept in anguish as I watched Hillary Clinton, the most qualified candidate to run for the Oval Office, concede to the least qualified candidate in history. I had to hear one of my heroes tell me, the little girls of the country, and the first female president of the United States (wherever she may be), that we deserve every opportunity.

Welcome to the darkest timeline. Apparently that last statement is no longer obvious. Hillary Clinton needed to tell us that before she becomes a footnote of history.

I wish I could say that her grace and dignity should an example to us all. I can’t, though. I resent it. My country decided that an imperfect woman was an unacceptable choice when the other option was an incredibly flawed man. She lost because she was held to a higher standard while he was held to no standards of decency at all. To add insult to injury, she had to lose with grace.

(Am I boiling this down to a simple question of gender? Yes. But I’m just calling it as I see it from my admittedly limited perspective. It got Trump elected, so the least it can do for me is get some traffic to my blog.)

It’s Thursday morning now. I’m back on my morning commute, trying to ignore the fact that I definitely heard another rider say Viva Trump! I’m trying to get these thoughts down now because they are important. I can’t allow myself to forget this feeling of rejection.

As a straight cis woman of European descent, I am one chromosome away from being at the apex of privilege in America. I recognize this. So while I feel rejected by half of my country, at least no one wants to deport me, take away my right to marry, or stop and frisk me. My pussy might be up for grabs, but I guess I’m lucky that my reproductive rights are locked down by the copper IUD I got two years ago. It’ll last as long as any foreseeable Trump/Pence presidency, at least.

Not that the idea of waiting until I’m nearly 40 to have kids thrills me. My sister has to face the unbearable choice of raising her beautiful twin girls in a country that doesn’t believe in their infinite potential, or packing it up and going back to the country our parents left because America was supposed to be the land of opportunity.

I’m wondering if it’s better to leave or to stay and stick it out here. It felt like a no-brainer on Monday when Trump was unthinkable. There was no way it could happen, and if it did, there was no way I could tolerate it.

It did happen. It’s Day 2 of the darkest timeline. Now I have to figure out if I’m the kind of coward who can’t stick to her guns, or the type of coward that runs away when things get too hard.

Stay tuned.

Liz’s Hot Takes: Ghostbusters

Okay, before you read any further: go see Ghostbusters. Go see it right now. It’s not even that this blog post is super-spoilery, though there are some spoilers. It’s less of a review of the film and more of a collection of my reactions before I go to bed and lose my fangirl zeal.

We all heard about how it would ruin the collective childhood of a certain segment of the population. I thought it was a man-child tantrum being thrown over yet another Hollywood remake that we didn’t need but that I would go watch anyway to spite the haters and because I liked the Ghostbusters cartoon when I was a kid. I eventually saw the movies but the cartoon and Hi-C Ecto Cooler were still what I first thought of when someone mentioned the Ghostbusters franchise.

Okay, so I still think it’s a man-child tantrum. But I understand their anger now. I understand it because I never had hilarious badass science heroes and I would be pissed off too if they were removed from continuity and replaced with new faces.

But here’s the thing: I didn’t. Not only that, I didn’t realize what my childhood was missing until Kate McKinnon’s Dr. Holtzman pulled out her sidearms and went to town on some ghosts in the final act. I don’t have words for the badassery of that scene, but here’s a gif that encapsulates my reaction to that scene:


In that moment, someone like me was the big damn hero. She was weird and brilliant and awkward and so familiar. For all that she felt like me, I still wanted to be her. (I’m already looking into being her for Halloween.) I’ve been devouring a pretty steady diet of American pop culture for the past thirtyish years and never had a moment like that.

On the drive home tonight, I was talking about this need for female heroes that I didn’t even know I had with my boyfriend. He brought up Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens as another example of movie franchise heroine/target of a certain demographic’s ire. That led to this exchange:

Me: Yeah, Star Wars was great. I knew it was going to be great. I expected it to be great. I even expected Rey to be a Jedi all along. But I liked Ghostbusters better.

James: Really?

Me: Yeah. I just wanted to see a fun summer action flick and stick it to angry meninists. I didn’t expect the oooooh, wow moment. I expected that from Star Wars. I had high expectations for that movie and it met them. I had decent expectations for this movie and it exceeded them.

James: That totally makes sense.

My new fangirl obsession with Dr. Jillian Holtzman isn’t the only thing that I love about this movie. I loved that it took tropes that I was used to re: female representation in pop culture and subverted the hell out of them.

I expected Kristen Wiig’s Dr. Erin Gilbert to be my favorite character because she was set up to be the smart (but uptight) one and I usually gravitate towards that character in all female casts. Sailor Mercury was my favorite scout, Blossom was my favorite Powerpuff Girl, Jeanette was my favorite Chipette, Piper was my favorite Charmed One, etc.

But here’s the thing: there is no smart one. Three of the four protagonists have Ph.D.’s and the fourth possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of New York City. Since all these women are brilliant, there has to be more to their personalities than just slapping a pair of glasses on them and telling but not showing that they have brains. I got my choice of smart female characters. I identified with Erin’s ambition, Abby’s heart, Patty’s ability to absorb and apply supposedly trivial knowledge, and Holtzman’s embrace of her quirkiness. (And not that cutesy and twee Manic Pixie Dream Girl quirkiness, either.)

Chris Hemsworth’s gorgeous and delightfully dimwitted secretary Kevin made me uncomfortable sometimes with just how objectified his character was. He’s the token male and I’ve got so used to the token female being put in that same position of dumb eye candy that I’ve learned to ignore it. There is no ignoring Kevin’s buffoonery. It may come off as over the top, but I think it’s supposed to make you feel uncomfortable. You’re supposed to feel like creating a character like this is wrong because they just can’t be real.

As for the other major male character, Rowan, the socially inept antagonist that decides to destroy New York because he doesn’t get the respect he feels he’s entitled to? He’s a huge fuck you to the haters and I loved it. Any woman who engages in geek culture knows that guy. His entitlement is so real that it makes him genuinely scary.

This movie needs to make all the moneys so that Hollywood keeps making movies like this. Go see it in IMAX 3D: it’s actually worth it. (And not just because it will make the box office profits even higher.) I normally get nauseous in 3D movies but the effects are well done in this movie. I definitely jumped in my seat a few times, but they didn’t abuse the jump scares, either.

I’m the drooling aunt to two adorable six-month-old twin girls and I don’t want them to grow up to be Tia Liz, hurrying home to blog about finally seeing a hero in a movie that looks at feels like them. They’ll have Rey. They’ll have the Ghostbusters.

That’s not enough. Maybe they don’t want to be a space knight or a science hero. Give us more heroines. More choices. More stories. Not more of the same.