"Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That's their natural and first weapon." ~ Gloria Steinem

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Personal Breakthroughs for 600, Alex

I've just had an epiphany--an epiphany about myself. (Incidentally, this is one of my essential characteristics of a critical thinker--the ability to continually discover new things about oneself.) Throughout high school and college, I received several Bs. Each time, as one would expect from an ordinarily straight-A student, I decided on a reason for the B--in order to internalize and deal with the situation, and thus move on from my perceived failure. I offer a list of the Bs that stand out in my mind, with accompanying reasons for their existence.

Chemistry (High School): I'm bad at science.
Pre-Calculus (High School): I'm two years ahead in math.
Gender and Society (College): I skipped some classes that resulted in missed quizzes, and I didn't like the professor.
History 105 (College): I never went to class.
Forensic Science (College): I'm bad at science.
Linguistics (College): Lingustics is hard, and I'm not really interested in it.
Anatomy and Physiology (College): I'm bad at science.

Notice any patterns there?

With the exception of any "I'm bad at science" answer, every reason on that list is completely valid. I was indeed two years ahead in math; I did indeed never go to class; Linguistics is indeed hard and uninteresting (to me, anyway). In retrospect, I got a B in forensic science because the course was heavy on entomology, which I am decidedly not interested in. I got a B in Anatomy and Physiology because the course was heavy on physiology, and I hadn't taken a basic biology course in about 5 years, and hence was rusty on central topics like cell function and replication, enzymes, the like. Straight-A students are monsters in that they expect to consistently excel; when I got a B--a B, for chrissake!--I assumed I was bad at something.

Except, not always. I didn't assume I was bad at math when I got a B in pre-calc; I rightly recognized that I was in an advanced course and so found it a bit challenging. I didn't assume I was bad at gender studies when I got a B in it; I rightly recognized that I didn't like the professor, and so skipped class as as well as failed to give the course the time and attention I should have. I just kind of blew it off. But these are things I've always known I'm good at; I've always been good at math, and since I usually got As in my major, I knew I wasn't bad at anthropology, just didn't care about Gender and Society. I also didn't decide I was bad at anthropology just because Linguistics is hard; I didn't dismiss an entire field just because one piece of it was hard for me.

So. Why do I think I'm bad at science? I'm clearly not. I did exceptionally well in classes on things like evolution, human biological diversity, research-oriented statistics,  and archaeology--all clearly science-based topics. As an anthropologist, I have regularly excelled in an field that relies on scientific methods to explore cultural and societal issues. Now, if I were really bad at science--the fucking foundation of most of the things I'm good at--how could I possibly be good at anthropology?

I can think of two possible reasons.
  1. We did a lot more of everything else besides science when I was homeschooled; it was more a function of a homeschool environment lacking equipment rather than because my mom is a bad teacher or doesn't know anything about science. When I started public school, I had less of a science foundation than most of my peers; consequently, I may not have excelled as easily at science as I did in other subjects, leading to the belief that I was naturally less adept.
  2. My culture tells me women are bad at science.
Both, maybe?

My point is, I'm not bad at science. I am currently a scientist, and I'm damn good at it. I decided against forensic anthropology because I thought I'd be bad at it, but I probably shouldn't have. Getting lost in an entomology class doesn't mean I can't be a forensic anthropologist; getting a B in Anatomy and Physiology because I lacked a solid cellular biology foundation doesn't mean I'm bad at physical science. Even if I'd taken an actual forensic anthropology course and gotten a B, all it would have meant was that I'd have to work a little bit harder at forensic anthropology than I had to at, say, the trigonometry course in which I earned roughly a 99% and learned absolutely nothing.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In Which I Ineffectually Rail Against Illogical, Uncritical Thinking

A 'discussion' just took place in my living room, between my father and I, within easy hearing of my 13-year-old brother. This 'discussion' began with my father denouncing the Westboro Baptist Church for their "abuse of free speech", as demonstrated by the whole "Everyone but us is going to hell", and ended with my father defending Sarah Palin's "right to free speech", as demonstrated by the whole "Don't retreat...RELOAD" crosshairs fiasco. I am also apparently not allowed to tell my dad what some people are saying, because he apparently knows exactly what everyone is saying at any given time.

Please, someone explain this to me; explain to me, as though I were a child, because I feel as though I must be since I fail to grasp the logic here, why one group of people is 'evil' when they express their hatred of other groups, but another group is 'within their rights' when they express violent desires and tendencies resulting from their hatred of other groups.

Seriously. Please. Explain.

If a string of murders occurred wherein the victims were Catholics and members of the military, you can bet the Westboro Baptist Church would be blamed for their indirect involvement. When a string of murders occurrs wherein the victims are abortion doctors and Democratic senators, the spewing of violence-themed hatred toward liberals, which includes abortion doctors and Democratic senators, as expressed by the likes of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Ann Coulter, is apparently completely unrelated.

Oh, and where are all the murders of pro-life advocates, Republican politicians, NRA members, and religious leaders that should be happening because, clearly, both sides are just as bad? If these events were really just the work of two mentally ill individuals, operating in a vacuum, acting merely by virtue of mental illness, completely unaffected by the culture and society in which they exist, why is it always the liberals who get shot?

P.S. If you disagree with the idea that rightwing rhetoric has affected and is currently affecting the present climate as well as the context of Dr. Tiller's murder and the Tuscon massacre, please read this before presenting arguments.