How to Deal with Trump-Supporting Relatives at the Holidays

Spoiler alert: I don’t know exactly how you should deal with your racist relatives this holiday season. Every family situation is obviously markedly different, and will call for different strategies. But it will probably be helpful for us to think through this together before you go—don’t you think? With the election behind us and #trumpocalypse looming large, this is more important than ever.

Spoiler alert: I don’t know exactly how you should deal with your racist relatives this holiday season. Every family situation is obviously markedly different, and will call for different strategies. But it will probably be helpful for us to think through this together before you go—don’t you think? With the election behind us and #trumpocalypse looming large, this is more important than ever.  Continue reading “How to Deal with Trump-Supporting Relatives at the Holidays”

Next Steps and a Brief Note

Hi, everyone. I thought I would quietly ghost this site, letting it diminish down into the corner of the internet it basically always was—a place to preserve a certain voice and feeling of a certain moment in our lives, and no more. But then this happened. #Trumpocalypse. The reckoning. Not just with that man-cheeto, but with the very serious question of why half of America decided to vote for him. I was ready to let a new job, a new city, and a new career path distract me from the simple act of writing community into existence, but no longer. I will make time. We will write. And I’ll be honest, we no longer have the funding structure that bound my team together in concrete monetary ways, but please know that the values which knit us together are stronger than ever.

Below are some preliminary ways to get involved and help bolster the social justice movements and ideals that Trump and his coming administration have threatened. This is a storm we can weather, but only if we tell ourselves we can—even if we don’t believe it right now. I am simultaneously numb with shock and horror at the America we woke up to yesterday, and galvanized to action. I feel a fire in my blood. Do you? Continue reading “Next Steps and a Brief Note”

Artist Spotlight: Isis Nicole Magazine!

The Isis Nicole Magazine (or IN Magazine for short, named after its founder) is unabashedly colorful, vibrant and glittery, often spotlighting women of color: think Tumblr come to life. The Chicago-based publication is the perfect blend of traditional print media and Internet age fervor. Isis and the other half of the magazine, Hannah Black, are not only creative partners but real life gal pals who always make sure to Snapchat each other about their days. The two tell ACRO what IN Magazine is all about and how they balance work and fun.

by B.C.

The Isis Nicole Magazine (or IN Magazine for short, named after its founder) is unabashedly colorful, vibrant and glittery, often spotlighting women of color: think Tumblr come to life. The Chicago-based publication is the perfect blend of traditional print media and Internet age fervor. Isis and the other half of the magazine, Hannah Black, are not only creative partners but real life gal pals who always make sure to Snapchat each other about their days. The two tell ACRO what IN Magazine is all about and how they balance work and fun: Continue reading “Artist Spotlight: Isis Nicole Magazine!”

Getting Angry at Strangers

Over the course of my late twenties and now into my thirtieth year, I like to think I have become increasingly confident and assertive.  There is one area, however, in which I still find myself feeling helpless and inadequate: I have not learned how to effectively communicate anger.  This is particularly the case in situations in which it is appropriate for me to express anger toward someone I don’t know.  I have recently gone through two minor ordeals, one of which involved someone trying to cheat me out of a significant sum financially, and the other of which involved someone making a professional mistake that could have physically and psychologically harmed me.  I am not satisfied with my responses in either case, as I think they were governed by the difficulty I have in finding an appropriate way to express my anger.

The first of these occasions was the more mundane; it began with a sudden billowing of smoke from the front of my car as I arrived home one day.  I assumed my car had overheated, and waited till the smoke had stopped before driving it to the nearest auto repair shop.  The mechanic I spoke to that day looked under the hood of the car, and explained to me that one of my radiator pipes was cracked.

As he spoke, the mechanic was no doubt sizing up my petite blonde self, my Bambi-like stare as he explained what he was seeing under the hood, and making fairly accurate assumptions.  My PhD in English literature would not help me here.  When it comes to cars, I conform pathetically to sexist gender stereotypes.  The car mechanic could probably have told me there were unicorns waltzing in my engine and I would have asked the price to have them removed humanely.

But the cracked pipe seemed—and probably was—plausible, and he said it could be repaired for $170, and would be ready that day or the next.  It turned out, however, that he would need to order the part, and thus the process stretched out over five days in which the mechanics were (they told me) waiting for the arrival of the apparently rare and elusive radiator pipe.  On day four, I was informed that the price would double, as the other radiator pipe, it had now been discovered, was cracked too.  I accepted this, mildly annoyed but still basically believing I was being told the truth.

On the fifth day, when I called—and when I was finally able to reach someone who seemed to know what was going on—I was told my car would finally be ready at 4:00 that afternoon.  I showed up at that time, desperate to have my means of transportation back.  Instead, I was told that now that the pipes had been replaced, the mechanics were able to see that the radiator itself had a small leak.  They would need to replace the radiator, which would require them to order one from Indiana and would bring my total up to $1,200.  I still didn’t believe that they were outright lying to me, but I am a graduate student, so I don’t have that kind of money readily available, and I was frustrated at how they’d kept stringing me along. 

Thus—much to my dismay—I found myself overtaken by one of my least attractive habits, Angry Crying.  In such moments, my very dislike of making a scene only makes me more frustrated and makes my crying even harder to stop.  I managed in the midst of this to tell the mechanics that I would pay them the $300 or so for what they’d already done and take my car somewhere else.  I drove off in a car that did not smoke at all, but I was fuming.

My father ended up taking my car to a mechanic he trusted.  That mechanic said that there was absolutely nothing wrong with my car.  Probably the initial radiator pipe had been the only issue in the first place.  But, naïve as it may seem, I was shocked that the first repair shop had tried to cheat me to such a degree.  Car mechanics don’t have the best reputations for honesty, but I still felt amazed that, had I had the money, they might have convinced me to order a new car radiator for absolutely no reason at all.

My car is running fine.  But I wonder why, in moments of deep frustration, all I can do is cry.  It would have been appropriate to express some anger to the men lying about my car, and certainly afterwards to write a scathing review of their business online.  But in those moments when some frustration that has been building inside me slides into anger, that anger always takes me by surprise, and my coping mechanism is a highly ineffective one.

***

The second event made me less angry, though it threatened me with more harm.  It left me for most of a day in bed, sleeping or too tired to move.  I was visiting my parents for the weekend, and that is very, very fortunate.  If I had had to go to work that day, or drive anywhere, or do anything at all, I would have been unable to do so.  I woke up at my usual (early) hour, but right after breakfast I felt exhaustion seeping through me.  Instead of getting dressed, I got back into bed, intending to close my eyes for a few minutes.  Not long afterward, my mother walked past the room, and I made some feeble excuse for not being up.  She laughed it off as me needing to catch up on sleep.  “I feel like I could sleep all day,” I said, perplexed.

Hours passed, and still the warmth of my bed exerted an irresistible pull on my limbs each time I tried to rouse myself.  I was starting to get worried.  My mother kept checking on me, asking if I felt sick, but I didn’t—just bone weary.  I tried to think of some reason for such intense fatigue, assuming it was somehow my fault.  Perhaps I’d accidentally swallowed an extra pill when taking my anti-anxiety medication that morning, though that was not a mistake I’d ever made before. 

Things got worse.  When I dragged myself down the hall to go the bathroom I realized I was stumbling around as if drunker than I’ve ever actually been.  I was dizzy, my vision blurred.  I fell.  My mother found me lying on the bathroom floor, and by then she was worried too.  I heard her speaking to me as if from a great distance, though I couldn’t see her through the stars floating in front of my eyes.  She tells me I asked her “Is that you, Mom?” but I don’t remember this.

It got through to me, as my mother led me back to bed, that she was asking if I wanted to go to the hospital.  I don’t know what or if I answered, but I remember how impossible a feat it sounded to get up, go somewhere, and answer questions.  I slept some more, roused only later by my mother to eat lunch, which I did without noticing the taste.  Finally, in the early afternoon, an idea penetrated my foggy brain.  I remembered that it was the first day I’d taken a pill from a new refill of one of my prescription anxiety medications.  The pill had looked different than usual, but I hadn’t thought anything of that at the time I took it, knowing that sometimes pills can look different when pharmacies get the medications from different manufacturers.  But now I went back to look at the pill bottle, and took out one of the strange pills.  As I ought to have done that morning, I read the description on the back of the bottle of what the medication was meant to look like.  The description was of a white, round pill, like the one I was used to taking—not the oblong yellow pill I now held in my hand.

At first I mistrusted the evidence of my eyes.  But I carried the mystery drug to my computer and Googled the numbers printed on it.  I felt a thrill strangely like vindication when I saw that the pill I had been given was not only not my usual anti-anxiety medication, but was in fact a serious anti-psychotic drug. (It was also a fairly high dose, I later learned, particularly when combined with my other medications).  I had found the explanation for what I was experiencing, which was a huge relief.  But the discovery also brought a chilling sense of recognition.  As a teenager recovering from anorexia, I’d been put on a medication to keep me calm and compliant.  I think I was on it for about a year.  It wasn’t until I was a college student taking Abnormal Psychology, when I saw that medication listed in my textbook, that I discovered that it was an anti-psychotic.  It was not the same one I had now accidentally been given years later, but it had served a similar purpose.  In sedating me it had leeched my will, my energy, my fighting spirit.  Perhaps that was for the best for me in the long run.  But even now I resent it, and those feelings were churned back up by the familiar enforced lethargy I was now struggling to shake off.

This is no means an attack on psychiatric medicine, which has been invaluable to me for years as I have battled chronic anxiety and depression.  Medications that allow you to be yourself, less prey to the distortions of mental illness, are wonderful things.  But there are also cases in which psychiatric medication is used primarily sap you of self, of will, of control.  The line is a thin one, and differs in every case.  But for me this pharmaceutical mishap was a reminder of a time when I felt that line had been crossed.  In both cases, I had unquestioningly taken what I was given, and was left powerless.    

Within twenty-four hours, the drug had pretty much left my system.  It took a few more hours before my concentration and focus fully recovered.  I soon returned to the pharmacy to exchange the incorrect medication for the correct one.  The pharmacist who had filled the prescription was there, apologetic.  My mother, possibly Earth’s least vindictive person, had nevertheless felt that he should lose his job over this.  But standing in front of him, hearing him apologize, I didn’t know what to say that would be worthwhile.  “I lost a day of my life,” I told him.  He apologized again.  I asked for the number of his manager, which he gave me.  And I left. 

I never called that number.  Nor did I ever put up a negative review on the auto repair shop’s website.  In the case of the pharmacist, I don’t actually want him to lose his job.  I hope he will be more careful, but his actions were accidental.  They also weren’t sexist.  It made no difference that I was a woman and he a man, unless you count the fact that women are more often diagnosed with mental illness, and so are perhaps more likely to be the victims of this kind of mix-up.  The auto mechanic’s actions, on the other hand, were malicious and probably sexist, as he saw a young-ish woman and assumed (sadly, correctly) that he could invent complete falsehoods about her car’s condition and she would believe him.  In both cases, I haven’t pursued any further action—besides writing this article.  Maybe this is due to weakness or laziness, but it’s also due to what was ingrained in me growing up: that I shouldn’t complain, cause a fuss, or stir up trouble.  I can be pretty assertive defending people or causes I care about, but expressing anger on my own behalf still makes me feel uncomfortably like that unpleasant kind of person: shrill, suspicious, impolite, rampaging.  Basically, the stereotype of the angry woman. 

I have written before about being a recovering good girl, and perhaps these two experiences happened to help me on my path.  I don’t intend to become paranoid that everyone is either conning me or incompetent, but I will focus on asserting myself on my own behalf, and reminding myself that doing so is not rudeness but basic justice to myself.  Ladies, let’s look out for ourselves, and, just as importantly, let’s speak up for ourselves.  We don’t have to be helpless in the face of our own anger or in the situations that provoke that anger.  In this one area, I am still working on finding my voice.  And I may also try to learn something about cars.   

Green Tea (Awkwafina x Margaret Cho) and AsAm Bad Girls

Awkwafina encourages young Asian women to “to embrace their quirkiness, their sexuality, their inner-child and their creativity with passion,” something I had trouble with until recently.

By Belinda Cai

About a week ago, my dream girls/dream team Awkwafina and Margaret Cho released the anthem Asian women never knew they needed — a song and accompanying music video, “Green Tea.” It’s aptly timed, dropped on the last day of May, which was Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

The song pokes fun at Asian stereotypes in a brazen, NSFW way that’s so true to the zany rapper/comedian duo, encouraging young women (and particularly Asian ones) “to embrace their quirkiness, their sexuality, their inner-child and their creativity with passion,” according to Awkwafina.

This is evidenced with lyrics that go, “Yellow bitches in the driver’s seat… We got that bomb pussy/ That Long Duk Dong pussy/ Make you call your mom pussy/ Get a pair of TOMS pussy/ Got that Soon Yi pussy/ Be all you want to be pussy.”

There’s a lot of satire throughout the video, with traditional Asian garb, mock “Asian-sales lady” accents, Japanese horror movie references and so on; all the while, Awkwafina and Margaret show off their nontraditional sides, smoking pot, flashing tattoos and being generally “unladylike,” singing about pussies.

This brought me back to Awkwafina’s song “Marijuana” from her album Yellow Ranger, with the lyrics: “I’m sorry mama, that I am not a doctor/ That I rap about the vag and I smoke marijuana juana.”

Oh, and here’s that classic song all about vags/my livelihood:

My sister Lisa asked me, a while back, why I think we turned out the way we did. While not trying to reinforce stereotypes, she explained that it seems we were always a bit different than our Asian-American peers — more “alternative,” (as reluctant as she was to use that word, she couldn’t think of another one) in our appearance and career choices. We never quite fit in.

We’re both in creative fields, her as a graphic designer and artist, and me as a journalist and writer. While our parents are mostly supportive and encouraging, there have been many times when they’ve expressed doubt. Deep down, they still wish we’d found paths with more financial security and prestige — you know, the doctors, lawyers, engineers route.

Whenever my mom knows I’ll be around other Asian families, she reminds me to remove my septum ring and hide my tattoos. And I’m not nearly as covered as Lisa, who is working on completing full sleeves and has some kind of permanent art on almost every body part. After watching “Green Tea,” Lisa exclaimed how much she loved that Margaret was “tatted up” from head to toe. That’s something that she doesn’t see often with Asian-American women in the media.

Not only are obvious stereotypes, like the China Doll and Dragon Lady, a problem, but never seeing Asian-American women like us made me feel like there was something wrong with us — that our appearances and life choices, even, were abnormalities when it came to the world of Asian-American women. That we couldn’t live up to some golden standard. This only means that we need more Asians (all kinds!!!! every kind!!!!) in the media encouraging all of us to just be us.

It’s certainly harmful to perpetuate the model minority stereotype, and we discussed how we in no way believe that it applies to most Asians. Of course there are hundreds of thousands of other Asians similar to us and far more “alternative,” but it’s just not something we saw a lot growing up, whether it came to our peers or on TV. The Asian women we saw in the media (which was rare to begin with) were generally doctors or Tiger Moms, all with clean, “presentable” images.

Every time I listen to an Awkwafina song or watch Margaret’s standup, I’m reminded that a. traditional Asian-American stereotypes suck and these ladies are working hard to debunk them and b. I shouldn’t be ashamed of the fact that my parents may perceive my sister and I to be “different” than other Asian kids and c. these are some boss ass bitches and I want to be more like them.

Women at Work: Tess (Cobbler/Shoemaker)

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Editor’s Note: I’m excited to present our third interview in the series! (Check out 1 and 2 as well!) We talked to Tess, who works in a rather unusual industry—as a cobbler’s apprentice. As someone who knows basically nothing about the handcrafts industry, it was cool to talk to someone who is following such a unique path. Read on below:

What do you do for a living?

I’m a cobbler’s apprentice right now. Cobbling doesn’t have an educational requirement/school, so everyone tends to start as an apprentice.

What does a typical day on the job look like for you?

Tess GobeilI am admittedly still learning and there is an insane amount of little things to memorize. Typically, I come in and am shadowing someone for the day, whether that is on the glueing side of the shop, or the finishing side. I often am helping someone work through their rack of shoes, and in down time, I am doing a lot of varied shop prep work. This has included stuff like cutting and glueing new rands for rock climbing shoes, cutting down large leather pieces into small leather heel pads, taking the stock order weekly, preparing halfsoles to be used for those day’s shoes, etc.

Something that I really love about the work is the variety and that I have yet to have one day that was the same as the one prior.

How did you decide to become a cobbler’s apprentice? How much longer do you have as an apprentice, and then what is the process like after that? How much do you make?

Last year, I was working in a handmade papermaking mill, doing mostly bookbinding type work, across the country from where I live currently (which is also where I grew up). I had a partner back home, I wasn’t feeling fulfilled at work, and I was just ready to leave town. I knew I wanted to keep working a workshop environment but I was hoping to keep away from heavy trades (like carpentry, welding, etc) because those don’t interest me much. I ended up cold calling a bunch of cobblers in the city I wanted to live in, and it worked out for me!

As it is, somedays I am given a few pairs to do repairs on. Right now, it’s mostly simple stuff, basic hand-sewing and glueing, sanding things down, etc. When I am fully trained, it will look pretty similar to what I do now, except more work and more complicated work. In the morning, I’ll be assigned a much bigger pile of shoes to work through, aha.

Tess 2

Right now, I make 12$CAD an hour (9$USD) but I’m told that gets raised pretty regularly, after training and assuming I’m still doing solid work.

I’m definitely the baby of the shop still, so it’s hard to say how long I will be apprenticing for! Probably six months to a year, if I had to estimate.

Very cool! I feel like not many people our age are in touch with this kind of smaller-scale craft work. Are you worried about the growth of your industry, or are you not planning to stay in it definitely?

I’ve had a pretty niche set of jobs and I really strive to stay connected to smaller crafts, because I think they are really valuable as an industry (even if it’s a small one). I’m definitely intending to stick with cobbling. In school, I actually studied papermaking but when I went to do it as a “career”, it just wasn’t for me. So it’s been really encouraging to find something with some familiar hand-skills, that I really love.

In regards to growth, I am not so worried. There has been a big push on online fashion communities, that appears to be trickling into the mainstream culture, that we should be buying buy-it-for-life and better quality products in general. Ideas like this are imperative to cobbling continuing to strive, so I am very grateful for a shift.

Tess 3.jpg

Was cobbling traditionally a male-dominated field, and how does it compare today? Do you see any gap in wages between men and women in your field, or any other areas where you think the conditions for women could improve? (I.e. Things like maternity leave?)

Cobblers themselves are mostly men, I’d say. It’s hard to say why exactly, other than it’s a blue collar industry. And realistically, it’s also one that isn’t very innovative or having changed much, so I sense it isn’t one that has really made a shift to encouraging women to get involved. As well, lots of people aren’t sure how to break into the industry. Our shop is about 20% women, which is pretty low compared to other industries.

Something that our shop does that I really appreciate is always having a cobbler on the front intake counter. This position rotates every shift and that person is also working on shoes in between customers. As a woman, this feels like it reinforces that we are not just cashiers or front-of-house people, but that we also are the ones doing the dirty work.

I would say that the majority of cobbling shops are one-man-stands, ran by slightly older gentlemen who have been doing it a really long time. It’s going to be really interesting to see how the industry evolves over the next 20 years.

I don’t see any wage gaps, but it may also be because the industry is so small and there are so few people really vying to get into it. Most people are hired as apprentices by a man in his one-man-stand, so there aren’t a lot of fellow female coworkers to compare wages with, unfortunately.

Tess is making a pair of shoes from scratch and documenting the process on tumblr. You can follow along here!

On Turning 30

Thirty was the dead end of narratability for female protagonists until the twentieth century. By thirty, the heroines of my most beloved novels are either long married or long dead. Either way, there is no more story to tell about them, as they have reached a sublime and static state beyond narrative. Like fairy-tale princesses, they have ridden off into one sunset or another.

All this has of course changed. Fictional female protagonists, like real women, now have flourishing lives after thirty (and after marriage). But women are still raised with the awareness that our society has assigned us expiration dates, even if that date is now later than thirty.

by I.C.

On April 23 this year, I turned thirty.  Prior to that day, on the few occasions that I mentioned the upcoming birthday to other women, they gave a slight wince of commiseration.  They knew this was a birthday that must come with mixed feelings, at best.  Turning thirty represents the crossing of a bridge, invisible but very real.  On the other side I find myself the dreaded femme de trente ans.  A woman of a certain age.  When I was younger, influenced perhaps by too many historical and literary idols whose flames had burnt bright and briefly, I thought it was rather unromantic to live much past thirty.  Then again, when I was younger, I couldn’t actually envisage myself ever being thirty.

Thirty is the age that has traditionally marked the end of youth.  Nick Carraway, the narrator of The Great Gatsby, turns thirty in a novel all about disillusionment and disenchantment with youthful ideals.  “I just remembered that today’s my birthday,” he recounts himself saying, and thinks grimly: “Thirty.  Before me stretched the portentous menacing road of a new decade… Thirty– the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair.”

It’s a difficult birthday, and, whatever Nick Carraway might say, harder for women, in whom our culture so fetishizes youth.  In the nineteenth-century novels that have been my personal and academic staple, this birthday marks the end of the age of marriageability for women.  Captain Wentworth in Jane Austen’s Persuasion generously announces himself ready to marry “anybody between fifteen and thirty.”  In Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte Lucas’s sense at age twenty-seven that thirty is fast approaching partly motivates her agreeing to marry the pompous Mr. Collins, whom Lizzie has already rejected.  Charlotte cannot afford to be “romantic,” unlike Lizzie, who is “not one-and-twenty.”   Similarly, in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, the narrator intones: “At twenty-five, girls begin to talk about being old maids, but secretly resolve that they never will be. At thirty they say nothing about it, but quietly accept the fact.”

More generally, thirty was the dead end of narratability for female protagonists until the twentieth century.  By thirty, the heroines of my most beloved novels are either long married or long dead.  Either way, there is no more story to tell about them, as they have reached a sublime and static state beyond narrative.  Like fairy-tale princesses, they have ridden off into one sunset or another.

All this has of course changed.  Fictional female protagonists, like real women, now have flourishing lives after thirty (and after marriage).  But women are still raised with the awareness that our society has assigned us expiration dates, even if that date is now later than thirty.  (Amy Schumer’s “Last F**kable Day” sketch famously skewers the expiration dates arbitrarily assigned to female desirability.) Furthermore, it’s hard to get past the idea of this particular birthday as a sort of milestone or benchmark.  A lot of us use thirty as a deadline—whether for marriage, starting a family, or reaching a certain place in our careers.  We feel like we should have our personal and professional lives mapped out by the time we’re thirty, or at least have found some stability in those areas.  Twenty-somethings, even those in their late twenties, can laugh about not having their lives together, about not feeling like an adult.  But no one thinks that’s cute when you’re in your thirties. 

elle-port

Thirty in our culture ideally means empowered adulthood.  In the 2004 romantic comedy Thirteen Going on Thirty, an awkward teen wishes herself to the pivotal age of thirty, when her career (if not her personal life) has all the trappings of success.  Last year, I read Elle Magazine’s triumphantly titled “This is Thirty!” September issue, its cover featuring Keira Knightley, who turned thirty that year.  If one reaches thirty with Keira Knightley’s impressive resume and astonishing beauty, it may be easy to embrace the birthday with grace confidence.  For me, I’ll admit, it hasn’t been so easy.

One of my own personal “deadlines” for years has been to get my PhD by or at age thirty.  This one actually looks like it will happen.  But as I plan to walk across the stage at my graduation ceremony this May, it’s possible that while doing so I will still feel like a failure. That PhD has turned out to mean none of the things I thought it would mean, and the rest of my life is in a slightly tumultuous state.  I have to accept that turning thirty is not a stopping and resting point, but a period of transition, of enforced dynamism, of change and even transformation.  Sometimes it feels like I’m in free-fall, shoved off the path I’ve diligently pursued for years.  As someone who is less inclined to embrace change than to be dragged toward it clawing and clinging like a cat to the familiar, this is especially difficult.  But I know that at thirty, I’m only beginning to write my story. So I’m trying to see thirty as a beginning, not an end. 

Perhaps the key to finding empowerment in a “benchmark” birthday like thirty is not in trying to dismiss it with an “age is just a number” or “thirty is the new twenty” attitude.  Maybe it’s more empowering to actually embrace turning thirty as a sort of day of reckoning: specifically, of reckoning up your life, your accomplishments, and weighing them in the balance against the dreams that have sustained you.  We gain so much self-knowledge in our twenties, putting us in a good position at thirty to look hard at our life choices.  If our lives don’t match our dreams, it’s time to reevaluate one or the other.  It’s not easy.  And we need to have compassion for ourselves in the process—that isn’t always easy either.  But comparing ourselves to our best possible selves is certainly a more positive mental task than the tempting but toxic one of comparing ourselves to other people—their accomplishments, careers, relationships– at the same age.  If we use this birthday as a chance to focus on our own paths, to consider honestly how to better align our lives with our goals, and if we then have the courage to act on that assessment, there’s promise in thirty.  There’s hope to be found in it.  Even if you don’t resemble Keira Knightley.

Weekly Dance Break: Ain’t Your Mama (J. Lo)

Jenny From the Block takes on working women tropes and unequal divisions of labor, all while wearing a pair of ass-less chaps (no comment). Other gems? A serious purple power-suit, a nod to BumbleBFF, and a crowd of awakened women dancing in the streets. But seriously, about the oppressive men in this video—where did she even find those living Ken-dolls? 😂


 

Women at Work: Eileen (Writer/Editor)

Editor’s Note: I am very excited to introduce the inaugural interview of our new series, “Women at Work.” This series aims to open up conversations about what work women do, what aspects of work they find fulfilling, and what improvements can be made to their part of the American workplace. We’ll talk to women in a broad range of fields, in different stages of their careers.  Greater transparency benefits everyone! Our first interview is with 91-year-old Eileen Lavine, a retired editor who began her career several decades ago.

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1) What did you do for a living? What do you do now? 
I was a writer and editor for most of my career. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1945, and knew when I first entered college that I wanted to have a career in journalism. I had also been an editor of my high school newspaper (an enormous all-girls school in Manhattan), and as soon as I started college (at the age of 16 ½), I went to the office of The Daily Cardinal, the award-winning newspaper at Wisconsin, and started as a reporter.  That was September 1941 – and when we entered World War II in December, many of the male students went into service – so The Cardinal was run mostly by women, and I became the first woman to serve a full year’s term as executive editor.

2) When you were in school, what did you imagine you would do for a living? Did you have a strong sense of direction in terms of career, or a sense that there were many options open to you?

Yes, I had a strong sense of direction – I did not want to major in journalism, but rather in American Institutions, an inter-department major where I concentrated in political science, history, sociology and economics, all much more valuable for journalism.

When I graduated, I went to Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and received my M.S. degree. Then I worked as a reporter and Assistant Sunday Editor on the New Bedford (Mass.) Standard-Times for about 2 years.  I then came back home to New York and worked as an assistant to Dorothy Gordon, who had youth forums on radio for the New York Times – my job was doing forums at junior and senior high schools around the city on current events and cultural issues.  After 2 years, my job ended and with my generous severance pay I went on a six-week Grand Tour of Europe, ending up in Paris where I stayed for a year doing some free-lance writing for UNESCO and the Economic Cooperation Administration (US Marshall Plan). When I came back home, I became editor of a welfare and health newspaper published by the Community Council of New York.  I married and was doing free-lance writing when my first child was born, then we moved to Washington, DC (my husband was an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission) – and I started doing part-time work for a nonprofit association in the medical field, writing and editing newsletters and other materials.

Eileen LavineIn 1968, a group of us – all women whose husbands were employed – incorporated ourselves as Information Services, Inc., an editorial business that produced newsletters, brochures, conference proceedings,, public relations programs, etc. mostly for health and education organizations and government agencies.  I was President of the company for much of its existence and also was active in the formation of the National Association of Women Business Owners.  We were a low-key firm, mostly housewives working part time on a variety of assignments.  It was quite unique at the time, but we were fortunate in that the organization that had brought us together in the first place continued to pay for the rent and office supplies, and also most of us had husbands who were working and had health benefits.  Our company closed in 1998.  Since that time I have been a volunteer, first as a mentor for young Black and Latino students in reading and acculturation projects and a member of the Board of Directors of the organization sponsoring this program , and for the past eight years, I have been a senior editor at Moment Magazine, a bi-monthly publication founded 40 years ago by Elie Wiesel as an independent magazine on Jewish cultural, social and political issues. I have written articles for the magazine, and I do copy editing and proofreading for each issue.

3) Did your family, friends, and other people around you support your ambitions to be a writer and editor? Was there pressure to do something else with your career/life?

Yes, my family and friends strongly supported my ambitions to be a journalist.  From my high school days, I always went to the 070 section in the public library to read books about journalists. My father, who was a doctor, died when I was 10, and my mother was very supportive of me and my two sisters in everything we did, from going to college out of town, working on the high school newspaper, and going to graduate school (I lived at home that year). My friends also had career goals, and most of my close friends worked after college and after they were married (although most, I believe, stopped working when they first had children, returning to work in later years).  I don’t recall any friends of the family questioning my ambitions.  My older sister, who graduated from college in 1941, got a master’s in economics at Columbia, worked for several yeas after she married, then returned to work when her sons were older. Ditto for my younger sister.  There was never any pressure for any of us to do anything else.

4) Do you see major differences in the way that women are seen and treated in the workforce, from your early days as a writer and editor to your time now at Moment Magazine
Eileen Lavine 2
Eileen celebrates her 91st birthday at Moment Magazine.

Obviously, women in general have many more opportunities today – but remember, my college years were during World War II and women took over many jobs at that time. Some of my friends in college accelerated to get out of college in 3 years instead of 4 to take advantage of these jobs.
For a year in 1948 I worked on two trade magazines, before my job opened up at the NY Times, and the staffs were all women including the top editors. At Moment, the staff is almost all women, except for the design and production manager. We have had male fellows for one-year stints, but the latest fellows have been female.  I am continually impressed at the professionalism, capability and skill of all these women – and it has been a real pleasure for me to work with them.

 

5) Was the gendered wage gap and ERA [Equal Rights Amendment] a big topic of discussion during your time at Information Services, Inc.? What do you think can be done to further improve the working conditions of women today, if anything?

We didn’t discuss gendered wage gaps at Information Services because we were all part-time housewives whose husbands made most of the family income. So we really had no concern about the issue. However, we did march in support of the ERA and that was a big topic of discussion among us all.

As far as improving the working conditions of women today, I think professionally, women have made their marks already at the top levels of many fields, including journalism. The major issue today is how to improve working conditions for women at the lower end [of the job spectrum], to give them education and training so that they can move up and aspire to better jobs.

Our next interview is with Eileen’s daughter, Amy! What kinds of working women would you like to see us interview?


 

Know someone who wants to share their workplace experiences? Contact us :)

 

“What Are You?”: Let’s Talk About Asian-American Encounters

This is a bit of an anomalous situation, but once…my sister and I were on a horseback riding tour in Wyoming, and somehow it was just the two of us with the guide. He was a typical white cowboy-type, kind of dashing in his way, until he opened his mouth to say, ‘What are you guys?’ (Humans?) In this situation, where we were literally in the mountain wilderness alone with him, how sassy could I afford to be? So I just replied, ‘We’re Chinese-American.’ He seemed perplexed for a second before relaxing. ‘Cool,’ he replied. ‘I love sweet and sour chicken, I eat that all the time at this place in town.’ Was this a strange flirtation attempt couched in the language of…food? What was I supposed to say, ‘I’ve eaten mayonnaise before and it’s pretty good?’ Here’s a hot tip: don’t treat someone’s ethnicity as something edible. If you have to reach that hard to find something with which to connect, just use, you know, your shared humanity.

by B.C.

[to] customer service guy, fun fact: my race is not a conversation starter and I don’t care that your ‘best mate’ is getting married to an asian girl.

When I posted this status on Facebook about how a customer service rep unnecessarily remarked on my race, I was kind of surprised by how it blew up with ‘likes’ and comments — but also not that surprised. 

Among my friends, including those on social media, it’s pretty common knowledge that these types of comments are unwarranted. But I was reminded that it’s not common knowledge for everyone.

To backtrack, I was at a Verizon store getting a phone upgrade. This guy was helping me along and we were making typical small talk. Then, out of nowhere, he asked if both of my parents were Asian. I was unsure of where he was going with this but answered, yes, only to have him tell me he was surprised I didn’t have an accent.

As those words left his mouth, I felt myself cringing. Really? Did you really say that? I told him, politely, that there are lots of Asian-Americans like me without accents and that his comment was a little offensive.

He seemed taken aback, shocked, even; he immediately apologized and said he didn’t mean offense. Okay, I thought, well good. Glad that’s over. But then he continued the conversation by telling me that his best friend was marrying an Asian girl, as if that were a way to redeem himself.

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As it to convey, hey, I’m a nice guy. I didn’t mean any harm. My best friend likes your people, so I can relate and it was okay of me to say what I said. I wasn’t so much upset as I was flummoxed by his cluelessness. He was only making things worse without even realizing it. Continue reading ““What Are You?”: Let’s Talk About Asian-American Encounters”