Tag Archives: feminism

How’s Your Side Hustle?

I found this little article fascinating: 2015 Side Hustle Earnings Report.

When you pick up a side gig–whatever your reasons–it’s so hard to know what success will look like. If you’re picking up extra work for money, it can be easy to feel like you’re failing if you’re not the next Steve Jobs. But this report brings us right back down to earth. Success can look like a whole lot of things.

I mean, sure, this list includes a motivational speaker/CEO who makes a slick $89,000 in her “side gig” (gag me a bit here)… but there is also a blogger who made only $450. That’s a huge range.

Did you know the average part-time job brings in $8,000 a year? That’s so small potatoes (forgive me, I read it in another article and can no longer remember the source). But if a traditional side job like waitressing or working at a shop or whatever brings in only $8,000 a year, maybe it’s worth it to try to make your personal hobby into a side gig instead.

Personally I feel that the benefits of running your own small business are completely worth the challenges. You learn so much, about relating to others, managing your time, what your goals really are…

How’s your side hustle? And if you need any editing, just let me know. 😉

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The Weirdness of Weddings

wedding paper flowersLast year, just after I got married, I was lonely, depressed, and trying to come to terms with what had happened in the wedding planning: two of my three bridesmaids dropped out of the wedding and stopped talking to me. I wrote up a piece about it, framing it not as a explanation (because I’m honestly not completely sure), but as a “how to” craft piece. The step-by-step craft process gave me a little emotional distance, and I thought it was kinda poetic.

I submitted it to APracticalWedding.com, a site upon which I’d relied heavily during wedding planning. This summer, they decided to publish it, which was pretty cool. Then it was republished by Refinery29—bonus cool!
But I’ve noticed something. Women, online and in person, respond a few typical ways:
  • “Well, at least you know who your friends are now?” or “Well, they just weren’t very good friends, were they?”
    I’ve gotten this from several commenters, as well as my mom and the therapist I briefly visited. You know how helpful this response is? Not at all. Because they were my closest friends, and their absence meant the utter dissolution of my friend circle. So, sure, I knew who my friends were: older friends, from college, who I rarely get to see. I had no “Let’s go see a movie” friends left.
  • “You shouldn’t have wanted such a hard craft project! Some people aren’t crafty!”
    Mostly received online, from people I think who didn’t understand that the craft was just a way to talk about it. For the record, they didn’t leave just over the craft. They ignored me about the craft, then were dismissive about it, didn’t offer ideas on dresses or like any of the ones I picked, and didn’t bother to RSVP to any shower invitations, didn’t come to my birthday party, weren’t available to meet for dinner, and then were upset when I asked for more support. I even said that if I was asking too much of them, I’d understand if they didn’t want to do the bridesmaid thing and they could just come to the wedding if that was easier. They, apparently, didn’t think so.
  • “I think we’re only getting one side of the story here.”
    Another from the commenters, and—well yeah, of course you are. That’s how a narrative works. This comment has a little added zing of implying I’m lying or manipulating the story. But, if it helps, I don’t know any more, really. They never said why, exactly, they were dropping out. They never said anything at all, except one half-hearted “I’m sorry things turned out this way” a week later, before dropping off my Facebook friends list and not talking to me again. One changed her username so I can’t search for her.
And that would be it, except a few men I know read my article, too, because I forgot who can see things I post to my personal Facebook page. And this is what they said:
  • “Wow, did that really happen? I’m sorry. That’s really shitty.”
    And that was amazing. Because the majority of the women who responded hadn’t given me that kind of empathy. These men validated my experience and just let me say, yes, that was a thing that happened. It was shitty. They didn’t blame me or accuse me of being a “bridezilla” (more than one woman has made that suggestion—including the therapist). They didn’t tell me they weren’t crafty. They didn’t try to play it off as no big deal.
I think it says a lot about women and weddings. The women are afraid to admit that something like this could happen to them, that weddings aren’t always the Hollywood ideal of being so popular you have to be in 27 weddings. So they look for “if only’s”—”if only I don’t do that, it won’t happen to me.”
I didn’t have a Hollywood wedding experience. Parts of wedding planning were really, really shitty. I don’t think I “deserved” what happened, and it’s taken me a long while to stop feeling as hurt about it; it was hard to mourn those friendships. But I did have a lovely event, in the end, with lots of dancing and happy people. I married a really amazing man, and we’re building a solid life together.
Plus I have this kickass wreath, so that’s cool.
paper flower wreath

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The Gender Bias in Books

Last week, a coworker left me speechless. I was reading my book at lunch when she asked me what I was reading (I hate when people interrupt me that way, but you’re not allowed to be huffy about it!). I was reading Abaddon’s Gate and was about to start telling her how much I enjoyed it when she asked: “Is that science fiction?” This, honest to goodness, is how that conversation progressed from there:

“Yeah, it is.”

“Oh… Does your husband science fiction?”

“Oh yeah, my husband and I both love it, and–”

“Did you like it before you met him?”

“…uh, well, yeah, I mean, it was practically a requirement for me to–”

“Oh.” (pauses, biting her lip) “Well, it’s lucky you found a husband who liked it. I guess it’s probably easier for a woman to find a man like that than the other way around, though!”

I think I gave her this face:

Apparently being a woman and liking science fiction means I’m basically unmarriable and should be incredibly lucky that I found a forgiving man to marry me.

And if that were it, that would be one thing. I could shrug off one lady as just being kinda crazy.

And then author Catherine Nichols wrote about her query experiment—she sent her exact same book and exact same query letter to agents under a male name. And the male version of her got far, FAR more favorable responses than her real name.

Read about it here.

Here is one of the more salient points:

Total data: George sent out 50 queries, and had his manuscript requested 17 times. He is eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book. Fully a third of the agents who saw his query wanted to see more, where my numbers never did shift from one in 25.

And even the rejections she got were more favorable, with more long-form responses and positive reactions.

This article—particularly following those outdated, sexist comments from my coworker—just was a real punch in the gut. I may be getting tanked before a single word is written, all because of unconscious (or perhaps a little bit conscious) bias on the part of the agents, the very first gatekeepers in the traditional publishing journey.

Bias against female authors in sci-fi/horror is part of why I use my initials with my book, Undead Rising. But I thought that was just for the reader who may be wary of a “girly” book…I had no idea that this sort of bias had leeched all the way through the system. But I can’t say I’m truly that surprised. Publishing is one of the most opaque, challenging industries, with a convoluted process and a lot of gut feel on the part of agents and editors in determining who gets in the door. And with the recent events at the Hugo Awards, I think there is a good reason to be concerned.

I used to sign my query letters with my name, thinking it would be more personal and therefore welcoming for the agent on the other end. I thought I was improving my odds by being warm and friendly. But perhaps I need to switch to only using my initials there, too; perhaps that is what it will take for my fiction to get a fair shake (especially as the book I’m querying is either sci-fi or literary fiction…both genres which carry a reputation as a boys’ club).

I’m deeply frustrated by this revelation, and sure, it’s one woman’s experiment with a relatively small sample. But her results are huge. I hope it leads to some careful thought in literary circles.

Do you see a bias in publishing? What should we do about it?

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Review: Bossypants

BossypantsBossypants by Tina Fey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m late to the Bossypants party, but luckily Tina Fey knows how to keep the party thumpin’. Bossypants is hilarious, smart, and deeply insightful. But mostly it’s hilarious.

Bossypants is less a biography and more a brilliant stream-of-consciousness into the life of Hollywood-stomping Fey. It’s loosely organized by periods in her life, with a brief bit on her childhood, including irreverent stories about who she met on the first day of school, all the way up into her ongoing surprise that “30 Rock” turned out to be a sleeper hit. She’s humble about her achievements, making Fey seem even more like the person you’d most like to have a beer with. This sounds stupid, but she really is “just like everyone else,” and it seems that maybe a little of that midwestern awareness of the ridiculousness of NYC culture/TV writing insanity is what makes her brand of humor so fresh and entertaining. She’s the girl next door who makes you laugh so hard you nearly pee.

But just because it’s funny—and it IS funny, the kind of funny that’ll have you tapping your husband on the shoulder at midnight to read “just one more line” aloud—doesn’t mean this is an idle book. Fey wraps her humor around sometimes biting criticism, particularly about gender roles. She’s a feminist icon for a reason, and she’s very aware of the limitations (and benefits) of being a woman who is also funny.

The only criticism I have is that I wish there were more, particularly about the writing process for “Mean Girls,” the smash-success movie about teenage girls’ social structure that has, for me at least, left lasting ripples. There’s a scant reference to it, with a lot more time devoted to “30 Rock,” which I have been negligent about seeing (I’ll be fixing that soon).
More, Ms. Fey, always more. I love you and can’t wait for more.

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People are Making Threats Because of Video Games, Everything is Awful

I thought I was well-prepared to handle interacting with people online; I am pretty savvy, know how to avoid the trolls, not to click on suspicious links, and generally fly under the radar and try to be nice to people. But browsing Twitter for less than 5 minutes on Tuesday night left me horribly shaken, scared, and sick to my stomach. Those five minutes left me afraid to voice my opinion, made me want to quit a hobby I’ve enjoyed for years, and made me want to pack up and become a hermit in the woods, because damn, people are even worse than I thought.
What shocked me was the sudden realization that, even in America, where many voices are praised and generally accepted, where we’re supposed to know better than to oppress different ideas with violence, someone thought it was ok–acceptable, reasonable, even!–to threaten to murder an auditorium full of people who were going to listen to someone speak… just because they disagreed with the speaker.
Even more sickening, though, was that was not an isolated incident. It’s a repeating pattern of awful, horrible, wretched behavior, and not from one person, but from many people who feel safe under the cloak of internet anonymity.
All I did was click on the Twitter hashtag #GamerGate.
If you aren’t familiar with what’s going on, Vox had this pretty solid breakdown.
The short of it is: a lot of people (men) are upset that someone (several women) have offered critiques of the video game industry as not doing enough to be inclusive of women. These upset men then decide that the appropriate response to the criticism should range from mild internet dissent to–much more prominently–repeated, specific, violent threats of rape, murder, personal attacks, and damage to property.
To repeat: because someone said something they didn’t like about a hobby they enjoy, people are threatening to assault, harm, and KILL.
 
When I happened to look at it, I stumbled onto the most recent happening: because Anita Sarkeesian was going to do speak about her critiques of video games, someone decided to threaten “the worst school massacre in U.S. history” if she was allowed to speak. You can find the details in this CNN article and elsewhere.
And because Utah is an open-carry state, school officials couldn’t do anything about people bringing guns to the speech. So Sarkeesian had to cancel.
It isn’t an isolated incident. In literally just five minutes of browsing about 100 comments on Twitter, I stumbled on people supporting Sarkeesian, yes, some expressing disagreement with her views but distaste with the threats, and–this is what left me shaking with anxiety and horror–repeated threats of more violence.
I’m not going to dignify the tweeter by linking to his actual post, but I read one tweet that said, “My last tweet led some to believe #GamerGate may be pro-rape. Let me be 100% clear: #GamerGate IS pro-rape.”
****
This whole nonsense–and let’s be honest, the inciting incident IS nonsense–made me scared to write up this piece, for fear of catching even a fraction of the grief that Sarkeesian and others have had to tolerate from the horde of online assholes. Because I am a woman who writes things online, who has opinions and plays video games, so maybe I’ll be swept up and readied for the firing line by these types.
But it didn’t feel right that reasonable conversation should be suppressed by the whims of terroristic asshole children who don’t understand it’s ok for someone not to like what you like. Or even, more appropriately in this case, to like what you like but suggest that there could be more and different kinds of it. 
 
There is no reason–no reason at all–for these women to be attacked for having opinions. And any possible goodwill or reasonable debate those who agree with the “GamerGate”ers has been utterly obliterated by the vocal minority (majority? Hard to tell) who are so afraid of admitting girls to their club (girls who have actually been there, quietly, all along!) that they feel it is acceptable to threaten violence and expose people’s private information so that others can commit violence.
Our current laws haven’t quite kept up with the changing technologies. It’s unclear when a comment on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere on the internet is grounds for an arrest. I’m not one to advocate for the tightening of laws against expression, but you know what the First Amendment doesn’t actually give you the right to do: Openly FUCKING threaten to harm someone.
This is ridiculous. And tragic. And sickening. And, if you’re at all involved in the gaming community in any way, it’s highly likely that someone you know–likely that someone I know–thinks it’s not a big deal to threaten these women in this way. But of course it is a big deal. A huge, terrifying big deal.
I don’t know how to fix it. I wish I did. But don’t be assholes to each other. And call out those who are. That’s a good place to start.

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Women, Money & Work: It’s 2014 and We’re Still Talking About This

Partially because of the publishing fuss with Amazon and because I just read a Dave Ramsey book, I’ve had money on the brain. Maybe that’s why these two articles caught my attention: When the Boss Says ‘Don’t Tell Your Coworkers How Much You Get Paid’ from the Atlantic, and Why Some Men Still Think Women Shouldn’t Work from BusinessWeek.

Both articles are about reasons women are disadvantaged in the workforce, and it’s pretty disturbing, because…well, basically there isn’t much I, as an individual, can do about it. And it sucks.

The Atlantic piece argues that bosses illegally restricting employee’s work-related conversations–in this case, about how much money they make–throttles the workforce (duh), but especially women and minorities, who may never find out they are being underpaid/overworked without those kinds of conversations.

The BusinessWeek article says women with male bosses whose wives don’t work should be particularly worried about being underpaid, because men in “traditional” male-as-breadwinner/wife-at-home families are distinctly less likely to feel like a woman should work at all!

I’ve experienced both, though I don’t know–of course–whether either has directly impaired my career trajectory. I didn’t actually know that it was illegal for bosses to tell employees not to share information about their salaries (so that’s good to know for the future), but it has definitely happened a few times. Then again, here in the South, money is one of the big topics you just don’t discuss. Even when I’ve wanted to know, or had a hunch, I wouldn’t know how to start that conversation.

But I am absolutely sure it is true that employees not having a gauge for what a reasonable salary is is one of the things that keeps people from earning a fair wage.

I also had a job with a company whose owner really, really liked “traditional” (ie. patriarchial and restrictive) family values. They talked a good talk about being a “family” and wanting to support everyone, but it was hard not to notice that pregnant employees departed (seemingly by choice) and there seemed to be progressively fewer women in the office. His wife didn’t work, of course, and neither did the wives of most of the managers. It is fascinating and sickening how easily the idea that women shouldn’t or can’t work can spread and contaminate a workplace just because the boss is one of the 20% of privileged families that can have a spouse (ok, woman) stay home all the time.

I have a feeling that, in both cases, something like this was a part of my treatment at those jobs. Nothing tangible though. That’s how it is with these subtle things.

Sometimes we want to blame something more concrete for problems like this, like “women don’t ask for raises enough” or “women opt out of their careers” or “women pick careers that lead to less money.” And those may be factors, too. But I think it would be wrong to completely overlook these passive, small, highly persuasive factors that can impede someone’s success just because of perceptions deeply ingrained in the structure of our society.

What do you think? Do factors outside of our control impede the progress of women/minorities in the workforce?

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A Name I’ll Miss

I’m getting married, and it’s made me contemplative. I wrote this just after picking up the marriage license, when I was feeling really contemplative about the whole name-change situation. It is a challenging choice, and I think it’s become so expected that a lot of people don’t even think about it. But I do. It bothers me. It bothers me that it is assumed (at least in my area, in my licensing office) that a name change is just a given.

Anyway, that’s how you get weird prose-poems like this. Sorry.

——–

First, they called me “the bun in the oven.” Then, “sweet baby.”

Then they gave me my name, 21 letters that spelled out my parents’ hopes, the legacy of the family unit.
My name I learned, writing it out in waxy kindergarten hand, scrawling it at the top-left corner, papers held by the lopsided staple poorly mashed in. I knew trouble was my name yelled in full.
 I grew into my name–it always was, and always would be. Even as nicknames proliferated and clung like sticking burrs, the name fit, comfortable as a hug.
Then I owned my name. Proudest moment the first time it blazed in fresh ink on a high school newspaper. My name rang out at graduations to my family’s applause; my name on a resume opened doors to shaking hands; my name on a check at the bank bought a sense of accomplishment, ability to spend.
Once again I’m called “baby,” having found my love.
But to be with him, I am rewritten, my name undone.
Though the change is a choice, it’s often assumed. Something is wrong with me if I reject a new moniker, a new life, all at once.
I grapple with this new name, this unwanted pre-supposed choice. I pin it to the ground an try it on. It fits a little tight; it’s not quite my style, but I suppose it’ll suffice.
(I leave my name on underneath, because it’s mine and I don’t have to take it off, not for no one.)
But outside, I’m different. I’m changed. The shift is subtle, but I notice, the looks, the gentle mentions. The rudimentary paperwork I plow through; the expense, the awkwardness.
In time, this name will fit me, like the one before. As I wear this second skin, it will gain meaning, import, weight. Maybe it won’t feel so strange.
I’ll be ma’am’d and not miss’d… and that I may miss.

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