Not Just Academic tips

Throwback Thursday: Back-to-School Beatitudes–10 Academic Survival Tips

By Brittney C. Cooper

https://crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com/?s=ten+academic+survival+tips&submit=Search

Original Post

Graduate school was nothing short of an emotional and physical rollercoaster. I spent the first semester depressed and homesick, years 2-4 battling a stress-induced stomach condition that caused me to lose not only 75 pounds but also a whole semester of work. I healed just in time to begin my dissertation, wherein I gained back most of the weight I lost, and experienced a nasty case of stress-induced shingles just as I was rounding third. I love my work, and I’m glad I made it, but as we all head into a new academic year, here are a few things I wish I’d known…

  • Be confident in your abilities.
    • If you feel like a fraud, you very likely are suffering from impostor syndrome, a chronic feeling of intellectual or personal inadequacy born of grandiose expectations about what it means to be competent. Women in particular suffer with this issue, but I argue that it is worse for women-of-color (particularly Blacks and Latinas) who labor under stereotypes of both racial and gender incompetence. The academy itself also creates grandiose expectations, given the general perception of academicians as hypercompetent people. Secret: Everybody that’s actin like they know, doesn’t really know. So ask your question. It’s probably not as stupid as you think. Now say this with me: “I’m smart enough, my work is important, and damn it, I’m gonna make it.”
  • Be patient with yourself.
    • Be patient with your own process of intellectual growth. You will get there and it will all come together. You aren’t supposed to know everything at the beginning. And you still won’t know everything at the end (of coursework, exams, the dissertation, life…).
    • Getting the actual degree isn’t about intellect. It is about sheer strength of will and dogged determination. “Damn it, I’m gonna walk out of here with that piece of paper if it’s the last cottonpickin’ thing I do.” That kind of thinking helps you to keep going after you’ve just been asked to revise a chapter for the third time, your committee member has failed to submit a letter of rec on time, and you feel like blowing something or someone up.
  • Be your own best advocate. Prioritize your own professional needs/goals.
    • You have not because you ask not.  You have to be willing to ask for what you need. You deserve transparency about the rules and procedures of your program, cordial treatment from faculty, staff and students, and a program that prepares you not only for the rigors of grad school but also for the job market (should you desire a career in academia).  But folks won’t hand it to you on a silver platter. You have to build relationships, ask questions, and make demands.
    • Figure out your writing process (the place [home, coffee shop, library], time [morning, afternoon, night], and conditions [background noise, total silence, cooler or warmer] under which you work best and try to create those conditions as frequently as possible during finals, qualifying exams, and dissertation.
    • Your self-advocacy will often be misperceived as aggression and anger, entitlement or selfishness. Don’t apologize. 
  • Be kind to yourself.
    • Reward yourself frequently.  Most of us need positive affirmation of a job well done, but for long stretches, especially during exams, dissertation, and the job market, the rewards elude us; and often given the time crunch, once we conquer the mountain, there is little time to enjoy the view before it’s time to trudge back down and start climbing the next one. All that hard work  in high stakes conditions for anti-climactic ends can take a toll on your psyche. So be kind to yourself. Figure out the things you really like and make sure to enjoy them as much as is possible and healthy.
  • Be proactive about self-care.
    • Figure out your non-negotiables. For me, sleep is non-negotiable. I must have it. I don’t do all nighters. I also generally don’t do weekends, so I adjust my schedule accordingly. What are your non-negotiables?
    • Take advantage of on-campus therapy services. My last two institutions have had women-of-color thesis and dissertation support groups. Consider joining.
    • Cultivate a spirit-affirming practice. Grad school/the academy is a mind-body-spirit endeavor. So meditate, pray, exercise, do yoga, go to church, cook a good healthy meal. Do whatever you need to do to keep your mind, body, and spirit in balance.
  • Be a friend/comrade to others and let them do the same for you.
    • Build community with colleagues inside or outside your department.
    • Build community with non-students/non-academics. You need folks who live life outside the dungeon. They will affirm you and help you keep things in perspective.
  • Be willing to get CRUNK!
    • If the environment is hostile, it is most probably characterized by microaggressions of various sorts.  Racial microaggressions –“brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color– are quite common for women of color, but microaggressions can be used in sexist, heterosexist, or ableist ways as well.  A microaggressive environment demands resistance of various sorts. So do you and be you. Unapologetically.  Keep a copy of Sister Audre near by so you can make sure you’re channeling your legitimate anger productively, and then, get crunk if necessary.
  • Be better not bitter.
    • Fail forward. Being the overachievers that we are, we tend not to deal with failure well. It tends to become an indicator to us of our intelligence, worth, and competence. (See #1). But failure is a part of the process. Unless you are incredibly, exceptionally lucky, you will hit a snag in a course, while writing the proposal, on the dissertation, submitting a journal article or submitting a book. Two tips: take the time to process, particularly for big issues like proposals, dissertation chapters or books. Cry, scream (not at your committee or editor), go to a kickboxing class. And then dust yourself off and try again. Look at the suggestions offered; determine their validity. Heed them or disregard them depending on your best judgment, and then proceed to the next step.  And one more thing…don’t let the resentment fester. It may be well-justified but it simply isn’t productive. Just think of it as hazing, and for your own sake, let it go.
    • A lot of anger comes from bitterness at mentors who have not met our expectations. But all mentors are not created equal. Some will build your confidence, some will give you hell,  some will go above and beyond, but a mentor is there to illumine the process and give you tools to be successful, not to be your friend. So have multiple mentors; know the difference in function; and adjust your expectations accordingly.
  • Be tight. Bring your A-game.
  • Be a light. As you make your way, show the sisters and brothers behind you how it’s done, so maybe they won’t have as many dark days as you’ve had.
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How To Say No: The “B” side to Self-Care

By Robin M. Boylorn

THE CRUNK FEMINIST COLLECTIVE

https://crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/how-to-say-no-the-%E2%80%9Cb%E2%80%9D-side-to-self-care/

It took me years to unlearn the habit of saying yes automatically when someone asked me for (or to do) something.  So often had that single syllable fallen from my tongue that I would often agree to things before people even asked.  In time I realized that I had spoiled the people around me to the point that they assumed I owed them a response of agreement, no matter how inconvenient and unreasonable it was.  Many times, if I was unable to concede, they would be agitated and annoyed—and I would feel guilty.  To this day I find that when I tell someone no, even a stranger, they seem surprised, almost offended, at my nerve.

And perhaps it is nerve.  And the fact that saying yes all the time got on my very last one, and kept me on edge.  I would say yes because as a self-described superwoman and strongblackwoman it was the only word I knew to say.  I would say yes because I was flattered at the request(s), anxious to people please, and focused on making other people happy.  I would say yes because it felt like the right thing to do, the polite reply to any well-intentioned question, and evidence that I was a good/nice/sweet/reliable/thoughtful/friendly/generous person.  I would say yes because I felt like people were taking score, and I wanted to always be on the plus side (even though, as is general with people who perpetually say yes, I hardly ever asked anyone for anything).  But the yeses nearly took me out.  I realized that saying yes to everyone else was in essence saying no to myself.  No, my personal time and space wasn’t important.  No, sleep was optional and it was reasonable to expect me to accomplish multiple tasks in a day.  No, I don’t deserve a moment to breathe or a moment of reprieve.  No, I’m not important—everyone else is.

When I learned to say no, I realized that it did not require an explanation and that “No” is an adequate one word response.  There didn’t have to be a substantial reason why.  No.  I didn’t need an excuse or grand reason that I didn’t want to participate in an event, or guest lecture in a class, or attend a workshop, or go to dinner, or review this book or this article, or go out on a date, or join a club or support group, or be a mentor/advisor/reader.  No.

Sometimes it (the no) is because I am simply tired, overwhelmed, depressed, moody, PMSing, jonesing, or otherwise distracted.  Other times it is because my plate is already full, overflowing with the residue of other unintentional or well-meaning yeses.  And sometimes, it is because I simply don’t want to, don’t have any interest or desire to, and would prefer to indulge in doing something else or nothing at all.

No, I don’t have other plans or a laundry list of chores to accomplish first;

No, I am not sick or bedridden;

No, I don’t have a deadline or a stack of papers to grade;

No, I’m not caking or sexing or crying;

No, I just don’t want to.

I don’t feel like it.

I have a date with my damn self, bubble bath, glass of wine, mellow music and all, and I’m not breaking it.  I have had a long day/week/month and I just want to chill.  I need some personal, one-on-one, just me and the reflection in the mirror time.  No, no, no!

So, in the spirit of knowing how to say no… I have the following suggestions that I have learned over the years (post 30):

1.   Always say “no” first.  Do not allow “yes” to be your default answer.  It is easier to go back later and say yes, than it is to go back later and say no.

2.  Never agree to do something on the spot.  Always take some time to think about it and consider whether or not it is going to be an imposition.  If it is, say no.

3.  Limit yourself on how many things you agree to do (beyond your comfort zone) every month/semester/year, etc.  I say “yes” to three things beyond my regular responsibilities every academic semester.  After that, I almost always (depending on the request) say no.  NOTE:  I said beyond my regular responsibilities, which already leave me with limited personal time.

4.  Never compromise your peace.  If you have a full plate, acknowledge it.  Don’t try to overcompensate for a previous “no” with a present “yes.”  Never agree to do something you are not comfortable doing or that will stretch you beyond your limits.  You do not owe anybody anything!

5.  If you have a choice (and clearly, sometimes, whether it be for personal or professional reasons, we don’t), reserve the right to decline or say no.

6.  Save some “yeses” for yourself.  Women have the tendency to put other people’s needs and priorities above their own.  Self-care is not selfish and even if it were, we deserve self-indulgence every now and then.  Don’t say yes to something that is essentially saying “no” to yourself.  Take care of yourself.

7.  Don’t apologize for saying no.  You have every right to decline a request or refuse an opportunity.  You should not feel like you are doing something wrong, being rude, disrespectful, or obstinate.  No is the other option to yes.  It is a neutral response, neither positive or negative (regardless of the requestor’s reaction).

8.  It is not a sin to change your mind.  Don’t feel locked into something just because you may have agreed to do it in the past.  Circumstances change.  Your #1 obligation should be to yourself.

What does it mean to be human in the age of technology?

By Tom Chatfielf

Meaningful collaboration between people and machines must not subvert human creativity, feeling and questioning over speed, profit and efficiency

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jan/20/humans-machines-technology-digital-age

When I think about the future of human-machine interactions, two entwined anxieties come to mind.

First, there is the tension between individual and collective existence. Technology connects us to each other as never before, and in doing so makes explicit the degree to which we are defined and anticipated by others: the ways in which our ideas and identities do not simply belong to us, but are part of a larger human ebb and flow.

This has always been true – but rarely has it been more evident or more constantly experienced. For the first time in human history, the majority of the world’s population is not only literate – itself an achievement less than a century old – but also able to actively participate in written and recorded culture, courtesy of the connected devices pervading almost every country on earth.

This is an astonishing, disconcerting, delightful thing: the crowd in the cloud becoming a stream of shared consciousness.

Second, there is the question of how we see ourselves. Human nature is a baggy, capacious concept, and one that technology has altered and extended throughout history. Digital technologies challenge us once again to ask what place we occupy in the universe: what it means to be creatures of language, self-awareness and rationality.

Our machines aren’t minds yet, but they are taking on more and more of the attributes we used to think of as uniquely human: reason, action, reaction, language, logic, adaptation, learning. Rightly, fearfully, falteringly, we are beginning to ask what transforming consequences this latest extension and usurpation will bring.

I call these anxieties entwined because, for me, they come accompanied by a shared error: the overestimation of our rationality and our autonomy. In asking what it means to be human, we are prone to think of ourselves as individual, rational minds, and to describe our relationships with and through technology on this basis: as isolated “users” whose agency and freedom are a matter of skills and reasoned options; as task-performers who are existentially threatened by any more efficient agent.

This is one view of human-machine interactions. Yet it’s also an account of human beings that gives us at once too little and too much credit. We know ourselves to be intensely social, emotional, intractably embodied creatures. Much of the best recent work in economics, psychology and neuroscience has emphasized the degree to which we cannot be unbundled into distinct capabilities: into machine-like boxes of distinct memory, processing and output.

Neither language, culture nor a human mind can exist in isolation, or spring into existence fully formed. We are interdependent to an extent we rarely admit. We have little in common with our creations – and a nasty habit of blaming them for things we are doing to ourselves.

What makes all this so urgent is the brutally Darwinian nature of technological evolution. Our machines may not be alive, but the evolutionary pressures surrounding them are every bit as intense as in nature, and with few of its constraints. Vast quantities of money are at stake, with corporations and governments vying to build faster, more efficient and more effective systems; to keep consumer upgrade cycles ticking over. To be left behind – to refuse to automate or adopt – is to be out-competed.

As the philosopher Daniel Dennett, among others, has pointed out, this logic of upgrade and adoption extends far beyond obvious fields such as finance, warfare and manufacturing. If a medical algorithm is proven to produce more consistently accurate diagnoses than a physician, it’s both unethical and legally questionable to refuse to use it. As self-driving or semi-autonomous cars become more affordable and road-legal, it’s hard to argue against the ethical and regulatory case for making them obligatory. And so on. Few fields of human endeavour are likely to remain untouched.

Machines, in other words, are becoming stunningly adept at making decisions for us on the basis of vast amounts of data – and getting better at this at an equally stunning rate. Forget the hypothetical emergence of general purpose artificial intelligence, at least for a moment: we’re handing over more and more of what happens in our world, today, to the speed and efficiency of unthinking deciders.

It’s precisely because our present machines can neither think nor feel that this matters. We call them “smart” and marvel at their powers; we paint pictures of a world in which they, not we, are determining what we do and how. We can’t help ourselves: we see purpose, autonomy and intent everywhere.

Yet in ascribing agency and intentions to our tools that they don’t possess, we misunderstand several fundamental points. Humans aren’t slow, dumb and heading for the evolutionary scrapheap; machine efficiency is a very poor model indeed for understanding ourselves; and cutting people out of every possible loop – the better to assure speed, profit, protection or military success – is a poor model for a future in which humans and machines equally maximise their capabilities.

Our creations are effective in part because they are unburdened by most of what makes humans human: the broiling biological pot of emotion, sensation, bias and belief that constitutes the bulk of mental life. We are biased, beautiful creatures. Technology and intellect allow us to externalise our goals; but the ends pursued are those we chose.

Do the incentives our tools tirelessly pursue on our behalf include human thriving, meaningful work, rich and humane interactions? Do we believe these things to be unachievable, unknowable or worthless? If not, when are we going to shift our focus?

What does a successful collaboration between humans and machines look like? One, I would argue, in which humans remain in the loop, able transparently to assess a system’s incentives – and either to influence its direction or debate its alteration.

What does a successful collaboration between humans mediated by technology look like? We have plenty of these already, and they’re characterised by the maximisation of all resources involved: human creativity and questioning; machine search, speed, processing and recall; an iteration involving all parties; and the recognition that efficiency is not an end in itself, but simply a measure of velocity.

Finally, let’s be clear about one thing. Ours is an amazing time to be alive: to be debating such questions together. If there’s one thing our swelling collective articulacy as a species brings home, it’s that people care above all about other people: what they think, do, believe, fear, hate, love, laugh at – and what we can make together.

Our creations are certain to grow far beyond our current comprehension: how far and how fast is perhaps our most urgent existential question. Our best hopes of progress, however, remain deceptively familiar: understanding ourselves better; asking what aims may serve not only our survival, but also our thriving; and striving to build systems that serve rather than subvert these.

https://livestream.com/oxuni/human-in-the-digital-age/videos/110036676

Little Tr(u)mp Modern Times!

Modern Times is a 1936 silent comedy film written and directed by Charlie Chaplin in which his iconic Little Tr(a)ump character struggles to survive in the modern, industrialized world. The film is a comment on the desperate employment and financial conditions many people faced during the Great Depression, conditions created, in Chaplin’s view, by the efficiencies of modern industrialization.

Modern Times portrays Chaplin in his Tr(a)ump persona as a factory worker employed on an assembly line. There, he is subjected to such indignities as being force-fed by a malfunctioning “feeding machine” and an accelerating assembly line where he screws nuts at an ever-increasing rate onto pieces of machinery. He finally suffers a nervous breakdown and runs amok, throwing the factory into chaos. He is sent to a hospital. Following his recovery, the now unemployed factory worker is mistakenly arrested as an instigator in a Communist demonstration. In jail, he accidentally ingests smuggled cocaine, mistaking it for salt. In his subsequent delirium, he avoids being put back in his cell. When he returns, he stumbles upon a jailbreak and knocks the convicts unconscious. He is hailed as a hero and given special treatment. When he is informed that he will soon be released due to his heroic actions, he argues unsuccessfully that he prefers it in jail.

Outside of jail, he applies for a new job but leaves after causing an accident. He runs into a recently orphaned girl, Ellen (Paulette Goddard), who is fleeing the police after stealing bananas. Determined to go back to jail and to save the girl, he tells police that he is the thief and ought to be arrested. A witness reveals his deception and he is freed. To get arrested again, he eats an enormous amount of food at a cafeteria without paying. He meets up with Ellen in a paddy wagon, which crashes, and she convinces him to escape with her. Dreaming of a better life, he gets a job as a night watchman at a department store, sneaks Ellen into the store, and encounters three burglars: one of whom is “Big Bill”, a fellow worker from the factory at the beginning of the film, who explains that they are hungry and desperate. After sharing drinks with them, he wakes up the next morning during opening hours and is arrested once more.

Ten days later, Ellen takes him to a new home – a run-down shack that she admits “isn’t Buckingham Palace” but will do. The next morning, the factory worker reads about an old factory re-opening and lands a job there as a mechanic’s assistant. His boss accidentally falls into the machinery, but the worker manages to extricate him. The other workers suddenly decide to go on strike. Outside, the worker accidentally launches a brick at a policeman and is arrested again.

Two weeks later, he is released and learns that Ellen is a café dancer. She gets him a job as a singer and waiter, where he goes about his duties rather clumsily. During his floor show, he loses his cuffs, which bear the lyrics to his song, but he rescues the act by improvising the lyrics using gibberish from multiple languages, plus some pantomiming. His act proves a hit. When police arrive to arrest Ellen for her earlier escape, the two flee again. Ellen despairs that there’s no point to their struggling, but the factory worker assures her that they’ll make it somehow. In the final scene, they walk down a road at dawn, towards an uncertain but hopeful future.

I Love the crunk feminists

http://www.crunkfeministcollective.com/

Dear Patriarchy,

Dear Patriarchy,

This isn’t working. We both know that it hasn’t been working for a very long time.

It’s not you…no actually, it is you. This is an unhealthy, dysfunctional, abusive relationship because of you. You are stifling, controlling, oppressive and you have never had my best interest at heart. You have tricked me into believing that things are the way they are because they have to be, that they have always been that way, that there are no alternatives and that they will never change. Anytime I questioned you or your ways, you found another way to silence me and coerce me back into submission. I can’t do this anymore. I’ve changed and in spite of your shackles, I’ve grown. I have realized that this whole restrictive system is your own fabrication and that the only one that is gaining anything from it is you. You selfish dick.

I will not continue to live like this. I will not continue to settle. I know now that there is a better way.

Before you hear about it from one of your boys, you should know that I have met someone. Her name is Feminism. She is the best thing that has ever happened to me. She validates and respects my opinions. She ALWAYS has my best interest at heart. She thinks that I am beautiful and loves me just the way I am. She has helped me find my voice and she makes me happier than I have ever been. We have made each other stronger. Best of all, we encourage and challenge each other to grow. And the sex…the sex is so much hotter.

I’m leaving you. You’re an asshole. We can never be friends. Don’t call me. Ever.

Never yours,
Crunkista

Martha Medeiros – lentamente muore

A Morte Devagar
(M. Medeiros)
 

Lentamente muore chi diventa schiavo dell’abitudine,
ripetendo ogni giorno gli stessi percorsi,
chi non cambia la marca o colore dei vestiti,
chi non rischia,
chi non parla a chi non conosce.
Lentamente muore chi evita una passione,
chi vuole solo nero su bianco e i puntini sulle i
piuttosto che un insieme di emozioni;
emozioni che fanno brillare gli occhi,
quelle che fanno di uno sbaglio un sorriso,
quelle che fanno battere il cuore
davanti agli errori ed ai sentimenti!
Lentamente muore chi non capovolge il tavolo,
chi è infelice sul lavoro,
chi non rischia la certezza per l’incertezza,
chi rinuncia ad inseguire un sogno,
chi non si permette almeno una volta di fuggire ai consigli sensati.
Lentamente muore chi non viaggia,
chi non legge,
chi non ascolta musica,
chi non trova grazia e pace in sè stesso.
Lentamente muore chi distrugge l’amor proprio,
chi non si lascia aiutare,
chi passa i giorni a lamentarsi della propria sfortuna.
Lentamente muore chi abbandona un progetto prima di iniziarlo,
chi non fa domande sugli argomenti che non conosce,
chi non risponde quando gli si chiede qualcosa che conosce.
Evitiamo la morte a piccole dosi,
ricordando sempre che essere vivo richiede uno sforzo di
gran lunga
maggiore
del semplice fatto di respirare!
Soltanto l’ardente pazienza porterà al raggiungimento di
una splendida
felicità

To those body hair became a problem

Recent studies indicate that more than 99 percent of American women voluntarily remove hair, and more than 85 percent do so regularly, even daily. This habit appears to transcend ethnic, racial, and regional boundaries.

Hairy women are rated as less sexually attractive, intelligent, sociable, happy, and positive than visibly hairless women. Not only that, women who resist shaving their legs are generally judged as dirty or gross: hair is dirty!

Over the course of a lifetime American women who shave will spend, on average, more than ten thousand dollars and nearly two entire months of their lives simply managing unwanted hair. The woman who waxes once or twice a month will spend more than twenty-three thousand dollars over the course of her lifetime.

Although generally ignored by social surveying, transsexual, transgender, and genderqueer people also express concern with hair management, and employ varying techniques of hair removal.

Dominant culture’s general aversion to visible hair is simply another form of gendered social control!

The overall effect of the hairlessness norm is to produce feelings of inadequacy and vulnerability, the sense that women’s bodies are problematic the way they naturally are.

Practices of hair removal, in turn, produce pre-pubescent-like, highly sexualized bodies, which ultimately contribute to the increasing objectification of young girls.

From “Plucked: A History of Hair Removal” by Rebecca M. Herzig.