food for thought: before thanksgiving edition

I’ll be taking a week off from posting links next Wednesday due to holiday weekend travel. You’ll see “food for thought” return on December 3rd!

Shawn Wen @ The New Inquiry | The Ladies Vanish.

Of course books don’t digitize themselves. Human hands have to individually scan the books, to open the covers and flip the pages. But when Google promotes its project—a database of “millions of books from libraries and publishers worldwide”—they put the technology, the search function and the expansive virtual library in the forefront. The laborers are erased from the narrative, even as we experience their work firsthand when we look at Google Books.

Mona M. @ The Toast | “Brown and Queer in America”: On Being a Bridge.

When you are both brown and queer in America, you have to interpret for everyone — your liberal straight friends from your old life, your queer friends from your new one, your pragmatic family that believes you can think your way out of any uncomfortable taste or tendency if you try hard enough. You’ll have to be the lens through which “progressive” America, where you learned to think, can view the “traditional,” “conservative” culture you come from — you know the one, where Hijra is a gender you can put on your I.D. card, and you’re named after a female incarnation of a male god — and vice-versa. It doesn’t feel like a superpower anymore; it feels like a burden you do not want to bear.

You will have to learn how to constantly say to people, “They are not as bad as you think they are.” You have to get to know my bigoted family, largely white friend community of advanced pansexuals. They are lovely people, really. And you will have to get to know the woman I will eventually be sleeping with, Mom. You will have to get to know her and recognize that she is not a freak, and neither am I.

Michael Schulson @ Salon | “It’s symbolic annihilation of history, and it’s done for a purpose. It really enforces white supremacy”: Edward Baptist on the lies we tell about slavery.

Baptist, a professor of history at Cornell, has spent much of his career helping to undo this narrative. In “The Half Has Never Been Told,” he lays out a sweeping economic history of slavery. Baptist traces the flow of human capital from the Atlantic seaboard to the cotton fields of the deep South. He describes how slavers used whippings to extract more work from their property. He details how slave labor and loans secured with human collateral helped drive the industrial revolution.

These observations aren’t new. Baptist’s real achievement is to ground these financial abstractions in the lives of ordinary people. In vivid passages, he describes the sights, smells and suffering of slavery. He writes about individual families torn apart by global markets. Above all, Baptist sets out to show how America’s rise to power is inextricable from the suffering of black slaves.

Tressie McMillan Cottom | Mapping the Margins of Higher Ed. (Links out to PDF)

Digitally-mediated, user-generated narratives can be used to center voices marginalized through other empirical modes of inquiry. I take the case of for-profit colleges to consider how using social media content as digital ethnographies, paired with intersectionality theories, can critically interpret hegemonic narratives of non-traditional students in online, for-profit degree programs. The study presents findings from a content analysis of Facebook posts from an online support group. The members are all earning their PhDs from online for-profit colleges. An analysis of 291 posts produced over six months by 49 participants evidences how students co-create organizational accounts of meaning that resists dominant ideologies of rational college choice models.

Colleen Flaherty @ Inside Higher Ed | Health Benefits Fight at Harvard.

Lots of colleges and universities have recently made changes to employee health care benefits, and some have encountered strong opposition from the faculty — most notoriously at Pennsylvania State University, which tried to fine employees for not completing annual screenings with personal questions about mental health and family planning. Most of the Penn State plan was abandoned amid faculty outcry, but key components remained; there, and in most cases, administrators have said at least some benefits changes are necessary, pointing to ballooning health care costs, concerns about complying with the Affordable Care Act, and budget woes. But what about the wealthiest institution in the world? Does it really have to overhaul the benefits it offers faculty? That’s what professors at Harvard University are asking – and protesting.

Scott Kirsner @ The Boston Globe | In the sharing economy, a rift over worker classification.

The worker of the future will not be an employee — at least if some of today’s fastest-growing and best-funded startups have their way. They’re positioning themselves as “technology platforms” that simply connect people with independent chauffeurs, house cleaners, or errand-runners. For the most part, the armies of workers that companies like Uber or TaskRabbit are assembling — often after screening interviews, background checks, and training programs — are treated as independent contractors and receive no benefits.

A class-action lawsuit filed this summer in Massachusetts and California courts is challenging that. The suit asserts that Uber improperly classifies its drivers, who own their cars and use Uber’s smartphone app to get work, as independent contractors. No sick time, no health insurance, no 401(k) contributions.

Sara Ahmed @ feministkilljoys | Feeling Depleted?

Feeling worn down: I think feminist killjoys are familiar with this feeling, that sense of coming up against the same thing, whatever you say or do. We have, I think, in face of this feeling to think about how to protect ourselves (and those around us) from being diminished. Audre Lorde taught us that caring for one self can be “an act of political warfare” as a form of self-preservation not self-indulgence (1988: 131). There are “those of us,” she reminds us, who were “never meant to survive” (1978: 32). The relations we develop to restore, to replete, are world making. With each other we find ways of becoming re-energised in the face of the ongoing reality of what causes our sense of depletion (I am willing to use the language of causality here, causality as contact zone). We can recognize each other, find each other, create spaces of relief, spaces that might be breathing spaces, spaces in which we can be inventive.

(And if you like that, also take the time to read Ahmed’s “Pushy Feminists“)

Molly Redden @ Mother Jones | Catholic Church Argues It Doesn’t Have to Show Up in Court Because Religious Freedom.

When Emily Herx first took time off work for in vitro fertilization treatment, her boss offered what sounded like words of support: “You are in my prayers.” Soon those words took on a more sinister meaning. The Indiana grade school where Herx was teaching English was Catholic. And after church officials were alerted that Herx was undergoing IVF—making her, in the words of one monsignor, “a grave, immoral sinner”—it took them less than two weeks to fire her.

Herx filed a discrimination lawsuit in 2012. In response, St. Vincent de Paul School and the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, her former employers, countered with an argument used by a growing number of religious groups to justify firings related to IVF treatment or pregnancies outside of marriage: Freedom of religion gives them the right to hire (or fire) whomever they choose. But the diocese took one big step further. It is arguing that, in this instance, its religious liberty rights protect the school from having to go to court at all.

While doing some research on living wage levels nationally, I came across this useful report from the Crittenton Women’s Union: Massachusetts Economic Independence Index 2013 (PDF). Despite their focus on Massachusetts, I think they provide some valuable assessment of what level of income it actually takes to be financially independent as a household (Spoiler: It’s more than working full-time at minimum wage will earn you.)

food for thought: being bodies at work edition

Clearly, I’ve over-committed myself the last couple of weeks and have fallen behind on the Uprooting Racism project. It will return when life evens out a bit. In the meantime, here’s another week of links.

Michael Hiltzik @ The L.A. Times | Does your employer really care about your ‘wellness’? Maybe not.

[The ruling] can be seen as a victory for the cause of workplace health, for the goal of the Honeywell program was to discourage smoking, obesity and other bad health behaviors and outcomes in its workforce. It can also be seen as a defeat for worker privacy and independence, for the EEOC saw the program as intrusive and coercive.

Either way, the case underscores the growing popularity of wellness programs in the workplace — and also illustrates that big companies may be using them to save money, rather than really providing their employees with better health. That’s because the evidence for the former is strong, but evidence for the latter is weak. In fact, there’s very little data supporting the notion that wellness programs produce better health, and considerable doubt that they’re even designed to do so.

Mike Jones @ Context Junky | What would trauma informed archival access look like?

I’ve been thinking: what should archives and archivists be doing to better support people who have experienced such trauma? Many in our profession are used to dealing with researchers, academics, family historians – people described snootily by some as the ‘educated public’. But if our services and access regimes are tailored to people like this, are they suited to others who may desperately need access to archival records for a whole variety of other reasons? What of people who have been discriminated against, marginalised, traumatised or abused? What of Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants, or refugees who have been through the detention system, or people traumatised by war and conflict, or those whose human rights have been violated?

Sarah Mirk @ BitchMedia | NPR Explore Why the Voices of Women are Taken Less Seriously.

The team at NPR worked with animator Kelli Anderson to put together this animated video of Selena Simmons-Duffin’s great audio report, “Talking While Female.” The report discusses how people have an tendency to think lower-pitched voices have more authority and express greater knowledge. This can lead to people dismissing the voices of women, saying that people who speak in higher-frequency ranges don’t know what they’re talking about. This trend plays into mansplaining, of course, but also it’s important to recognize how men host the majority of podcasts. Because radio is a male-dominated field, listeners are used to hearing deeper, male voices more often as hosts. As women make headway in becoming TV anchors, radio hosts, and starting up women-hosted podcasts, maybe the listening tastes of audiences will change, too.

Miles Howard @ Cognoscenti (WBUR) | Privilege, Luck And Hard Work Brighten Prospects For Some, But Not All, Millennials

Let’s take that argument one step further: Millennials who have gotten relatively lucky in the post-recession economy shouldn’t be leading a discussion about upward mobility and financial solvency for an entire generation. This conversation needs to begin at the bottom of the economic ladder and go up from there, because, after all, those of us closer to the top have made it already, haven’t we?

Francesca Stavrakopoulou @ The Guardian Education Blog | Female academics: don’t power dress, forget heels – and no flowing hair allowed.

Essentially, the message is the same: unless women dress modestly and conservatively, they look out of place in academia, because fundamentally, they don’t have the right bodies to be academic authorities.

This infuriates me, and I refuse to accept it. My intellectual abilities as an academic should be judged on my work: my research, my publications, and my lectures. This is how I have earned and now own my place in academia, regardless – or in spite of – my “feminine” appearance.

PhDisabled | Event Organizers: Give Access Information Up Front. Please?

Imagine the scenario: it’s a bright and early weekday morning. Birds are singing outside your window. You sit down with a hot cup of coffee to check your emails. You’ve received notice of a forthcoming event that directly relates to your research interests. Brilliant! You think, proceeding to find out when and where the event is, booking yourself a ticket if needed, and putting the whole thing in your diary.

Except, when you’re disabled and chronically ill, this isn’t how it goes. In this version of events, clouds cover the sun, your coffee is a bit sour, and you let out a sigh at having to undertake the ritualistic rigamarole of having to work out whether the event is set up so that scholars with access needs like you can get in and can participate.

Got links? Please send anything you think relevant to our group for inclusion in the weekly food for thought round-up. Emails, Tweets, or submissions via comment thread are all welcome.

food for thought: midterms edition

As the local National Public Radio station plays election returns coverage, here are the stories I collected this week related to the world of work and the people who do it.

Catt Small @ Model View Culture | Ten Lessons Learned from Organizing Diversity-Focused Events.

[2. Help Attendees Be Inclusive]…Even if your event has all-gender bathrooms and name tags with preferred pronouns on them, bad things can still happen due to ignorance. Some attendees might not understand microaggressions. One great way to ensure that an inclusive event will go well is to provide tips for inclusivity in the form of an introduction presentation.

Some things we covered in our tips for inclusivity were the use of positive terminology, having empathy for others, and avoiding labels and stereotypes. These tips were shown on a single slide and elaborated on in the presentation.

An introduction presentation is also a great time to mention your event’s anti-harassment policy and who to talk to in the case that someone violates it – that way, no one can say they didn’t know about it!

Melissa @ Nothing In Winnepeg | Do You Know About Jian?

This is the moment when I first learned. I was 24 years old perhaps — I’m counting back, trying to remember what was then, and when was that — and, after about six years slogging it out in freelance music writing, finally ghosting around the edges of my first fancy industry party. And there was a man gliding towards the bar, wearing the liquid smile that rides the faces of most self-satisfied stars. King of the scene in dark-wash denim jeans.

I turned to an old friend of mine, a man who had logged many years in the music biz.  “Isn’t that Jian Ghomeshi?”

He sipped his beer and nodded, but what he said next I had not expected. “Be careful,” he said, with the dark and searching eyes of someone who is holding a story that isn’t theirs to tell.


“Just be careful,” he repeated, darkly. “He’s weird, with women.”

Derrick Clifton @ Identities.Mic | So You Want to Be a Male Feminist?

As a man, being a feminist isn’t some special badge you earn after going to a rally, speaking out for gender equality or holding another man accountable for sexist behavior. It’s not about getting “ally cookies” or a pat on the back every time you do something that’s considered pro-feminism. Rather, it’s about making sure your actions aren’t sexist, transphobic or reinforcements of gender-based bigotry. It is not going above and beyond to act respectfully and in solidarity with women working towards gender equality.

Rachel Walden @ Our Bodies, Our Blog | Why Corporate Promotion of Egg Freezing isn’t a “Benefit” to All Women.

Despite the financial generosity, this might not be a good deal for healthy employees of these companies — or for women in the workplace in general.

While some news outlets have addressed the high cost of egg freezing — at least $10,000 per ovarian stimulation cycle and $500 a year for storage — there’s more to be concerned about than the high cost or the low chances of success (according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, for a woman age 38, the chance of one frozen egg leading to a live birth is 2 to 12 percent).

We’ve pulled together a number of articles discussing the potential health risks and the complicated messaging to women employees. Please feel free to add what you’re reading in the comments.

Clare Shaw & Lucy Ward @ The Guardian | Dark Thoughts: Why Mental Illness in On the Rise in Academia.

Dr Alan Swann of Imperial College London, chair of the higher education occupational physicians committee, blamed “demands for increased product and productivity” for rising levels of mental health problems among academics.

He says: “They all have to produce results – you are only as good as your research rating or as good as your ability to bring in funding for research.”

Swann says most academics are stressed rather than mentally unwell: “They are thinking about their work and the consequences of not being as good as they should be; they’re having difficulty switching off and feeling guilty if they’re not working seven days a week.”

Academics and researchers can become isolated and not realise how “out of kilter” their working lives are, he says.

On Point (NPR) | Tim Cook and Being Out at Work in America (audio only; my apologies).

Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook made history when he became the first Fortune 500 CEO to come out as gay.  And not just out, but proud and very clear about it.  “I consider being gay,” Cook wrote in an essay in Bloomberg Businessweek, “among the greatest gifts God has given me.”  It is striking that in 2014, this was still the first top tier CEO to be publically gay.  And of course, being Apple, this is tip-top tier.  In 29 states, you can still be fired for homosexuality.  This hour On Point:  Tim Cook’s coming out, and how it is today for gays in the American workplace.

Sam Dylan Finch @ Let’s Queer It Up! | What You’re Actually Saying When You Ignore Someone’s Gender Pronoun.

Some folks simply don’t understand what they are saying when they refuse to use someone’s stated gender pronouns.

When someone states their pronouns (he, she, ze, they, etc), they are asking for your respect. And when you choose not to use these pronouns, and instead opt for your own, you are not only invalidating someone’s identity, but you are also saying a plethora of harmful things that you likely never intended.

So what are you really saying when you’ve decided to continue using a pronoun that someone doesn’t identify with? Here are just a few things you could be suggesting when you use the incorrect pronouns…

And finally, three regular round-ups you might be interested in adding to your RSS aggregation of choice:

Rosalind Kemp @ The Reach Blog: Diversity Roundup – October

By Their Strange Fruit: Christianity & Race: Friday Fruit (10/31/2014)

Jazmin @ Persephone Magazine: PoC News in America