Google Glass and my new Pedego bike

Google Glass and my new Pedego bike

I wrote the following post to my students today about privacy, a surveillance society, embedded and invisible technology, and Google glass. Thought I would re-post it on my blog too.

This is not the best picture of me, but here I am wearing Google Glass with my new Pedego electric bike! Woot! The GPS function has really helped me find my way around the island without having to take my eyes off the road. But, here is a conversation I have a lot when wearing Google Glass:

Person: Are you recording me?

Me: No. Why, should I be? You doing anything YouTube worthy?

Person: haha. Doesn’t it record all the time?

Me: No, that would be a waste of battery, storage space and time ūüôā

Person: but you can look up information about me, can’t you?

Me: sure, the same way I might Google you on the internet, but you would know because I have to talk to it! It does not have face recognition or anything like that. Let’s Google you, shall we? “…. OK Glass …. Google Person.”

Person: Wow, I see a light on it!

Me: Yep! It would be rather hard for me to do anything on Glass without you knowing – you would have to be not looking at me ūüôā

End of Scene (and yes, I have had this conversation more times than I can count or remember).

Since before Google Glass came out, we were bombarded with articles about how Google Glass would invade our privacy. Companies jumped on the bandwagon to ban the device from their restaurants, see the 5 point Café, and there were lots of funny videos showing a man trying to scam pick up women using their Google glass. Of course, nobody knew what the hell they were talking about, and most people are still in the dark about the devise.

As we have learned in our textbook, what we need to be aware of is invisible technology and embedded technology. This is technology that is no longer on our radar because we don’t pay attention to it. Cameras on the street, being spied on at work, and so on and so forth. They are part of our everyday lives, like cell phones taking pictures here and there and everywhere.

Technology that we can’t see, or we simply ignore, that is what we should be worried about when it comes to surveillance, not technology like Google Glass. Google Glass is in your face and it can’t do anything more than your cell phone can do – and it does it more obviously. I have to give Google Glass verbal commands for it to work, although I can take a quick picture by taking my hand and pushing the button at the top of the glass. You will know if I am Googling you! You would not really know this if I was using my cell phone – I could do that in front of you, with a smile on my face, and you would not have a clue!

When it comes to voyeurism and invasion of privacy, be worried about the technology you cannot see, for example: a camera in a shoe. Here is a technology that has been around for years and years, and is being used ALL the time!

Although there are many lessons I want you to take away from this class, here is the lesson I really want you to take with you – the danger of embedded and invisible technology, ideology, and habits. Question what is not being said. Question what is not being seen. Question what is being left out of an article, a book, an argument and so on. The fact that it seems invisible, that’s what’s important. Technology and surveillance that you don’t know exists, or that becomes so every day that you don’t question it, you should be worried about that.

Think about it. I challenge you all to spend ONE day this weekend acknowledging all the recording devices you are exposed to: red light cameras, cameras in stores, all the time somebody takes a picture with a cell phone or portable camera, the use of cell phones, and so on and so forth. Be aware of the invisible technology in your life.

Rebecca

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Being Pleasant – What a Novel Idea

I’ve had a fantastic opportunity to be a part of a wonderful production that is opening this week: Harvey,¬†produced by the Spotlight Players of Puyallup, Washington.

Image

This show has many memorable quotes, but most are delivered the lead character, Elwood P. Dowd:

“Well, I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it.”

 

“I always have a wonderful time, wherever I am, whomever I’m with.”

The line that strikes me the most is:

Years ago, my mother used to say to me, she’d say “In this world, Elwood, you can be oh so so smart, or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart… I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

Whenever I do a production, I walk away from that production with some sort of “lesson” or “personal truth.” You can’t spend that much time with another character without taking something away from the process. But this time, my take away is what I need to learn from another character: Dowd.

I started out being pleasant as a child, I became a “thinker,” and now I think I like to go out being pleasant. One can certainly be a pleasant thinker, and one can continue to think and be pleasant, but I really don’t want to be “oh so so smart.” It’s exhausting, and the smarter I think I am, the more I realize I don’t know a thing, not one darn thing …. not really.

So I started to think about what being pleasant met? And I’ve come to a few conclusions ‚Äď this is the thinker in me, but hopefully not an “oh so so smart” thinker:

  • Being pleasant means being in the moment. Enjoying the moment. Engaging the moment. To be “oh so smart,” one must spend a lot of time thinking about the past, and projecting into the future. This can bring dissatisfaction, especially if the future doesn’t turn out the way hoped, or one spends too much time examining and reexamining the past. ¬†I shall work on being present more …. not exclusively, but more.
  • Being pleasant means not over analyzing things. This one’s going to be a bitch for me. I’ve spent most of my life learning how to analyze and overanalyze ‚Äď how to ask critical questions and look for what is not being said. These are all good skills, I think, but they also can take away from being in the moment, and thereby being pleasant.
  • Try not to fly off the handle at every little thing. Stress gets us all, and I find that it can get me pretty darn well. I can easily crash into that brick wall if I allow myself. I need to learn how to take things in stride, and be a bit more accepting. For myself, this means I need to start learning how to engage in meditation. I could use a lot of meditation.
  • Visualize beauty, happiness, joy. Being pleasant means that you are living in a pleasant/ happy space (one is rarely pleasant when then a pissed off) ‚Äď to live in a happy space is to believe that you can live in a happy space ‚Äď this links back to my need for meditation.
  • Do more plays, make more music, and art. I think this category speaks for itself.

How would you bring pleasantness into your life?

Oh …. yes … a plug for my show:

SHOW DATES:
Friday, March 8 at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 9 at 7:00 p.m.

Friday, March 15 at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 16 at 2:00 p.m. AND at 7:00 p.m.

Friday, March 22 at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 23 at 2:00 p.m.

LOCATION:              
Indoor Auditorium at Meridian Community Center
14422 Meridian E.
Puyallup, WA 98375
(located on Puyallup’s South Hill – across from the Walgreens on the corner of 144th & Meridian).

TICKETS:
Go to: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/323198
Or call 253-251-1930

Or purchase tickets at the door

Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/284140915047905/

Rebecca

Teaching Composition using Nontraditional Methods

This is a Storify I created, but for some reason I cannot get it to correctly embed in this site.  Checkout it out here: Teaching Composition using Nontraditional Methods.

Me and My Shadow: Malapropism

Malapropism

I have a “disease,”* used by playwrights¬†(From¬†Shakespeare to Sheraton¬†Sheridan) to crack a joke and¬†illicit¬†elicit a laugh, to politicians such as President Bush, Jr. who cracked unintentional¬†jokes: Malapropism.

What is Malapropism?

Basically, Malapropism refers to when a person uses an inappropriate word for the word they really mean. It messes with communication and the message being sent in a normally humorous way. The term was coin coined in 1775 by playwright Richard Sheraton¬†Sheridan for his Play The Rivals.¬† In this play one of the main characters, Mrs. Malaprop, would make proclamations such as:¬† “…promise to forget this fellow – to illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory” (Obliterate rather than illiterate). Malaprop is the English version of the french word: mal √† propos, meaning inappropriate.

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Classic Example: He had to use a fire distinguisher.

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You Must be a Poor Idiot, you Embassy Imbecile.  

Of course, the go to explanation for malapropism¬†is one of ignorance ‚Äď Like Mrs. Malaprop, an uneducated person who is wishing to sound educated¬†uses words incorrectly in an attempt to pretend that they come from the¬†educated class ‚Äď miss using misusing vocabulary. For many years, because of this play and also cultural reinforcement of this philosophy, people who have a pretendenity¬†propensity for malapropism are labeled as unintelligent and, often¬†poor (classism being what classism is).¬† just look at former Pres. George W. Bush ‚Äď indeed, his malapropism gained him all sorts of grief during his eight years ¬†of his presidency, and it was often cited as a sign of his lack of intelligence. Now, I wasn’t always happy with his particular decision-making capacities capabilities, but one’s intelligence does not necessarily hang in the balance of a well or misplaced malapropism (depending on the point of view, right? ¬†If you are going for the laugh, it is likely well placed).

Indeed, I truly felt bad for president Bush, although I disliked him politically, because of how much he was teased as a result of his malaprop propensity. According to several people, it is theorized that Bush, like myself, suffers from Dyslexia, witch witch which explains his many speech problems!**

—–

“We cannot let terrorists and rogue nations hold this nation¬†hostile¬†or hold our allies¬†hostile.” – George W. Bush, Des Moines, IA, Aug. 21, 2000¬†[AUDIO].

(He, of course, was trying to say “hostage.”)

—–

Dyslexia and Malapropism

People love a good malaprop, and why not … they’re funny. I get it, and I try to laugh at myself all the time, but that becomes harder and harder with every Malaprop because I often fear that people will deem me unintelligent. ¬†The problem is the social stigmata stigma¬†that comes with malapropism. ¬†But Malapropism, especially the kind I have, is often a side effect¬†of Dyslexia, something that I did not know for many years. Actually, it’s only recently that I have tried to confront my dyslexia, as it has been¬†mating making writing difficult, and I am now trying to learn how not to lash out at myself for all the mistakes I make ‚Äď being a writer, this is a bitch. Not being able to see all the writing mestakes¬†mistakes I make continuously, is what I like to call a “blocker” bitch!

—-

“Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.”
   Dan Quayle, Vice President

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To Write or To Say the Hell With It?

It is interesting, but people rarely pointed out my malapropism until I landed a job as a¬†composition instructor, and I started to get some of my written work published. ¬†Until that point, much of my malapropism happened on stage while doing improvisation, and people liked it. They may have thought it was intentional and it got me a laugh. Now, it’s just a pain in the ass, and it makes me feel super overcautious over conscious and wary of writing in public, without having the ability to edit obsessively for several hours before posting. ¬†Sadly, social media rather goes against this preferance preference, which is why many of my malapropisms find their way onto Facebook and Twitter. ¬†Last night’s malaprop came in the form of a Facebook post:

“My first homemade produce was a pain slave for, you know, the derby love I get on the track.”

A friend asked how she could “grow” the slave, teasing me for my word choice, and STILL I did not see or register her point/joke – I had to ask her what she meant. It was only after she pointed out my word choice mistake did I “see” it.

So, I guess the best thing to do is to keep educating others AND making fun of myself. ¬†It’s like have uneven books boobs, or having to wear glasses, or whatever, if you don’t make fun of yourself first, the world will help you out.

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NOTE: instead of editing my malaprops¬†out of this post, I have left in the ones that came out while writing, and crossed the word through to demonstrate how often I actually do this, and how much editing I must do in order to catch myself. ¬†Tooks¬†Tools such as “define this word” are helpful, but of course you have to identify that the word might not be the right one for this technique to work well – LOL ūüôā

*Malapropism is not a disease, but Dyslexia is a real learning disorder and a side effect of dyslexia.

**Recognizing dyslexia РI placed in italics the symptoms I exhibit 

‚Ė† Use of UPPER-CASE exclusively or randomly.¬†
‚Ė† Letters back to front.
‚Ė† Irregular size or awkward shape of writing, poor spacing.
Now that so many people use word-processors, examples of
handwriting may be hard to come by. But written work can still
show dyslexic characteristics even when word-processed or
typed:
‚Ė† Random or non-existent punctuation.
‚Ė† Missing letters or words.¬†
‚Ė† Spelling errors: the same word spelt in different ways,¬†
letters in the wrong order, phonic approximations, omission 
of syllables, errors in suffixes. 
‚Ė† Use of similar but wrong words ‚Äď malapropisms.¬†
‚Ė† Non-standard sentence structure, an impression of
inexperience in writing.
‚Ė† Misinterpretation of questions.

I have posted this before, but for those of you who may need this resource, here is A Dyslexia Took Box, A helpful PDF on how to deal with Dyslexia.

Can we stop de-humanizing each other?

The following post is from a dear friend and fellow actor: Dustin Moore. ¬†I met Dustin on the Internet, Twitter actually, and I’m delighted to say that we’ve been friends for several years now. He wrote this wonderful journal entry as a plea to all of us, stop dehumanizing each other. It’s a touching post, but it’s also a very important post. I hope you enjoy!

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Dear Journal,

Can we stop de-humanizing each other?

Like many people in this country, I have found myself caught in the crossfire of a gun debate within my family. It is the kind of thing that can suck you in if you aren’t careful. Like abortion or other hot-button issues, everyone has a strong opinion and strong feelings about guns.

Thankfully, I am not going to enter the debate with this entry. I mainly wanted to ask the question: “Can we stop de-humanizing each other?”¬†

This debate, like many recently in our country has brought to my attention how quickly all large arguments degrade into name-calling and demonization. Ads about how dangerous and evil the opponent to my position is or how hypocritical they are and on and on.

Can we please stop?

Are we really so desperate to defend our ideas, wants, positions and ideologies that we are willing to strip away our opponents humanity?

Strip apart his dignity, self respect and motives until he can be nothing but our worst enemy. That his mere existence threatens your well being and safety. And that you must act. Act to stop your enemy.

Every conflict on this earth; every time a hand is raised against another human on this planet begins with this process of dehumanization.

My dehumanization of you begins when I write a story in my head. In that story I dress you in the clothes of a monster. A monster that is after me and my children. A monster that is wicked and devious and would like nothing than to hurt my family, my well-being or my way of life.

Maybe I don’t have to give you monster clothes, because you are already different from me in some visible way; the color of your skin for instance. Every little difference that makes you special becomes another reason why you are such a monster. Because anything that that isn’t “Me” is wrong.

This enemy I have created, is worth nothing other than destruction. And since I am threatened, I will not hesitate to destroy you to protect myself. Clearly, given the chance you will destroy me first.

This is a story. You are not destroying me. You are not hurting me. If you were actually physically doing those things, I wouldn’t be worried about your ideas, I would be fighting for my life.

We accept these stories as reality. We respond to our fellow man as if they were actually that monster. Not the man or woman that looked on their newborn infant with love and hope. Someone who worried about how they were going to feed their family or make sure their children had a chance to laugh sometimes and feel safe.

The irony of it all is that in creating the story “Monster” in my head and assigning you to that role, I become your monster.

Since you are my enemy, I will stop you.
I will hurt you.
I will kill you because you are my monster, and now I am yours.

Stop.

Can we please stop?

You have a story. But it is so much more dynamic and beautiful than the one I create for you. It is unique in the universe.

When will we start treating or fellow man with basic dignity and respect and love? It is not love to demonize, name call, minimize, and dehumanize. 

Love.

There is risk in loving our fellow man. Because in our humanity we do hurt each other. And to love is to put the well being of others above our fear of being hurt.

I hope that there are people out there that want this too journal. I hope that I am not the only one who wants to talk to the person I disagree with and find the ways that we are the same, not different.

Who knows journal?

I guess I need to overcome my own fears and start looking for those people.

TL;DR: I am tired of all the name calling and dehumanization we do to those who disagree with us or have something we want. 

By Dustin Moore

To my young Facebook friend who wants to be a princess

–†—É—Ā—Ā–ļ–ł–Ļ: –ü—Ä–ł–Ĺ—Ü–Ķ—Ā—Ā–į –®–į—Ö–Ĺ–į–∑ –ü–Ķ—Ö–Ľ–Ķ–≤–ł

Trust me young one, you do not want to be a princess. But first, let me apologize to your for what our culture puts forth, markets to young girls. You, beautiful young womanchild, who grew up in the shadows of Disney, and other sugarcoated cartoons that lied to you. You, beautiful unique womanchild, who updates your FB wall, begging to be talked to, complemented, and loved. Where is your prince?  You have asked, while searching on Facebook, social media, anywhere you can to get that the princess fix.

“You are a princess because you’re beautiful like one.”
“Oh, that’s sweet.”

You don’t need to be a princess Womanchild, and you don’t want to be one either – not really. Princesses do not have a great life, certainly not the life Disney sells you. Remember, Disney wants to sell you things, like trips to their fun park, books and magazines, dolls and other frivolous goodies. They search for your parent’s pocketbook, not for any truth.

The real princess is not a woman who can live for herself. She lives for everybody but herself, in her tasks, deeds, and life. Some princesses are pretty, but some are not. DNA, after all, doesn’t care if you’re royal. And the money? Well yes‚Ķ Many princesses have access to money, but that money comes with a very high price ‚Äď control over your life, your acts, and your deeds. Princesses rarely have freedom Womanchild, think on that for a moment. When you’re a princess, you’re owned by the Monarch, you’re owned by your country, you’re owned by your father, and you are later owned by your husband; freedom is not intended for the princess. Indeed, her commoners will find¬†more freedom in day-to-day life.

From Marie Antoinette, Anne Boleyn, Mary Queen of Scots and yesterday’s Lady Diana, princesses are often treated poorly, hunted, and killed for their power. Desired by millions as an object to be controlled, watched, and manipulated, a princess is often at the mercy of others. She does not always come to a good end. Do you remember Cleopatra? Even the great Egyptian Queen Cleopatra committed suicide to avoid being played upon by powers that were bigger than herself.

Womanchild, take my advice, reject the role of princess now. You will save yourself great grief in the end, because princesses in our world are rare and when they do exist, their life is much more difficult than you or I could ever imagine. The beautiful Princess Kate will spend her life as one in service to her people. She will be in service not only to her people, but to the royal family, and she will probably watch all her personal interests fall to the side. Did she find love? I certainly hope so. But make no mistake, her life is one of drudgery as well as beauty. Everything comes with a price.

Rather, be content to be a strong woman. Glorifying your uniqueness outside of the Disney stereotype of the princess. Do not look for a prince because Disney princes don’t really exist either – if you expect your boyfriend to be a prince, you will likely be disappointed. Such fantasies kill relationships faster than you can imagine. Remember, you live in a world and a time that will allow you to make your own road, your own opportunities, and thrive. Throw off that gown, those fake jewels, and the misguided dreams of royalty‚Äď dreams that lied to you since childhood. You do not want to be a princess.

Signed, your concerned Facebook friend.

Academic Puritanism & Opening Ways Toward Diversity

20130109-122213.jpgI had a wonderful lunch with a colleague over break. We went to The Antique Sandwich Company, a wonderful restaurant in Tacoma by the park, and we mused about many different things: family, career, place of work, fashion, and so on. She was kind enough to go with me to help pick out a fun and sexy outfit for New Year’s Eve. I was going to the 70s ‚Äď Studio 54 ‚Äď party at the Tacoma Art Museum. During our conversation we talked briefly about the issue of specialization in Academia. My friend shared her feelings, her belief that specialization was important, and only people with certain degrees should teach certain topics. I struggle with this idea myself ‚Äď and I find myself on the fence with this philosophy. Although I agree with her fundamentally that some topics should be taught by a specialist, for example strict English courses that are teaching grammar and the like, I feel that many other topics would benefit from an interdisciplinary / generalist instruction ‚Äď for example, teaching the topic of composition. A matter of fact, I often found the interdisciplinary nature of my instructors in such courses far more beneficial than harmful.

However, keeping in line with full disclosure and transparency, I am an interdisciplinary PhD. I am not a specialist. I have learned to dabble in sociology, philosophy, rhetoric, theater, women’s studies and history. I am a humanities scholar in the fullest sense and understanding of a humanities scholar ‚Äď I wanted to be a little bit like da Vinci, I wanted to have a little bit of it all. This has both enriched my life, and caused great harm to any academic career I may have wish for.

In our world, and in the world of academia, specialization is prized above all things. Just like my friend mentioned, there is an insistence that specialization in one single field will bring about great change, furthering knowledge, and a deeper understanding about a topic, a subject, or a study. Certainly there’s a lot of lip service towards the interdisciplinary in the world of academia. We hear that word a lot, it is encouraged at conferences and in academic journals, but the truth is if you submit a paper to most academic journals, even ones that profess an interdisciplinary slant, scholars like me find they want one point of view ‚Äď The department’s point of view whether that department is English, sociology, anthropology, and so on so forth.

A few years back I applied for what I thought would be the ideal job: an interdisciplinary philosopher. I do a bit of philosophizing, read a lot of philosophy, and I’ve taught a great deal of ethics. If I had to go back to school and get yet one more degree, it would probably be in philosophy. After reading the call, I couldn’t tell you how much I loved the fact there was a school out there searching for somebody who would bring an interdisciplinary sensibility to the study of philosophy. I spent a great deal of time on my application, I got together my letters of recommendation, and I sent everything in ‚Äď anticipating. When I received a reply, It came with a very long explanation regarding the call that was sent out, and my application. In a most kind, but discouraging “thanks but no thanks” reply,* I was told the department was really looking for someone with a specialized degree in philosophy, not someone who was interdisciplinary. This kind woman told me that they felt, those on the committee who composed the job description, they had to write a job description that emphasized an interdisciplinary sensibility, because, and I am paraphrasing here, that was the “PC” thing to do. But nobody really wanted interdisciplinary ‚Äď departments wanted specialty. Ironically, even programs that are interdisciplinary search for specialized professors to teach in those programs. That’s the truth baby!

Returning to my own campus. I was recently in a series of meetings with English professors discussing the English 101 – intro to composition – courses. One of the things that was discussed was how we needed to make this class a little bit more interdisciplinary. How could we make composition relevant for all the different disciplines it would have to interact with as students took their skills on the road? But, as time marches on, I have found that even with my school interdisciplinary talk is lip service. I’m confronted with this idea that specialization, even in academic composition is best. It is not enough for you to be able to teach composition, and to get extra training in teaching composition, you need a degree in it.

I think it’s unfortunate that an appreciation for true interdisciplinary studies, the humanities, has been lost. Throughout the United States, true interdisciplinary studies and departments are being cut from colleges and universities right and left. Say goodbye to women’s studies programs, generalist programs, and other interdisciplinary modes of learning that does not seem to fit the profit model. Sadly, as we cut these programs we also do away with helping people learn how to think across the disciplines. Indeed, we are creating the Tower of Babel within academia itself; we’ve created specialized language and jargon that is so thick and cumbersome, various disciplines can’t even recognize when they’re talking to each other, or even talking about the same thing. I have run into this time and time again. Can you imagine how much could be done if we all realize we were talking about the same thing? Hell, we might be able to revolutionize our world if we figured out we were all studying the same thing, working on the same problems.

I have been moiling around the conversation I had with my colleague for weeks now. I agree with her to some degree. I am not the person who should be teaching about specific grammar rules. No, that is not where I excel. I would be equally disqualified to teach many other topics as well. But there are some topics, those that thrive in the intersection of academic disciplines, that people like me, and other generals would be ideal for. So when it comes to topics such as composition, yes I feel that I am more than qualified to teach that topic. I also feel that the sociologist, an anthropologist, the philosopher and many others would be qualified to teach composition as well. After all, one of the things these people do, each within their own specialty, is to compose. Their careers depend upon their ability to compose well. Would extra study, with a mind to specific composition details, what needs to be taught, be needed by the specialist? Of course, but certainly they would be able to teach this particular topic, and bring a great deal to the topic, from their own worldview.

It is important to consider what topics might be best taught by a generalist as compared to a specialist. Where are those places which we can bring specialized disciplines together, breaking down the walls of jargon, and one-way thinking? Maybe there should be room in every department’s specialized field of study for a generalist. That scholar/teacher who can help students and instructors take the specialized information, for example sociology, and find a way to ground it to the other studies. How does sociology interconnect with rhetoric, philosophy, anthropology, theatre, women’s issues, the marketplace? I would even go as far to propose that a generalist in every department would be vital and beneficial. Imagine, teaching people how to critically think by teaching them how to think outside of their comfort zone ‚Äď those¬†specialized theoretical boxes. What a magical place this might be.

Before we cut the interdisciplinary out entirely, doing away with the humanities as we are now doing in education and the work place, we must ask ourselves what we might be losing when we focus simply on specialization.

* I cannot tell you how grateful I was to get this letter.  My inquires are more often than not, met with silence.  Although saddened by the news, I was grateful for her honest and the time it took to compose such a thoughtful reply.

 

Mrs. Joyfully

Mrs. and Mrs.

Mrs. and Mrs.

My Sister

I am proud to be called Mrs.

Me

What? Oh Goodness no.  Do you understand what that implies?

My sister

I know Ma would turn over in her grave if she had one, but I am so happy. ¬†I’m a Mrs.!

It has taken me a while to wrap my head around this and a few other¬†declarations¬†my sister and her wife have made since they got married. They are celebrating so many aspects of marriage that I, a heterosexual woman, find¬†offensive¬†and worrisome: taking¬†on the name Mrs., and changing their last name to display what, I thought¬†initially,¬†…. ownership? ¬†These changes are¬†embraced¬†with such pride and joy, while I, Ms. feminist heterosexual woman (no, make that Dr. feminist heterosexual woman … thank you very¬†much; – see “**” note below),¬†sit bemused and baffled as to how I should react to all of of this.

I got married¬†reluctantly.¬† I loved, still love the man I married, but I was aware of the patriarchal bagage this marriage contract came with … was … is … loaded with. But as aware of the¬†patriarchal¬†arrangement¬†I was entering into, I was not prepared. Not by a long shot. Indeed, the process of getting married and the first year of marriage was hell because of the patriarchal social expectations that went along with marriage. Getting married, become a Mrs. has baggage that was truly unexpected and undesired. ¬†After we got married, both my husband and I were loaded down with expectations as to who we should now be, how our priorities should change, and how we should act in our little world. For example, I could not be among people without being asked when I planned on getting¬†pregnant, when I planned on leaving work, and I was now introduced by others as my husband’s wife Rebecca (rarely the other way around – people introduced George as simply “George” not “Rebecca’s husband George”).*

Being the good feminist, I refused to take my husband’s last name¬†because¬†it simply seemed silly to me; why should I be asked to shun my¬†heritage¬†because¬†I was joining with another family? That family wasn’t taking on my last name, were they? Further, I had established an artistic reputation with the last name McCarthy, why start over again? I was confident in this decision, and the support I had from my families about this decision, until¬†one night while having dinner with my in-laws. My mother-in-law and my sister-in-law talked at the table, tearing apart women who did not take on the last name of their men.¬†This conversation¬†occurred¬†several years after I had been married, and they had forgotten‚Ķ yes, simply forgot that I was one of those women. ¬†Then Mom caught the look on my face and stopped the conversation. My husband was silent (what can one say caught between their wife and their Mother?) I wanted to be silent too; I felt I broke some great law, some important¬†tradition¬†that angered all human gods. I made an apologetic and cursory statement, reminding them that I was my own woman outside of my husband, and this fact did not make my love for him any less.

Mom

We know dear. ¬†We¬†weren’t¬†talking about you.

Sister-In-Law

No, of course not!

Mom

Absolutely not. ¬†We didn’t mean ….

Me

Oh, no worries. ¬†Please. It’s ok, really. … Err … can I have some more of that gravy please?

I would have hyphened my last name with my husband’s IF he would have done the same. ¬†But in the old¬†patriarchal understanding of marriage, the contract I entered into, the expectation was for the woman to adjust, not the man. ¬†This is not the same today.

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My Mom’s OED – Ouch that Text!

I was once told that “Mrs.” meant “property of.” I was also told that Miss and Mrs. signified not only your status to the world (not married, married), but also who you belong to (your father, your husband). ¬†Now¬†curious¬†because of my sister’s new Mrs. title, I went to the great Oxford English Dictionary (OED) for clarification. For our collective education, here are the main entries for “Mrs.” (I have omitted those entries that seem redundant):

a. A title of courtesy prefixed to the surname of a married woman having no higher or professional title,** often with her first name, or that of her husband, interposed (also formerly prefixed to the first name of her husband with omission of the surname).

Though used to distinguish gentlewomen in former times the title is now applied without discrimination. In British use, the insertion of a woman’s first name after¬†Mrs¬†(as ‚ÄėMrs Mary Smith‚Äô) used to occur chiefly in legal documents, cheques, etc., and was otherwise rare, the normal practice being to insert the husband’s name (as ‚ÄėMrs John Smith‚Äô) when distinction was needed. Both styles are now commonly used. In England¬†Mrs¬†is sometimes used before a title of office; lady High Court Judges, for example, are styled ‚ÄėMrs Justice ‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ‚Äô Cf.

b. A title prefixed to the name of an unmarried lady or girl; = miss n.2 2a. Now rare except as a title of courtesy applied, with or without inclusion of the first name, to elderly unmarried ladies (this use seems to have arisen in the late 18th cent.).

c. colloq. In substitution for the name of a married woman (esp. when mentioned in conjunction or comparison with her own husband); a wife.

d.¬†Prefixed to the military or professional title of the woman’s husband (with or without his surname following).

e.¬†colloq.¬†the Mrs: a wife;¬†esp.¬†one’s own wife. Cf.

These¬†definitions¬†cover the use of the title Mrs. from the 1400s to present day, and although a type of ownership might be implied (especially in definition “e”), it is not explicitly stated. I have to admit, I was rather surprised by this discovery. However, this does not render the title guiltless. On the contrary, when we look at the most common titles for men and women, one is struck by the fact that men have a single title, Mr., while women have two main titles, Miss. and Mrs. Men get to be Misters whether they are married or not, young or old. This title is a general title used to declare gender and,¬†originally¬† standing in society rather than social marriage status. ¬†Women, on the other hand, must be designated by their marriage status. Are you married? Then you must be a Mrs. and you must take your husband’s last name. If you are not married, then you must be a Miss., and you have your father’s last name (traditionally – unless you were born out of wedlock and then you have your mother’s last name and society call you a bastard … nice, such empathy …. meh).

It was not until the turn of the eighteenth century that Ms. was introduced as “a title of courtesy prefixed to the surname of a woman, sometimes with her first name interposed.¬†Ms¬†has been adopted esp. in formal and business contexts as an alternative to¬†Mrs¬†and¬†Miss¬†principally as a means to avoid having to specify a woman’s marital status (regarded as irrelevant, intrusive, or potentially discriminatory)” (OED). ¬†The first listed reference for this term,¬†according¬†to the OED, appears on 10 November 1901, in the Springfield (Mass.) Sunday Republican:

“The abbreviation ‚ÄėMs.‚Äô is simple, it is easy to write, and the person concerned can translate it properly according to circumstances. For oral use it might be rendered as ‚ÄėMizz‚Äô, which would be a close parallel to the practice long universal in many bucolic regions, where a slurred Mis’ does duty for Miss and Mrs. alike” (idid).

So the question comes down to why we must signify, generally, that a woman is married but we do not necessarily need to signify the same for a man? This is, of course, why titles such as Ms. came about. Sometimes it’s impossible to know if someone is married, and if you are married, why should you be signified or represented by that marriage. You are, after all, still the same person you were before entering into the marriage. Ms. seems well-suited to deal with this problem.

Enter in gay marriage.

What I find fascinating and inspirational as a heterosexual married feminist, is how gay marriage will change all of this ‚Äď throw all this social mess with linked expectations on it proverbial defined head, tossing it all about and changing not only defined ideas, but expectations and “how we do things around here” mentalities. By marrying another woman, my sister didn’t quite have those patriarchal expectations on her shoulders when she proudly defined herself as a Mrs. Rather, the ability to define herself as a Mrs. throws most of those normal patriarchal expectations out the window. When you have two women, married to each other, the only definition of “Mrs.” that can exist is that of signifying a legally married relationship. ¬†This however does not diminish the reality that women are still known by their marriage status, where as men are know as, well, being men. That baggage still remains, to be certain. Maybe the term Mrs. should not be associated with gender but simply marriage status, used by all, men and women. ¬†Now that’s change baby! ¬†Such a move would signify legal marriage¬†unions, which is also¬†demonstrative¬†by my sister’s choice of a new last name.

Today, my sister is happy to take on her wife’s last name and vise versa. They are “hyphenating” to match their son’s last name, which is hyphened as well. ¬†But they are actively reinventing what marriage means in this small act. Indeed, because they both have the freedom (social, legal and otherwise) to take each other’s last name without legal expectations that they are doing something wrong, changing¬†their¬†last name is an act of joy. ¬†It is also a political act, a rearrangement of how things can be understood in the world of marriage, property, ownership and social¬†hierarchies¬† Talking to another female couple who was also planning on getting married after Ref 74 was pass, I was delighted to learn that these two women were thinking about taking on an entirely alien last name ‚Äď reinventing their union by adopting a last name not formally associated with either one of them. This I found truly inspirational. It was an act of¬†fundamental¬†redefinition of what a union between two people meant. But I couldn’t help but wonder‚Ķ would some then identify them as sisters rather than married women? ¬†Only time will tell, but time will also help evolve today’s limited understanding and definition of marriage.

For feminists and all of us in general, at least in my opinion, gay marriage can only help in our effort to spread equality. When we work to redefine equality for any group in our society, we work to redefine equality for everyone. It must be an inclusive act, one that challenges the structure of discrimination not only at a social level, but also at its conceptual level ‚Äď what does Mrs. mean and how does that term reflect common social practices and¬†prejudices? ¬†I am personally excited and anticipating the day when the Oxford English Dictionary includes under its examples for the use of the word Mrs. the following: a title signifying¬†legal¬†commitment¬†between two people, regardless of gender. 2012 The Seattle Times: “Mrs. Lynn¬†Bailey¬†and Mrs. Joanna¬†Bailey were married on December 9, 2012, in Washington State, at the home of Mrs. John Smith and Mrs. Rob Smith.”

_______

* I should admit to occasions when my husband is introduced as “Rebecca’s husband,” but this is honesty rare, and always surprising. ¬†Still there are those time, those beautiful moments where the breasts come first and not simply because they stick out.

** It is¬†interesting¬†to note how this definition argues that the title, which goes with an earned higher degree should¬†supersede¬†the title of Mrs. If a married woman is also a doctor or a PhD, she should be addressed as Dr. rather than Mrs. Yet I witness, often, where fellow married female PhD’s are introduced as Mrs. and their husbands, whose who have a doctorate, are alway introduced as Dr.