Life as an Extreme Sport


I’ve been outed, the rumours are true, I write for more than just you,… whoa, apparently Joss Whedon invaded my thoughts, as I was about to bust out in some Once More, With Feeling-style lyrical shenanigans.

But yes, for those of you reading the editors blog of the American Journal of Bioethics, that would indeed be me that the lead editor just introduced. For those keeping track, that means I write here, there, at the Women’s Bioethics Blog, and the Medical Humanities blog. That’s a lot of blogging.

In actuality, though, I find it pretty easy to figure out what goes where – I just start writing, and the content directs me with where to post. The closest overlap tends to come on issues for the Women’s Bioethics Blog and the AJOBlog, and in that case, the tone (or “voice” for those of you plagued by a theory-heavy humanities background like myself) tends to tell me where to go.

…does this make me a blogaddict?


I spent a while with my former adviser/mentor yesterday, and it was weird, and it was good. In some ways, I felt a sort of closure that I didn’t in June. He was honestly surprised I’d made it through everything grad school and the universe threw at me in my first 6 months, not because he thinks little of me, but because he thought it was simply too much to ask any one person to cope with. I reminded him that he told me, several years ago, after the death of one of my closest friends, that life never got easier – you were always juggling, and what counted was how well you juggled.

“I said that?” he said, very puzzled. “Yep.” “Well, it does sound like something I’d say, I’m just surprised I would have said that then…”

But the thing that he said that actually really, really meant a lot, was when we were in the car driving over to meet some other folks. I was telling him about the opportunities I have at work, and the people I’m working with, and some of the more general stuff I’ve been doing. He paused, and said he hoped I realized that for how bad the first bit was, I actually sounded like I was integrating in faster than most graduate students do when they make the move I did, and that what’s being offered and given to me, I should take as one of the greatest validations of, well, me, that I can get.

I admit to laughing it off and telling him that no, really, it’s just that they needed a warm body with at least part of a brain, and I managed to fill both those requirements, but he didn’t let me get away with it, and forced me to acknowledge that I do realize how lucky I am. But for him, it was more than that – he really did want me to see it as validation. I guess he’s still concerned about my confidence (or general lack of it). I think he was trying to say “see, CHID isn’t the only place that thinks you’re pretty cool.”

It all kind of ended abruptly, last year, rocky and rough and not…how I would have liked. And I think I finally got what I wanted, what I needed. I’m not sure I can articulate what that was, only that it was.

friends, nameless and otherwise

A friend, who shall remain nameless, sent me the following link, along with the rather breathless “omigosh, he’s at Albany Medical College and a medical ethicist! Do you know him?!” question.

I honestly don’t know how to reply (politely; the rude things pop to mind right away, of course), so instead I’ll ask the question that pops to mind: is it really a matter of how old is too old for society? Does it really matter that 1/3rd of the children in the USA are being raised by a grandparent/someone over 60 – does necessity necessarily necessate action? (Just because something is being done doesn’t mean it should be being done, after all.) And why shouldn’t we put limits on when people should or should not have children? What about the physical distresses of pregnancy? Isn’t there an obligation to the child? (Can you imagine what the generation gap would be like?)

Questions like that could be asked all the livelong day, though, and from what I’ve seen via Google News Alert lately, have been. I think what I’m more interested in is this notion of the society being ready. What reasons would it not be ready? We expect people to be mothers young, but that’s slowly changing as more women build careers. Yet we certainly expect women to stop having kids once biology kicks in – or once they get to be a certain age, where we begin to think that it would do more harm than good for the child to have a parent of that age.

And parent, I think, is key. We have a different cognitive category for parent versus grandparent; yes, both are caretakers, but the way we name our caretaker still means something. It seems to me that grandparent implies a categorical and functional difference than parent (even if technically speaking, the roles are the same). It’s certainly a way to acknowledge age gap and experience differences, but I wonder if there’s more to it than that?

Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t – I just felt the distinct shutting down algorithms for my thought shutting down, which means this is going to go nowhere fast. I suppose, though, that the age difference, physical differences, and simple fact of statistics leads me to intuit that we should have limits on this sort of thing, and that if society has decided “too young”, (which we have), then it should not be terribly difficult to decide “too old”, either.

XX, or, chemical freedom I’ll regret in the morning

A few days ago, a comment was left for me in another blog’s comments section, saying Hope you’re well…your blog sounds awfully depressed lately for somebody who’s doing so well as a bioethics person in training!!! Which is a sweet and kind sentiment, although perhaps one that should have been left to me in my own blog, or email, or not the major blog for the field I’m going in to – but that’s being incredibly nitpicky towards a nice thought. Anyhow, the point was to not criticize the message, but answer it, at least in part, with something that I’ve been thinking about a lot since returning from Denver. In fact, I’ve promised to write something for the Women’s Bioethics Blog about it, and it’s being a woman in a field dominated by men.

This dominance starts in my department, which is a shift for me. While the faculty is pretty gender-balanced, the student body is not. There are five female graduate students actively taking classes. Of them, two have long term boyfriends that they spend their spare time with, and the other two have families. I’m the only single, childless girl in the department – at least of the students who’re there, and not ABD and thus who knows where. But on top of that, which is weird in itself (you have to remember that CHID was 60-75% female students) for me, they treat me differently. Us differently, I should say. For a while, I had thought it was just me, until I started talking with another new female student who confirmed the same thing was happening to her.

Being talked over. Having our ideas dismissed, and then hearing some other guy bring up what we were saying a few minutes later and hearing a great conversation build up around it. Being left out. They go out, you see, the guys. Beer, night’s out, poker, weekend parties at each others homes. The girls aren’ t invited. I thought it was me, then we thought maybe it was just the first years being left out – but no, the first year guys are all invited.

No girls allowed in the club. I had thought that idea had gone out of style a long time ago, but apparently not.

So you know, I move across the country, excited about a program that stopped existing a month after I got here. Excited about a nice group of people who seemed friendly and open and like my former department, except speaking my language…and then have to hear them talking, at the start of every week, over all the fun things they did over the weekend together. Things they did without including the girls in the fun, that they talk about in front of the girls.

It took me a while to realize that it was gender coming in to play. I really did just assume it was me, at first. I can be abbrasive, and I’m not one of them. I’m not a philosopher. I have this weird background that makes them cringe, and I think in such a different way than they do, they don’t know what to do with me. (Or, I think, why I’m there.) But then I found out that it wasn’t me, it’s not even that I’m new. It’s because I’m female, and that’s something I’ve never had to deal with before – and how do you? I mean, is saying “oh hey, you’re discriminating against me?” really going to do any good or change any minds? I don’t think so.

That aside, I noticed the gender imbalance while at ASBH, and I noticed how I end up having to act in those sorts of gender imbalanced situations: either very aggressive, which makes me uncomfortable, or wall-flowering in the corner, which also makes me uncomfortable. But it seems like I either have to scream to get noticed, or fade into the background, be ignored, and spend my time silently watching and learning. This is also not a familiar place for me to be – either ends of extremes of behaviour.

What I do need to do is ask a couple of the women professors here out to coffee, to talk, and just make connections with the women I’ll be working with. But it’s sad and frustrating that I’ve to do that – that the only way I don’t have to shout to be heard is if I’m talking with another woman.

what’s that tattooed on my forehead, again?

Guess who’s doing sysadmin work again?

Sigh. (I won’t lie and say it’s been hell, though – whenever I take a break and come back to computers, I’m always surprised at how much I enjoy it. But given how relieved I was after the last sysadmin gig ended,…) Bennett can commence laughing and pointing, as can several other people,…

I’m going to go back to spec’ing out servers and ignoring y’all.