Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Young Percival and the Six Tests

The young man who would become a knight is usually sent off on a quest to prove his worthiness: kill a dragon, rescue a princess, or some such business.  

The person who would write a memoir also has to pass several tests: attend workshops or courses, pitch an agent, write a dazzling book proposal. 

I enrolled in a “memoir boot camp” as a step in my quest to become a published memoirist.

This boot camp presented six tests to the aspiring writer: 

  • Pay $410,
  • Park on a sketchy street in downtown LA, first emptying one’s car of all bags and supplies that might entice anyone to break in, and also obeying various no-parking signs,
  • Figure out the buzz-in intercom system and persist until someone answers,
  • Climb a three-story outdoor steel staircase with breezes wafting between each step and with all steps and landings made of an open lattice like a chain link fence,
  • Take your shoes off at the door, with folded chairs leaning against the wall as your only aid to balance; then walk across the wide hardwood floor (tricky for those who wear arch supports or slippery socks),
  • Agree to be one of the “guys” assembled.

I passed the first five tests but failed the last one.

Happy at having overcome so many challenges, I took my place in the circle of chairs, munching the snacks provided and thinking I had made it.

Then the teacher spoke to the seven women present.  “Welcome!  I want you guys to feel comfortable—”

I sat there feeling uncomfortable, considering whether to speak or to let it pass, once again.

 Unaware that this greeting was a test of worthiness, I decided to speak up.  “I’m not a guy,” I said firmly.

BZZZZT.  I could almost hear the wrong-answer buzzer zap my ears.  The instructor looked at me intently, said the you-guysing would continue, and warned  “We need to have an atmosphere of acceptance and trust in this class.”

“Well, I don’t feel comfortable being addressed that way,” I said. 

That answer earned me a quick dismissal from the group.  Back across the hardwood floor in my slippery nylons, back down the scary metal stairway, out the gate, and safely to my unticketed car. 

Consolation prize: my money was refunded.

Having been booted out of memoir boot camp, my quest to become a successful memoirist has taken a setback.

But I am undaunted.  Like Sir Percival, I will journey on through perils and darkening woods in hope of someday kneeling before a publishing king.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

Booted Out of Bootcamp

When they call this class "Memorable Memoir Bootcamp," they aren't kidding.

My experience last night was memorable.  I got booted out.

Things started nicely: 8-9 women sitting on sofas and chairs around Monica Holloway, whose memoir Driving with Dead People was critically acclaimed.  I was hoping to learn a lot from the five-week course and perhaps make friends with whom I could meet weekly or monthly as a writers' group.

During the friendly introduction, however, Monica said something about "you guys" should feel comfortable and enjoy the nice table of snacks near our circle of chairs.  

When I hear those words, I pause.  90% of the time I decide to let it pass--to sit in polite silence as I am pelted with this folksy, funsy phrase that decrees we are all alike, equals, and guys.

But occasionally I try to reason with friends or speakers or waitresses or hotel clerks.  

If I feel sorry for the person, I stay silent.  If I'm part of a large group--20-30--I don't speak out.

Last night I felt myself to be part of an intimate group where we were going to share our life stories.  I felt safe enough to voice what I was feeling.

"I am not a guy," I said firmly.

Monica was startled and explained that she likes a casual style and would not be modifying her form of address.

"Well, I don't feel comfortable being addressed as 'you guys,'" I admitted, figuring I'd just have to suck it up as usual.

I didn't smile or gush or say "I'm sorry, sweetheart, you go right ahead and call us anything you like.  I can take it.  I'm tough, and it won't be the first time."

Monica stood and left the room just as a male friend of hers walked in and joined the class.

Five minutes later, Monica returned and asked me to come outside and speak with her.

"Your money will be refunded" was all she said.

I gathered my bag and laptop and left, explaining to the class that I had been asked to leave.

As I left, my friend Kelly Giles arrived a few minutes late.  We've been in memoir classes together through the UCLA Extension, and he had told me about this memoir bootcamp four days earlier.

"You're leaving?" he asked.

"She asked me to leave," I explained, "when I told her I didn't like being called 'you guys.'"

So you guys, I'm just sayin', it was indeed a memorable memoir bootcamp.

Family of Feminists

Many of my friends are sane enough to resist the temptations of plastering their lives onto Facebook, but you do occasionally miss some gems.

Here's today's post from my daughter Marie--more of an essay than a status update:

Here's the latest feminist news article my dad emailed me that I was abbbbouuut to archive, but didn't. Because living up to my own expectations of what being a fierce young feminist looks like, means i just don't have time to read all these damn articles outing everyone and their mother for fulfilling their civic patriarchal duty. 
Luckily, I was able to go against my wiser intuition of going to bed–to be well rested for week two of my new badass, challenging, rewarding, tech job mitigating risk & fraud in the finance world–and started reading the article only to find that is was (as expected) super interesting, super relevant, thoughtful, well written, AND based on research from Pitzer linguist professor, Carmen Fought! Yay Pitzer College!

Thanks dad (John Arthur), for bringing this article to my attention.
I also want to give a shout out to my badass, feminist, hilarious, righteously-uncontrollable mother, Anne Eggebroten, for getting 'kicked out' of the first night of her writing class tonight, i.e. asked to leave by the "teacher" as they handed her her payment back, lolol. Apparently this 40-yr-old-ish female teacher addressed the mixed-gendered group of students (6 women, 2 men) as "you guys." (If you now my mom at all, you already know where this is going... lol...) 
To which my mother politely replied that she was not a guy and that it made her uncomfortable to be addressed that way (AKA story of fucking my life, or at least the first 18 yrs of my life, when I had to listen to her say this shit to everyone, everywhere������
as i cowered in the closest corner I could find in Shakey's Pizza, or whatever public establishment we were attempting to patron, drenched in embarrassment, trying to pretend that I had absolutely no relation to "that crazy lady over there"). 
But of course, all laughs aside, I am OBVIOUSLY my mother's daughter as I WOULD NEVER address a mixed gendered, or heaven forbid, group of only women or girls, as "you guys." And if you know me well, you already knew that too.
Oh yeah, and here's the link to that article from pops,…/researchers-have-discove…/…

And if you got this far, it's worth the time. Enjoy y'all wink emoticon ‪#‎seewhatididthere‬‪#‎winkyemojifacetimesthree‬ ‪#‎nowseriouslythoigottagotobed‬

Speaking Out for Princesses

Disney princesses don't get to speak as much as male characters, even in animated films named for the female lead.

Thank you to Carmen Fought, linguist at Pitzer College, for analyzing speaking times of male/female characters in Disney princess films.  Thanks also to John Arthur for sending this link and to Jeff Guo for this report in the Washington Post.  

Fought and Karen Eisenhauer make the following observations:

1) "In the classic three Disney princess films, women speak as much as, or more than the men. “Snow White” is about 50-50. “Cinderella” is 60-40. And in “Sleeping Beauty,” women deliver a whopping 71 percent of the dialogue. Though these were films created over 50 years ago, they give ample opportunity for women to have their voices heard."
"By contrast, all of the princess movies from 1989-1999 — Disney’s “Renaissance” era — are startlingly male-dominated. Men speak 68 percent of the time in “The Little Mermaid”; 71 percent of the time in “Beauty and the Beast”; 90 percent of the time in “Aladdin”; 76 percent of the time in “Pocahontas”; and 77 percent of the time in “Mulan” (Mulan herself was counted as a woman, even when she was impersonating a man)."

2)  Little girls are "not born liking a pink dress. At some point we teach them. So a big question is where girls get their ideas about being girls.”

3) In terms of plots: “There's one isolated princess trying to get someone to marry her, but there are no women doing any other things,” Fought says. “There are no women leading the townspeople to go against the Beast, no women bonding in the tavern together singing drinking songs, women giving each other directions, or women inventing things. Everybody who’s doing anything else, other than finding a husband in the movie, pretty much, is a male.”

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Still Fighting for Equal Pay...

Eleanor Smeal and other supporters of equal pay with President Obama

Thank you, Mr. President.  

We've been fighting for equal pay since I was 20.

From today's Los Angeles Times:  

The proposal, which doesn't need legislative approval, would require businesses with at least 100 employees to submit annual pay data by gender, race and ethnicity in an effort to find firms that the White House said are “unlawfully shortchanging workers.”
The median annual wage for a woman working full time is $39,600, 79% the median wage for a man, the White House said, although some critics said that generalized figure overstates the difference.
Now I know why some businesses stay below 100 employees--this required reporting won't apply to them.

FYI: Craigslist stays below 50.

Two-Tiered Minimum Wage

Did you know that there are really two minimum wages in the US, one for tipped workers and one for non-tipped workers?

The federal minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 if a worker receives $30 or more per month in tips.

This low wage is one reason for outbreaks of food poisoning.  Workers can't afford to take time off when they are sick, so they work and spread illness.  

Listen to restaurant owner Michael McCarty discuss the low wages of kitchen workers in restaurants and the history of tipping and the service compris.

See also a new book coming out in February... Forked: A New Standard for American Dining by Saru Jayaraman.

Sick of No Sick Leave

Thanks to KCRW's Good Food show today for highlighting the lack of paid sick leave for restaurant workers.

Some states require 3 days of sick leave annually but don't enforce it--and most restaurants ignore the law.

Chipotle is now required to give 9 days per year to stop its outbreaks of food poisoning.

A new book, Forked: A New Standard for American Dining by Saru Jayaraman, argues for 9 days of paid sick leave per year for all restaurant workers in the US, as well as other changes.

Hooray!  No one wants to get sick after eating out, and no one wants to exploit these workers.

A related problem: the federal minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 per hour if the worker receives $30 or more per month in tips. 

Even if a worker is allowed 3 paid sick days per year--or 9 paid sick days--some workers have a salary so low they can't afford to stay home when sick.  

Give everybody one minimum wage--to improve the lives of both workers and diners.