A recent conversation with a friend reminded me of yet another of the “death by a thousand paper cuts**” craptastic things I used to hate dealing with in my days in the scientific workforce. You know what I’m talking about. Could be a retreat, a workshop, a seminar, a meeting, a program, maybe even just a discussion, but whatever it is, diversity is the subject, explicit or implicit. On one occasion it was a discussion about whether a tiny little space should be set aside for students of a certain group. On another it was a pizza party for women students. But ever and anon, at such occasions, you will hear the plaintive wail:
“Where is the [meeting/retreat/study room/pizza party/program] for white men?”
At K-State, where I was for a time director of the Women in Engineering and Science Program, I was asked not once but several times “Where is the program for men in engineering?” I had various answers. Sometimes, when I felt pissy, I would say, “That would be the whole College of Engineering.” Sometimes when I felt polemical, I would say, “You know, that’s a good question. It’s good for us to think about why we need a program for women in engineering. Women can do engineering work, but engineering is not as successful in attracting and keeping them as it is with men. So in a sense, the program is more for the college of engineering than it is for the women.” Sometimes, when I felt Socratic, I would say, “That’s a good question. What do you think men need that they aren’t getting, that a men in engineering program would provide?”
But all times, this is what I really wanted to say:
Jesus H. Christ! Every time I hear that “where is the whateverthefuck for white men” I want to say “seriously? Seriously? you think you are the first motherfucking white d00d in the whole motherfucking world to come up with that acid riposte in a diversity-related seminar/meeting/retreat/discussion? SERIOUSLY? Go away and come up with an ORIGINAL white d00d whine and we will think about giving you a diversity cookie. Until then, open up your motherfucking white d00d eyes and take a look around at how the whole entire world is plastered with signs that say ‘White D00ds ‘Specially Welcome Here!’ ‘K? Thx.”
**(The) Knight Higher Education Collaborative (September 2001). Gender Intelligence. Policy Perspectives, 10(2), 1-9.
Not that it matters much with this dreadful film, but if you’re worried about spoilers, don’t read this post till you’ve seen the movie. You’ve been warned. Proceed past the jump at your own risk. Movie trailer can be found here.
What’s a good citizen to do if he or she thinks that cough and sneeze is swine flu? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:
Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
This afternoon I’ve been reading Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich – which is ever so more relevant now, if that were possible, than when it was originally released. Near the end she notes:
It is common, among the nonpoor, to think of poverty as a sustainable condition – austere, perhaps, but they get by somehow, don’t they? They are “always with us.” What is harder for the nonpoor to see is poverty as acute distress: The lunch that consists of Doritos or hot dog rolls, leading to faintness before the end of the shift. The “home” that is also a car or a van. The illness or injury that must be “worked through” with gritted teeth, because there’s no sick pay or health insurance and the loss of one day’s pay will mean no groceries for the next. These experiences are not part of a sustainable lifestyle, even a lifestyle of chronic deprivation and relentless low-level punishment. They are, by almost any standard of subsistence, emergency situations. And that is how we should see the poverty of so many millions of low-wage Americans – as a state of emergency.
One simply can’t choose to stay home from work under those conditions. In an Afterword written in late 2007, Ehrenreich writes that an Economic Policy Institute report found
an astounding 29 percent of American families living in what could be more reasonably defined as poverty [as compared to the more stringent federal poverty line definition]. At least this was the percentage of families earning less than a bare-bones budget covering housing, child-care, health care, food, transportation, and taxes – though not, it should be noted, any entertainment, meals out, cable TV, Internet service, vacations, or holiday gifts. Twenty-nine percent is a minority, but not a reassuringly small one, and other studies have since come up with similar figures.
Can we reasonably expect people living in such conditions to stay home from work while sick – plus two days after symptoms have subsided, as I heard recommended for students at the University of Delaware – when they have no sick pay, no resources to fall back on, and in some cases, not even any real home to stay in while away from work? In some cases, as Ehrenreich observes in her book, work may be the source of one of their free or deeply subsidized meals.
I do not think this bodes well for us as a nation in dealing with a potential pandemic.
Just one more reason why the strategy of short-term gains in the bottom line from keeping workers’ wages and benefits down is not a viable long-term strategy for a healthy economy or society.
McDonald’s is everywhere, of course. But it’s not completely cookie cutter; only about 99.9% so. For example, the McDonald’s at the Heidelberg train station I used to frequent when I felt unbearably homesick in Germany had beer on tap – something you don’t see in the U.S! Most McDonald’s I’ve ever been in, though, feature incredibly dispiriting physical environments. You aren’t really encouraged to linger and enjoy yourself. It’s fast food, after all. It’s not like it’s your quaint neighborhood Starbucks.
But as we knew all along, the very rich are different from you and I, and so is their McDonald’s decor. I drove down to Philly’s Main Line area today for a garden tour of Carolyn’s Shade Gardens. (So incredibly beautiful. Two boxes full of lovely native plants climbed in the car and came home with me…) I was feeling migrainey and stopped at a McDonad’s on Lancaster Avenue for some orange juice. This is very much not how the McDonald’s in my neighborhood looks.
It’s amazing what a different environmental feel the (fake) flower vases on the table and framed art shots on the walls give to virtually the same soulless furniture. In the end, though, it’s still the same crappy food.