I am reading a book right now called Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson and one of the main character is a 16 year old girl.  In the book he describes her as strong and by all accounts she is.  She has survives on the streets, through beatings and hunger.  She is deemed useful in a time when most women like her would be dismissed or sold to a whore house.  When I was searching around online for reviews of the book I found a creeping pattern.  A pattern of reviews that denied her strength.  It was essentially what I am now referring to as the Sansa Stark problem.  She doesn’t act like a man, she isn’t always yelling or screaming, she doesn’t always fight back, she survives.  There is strength in that.  There is strength in fighting quietly.  There is strength in ways that are not overt.

Personal Stuffs: I walked like ten miles this weekend.  It’s not a lot but it’s something.  I am doing something.

Classroom Stuffs: I am so impressed with my students lately.  They are working so well. Also, we have three day week.

Personal Change: I went to the gym.  Well, I signed in.  So now I have a log in. That’s something.

Classroom Change: Just want to get on top of my stuff.

Reading: I am listening to the Mistborn series and I am really liking it.  My brother would tell you I like everything.

Watching: Caught up on Gotham and Blacklist.  So it was a bad tv weekend.

Your assigned reading: The story of a pregnant photo journalist.

Week 5. Not much.

Not much to report here.  :)

Personal Stuffs: I went out with friends twice this week and it was great.  I really like the people I work with.

Classroom Stuffs: This week has been really really good teaching-wise. I think I am making positive strides in my room.

Personal Change: I still haven’t been to gym.  Get it together, Schwartz. (Can I leave this from last week?)

Classroom Change:  I’ve felt really good about my classroom lately.  Don’t worry though, I’ll find something I need to do better some.

Reading: I listened to The Girl on The Train a Gone-Girl type thriller.  It was utterly addicting.  I saw the end coming sort of but also not really.  It was real good.

Watching: Just the normal stuff this week.  It was a busy week.  I am thinking of start Empire, does anyone watch?

Your assigned reading: A little bit of bell hook and Saved by the Bell for you.

Two of my favorites.

Two of my favorite former students turn 18 today.  Once they wrote a guest post for this blog.  Maybe they’ll do it again sometime?  Until then, I just want to say how stupid proud I am of you.  Except not just proud because that feels like not enough.  I am filled to bursting with joy at the people you are becoming and the fact that you still write, text, and call to tell me you are alive and well.  I miss your faces.

<3 <3 <3,  Ms. Schwartz

P.S. Enjoy the snow.  Throw some at someone for me. ;)

Week 4. Ingrid.

This series of texts happened this weekend:

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 8.21.28 PM

Ingrid is amazing but you can make yourself real sad listening to her.  The bff was listening to “The Chain” which is amazing and also sob-inducing.  Me, I’ve been singing “Be Okay” a slightly less sad but equally good song.  The chorus is simple:

I just want to be okay, be okay, be okay
I just want to be okay today

It’s an upbeat song, covering chunks of sadness.  There’s something about it that reads hopeful to me and that makes me feel better.

This post makes no sense.  Anyway, just so you know, I am actually okay and will continue to get better. :)

Personal Stuffs: Lots of apartment cleaning, cooking, and living like a grown person.

Classroom Stuffs: I missed a lot last week for sick and for PD but I got a lot out of the PD so that felt good.

Personal Change: I still haven’t been to gym.  Get it together, Schwartz.

Classroom Change:  At the PD last week the lady running it used the term “productive hurrying” I want to get better at that this week.

Reading: I just finished Bad Feminist and GOD I loved it.  I love Roxane Gay.  I think we should be friends.  Maybe I’ll go visit Nicky and creep on her.

Watching: I watched Broadchurch this weekend and well holy eff. You must watch.

Your assigned reading: This is one week of harassment on twitter.  ONE WEEK.

Week 3. On Sadness.

Trigger Warning: depression and that such.

My sadness is a thing that is separate from me.  It lives in a different apartment, sometimes in a different city or state or even country.  It often stays there, weeks, months, even years at a time, living it’s own life and not progressing towards mine.  In my early twenties it was my constant companion, my sadness and I slept, ate, and lived in the same space.  It was, and probably always will be one of the hardest times in my life.

In the last year or so my sadness has come back to town and while it doesn’t live with me quite yet it has gotten disturbingly close.  I would not be surprised to find out it lives just next door.  One of the most interesting things about being an adult for me has been the ability to really understand my sadness and to see it coming.  One of the most annoying things about being an adult is knowing I have to deal with it.  So I am. I am doing tangible life things to remind the sadness that it is not invited to my life. That it is not welcome here.

This is all to leads to a couple things.  First, we are all different and handle things differently but for me the sadness is not something to be ashamed of or to hide from.  The sadness is, a real thing for me.  If it is for you I hope knowing you are not alone helps.  Second, I did the grown up thing and I went to talk to someone.  It was the worst therapy of all time.  I got talked at for 45 minutes about something I don’t do, I got drugs pushed on me 3 times, and I was given a bipolar handbook to, “track my moods.”  (Just fyi, I am not bipolar, I have a host of things but this is not one of them.)  Basically, I paid to be harassed.  But I will try again because I understand the importance of good therapy and it is a piece of scaring away the sadness. But seriously, eff that lady.

Personal Stuffs: Mostly, as above, also I am super sick and working on fighting that.

Classroom Stuffs: I really like the way my text is introducing quadratics.  I think it’s interesting and relatable.

Personal Change: I joined the gym this morning.  As one does when they can’t breathe through their nose.

Classroom Change:  Students are having troubling staying with the seating charts.  I’m thinking about why that is and how to help them.

Reading: Still Zadie.  Also I am listening to Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.   As soon as I get a physical copy I will be quoting the hell out of it.  I loves it.

Watching: I watched most of An Honourable Woman this weekend.  I am in love with Maggie Gyllenhal and the plot is fascinating.

Your assigned reading (actually lsitening): The new Kayne, Rihanna, Paul McCartney Song.

Week 2. I didn’t forget.

Umm… so I didn’t so much forget as had today off.  That makes today technically Sunday, right?  I’m pretty sure that’s how days of the week wrong. Also, I’m the center of the universe.

Personal Stuffs: This was boring week in terms of personal stuff, lots of work.  I did have dinner with my family though and was reminded that they really really don’t get feminism.

Classroom Stuffs: I taught my tenth graders badly all week.  This unit is kicking my ass.  I am hoping this week (test on previous unit, start new) will give me a fresh start.

Personal Change: I got a disco ball, does that count? Also, I bought myself flowers and cleaned my apartment so I am feeling ready for the week. (Can we have 3 day weekends all the time?)

Classroom Change:  New units in both 9 and 10, I want to start them both with a reflection circle on how they felt about this unit and what we as a class need to change.

Reading: Okay, so I never started Orleans and I am avoiding My Brilliant Best Friend and instead I stole Zadie Smith’s On Beauty which picked up from a friend’s classroom.  I am really enjoying reading a physical book.

Watching: Gotham, I watched the first two a while back and wasn’t hooked but my brother convinced me to try again and I love the duo of Donal Logue and Ryan from the OC.

Your assigned reading: Hermione and the Goddamn Patriarchy.   Favorite Quote: “Yes all witches. All witches have had to put up with comments like that, and worse.”

Also, Happy MLK Jr Day.  May we reach a point in which all voices are heard and all people are equal.

Week 1. Commitment.

Anyone who knows me at all knows I have trouble with commitment.  I am in fact so obstinate that the idea of claiming I am going to do something every week immediately makes me want to not do it.  I mean really, Anne, who would you be hurting now if you quit?  Just you. I am ridiculous.

Anyway, here I go.  I am going to try to take a little time each Sunday and reflect on my week.  We’ll see what happens.

Personal Stuffs: This week I turned 29.  Yep, that happened.  It was not my favorite birthday but looking forward I am seeing only good things and opportunities this year.

Classroom Stuffs: My classroom is shifting.  The group I had the most trouble with at the beginning of the year is a cohesive unit who speak openly about the learning they do and how they do. My class that I was most impressed with at the beginning of the year seems to be shifting away from that.

Personal Change: This weekend I made my lunches ahead of time and I am hoping to get my act together and join a gym with a good friend of mine.

Classroom Change:  I am going to spend this week really focusing on fostering conversation and in order to that I am going to have to structure a lot more.

Reading: I am trying to get into My Brilliant Friend.  It was recommended by a couple people but I just can’t get into it.  I am thinking of reading Orleans cause I love me some YA and I bought it after the voices of color YA panel at Comic Con.

Watching: I am binge watching Medium.  It is bad and I love it.

Your assigned reading: How to fall in love with anyone. It’s beautiful, short, and I am seriously considering trying it.

miss you, love you, see you next week. (hopefully)

On Agency and Dress Codes

(This is going to be a post where a lot of you disagree with me.)

I am the dress code enforcer.  I spent three years at my last school making sure that sweaters always covered butts, that shorts had inseams, and that boobs were fully contained. Anyone who knows me knows I love clothes.  I love fancy skirts and high rise jeans and shoes of all types.  I love new fashions and the return of old.  So, while I listen to other teachers say, “I just don’t notice dress code,”  I, instead, notice all the clothes, see the infraction, and spend the rest of the period thinking, “dress code, dress code, dress code.”

So, for three years, I said something, each and every time. It almost always started with, “I need you to go change.” It almost always resulted in an argument.  Nine of ten times the student was convinced that their outfit was fine, that their shorts were cute, that their sweater absolutely 100% covered their butt, and that I was doing this to be a jerk.  I wasn’t though.  I was doing it because in my head I thought I need to teach them how to dress appropriately. ::vomit::

I’m going to digress for a moment and I hope you will stay with me.  About a month ago I was having a conversation with my brother and a friend of his and it wound around as long conversations tend to do and got to the topic of body hair.  Both my brother and his friend immediately said that they would happy change any of that for a partner, whereas I was a firm no.  I wasn’t sure why but I was pretty sure I wasn’t willing to do that.  The conversation continued to dating where brother’s friend say he would never date anyone who was pro-life.  He said it was just against what he believed and that was where it hit me.  I wouldn’t change my body hair.  I wouldn’t date anyone who was pro-life.  I wouldn’t give away any of my hard earned agency(1) over my body.

Women and girls spend years being told what their bodies should look like.  What their hair should do.  What their feet, boobs, eyes, lips, teeth should look like.  How much of them they should show, how much of them they should hide. And those messages don’t agree with each other.  At school boobs covered.  On a date boobs out.  Smile and greet people sometimes, other times you should put your head down and avoid eye contact.

It has taken me 28 years to really feel some sense of agency over my body and what I do with it.  So as of today I am no longer enforcing dress code. I am no longer telling teenage girls what to do with their bodies.  I am happy to sit down with them and talk about media influence and why people believe we need dress codes but I am not their mothers, sisters, or aunts. I am not them.  I would really like to provide opportunities for my students to come to this on their own. I certainly refuse to impede it.

(1) definition of agency: a means of exerting power or influence; instrumentality.

Quitting Big Bang Theory

It started last summer, I was talking to my dad, who had just started watching The Big Bang Theory online, and he compared the boys on the show to my brother and his friends.  You see my brother has had the same group of friends since high school, and they are by most people’s standards, nerds.  They like comic books, movies, video games, board games, and yes, even D&D.  My brother though was seriously offended.  We are not like them, he told my father.  We do not treat women that way, we do not treat each other that way, and we are not like them. He was pretty adamant about it.  While I had never compared my brother to the show it changed the lens with which I watched.

Next it was an episode about Howard’s Mother.  I like the gag where we never see her. I think that’s cute in a Cheers/Frasier way.  But it has gotten mean.  You know Howard’s mother’s defining feature?  She’s very fat.  That’s it.  Well, also she’s needy and naggy but mostly she’s just fat. I know this because the show insists only telling me each and every time she is mentioned. In the first season she took a lover and we got to see the fallout from that.  This was a interesting story line. There is humor to be found in adult children seeing their parents as sexual adults.  But this/last season there has been none of that no expanding of her character, no personality, no nothing.  Mom is fat.  Mom is gross. Mom is soo fat that ____________.  For an entire episode the only jokes were about Mom being fat.  In fact to be a mother on this show you must either be: relentlessly religious, cold and detached, or fat. (I know we see Raj’s mom at some point also but only in the context of Raj’s father.)

After the itchy feeling the treatment of Howard’s Mom gave me I started to notice other things.  There are a million ways subtle and not so subtle ways they degrade women on BBT.  From Penny being dumb, to Bernadette being shrill, to Amy being undesirable these women (who are essentially written as tropes) are verbally mocked week after week. The sexism in BBT is all over the internet.  There are great think pieces on the lack of  girl-geeks and lack of well rounded characters.

Tonight though I want to take issue with the episode I just watched entitled, “The Misinterpretation Agitation.”  The basic premise is this:

Penny flirts with a doctor she sells pharmaceuticals who takes her “3-Mississippi arm touch” as a invitation to look her address up on the internet and then show up at her door.  (This is what some people might call stalking.) He then discovers she is engaged to Leonard who apparently won her by sheer determination, which his friends point out at every turn.  Doctor Stalker then takes the boys to the basement of his mother’s house where he locks them in order to win Penny by wearing her down.

This episode makes it very clear that none of Leonard’s friends think he deserves Penny and on top of that, she did not choose him so much as she just finally stopped saying no to his advances.  (Excuse me, whilst I vomit.)

The are 20 million people that watch BBT each week and let’s say half are people like me, people who like things that are traditionally considered “nerdy.” Of that half, let’s assume half are men. This means there at 5 million men who are being told week after week, season after season that if a woman says no, if she doesn’t want to date you, if she doesn’t want to talk to you, you should just keep trying til she does. Or at least until she stops saying no. This is terrifying to me. 

I’d always sort of liked Penny and Leonard’s relationship on the idea that they balanced each other there have been really good episode where we see all the reasons Penny loves Leonard but, this week, this week I am done.  The small scattering of pop culture, nerd ready jokes are no longer enough to hide the mean, petty, sexist, shit they are slinging each week.  So I am deleting my season pass and quitting.  Next week BBT will only have 19,999,999 viewers and if one of them is you I hope you start getting a little itchy, too.