Month: March 2017

Sign Ups End Soon for the April Writing Challenge!

typewriterYou probably don’t write on an ancient typewriter, like the one in the picture above. Whatever works for you is great–but if you want to put some money on it, it’s even better. 

For the past few weeks, writers participating in the Any Good Thing Writing Challenge have been pumping out words–400 x 5 days per week per person. While the March results aren’t in yet, here are the results of February’s Writing Challenge:

Folks who wrote 5 out of 7 days produced, on average, 13,698 words.

Our “highest volume” writer generated 16,432 words.

Our “most consistent” writer wrote for 25 days out of the month–blowing past the expectation of 20 days. This writer basically squeezed an extra week of writing into the month.

Our “highest daily average” was 1040 words.

Our group daily mean was 627 words per day of writing.

And collectively, AGT Writing Challenge participants wrote 99,983 words.

If these numbers are encouraging to you, I hope you’ll consider joining us for our April Writing Challenge, which starts April 3 and goes through April 29. Here’s how it works:

  1. You commit to writing at least 400 words each day for five days of the week, Sunday through Saturday. That’s 2000 words per week or 8000 words–an academic article, 16 blog posts, 8 book reviews, a chapter in a novel…whatever you are aiming for–in 4 weeks.
  2. Email me at anygoodthing@outlook.com to let me know you are participating. Let me know your name, your email address, how you want to pay, if you want to join our FB group, and if you’d like an accountability partner.
  3. You send me a check for $20 to cover one month of participation or pay via PayPal. (Be BE SURE to mark the funds “friends and family” so I don’t have to pay a processing fee, please. I love hosting this Writing Challenge for free, but I can’t lose money on it.) I don’t cash your check…yet.
  4. Each day that you write, you email what you wrote to anygoodthing@outlook.com.  (No, I’m not going to read it, but, yes, I’m going to make sure it’s new words each day.) Include the word count in the subject line to make my life easier.
  5. If you write at least 400 words for 5 days a week for 4 weeks, you get all your money back. (Plus probably more.) That’s $1 per day of writing.
  6. If you write for 19 days of the 20, you get $17 back. If you write for 18 days, you get $14 back. If you write for 17 days, you get $11 back. If you write for fewer than 17 days, though, you surrender the full $20.
  7. Any funds surrendered for not writing the full 20 days go into a kitty that is divided between all those who wrote each of the 20 days MINUS $5 that will be awarded as a gift card to one 20-day-writer whose name is drawn at random.

This is a free exercise, so there’s no cost to participate (unless, of course, you don’t meet your goals), and all the money pooled goes back to participants.

Sign up by the first day of the Writing Challenge to participate.

Advertisements

Femicide among the Young

I can’t stop thinking about Deserae Turner. Like, all night long some nights, for several weeks now. In February, Turner, 14, was lured into an isolated location near Logan, Utah, by two 16 year old boys and shot in the head. They’d talked about slitting her throat but “could not go through with it,” so instead one of them stole a gun stashed under his older brother’s mattress and shot her in the head, then threw her in a ditch. She is surviving but requires continuing intensive therapies.

The boys will be charged with attempted murder.

They said they did it because they grew tired of her Snapchatting with them.

What else? Because they had access to a gun. Because some asshole stores a gun in a place where people without fully developed frontal lobes can get to it. Because we don’t teach young men how to handle conflict. Because children have cell phones and social media accounts that throw them into a world of violence.

“[W]hen women hate men, we hurt their feelings. When men hate women, they kill us.”–Jessica Valenti. 

But mostly because these young men learned, and never seemed to question, the idea that if they didn’t like a woman, they could kill her. And to be clear: they would kill a girl for “too much” Snapchatting as much as they would for ignoring their Snapchatting. Ultimately, this is about men and boys’ proprietary orientations” toward women and girls.

Image result for deserae turner

Above, Deserae Turner, shot and left for dead by two 16 year old boys who grew irritated with her social media contact with them. 

The Violence Policy Center reports that thirteen times as many women were killed by men they know than by strangers. Ninety-three percent of 2014’s women murdered by men knew their murderers. Sixty-three percent were wives or intimate partners of their murderers. From birth to age 35, homicide is among the top 4 killers of women. The men sleeping next to us remain the biggest threat to our lives.

The Turner case doesn’t come from nowhere. It’s part of a larger pattern of male ownership, control, and violence against women and girls. It should keep you up at night too.

 

Brave Kids and Families Help Utah Legislators Do Right

A positive follow up to a post I wrote several weeks ago (“Banning Books, Closing Hearts, Killing Kids”) about anti-LGBT laws in Utah’s schools:

This session, the state legislature of Utah voted to repeal its “Don’t Say ‘Gay'” law, which prevented public school teachers from doing anything that could be construed as “promoting” homosexuality at school. The vagueness of the term is troubling and has likely had a silencing effect on teachers, who should be able to answer any student’s earnest question accurately and non-judgmentally.

Senate Bill 196 was proposed by Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams, a Republican, and passed through the state senate 27-1-1, with Republican Margaret Dayton voting “nay” and Democrat Luz Escamilla absent or not voting. The governor signed it on March 20.

Lest we think think these folks heroes, though, it’s important to know that they made this decision only after being faced with a lawsuit brought by the National Center for Lesbian Rights on behalf of Equality Utah and three public school students, including a seven year old gender nonconforming student. When the state signaled a willingness to move on the issue, the lawsuit was paused, and the state did the right thing.

Several other states still have “No Promo Homo” Laws according GLSEN, but the change in Utah provides evidence that the threat of a lawsuit can work.

Utah State Capitol

Above, the Utah state capitol building, where legislators recently decided to make public school slightly less awful. 

All of Utah is a better place because of the bravery of these students and their families. Say “thank you” with a donation to Equality Utah, your local school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, and the Trevor Project. In a state with a very high youth suicide rate, these organizations are vital in protecting vulnerable children and youth.

And consider working with your school and public librarian to insure that fact-based, sex-positive sex education materials (still hard to find in states, such as Utah, that prohibit discussions of sex outside the context of marriage) are on the shelves.

 

Any Good Thing April Writing Challenge Starts Soon!

typewriterYou probably don’t write on an ancient typewriter, like the one in the picture above. Whatever works for you is great–but if you want to put some money on it, it’s even better. 

For the past few weeks, writers participating in the Any Good Thing Writing Challenge have been pumping out words–400 x 5 days per week per person. While the March results aren’t in yet, here are the results of February’s Writing Challenge:

Folks who wrote 5 out of 7 days produced, on average, 13,698 words.

Our “highest volume” writer generated 16,432 words.

Our “most consistent” writer wrote for 25 days out of the month–blowing past the expectation of 20 days. This writer basically squeezed an extra week of writing into the month.

Our “highest daily average” was 1040 words.

Our group daily mean was 627 words per day of writing.

And collectively, AGT Writing Challenge participants wrote 99,983 words.

If these numbers are encouraging to you, I hope you’ll consider joining us for our April Writing Challenge, which starts April 3 and goes through April 29. Here’s how it works:

  1. You commit to writing at least 400 words each day for five days of the week, Sunday through Saturday. That’s 2000 words per week or 8000 words–an academic article, 16 blog posts, 8 book reviews, a chapter in a novel…whatever you are aiming for–in 4 weeks.
  2. Email me at anygoodthing@outlook.com to let me know you are participating. Let me know your name, your email address, how you want to pay, if you want to join our FB group, and if you’d like an accountability partner.
  3. You send me a check for $20 to cover one month of participation or pay via PayPal. (Be BE SURE to mark the funds “friends and family” so I don’t have to pay a processing fee, please. I love hosting this Writing Challenge for free, but I can’t lose money on it.) I don’t cash your check…yet.
  4. Each day that you write, you email what you wrote to anygoodthing@outlook.com.  (No, I’m not going to read it, but, yes, I’m going to make sure it’s new words each day.) Include the word count in the subject line to make my life easier.
  5. If you write at least 400 words for 5 days a week for 4 weeks, you get all your money back. (Plus probably more.) That’s $1 per day of writing.
  6. If you write for 19 days of the 20, you get $17 back. If you write for 18 days, you get $14 back. If you write for 17 days, you get $11 back. If you write for fewer than 17 days, though, you surrender the full $20.
  7. Any funds surrendered for not writing the full 20 days go into a kitty that is divided between all those who wrote each of the 20 days MINUS $5 that will be awarded as a gift card to one 20-day-writer whose name is drawn at random.

This is a free exercise, so there’s no cost to participate (unless, of course, you don’t meet your goals), and all the money pooled goes back to participants.

To get started, just email me at anygoodthing@outlook.com with the info requested in #2 above. If you can’t participate now, we’ll do it again in May.

Participation also gets you into our secret Any Good Thing Writing Challenge Facebook group and, if you want, an accountability partner you can email daily or weekly (as you prefer) to summarize what you’ve been working on and access to our Google Sheets check-in, so you can monitor your progress in the context of other participants. If there are other ways you want this group to be helpful to you, just let me know.

Hate Crimes Begin at Home

On March 15, Juan Thompson was indicted for threats against Jewish community centers. The FBI made a major breakthrough earlier in the month in bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers, schools, the Anti-Defamation League, and other Jewish institutions with his arrest. A former reporter for The Intercept, a new outlet formed to release the Snowden links, who disgraced himself by reporting false stories, Thompson began to email his targets on January 28, about two weeks into a nationwide spate of threats against Jewish organizations. He has been charged with making threats in at least eight cases–though dozens of threats as well as attacks on synagogues and Jewish cemeteries have occurred since the election of anti-Semitic dog-whistler Donald Trump. Thankfully, the FBI announced an additional arrest earlier this week of an young Israeli-American man, who has never lived in the US, in connection to the majority of the threats.

Most news stories about Thompson’s arrest have stressed how weird this story is. His motivation seems to be revenge–not against Jewish people but against an ex-girlfriend. After a summertime breakup, he began a campaign of harassment and cyberstalking. His range of manipulative behavior included texting her while pretending to be dying of a gunshot wound and faxing her boss with claims that she was anti-Semitic. His anti-Semitic threats were committed in her name, even as he also claimed that she was attempting to frame him. At the same time, he publicly denounced the anti-Semitism and feigned outrage that children were being targeted.

Image result for CNN and Jewish threats AND map

Above, a map showing the location of threats against Jewish spaces since 2017. Other sites in Canada, New Zealand, Israel, and elsewhere have also been targeted. 

The story brings a certain kind of relief: one lone crazy guy (and a liberal one, which gives Trump supporters just enough evidence to believe his odious claim that it’s Jews and leftists vandalizing cemeteries) acting on misogyny, not anti-Semitism. It’s a nutty story, but not one that can tell us much about about anything but this particular psycho ex-boyfriend.

Not quite.

Our federal hate crimes law, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, expanded hate crime law to include gender and gender identity as protected categories. According to our law, a hate crime occurs the real or perceived identity of the victim–their nation of origin, their race, their religion, etc.–partly or fully motivates the crime. So many crimes against women are inspired by their status as women, including rape, domestic violence, harassment, and stalking, but because we often see these crimes as “personal,” we have hesitated to understand that gender bias is at least part of the motivation for them. And, worse, we often suspect that the women deserve the violence inflicted upon them. Even when mass violence happens against women–serial rape, the slaughter of Amish school girls in a mass shooting, the stabbing of sorority sisters, a shooting of women at a comedy about women–we prefer to invoke explanations of individual madmen, not widespread hatred of women and our acceptance (which is to say our normalization) of violence against them.

This puts us all at risk–and not merely because all of us are or love women who might be victimized. Misogyny is clearly linked to other kinds of hate activity. That Thompson was terrorizing Jewish families as part of his effort to terrorize his girlfriend is not at all surprising if you see misogyny as hate–and as violence against women as a predictor of other kinds of violence.

First, men have often targeted daycare centers in acts of revenge against women. As a parent of a young child, my major concern about daycare isn’t the curriculum or proper handwashing; it’s wondering which daycare worker’s angry ex-boyfriend is going to come into the center with a gun. When my own campus faced a threat from a gunman last year, it was my very first–and very reasonable–thought.

Second, violence against women often precedes violence against other minorities. Even as hate actors claim to act out of a defense of womanhood (and especially white womanhood; see, 400+ years of white violence against black men), they are also brutally violent  to women, including their own wives and girlfriends. Because mass shooters often choose schools, daycares, shopping malls, and places of worship to commit their acts of violence, women–who are more likely to work in such places–are far more likely than men to die in such acts. The US’s most lethal act of mass violence–the 1927 Bath School bombing, in which Andrew Kehoe bombed a school in the district where he’d been treasurer–began with the murder of his wife.  But we don’t have to go back that far in history to see the relationship between domestic violence and mass violence. Omar Mateen, who killed 50 people and injured 53 more in a nightclub shooting in June 2016, was horrifically abusive toward his first wife. This fall, three white men calling themselves “Crusaders” plan to bomb an apartment complex housing many Somali immigrants and their mosque in Garden City, Kansas. They prepped for their terroristic act by harassing Somali women; one had committed an act of domestic violence against his girlfriend just before his arrest.

Unfortunately, we largely ignore domestic violence, treat it is entirely personal (rather than a larger project of terrorism against women and children), and blame its victims. The Trump administration has proposed a total defunding of Violence Against Women Grants. The current administration has also moved to focus Countering Violent Extremist programs solely on radical Islam, though white supremacists have harmed far more Americans at home and though their mass violence is often preceded by domestic violence. Though states are permitted to ban those with domestic violence histories from gun ownership, an increasing number of states now allow permitless gun ownership, ensuring that domestic abusers have legal access to guns with no state oversight. We’re not just ignoring future mass shooters–we’re arming them, disbanding support for their victims, and allowing organizations that advocate for hate and violence to flourish.

The central question of Thompson’s case isn’t Was it misogyny or was it anti-Semitism? It was certainly both. Thompson’s actions show us that you don’t have to feel personal animus for Jews to enact anti-Semitism; he used violent threats to terrorize Jews at his targets and more broadly. That he chose Jews and children–he didn’t threaten Lutherans, after all–was a deliberate choice to tap into a larger, long-standing anti-Semitism; his threats were believable because such threats have been executed in the past. (Frazier Glenn Miller opened fire at a Jewish community center, killing a child and his grandfather, as well as murdering a woman visiting a retirement center, in 2014.) Anti-Semitism is salient; it resonates among haters, including women-haters. We ignore both at great risk.

What do you want to bet that our young Israeli-American man also has a history of hating women?

 

Killing the Angel of the House

A common theme among women I know is how we are to manage our work, our home lives, our health and beauty routines, our emotional labor, our household work. Men, of course, are seldom asked how they manage–a fact hilariously illustrated by the Man Who Has it All.

Here is another response: Kill the expectations of others. Kill them dead in their tracks, whether they are coming at you in the form of home magazines or Pinterest-induced self-loating or in-laws’ unsolicited advice or an internalized monologue. Kill, kill, kill.

This is the advice of Virginia Woolf, delivered in her speech “Professions for Women,” delivered in 1931 to the National Society for Women’s Service and published later in The Death of the Moth and Other Essays. In the speech, she invoked an image from Coventry Patmore’s terrible mid-nineteenth century poem “The Angel in the House,” which includes lines like:

Man must be pleased; but him to please
Is woman’s pleasure;

angel-in-the-house

Above, it’s no problem for DH to keep his dead waterfowl collection on the carpet and ottoman, within reach of the baby. Of course his precious hunting dogs can sit on the furniture. He brought her flowers, didn’t he? Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Home at Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England by Edwin Henry Landseer, early 1840s

Here is Woolfe’s alternative:

…The Angel in the House. It was she who used to come between me and my paper when I was writing reviews. It was she who bothered me and wasted my time and so tormented me that at last I killed her…. I will describe her as shortly as I can. She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in it–in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others. Above all–I need not say it—she was pure…. And when I came to write I encountered her with the very first words. The shadow of her wings fell on my page; I heard the rustling of her skirts in the room. Directly, that is to say, I took my pen in my hand to review that novel by a famous man, she slipped behind me and whispered: “My dear, you are a young woman. You are writing about a book that has been written by a man. Be sympathetic; be tender; flatter; deceive; use all the arts and wiles of our sex. Never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your own. Above all, be pure.” And she made as if to guide my pen. I now record the one act for which I take some credit to myself…. I turned upon her and caught her by the throat. I did my best to kill her. My excuse, if I were to be had up in a court of law, would be that I acted in self-defence. Had I not killed her she would have killed me. She would have plucked the heart out of my writing.

Are you killing your Angel today?

“The 4th R” Recognized with NEA New Scholar Award

I’m so pleased to share that the National Education Association has awarded “The 4th R: Encountering Conservative Christianity in the Classroom” its New Scholar Prize for a scholarly article on teaching that “offers practical approaches to improving teaching and learning at the college level.” The article analyzes several artifacts from conservative Christian popular culture–including a Chick tract and the film God’s Not Dead–in an effort to understand the messages that conservative Christian students often receive about college in order to better support the challenges they might be facing in the classroom.

I’m honored that this article was selected by the New Scholar Prize committee for this recognition–but, more, I’m encouraged by Thought & Action‘s willingness to engage the topic of working with politically and religiously conservative students. As the Trump administration continues its assault on the things higher education values–data, facts, truth, respect for difference, reading, civil discourse, education, critical thinking, engaged debate– and as universities continue to come under attack for being “liberal bubbles,” legislators attempt to undermine academic freedom by instating ideological hiring quotas and banning books by progressive authors, and conservative watchdog groups mount attacks on textbooks and individual professors, it can be tempting to dismiss (and even blame) conservative Christian students. (Note: I think that it’s perfectly fine to blame conservative Christians for their destructive politics. I just don’t think it’s a great pedagogical strategy.) My hope is that this article explains, at least in part, how some of these students got into their political positions. The goal isn’t empathy for students who promote policies that harm others but a contextualization of such students in a subculture often hostile to higher education.

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 11.24.27 AM

Above, a few panels from Jack Chick’s “Big Daddy?” Note the image, in the first panel, of a banana-eating ape with the words “Our Father”–the first lines of the Lord’s Prayer–underneath. 

As always, I owe a lot of thanks to a lot of people who helped me in with this project, including some who probably don’t realize how inspiring they were. These include Gregg Primo Ventello, whose fantastic essay “Brownbackistan”–about being an educator under a governor hostile to public education, got me reading Thought & Action regularly; Natalie, whose sincere and critical interest in God’s Not Dead reinvigorated this project; the jackass who left that Jack Chick tract about eternal damnation in the Northeast Arkansas Baptist hospital emergency room, which got me re-reading my Jack Chick collection; and my mother, a “union thug” who has marched countless miles on the picket line to insure that labor is rewarded fairly.

But, most of all, I owe a lot to the many students I’ve taught at Arkansas State University. Many were patient with me as I learned how to teach to a population that is comprised heavily of students from rural, Southern, conservative, Protestant backgrounds. And they hung in our conversations even as I pushed them in ways they probably didn’t necessarily enjoy. To Robert, Chris, Jamie, and many others–thank you.