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Ruth’s Soapbox

Proud to Rock a Safety Pin

I’m glad the Safety Pin movement is gaining popularity in the States. After Brexit, people started wearing a safety pin on their clothes as a sign that they were an ally to anyone who might feel oppressed.

Proud to be part of Team Safety Pin

Proud to be part of Team Safety Pin

With Donald Trump winning the election this week, a lot of groups have voiced fears – LGBTQ, women, Muslims, immigrants, and racial minorities among them. As a response, the Safety Pin movement has come across the pond as a way for people to let others know that they will help if you don’t feel safe.

If you don’t feel safe out in public, I would be happy to stand with you, talk with you, walk with you, go with you to the restroom, and be a voice against prejudice, discrimination, and oppression. When I went out on my errands today, I stopped by Target to pick up a package of safety pins – the big ones.

Safety Pin Selfie

Safety Pin Selfie

Anyone who has known me since college might be surprised that I’m joining Team Safety Pin. I love the cause, but I despise putting pins in my clothes . . . I mean really despise. It’s something I almost never do. I’m so adamant about it that I’ve gotten in trouble for not wearing my nametag within groups that require it. Sorry, but not putting a hole in my shirt is more important.

So has the Safety Pin Movement convinced me it’s ok to risk my garments with pinholes? Not exactly. I put safety pins on my Ignite Phoenix zippy sweatshirt and my Scottevest hoodie. Before I go back East next month, I’ll put one of my winter coat. But for my regular shirts, I picked up a set of button magnets. Yes, it works. I have a safety pin magnetically attached to my shirt as I type.

And I support this movement so much, you’d be hard-pressed to get me to take it off when I go through things like airport security. They can wand and pat me down (like they always do) and see that I’m harmless. If I leave the house wearing a safety pin, it’s not coming off. (I’m stubborn like that.)

Now What?

Grandpa Jim says you can do anything for six months. Let’s see if we can do four years.

Keep Looking Forward - Gorgeous photo by Peter Shankman

Keep Looking Forward – Gorgeous photo by Peter Shankman

This morning I woke up to see that our next President is Donald Trump – a narcissistic, misogynistic, bigoted liar who brags about sexually assaulting women is the next commander in chief. (To all my friends in the military, I’m sorry your new boss is a dick.) The worst part about this is over half the country voted for him. They wanted someone who is prejudice against women, people with disabilities, LGBT people, Latinos, Muslims, African Americans, and immigrants to be in charge.

How the fuck did this happen?

I didn’t think it was possible to feel worse than how I felt after Proposition 8 passed in California. Today I learned that I was wrong. I started today completely heartbroken. How is it possible that half the country hates me and many of the people I love? I wanted to give all my friends reassuring hugs and tell them that we’ll get through this. I also had the urge to buy a bulletproof vest and a paintball handgun because the world felt a lot less safe today.

As the initial wave of pain and fear began to subside, I had another thought: “Get busy living or get busy dying.” We’re stuck with this guy for the next four years (1,461 days). How much good can I do in that much time? What about you? If anything, these devastating results infused me with an angry energy that reminded me that I have an obligation to be the best version of myself. I’m not asking for anyone’s approval; I don’t need it. My gut feeling has never lead me astray, and I’m lucky to have amazing friends and mentors around me, to remind me that ignoring the norm is often my job. Sometimes it feels lonely, but I’m not trudging the road alone.

So now what? As the Zen saying goes, “Chop wood and carry water.” Keep doing the next right thing, always mindful that there’s much work to be done. I feel the need to learn more, do more impactful work, and go on more adventures. I won’t become fearless overnight, but I don’t want my ever-present anxiety to be an insurmountable obstacle. More than ever, I am aware that we don’t have the luxury for of waiting for someone else to create change. It must start with each of us – boldly go and be the change.

And at the end of a hard day, if you need an extra boost, check out Uplifting News or do a search for “Restore Faith in Humanity.”

Why the Negativity

I don’t understand why there’s so much negativity on the internet – people being mean for no useful purpose. Some people appear to have blogs and YouTube channels for no reason except to spread gossip and perpetuate issues that they’re not directly involved or impacted. It makes no sense.

Grumpy! by Andy Morffew from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Grumpy! by Andy Morffew from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Yesterday, I was tired when I got home from Tucson Comic-Con: 2 hours of speaking and close to 4 hours of driving. My plans for the evening were pretty mundane – catch up on YouTube videos and do my prep cooking for the week ahead. The last video I watched before heading to the kitchen was “Insane Circus Tricks” about a circus school where Cirque de Soleil performers and Joe Average people train. As a former gymnast, I was delighted. I have no plans to join a gym again, but I’d train at a circus school in a heartbeat. (I’d want to learn how to do handstand and balance work on those blocks.)

I posted a comment, “I want a cirque school in Phoenix!”
Within minutes another user responded, “[B]ut did you actually go to school for spelling?”

Really?!

Why would someone leave a comment like that? Did he/she have nothing to do a Saturday night besides troll the internet, looking for opportunities to tear others down? Now, I’m not as pure as driven snow. Sometimes I judge people who make grammar and spelling mistakes – in my head! It doesn’t improve or add anything to the conversation to say it publicly. This person’s life must be really sad if this is what adds value to their life. I hope he/she finds a way to channel this energy towards a meaningful project.

By the way, I didn’t spell it wrong. The school is called Cirque School.

It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time! by frankieleon from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time! by frankieleon from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Calling out a person or situation that’s wrong serves a purpose if it raises awareness of the issue so it can be addressed. You can’t fix a problem unless you know what it is. Bitching and being negative for negativity’s sake may feel validating in the moment, but if there isn’t a larger issue you’re addressing, please keep it to yourself. Drown out the purposeless negativity with positive messages and meaningful work. Don’t give the negative nellies the attention they obviously crave. Put your time and energy towards people and things that deserve it.

One lesson I learned from working with children is “My self-esteem is not dependent on your opinion of me.” While other’s negativity near me is annoying, it doesn’t impact my day. If they’re that negative towards a stranger, they obviously have more serious issues to address in their life. I wish them well and continue with my work.

Make High School Dress Codes Gender-Neutral

I had the pleasure to seeing Gloria Steinem speak in Phoenix last month. Geez, this woman is inspiring and knowledgeable about gender inequality. She re-invigorated me to keep pushing for equality for all genders. I would love to see our society get to the point where a person’s character and acts matter more than which bathroom they use.

I Have A Personality by EPMLE from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I Have A Personality by EPMLE from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that separate is not equal back in 1954. That’s over 50 years ago! And yet, we still see substantial inequality throughout social norms and even formal rules – for all genders.

This inequality is pervasive in our culture, even in something as simple as clothing. Thing about quality and variety of clothes available in the men’s and women’s sections and what a person is expected to wear at certain occasions. What messages are conveyed with different looks? In general, men’s clothing is designed to show a person as powerful and intelligent whereas women’s clothing is much more focused on portraying the wearer as pretty rather than capable. Why are these norms so drastically different?

Looking at gender norms and clothing made me thing about dress codes and question why some institutions and companies have different uniforms and dress codes for different genders. When I see this in schools and industries, I have concerns that the organization has problems with sexism.

Google allegedly has the simplest (and best) dress code: “You must wear clothes.” This tells me the company cares more about your job performance than how you look, and they have confidence that their employees are responsible enough to dress appropriately for their job tasks.

I don’t endorse the Google dress code for every situation, particularly not for high school where students act more impulsively, in part due to their still-developing brains. I do, however, endorse a gender-neutral dress code, particularly after seeing how ridiculous dress codes are for females at some high schools:

These are my recommendations for a gender-neutral high school dress code. It’s more restrictive in regards to images and verbiage on garments, but that’s mainly to make the rule easy to understand and enforce. The main rule is to come to school in clothes that are clean, tidy, with no rips or stains. Here are the details:

NO: Pajamas; Workout wear (exception for socks/sneakers); Visible undergarments; Verbiage or images on tops (exception for small logos or t-shirts/sweatshirts from a legitimate school); Hats or hoods in the building (exception for religious wear); Visible cleavage – chest or butt; Excessively baggy or tight garments; See-through garments; Sleeveless or backless tops

Shoes: Must be worn, closed toe, closed heel, socks must be worn except for open top shoes (flats, heels, etc.)

Pants, Kilts, Skirts, and Dresses: Bottom hem can’t drag on the floor

Shorts, Kilts, Skirts, and Dresses: Bottom hem must reach tips of fingers when standing with hands at sides

Shirts, Sweaters, and Sweatshirts: No midriff shown when raising arms above head; Entire shoulder must be covered

Hair: Must be clean and reasonably styled (meaning you at least ran a comb through it, purposely messy styles are ok)

This dress code may be more challenging for students who wear women’s clothing because more garments are designed and created that violate these rules. For those who want to express themselves with these garments, they can – on their own time.

The next time you’re confronted with a dress code with different expectations for men and women, ask yourself what these expectations say about how that situation views the roles of different genders. If you see inequality, I hope you’ll challenge it.

I Ripped the Ads Off my YouTube Channel

Earlier this month, I attended Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio and I attended podcaster Jay Acunzo’s talk entitled “Unthinkable Marketing.” He told a story about a time he wanted to show a video to his roommates and their anticipation was jilted by a YouTube ad. He had gotten them excited about this video, and then he had to work even harder to keep their enthusiasm up while they waited for the ad to play through. The lesson I got from this story was “Don’t put barriers between your target audience and the content they want.” We live in a world where having to sit through a 30-second ad could be enough to make someone leave the site in annoyance, instead of watching your work.

march07 374 by Lord Jim from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

march07 374 by Lord Jim from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Jay’s story made me think. Why do I have ads on my YouTube videos? I make little Question Of The Day videos where I respond to questions the people ask me via email or the weird stuff people Google and end up on my website. Some people ask me about some really messed up situations – both hilarious and cringe worthy.

I monetized these videos because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time, just a lease I got enough views to earn a few bucks from it. Here is the reality: these videos are never going to get enough traffic to make running ads worth it. These are videos are only valuable to people who have a specific question at that time and my friends who just like to watch me pontificate to my web cam. There is no reason for me to run ads on any of my videos. If anything, they annoyed or confused my audience over the years, which doesn’t do anything to help my desired reputation for creating knowledgeable and accessible resources about legal issues.

Vehemently, I grabbed my pen and scribbled myself a note to rip my ads off of every video on my YouTube channel. They contribute no value to anyone or anything I care about. After I got home, one of the first things I did was sit down and edit each of my 272 videos, removing the ads from each one. (YouTube should create an option to un-monetize every video on the channel with one click. That would have saved me an hour.)

I support the idea of people being paid for their work. They deserve to be compensated for adding value to others lives. However, I don’t support the idea of doing it in such a way where it creates an obstacle between the artist and their audience.

And if you are an artist who relies on YouTube ad revenue, be careful about your business plan going forward. Many YouTubers recently learned how easy it is for YouTube to disrupt their expectations with its monetization policies.

Un-Caffeinated People Can’t Read

Stardate 94202.47

Dear Hyatt Hotel:

I enjoyed spending my last night in New York at your establishment, including the complimentary breakfast. In the future, please make the distinction between the regular coffee and decaf coffee more obvious – with the visual equivalent of glitter and sirens.

I’m sure Seattle’s Best Coffee put significant time and energy into making the labels on their dispensers beautiful, but the verbiage and coloration of the decaf coffee is too subtle for blurry-eyed un-caffeinated people. Before my first hit of caffeine all I can think is “Coffee-There-Gimme.” I barely had the mental capacity to properly put cream and sugar in my cup. (Shut up you people who drink it black.) I opened one of the mini-cups half-and-half and proceeded to pour its contents into the trash instead of my cup.

Morning Coffee - My Vision is Too Blurry Before Caffeine to tell the Difference

Morning Coffee – My Vision is Too Blurry before Caffeine to tell the Difference

Your coffee is delicious. (Thank you for not carrying that Starschmucks swill.) Thank goodness I came by the coffee counter to top off my cup before heading back upstairs. (What is this “thank goodness” crap. Everyone knows I need more than 1 cup of coffee to start my day. I’m just being nice.) By then the smell of coffee and the carbs from your delicious pancakes connected my cerebral synapses long enough to detect the subtle green “decaf” sign on the dispenser where I poured my first cup. (I would have been hurting by 10am if I didn’t get my daily caffeine fix.) I immediately threw that first cup in the bin and pour myself a cup of real coffee.

In the future, please make the distinction between the real-deal coffee and decaf so obvious that that that actual reading of the dispensers is not required. Put a space between the dispensers and label them with big signs – a neon rainbow-colored sign on the “Real Deal Coffee” (it will be a beacon to your caffeine-addicted patrons, something like “This is the coffee you’re looking for.”) and “I don’t know why anyone wants decaf but here you go” sign on the decaf.

What’s in a Name?

“I’m trying to reach Ruthie Carter… Ruthie has been recommended to me by Mary and Jeff. If she could give me a call back …”

Yup – that was the message that was left on my law firm’s voicemail last night that went to the firm’s partners and our receptionist. I wonder if any of them are going to notice that the caller used my nickname and not my legal name.

When I was in my 20’s I was much more strict about only using “Ruth” in my professional life. I worked at an agency where it wasn’t uncommon to see friends and acquaintances who called me “Ruthie.” If I met you in a social setting, I didn’t care which name you used, but with work colleagues, it was always “Ruth” never “Ruthie.” On more than one occasion, I had to correct our receptionists who tried to get away with using my nickname.

As a lawyer, I always refer to myself as “Ruth” and everyone seems to go with it. This voicemail may be the first time a non-friend referred to me as “Ruthie.” In the caller’s defense, Mary and Jeff call me “Ruthie” so it makes sense – but it was weird to hear. I had to listen to it twice to verify that she said what I thought she said.

Who hires “Ruthie the lawyer?” While mulling this over, I was reminded of the Buzzfeed videos where men shared their impressions of common feminine names and women share their impressions for masculine names.  It was interesting to hear their views of variations of the same name:

So what does this mean for me and all the Ruths of the world?

  • Ruth is an old stuff Jewish woman (but she also might be the one who mutters the funniest things under her breath). (We’re sassy.)
  • Ruthie is a four year-old child with pigtails.

My friend said if Dora the Explorer had a lawyer character on her show, her name would be Ruthie.

Which Pronouns Do You Prefer?

Have you ever thought about which pronouns you prefer? In the U.S., a child is referred to as she/her or he/him based on their biological sex. Why does this culture feel the need to divide people based on genitalia? It’s weird.

Nametags with Pronouns by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Nametags with Pronouns by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Would you be offended if someone referred to you as the opposite gender than your biological sex? Why? I asked my neighbor Ana this question, and she said it would be offensive because she would interpret it as someone not acknowledging what she knows to be true about herself. That made sense to me. Asking a person which pronouns they prefer is really asking the person, “What is the respectful way to refer to you (including when I talk about you behind your back)?”

At some LGBT groups, including One-n-Ten in the Phoenix area, at the beginning of each meeting, everyone introduces themselves by first name and what pronouns they prefer. Including this information in the introductions not only provides a platform for each person to disclose their pronoun preference, but also acknowledges that gender is a non-binary social construct.

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

I’m somewhat gender non-conforming socially (always have been, always will be), but biologically speaking, I’m female. One of the advantages of being bisexual is I don’t feel obligated to conform to any social constructs regarding gender or sexual orientation. In my wardrobe, I have beautiful dresses and neckties (yes, I can tie a full Windsor knot by myself); and my underwire bra is right next to my chest binder. My appearance ranges from very feminine to androgynous, and I don’t feel obligated to act any particular way.

I considered the pronoun question for myself. Given the option to be referred to as she/her, he/him, they/them, I’m fine with any of those (as long as the person is speaking respectfully), though I prefer she/her/he/him to they/them because they acknowledge me as a singular person. Although they/them are used as plural pronouns, they can be used to for individuals too. Perhaps this is the best option we have in American English for a gender neutral pronoun.

And of course, as a Starfleet officer, I prefer “sir” over “ma’am,” though I won’t correct a person if they’re just trying to be polite.

Which pronouns do you prefer?

Every Post Is Not About You

Yesterday’s blog post focused on posting with integrity. If you have something to say, say it. Otherwise, it’s better to be quiet than to make ambiguous statements.

Breathe Deeply by Amanda Hirsch from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Breathe Deeply by Amanda Hirsch from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Let’s look at the flip side: Every vague statement on the internet is not about you.

When I became a blogger, I learned early on that I had to grow a thick skin. By sharing my thoughts and ideas, I became a target. It hurts every time someone attacks me, and not just my perspective.

Whenever I read a vague post, my default is it’s not about me because the people whose opinions I value, don’t make vague posts. If they have something to say to me or about a community I belong to, they say it. Likewise, I try to do the same for them.

This and yesterday’s post was inspired by a person who was confronted by their supervisor at work because a coworker assumed a vague post what about them. If you insist on making unclear posts, you can expect that sensitive people may assume it’s about them – which shows their insecurity more than anything. Nevertheless, there are a few ways to respond to such an accusation.

A fellow prankster had an awesome sign at one of Improv AZ’s Fake Protests that said, “Stupid Should Hurt.” I love that saying. The world would be a better place if being thoughtless were physically painful. If this was the post that upset a coworker, I can think of two ways to respond to a confrontation by a superior:

“What makes coworker think this is about them?

“Does coworker think they’re the only stupid person on the planet?”
“So you admit the post is about them?”
“No, but by complaining about such a vague post, coworker revealed that they think they are stupid or have insecurities about being perceived as such.”

I’m not sure I would be so bold to respond so audaciously, but there’s a reason I don’t work in corporate America anymore. I would hope that the supervisor would respond to the complaint by challenging the coworker before asking the commenter about it. Managing a team includes managing feelings and being a rationalizing force, not just overseeing job tasks.

That being said, this situation highlights why it’s imperative to treat every post as if it will end up on a billboard. There is no expectation of privacy in anything you post online and you never know when you by be confronted with a past post.

Post with Integrity

Someone made a comment on a blog post I wrote about the importance of having a social media policy at work:

I posted something to my FB page not mentioning any names or directed at anyone in particular. It was also vague on subject. Today my supervisor brought a printed picture of it to me because apparently someone saw it and thought it was about them. It has nothing to do with them or work. Can he control what I say on my own page especially if it makes no reference to specific people or work or subjects?

I have two thoughts in response to this comment:
1. To the upset coworker: Don’t assume every vague post on the internet is about you.
2. To the commenter: Why are you making posts that are so ambiguous that there is confusing what message you’re attempting to convey?

Honesty. Trust. Respect. Love. Good rule to follow in business and in life. by Zaneology from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Honesty. Trust. Respect. Love. Good rule to follow in business and in life. by Zaneology from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Here’s my rule for myself:

  • If you have something to say, say it.
  • Otherwise, keep your thoughts to yourself.
  • If what you want to post is so unclear that the reader cannot discern who or what you’re talking about, you’re essentially making noise.
  • It’s ok to be quiet.

My mentor Rocky instilled a strong sense of integrity in me and my teammates. He taught us to be willing own what we say in every situation – don’t lie and don’t hide the ball. He was not always gracious with his words, but everyone around him knew where he stood. His lessons on integrity formed the basis for my personal rules about what I post on social media – I’ll own anything I’ve posted in any situation.

By being succinct and direct, posts have more impact. It’s possible to take an opposing view without calling out a specific person – like my fervent posts about people who don’t return their shopping carts and how people who don’t vote forfeit their right to bitch.

Post with integrity. If I’m tempted to be nebulous about what I’m trying to say because of potential repercussions, that’s a sign to keep my thoughts to myself.

“Nothing pays off like restraint of tongue and pen,” and keyboard.

Tomorrow’s post will present the flip-side view: Don’t assume everything you read online is about you.