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Ruth Carter

Baby It’s Cold Out-WTF?!

I love Christmas music. I’m that person who will listen to Christmas music in July just because I like it. Who says it has to be the holiday season to enjoy holiday music?

Lately, it seems like every time I turn on the all-Christmas radio station, they’re playing “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Musically speaking, this is a beautiful duet – I love the back-and-forth and the layering of the voices. But have you actually listened to the lyrics? They exemplify what’s wrong with how boys and girls are socialized – he refuses to accept when she rebuffs his advances and she’s worried about being slut shamed by her family and community. Here’s what goes through my head every time I hear it.
(M = male; F = female; B = both; my thoughts in italics)

Winter Wonderland by Kristina_Servant from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Winter Wonderland by Kristina_Servant from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

(F) I really can’t stay
(M) Baby it’s cold outside
(F) I’ve got to go away
(M) Baby it’s cold outside
Dude, she said she was leaving.
(F) This evening has been
(M) Been hoping that you’d drop in
(F) So very nice
(M) I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice
Hey! Don’t touch her without consent!

(F) My mother will start to worry
(M) Beautiful, what’s your hurry?
(F) Father will be pacing the floor
(M) Listen to the fireplace roar
(F) So really I’d better scurry
Bah! Be bold woman!
(M) Beautiful, please don’t hurry
(F) Maybe just a half a drink more
Arg! Don’t do that!
(M) Put some records on while I pour
You’re a manipulative jerk.

(F) The neighbors might think
Who gives a f*ck what they think?
(M) Baby, it’s bad out there
And why are you calling her “Baby?”
That’s so belittling the way you use it. She has a name, you know.
(F) Say, what’s in this drink?
Did you give her roofies or something?
(M) No cabs to be had out there
Get an Uber.
(F) I wish I knew how
(M) Your eyes are like starlight now
(F) To break this spell
(M) I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell
Ugh you’re so creepy.

Christmas Ornament by Tobyotter from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Christmas Ornament by Tobyotter from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

(F) I ought to say no, no, no
Say it or don’t. It’s ok to enjoy intimacy.
(M) Mind if I move in closer?
Thanks for asking…finally.
(F) At least I’m gonna say that I tried
Where’s your integrity? Say what you mean, mean what you say.
(M) What’s the sense in hurting my pride?
Screw his feelings if he doesn’t respect you boundaries.
(F) I really can’t stay
Then leave!
(M) Baby don’t hold out
Eww!
(B) Ah, but it’s cold outside

(F) I’ve got to get home
Walk out the door!
(M) Oh, baby, you’ll freeze out there
(F) Say, lend me your coat
(M) It’s up to your knees out there
(F) You’ve really been grand
No he hasn’t! He’s being a dick!
(M) Thrill when you touch my hand
(F) Why don’t you see
(M) How can you do this thing to me?
It’s not all about you!

(F) There’s bound to be talk tomorrow
Who cares?
(M) Think of my lifelong sorrow
Really? Since when do your feelings trump hers?
(F) At least there will be plenty implied
(M) If you caught pneumonia and died
And died – Really??
(F) I really can’t stay
Seriously – You. Door. Go!
(M) Get over that hold out
Ew ew eww! Lady – run away from this guy!
(B) Ah, but it’s cold outside
(B) Oh, baby, it’s cold outside
(B) Oh, baby, it’s cold outside

Whenever I hear this song, I think of a lesson from security expert Gavin de Becker: A person who doesn’t hear “no” is trying to control you. Perhaps it was sweet song when it was written, reflective of the times, but I still think it’s an indication of a misogynistic culture.

I want to re-write this conversation in a way that works. I can see it going one of two ways:

(F) I should get going.
(M) What’s your hurry, Baby?
(F) I’m tired. I want to go home.
(M) It’s so cold out there.
(F) Of course it is. It’s December. I’ll be fine.
(M) One more drink . . .
(F) No. Quit being a jerk. I’m leaving.

(F) I should get going.
(M) I had fun tonight. You’re welcome to stay.
(F) Thank you. I’d like that. Let me text my family so they’ll know not to expect me until tomorrow.

Am I Non-Binary?

Earlier this year, a court in Oregon let a person legally change their gender to “non-binary.” It’s fantastic that the law acknowledges that there’s more to gender than merely male or female.

europa rainbow by  ** RCB ** from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

europa rainbow by ** RCB ** from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

As I thought about this ruling, I began to reflect on my upbringing. When I was growing up, children were classified as a “boy” or a “girl” based on their genitalia. By the time I was in preschool, I understood that boys and girls were told to use different bathrooms, play with different toys, and wear different clothes. As I got older, I learned that some people are homosexual and bisexual. I also learned that some people are transgender, meaning that they were born in the wrong body, and probably wanted a sex change; and some people are intersex, meaning they have both male and female genitalia. In all these situations, gender was represented as a binary characteristic.

I wondered, if I grew up in a culture that acknowledged gender as a spectrum, would I self-identify as non-binary. I’ve never fit in with the “girly girls” in school, and I didn’t want to be like them. In fact, I got in trouble when I was nine because I refused to talk to most of the girls in my class because I thought they were annoying. I find it delightfully ironic that I was a gymnast – a sport that is so inherently feminine and has drastic differences in men’s and women’s events. It’s also fierce as hell which is why I love it so much. I asked my teammates, who I spent years with, seeing each other at our best and our worst during our tween and teen years, to describe me. Some of their descriptors were “strong,” “powerful,” “determined,” “focused,” and “true to yourself.” I definitely wasn’t one of the balletic athletes in the gym.

Learning about this ruling made me the question my gender identity. I have no issues with being biologically female except that I think tits are overrated, and I would have an ablation in a heartbeat if it came with a guarantee. I have no desire to have a penis. If pushed to declare which pronouns I want, I can see myself choosing he/her – don’t ask me why, and, to be honest, I really don’t care what pronouns you use for me as long as you use them respectfully. As a model, I prefer poses and looks that are somewhat androgynous and portray me as strong – or at least possessing an inner strength.

I shared some of my thoughts about questioning my gender with my friends, and it was comforting to hear that I’m not the only one who doesn’t fit in a stereotypical box. Some are agender. Some have biologically male parts, no desire to change that, but feel they are more feminine in terms of their personality. The best response I got was from a friend who says she doesn’t identify as a “lady” or a “man,” but rather an engineer, an inventor, a housewife, an athlete, a seamstress, and a parent. I think she’s right in that what we do is more important than which bathroom we use or which gender box we check.

If you’re questioning your gender identity and/or gender expression, you’re not alone. We may not talk about it much, but a lot of us don’t feel like we fit into the male/female binary. You don’t have to decide on a label for yourself today and if you select a designation for yourself, you’re not stuck with it for forever. For me, for now, I’m content to classify myself as gender non-conforming and continue to be open to further self-exploration and experiences.

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.

Watching Rosie Thrive

My sweet basset hound, Rosie, celebrated her 9th birthday a few days ago. It’s been so much fun watching her regain her confidence this last year.

Rosie running with the kids in the neighborhood

Rosie Running with the Kids in the Neighborhood

When Rosie was 7, she developed glaucoma. She went from being a vivacious dog without any limits (except the inherent ones that come with having 5-inch legs) to being in tremendous pain and going blind in one eye. Our best option was to remove the eye, so my baby girl became a pirate dog. Glaucoma is a progressive disease, so to delay it from spreading to the other eye, we put her on three different eye drops. The medications keep the pressure in her remaining eye down, but they also limit her vision. When Rosie looks at the world now, it’s like she’s looking through a straw.

After her surgery, Rosie had stitches and was in a cone for 10 days before she could roam unencumbered again. She had to re-learn how to navigate, relying more on her sense of smell and being aware that she has a blindside.  On her first day out of the cone, I stood by while she got pummeled by Phoebe the bulldog who ran up on her on her blindside. I knew I wouldn’t be doing her any favors by coddling her, and I knew Phoebe running into her wouldn’t hurt her.

Working the Red Carpet at BlogPaws

Working the Red Carpet at BlogPaws

In the last year, Rosie has become more outgoing and playful than ever. When most people meet her, they don’t notice that she’s missing an eye. She runs around with the other dogs in the complex at full speed (and bassets can haul ass when motivated). At the office, she has no problem getting in/out of the car or waddling around to get pets or head out the backdoor when nature calls. When we’re in a new place, she’s more likely to hug the wall when we’re walking and to be more aware of where I am at all times.

Taking Rosie to the BlogPaws Conference was a highlight for both of us this summer. It was so cute to see her interacting with everyone – especially Bentley the basset hound who came from Louisiana with his human to attend. Watching those two run and bark together in the indoor dog park was so cute.

I’m excited to take Rosie to the AZ Basset Rescue Howl-o-ween picnic next weekend. There’s usually 30-50 dogs there, and it’s so much fun to watch them run as a pack with their little legs and flopping ears. She wasn’t super social last year, but I hope having another year to adjust to being a pirate dog and being back in the same event space as last year will help her be comfortable enough to let her rambunctious run free.

And in case you were wondering, Rosie is very grateful that I don’t believe in non-functional doggy fashion. No hot/annoying costume for her.

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.

Does Biotin Work? | 6 Weeks Later

Me and my Hair - October 1, 2016

Me and my Hair – October 1, 2016

A neighbor suggested I try biotin to get my hair to grow back in faster. I shaved my head (number zero clipper) over Memorial Day weekend and while the rest of my hair is growing back fine, my bangs are taking forever. It took them nearly three months to grown an inch!

My hair is weird.

Yesterday, grabbed my tape measure to check on my progress. In the 6 weeks I’ve been taking this bioin, my bangs have grown just under half an inch. So far, it doesn’t seem to be making a difference.

For comparison, my neighbor claimed her hair grew three inches in a month when she tried it. I think she may have been exaggerating.

While I don’t think it’s making a difference, I’ll finish the bottle (120 pills – 1 pill per day). Perhaps the effect takes 2-3 months to kick in. If it’s snake oil, meh, no big deal. It’s a $10 experiment.

Thank Goodness I was Sober in Law School

My friend Brian Cuban recently wrote a post about his experience of being in law school while being deep in his alcohol addiction and eating disorder. It’s hard to fathom what that must have been like – going to class after waking up with a hangover, getting smashed when he was supposed to be studying, and puking his guts out as he staggered home. Law school is hard enough without struggling with addiction. I’m so grateful I got sober before I went to law school.

I carry two chips in my wallet - my most recent birthday chip and my 24 hour "desire" chip. They remind me how far I've come but also that I have to take it one day at  time.

I carry two chips in my wallet – my most recent birthday chip and my 24 hour “desire” chip. They remind me how far I’ve come but also that I have to take it one day at time.

Actually, it’s because I got sober that I was able to go to law school. I never would have had the courage to apply when I was deep in my addiction. Before I got sober, my self-esteem was fragile at best and I was too afraid of failure to try anything that put my desire to maintain the illusion of perfection at risk.

I had plenty of classmates who drank to blow off steam (and who sometimes drank over lunch and came back for afternoon class tipsy or drunk) and/or used prescription stimulants to help them study. I remember one of my classmates brought of bottle of booze and little plastic shot glasses so he and his friends could drink right after they got out of our Con Law final. (That was a bitch of a final. I understand why he did that. That was the only class where I had doubts about passing.) Being sober, I didn’t have the luxury of numbing my feelings with alcohol and drugs or using anything stronger than coffee to study.

Don’t think for a second that I am/was as pure as driven snow. For full disclosure, I struggled with my eating disorder throughout law school. At the height of my disorder, I binged and purged about once a week, but this was mostly an infrequent occurrence during my law school years.

Throughout my law school career, I was fortunate to have strong connections within the recovery community. I was lucky to have a classmate who was also in recovery from addiction. We would talk during our study breaks to vent about the stress of law school and life in general, and be there to support each other. We experienced the discomfort of law school without the option to mollify our stress with recreational substances. It was pretty brutal at times, but it was comforting to know I wasn’t going through it alone.

As a member of a 12-step program, I have a sponsor, and it was fortuitous that he was getting his degree (different field) from Arizona State University while I was in law school. Both being students in difficult programs, he understood my level of stress because he faced it himself, although he seemed to handle it much more gracefully. There were many times I met with him between classes, to touch base about how I was feeling and to make sure I was perceiving and responding to situations appropriately. Just having him nearby was reassuring.

One of the things I’ve learned in recovery is how important it is to stay connected to others. I’m grateful I had strong connections to others in recovery on my campus. They kept me grounded and gave me a place to vent when I needed it.

I also want to give a massive hat tip to my undergrad alma mater Oregon State University. They established a collegiate recovery community with sober housing for students in recovery from addiction. I didn’t even know I had a problem when I was an undergrad, but I’m glad this is available for people who need/want 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.