Posts Tagged ‘Huffington Post’

This really interesting article was posted on the Huffington Post the other day. This article, which you can read in full here, discusses how many schools in India are implementing gender studies classes at public schools across India, thanks to cooperation between the Indian government and advocacy organizations. The goal of this, according to the organizers of these programs, is to get students thinking hard about how gender roles affect them and make some changes for the better. Maybe even bring down the  rates of domestic violence.

And so far the programs seem to be working, according to 15-year-old Shakir Parvez Shaikh:

“We talk about how boys and girls are equal as human beings, but how we treat girls differently,” he told Reuters. “For example, girls are not allowed to play cricket or watch as much television as boys because they have to do housework or because it is not safe outside for them. I didn’t realize before … I think it’s unfair.”

A lot of activists see these programs as one answer to a very sad problem. According to the National Crime Record Bureau,  India saw a nearly 27 percent rise in 2013 in reported gender violence, including rape, sexual harassment, and other related crimes. And for many the 2012 gang rape and murder of a woman on a bus in India is still pretty fresh in their minds. This has helped to spur the creation of these programs, which might help today’s youth see things in a different perspective and cut down on instances of institutionalized sexism, gender discrimination, and domestic violence.

When I read this article, two thoughts went through my mind. The first was that it was good that so many teens, boys and girls, were being exposed to these classes. With statistics like the ones cited above, these programs could bring down that rate significantly and help to foster a more egalitarian society. And then I thought, “Why can’t we have that here in the United States?”

And then I marveled at how we didn’t have any of those programs in the United States. Generally speaking, gender studies courses are normally only taught at the university level, which means that students might never be exposed to these ideas in the midst of taking science and literature courses. The concepts of feminism and gender equality do sometimes come up in high school or middle school settings, but they are usually in the backdrop of English literature or history classes, and they may not always be given the attention they deserve.

Current statistics suggest that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be victims of sexual assault, though those numbers may be potentially higher due to under-reported. Women still earn only 70 cents for every dollar a man earns, and in fields such as business, politics or STEM, women may face people who believe that women aren’t suited to those fields, that they are only promoted due to their looks or sex rather than their ability, and trying to be assertive is considered “bitchy”. On the flip side, men frequently under-report domestic or sexual abuse and are expected to be tough, virile and sometimes violent to show their masculinity. If you aren’t those, if you’re not depositing your DNA in as many women as possible, then you’re seen as less as a  men, something I see as absurd.

All these reasons and more are why perhaps gender studies courses should be taught in middle and high schools in America. Getting today’s teenagers to engage in these issues may bring down rates of domestic violence, reduce sexism in the workplace, and perhaps get Americans to stop treating the word “feminism” like a swear word. It seems to be working in India anyway, so why not try it over here in the States?

What would it take to get such a program in schools?

Now, I’m no teacher or education major and my formal training in gender studies consists of one class in my first term here at Ohio State (though I’ve informally found ways to expand my training). But even if I’m not, that doesn’t mean I can’t at least get the ball rolling or start a conversation. So tell me, if you’re reading this, have a background in education, gender studies, or anything else that could possibly relate to this, what would it take to create these sort of programs and implement them in a school system? What sort of course materials would be needed? And what sort of obstacles would such a program face? I’d love to hear what you have to say, as well as your thoughts on what I’m suggesting and if it’s at all possible.*

I know that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to change society rapidly or get rid of a prejudice or stereotype. But at the very least that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. If anything, it means we should try harder to eliminate it, looking at every available option. And perhaps this can be one of them.

*However, if you use the comments section to be hateful or say really mean things, I will not approve the comments. We don’t need any of that here on this blog. I’ve already gotten plenty of that from Second Amendment and anti-circumcision advocates. Not really interested in seeing that again.

When most people hear that I work, they ask me where I work. I inevitably reply, “I work part-time at the financial aid office at OSU.” What I often forget to add is, “I’m also a fiction writer in my spare time.” The reason I bring this up is because I recently read this article on the Huffington Post (which you can check out here) in which she learns that her friends don’t see her as working because she writes full-time, and reasons why writing full-time should be considered working (some of those reasons I will reiterate here).

The thing is, writing is work. Hard work. Some people envision writers as sitting on their butts with a notebook, typewriter, or a laptop and watching a story unfold before our eyes. In their minds, we might as well be playing video games or watching Netflix for all the energy we’re expending.

The reality is far from that image. Here’s my process for writing a novel, for example: I outline the story, which usually takes a couple of weeks depending on how crazy my life is. Then I do my preliminary research, which is usually done when I’m not working at the office or doing schoolwork (so summers make a great time to do research because I’m not in classes, but sometimes I’m not lucky enough to be in summer when I do research). Then I start to write. And there’s nothing more daunting than the blank page at the beginning of a project. My novels are usually upwards of eighty-thousand words, so seeing that first blank page is terrifying. I have to force myself to get the first words onto a page and from there try to get into a groove.

Usually I’m doing schoolwork and working part-time while I’m writing, so I often save my writing during the evenings, and usually during the commercial breaks when I have something on TV I really want to watch. So how much I get done is dependent on time, how distracted I am, if anything else comes up in my life, and a million other things. With this sort of schedule, writing a novel can take anywhere between six months (which was the case with Snake) to almost two years (as was the case with Reborn City). I’m in the final chapters of Laura Horn, and I’ve been working on that for over a year, taking breaks for all of life’s crazy moments.

And that’s another thing: sometimes I have to take a break from writing in order to work on school or anything else going on in my life. When that happens, it usually takes longer to get words down on the page. As was the case with RC and is the case with LH.

Your average writer.

And if I need to do some additional research? That takes a bite out of writing time too.

And after I finish a novel, it usually requires one to three more drafts before I’m ready to publish it. Even then I usually send it to someone (usually another author and a friend, though in the future I might be looking at professional beta reader/copy editor to help me with the technical stuff) to make sure I haven’t missed any plot holes or horrible typos. Then I design the interior and the cover, apply for a copyright, and set a release date.

And after the book comes out, there’s all the marketing to do. Heck, even before the book comes out, I’m advertising in every place I can so that as many people as possible will know about the book and maybe want to read it. I’m blogging, Facebooking, tweeting, updating business cards, e-mailing, slipping mentions of my new book into articles, updating my resume, telling people by word-of-mouth, and asking people who do end up buying the book that once they’re done, I’d really appreciate it if they’d write a review or do something else to let me know what they think. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the marketing I have to do in order to get word of my book out there.

Because let’s face it, I don’t have a team of advertising professionals. I’m self-published, so part of the territory is that I’m doing all my advertising on my own. It isn’t easy, but it’s something I take upon myself so that my book can sell well and people will read it.

Does that sound like sitting on my butt playing video games or watching Netflix? No, it’s work. We don’t have time cards or an office cube or water coolers, and very rarely anything like a regular paycheck. But yeah, we are working. It’s as grueling a job as working in the Sales Department or on an assembly line or going to a meeting with execs from another company. Our job just allows us the perks of setting our own hours and picking our own projects.

In summary.

So I think from now I’ll be adding that writing is my other part-time job when people ask me where I work. And I hope people who read this article who aren’t writers will realize we’re not just relaxing in our living rooms or home offices (if we’re lucky enough to have those) playing solitaire or watching funny cat videos on our computers. We’re working, and we’re working hard.

Still don’t believe me? Then go ahead and write your own novel that’s halfway decent, and then tell me it’s not work. I’ll wait.

How do you feel about writing as work?

Has anyone ever mistook what you do for free time? How did you respond?