I once knew a guy who thought that healthcare was a privilege

Ever have flashbacks to old conversations that you hadn’t thought about in years?  A twitter exchange between myself and a friend offended by some malicious stupidity she dealt with from a classmate advocating eugenics reminded me of something.

Years ago on a job, I had a coworker say that healthcare is a privilege.  Initially I agreed, because healthcare in the U.S. is treated like a privilege and only benefits the privileged.  The less privilege you have, the less benefit you get from healthcare in the U.S.  This has a lot to do with cost and insurance, but also internalized stigma on the part of clinicians and turning healthcare into a for-profit industry.  Lots of issues.

Thing is, this coworker and I were having a “who’s on first” exchange, and I eventually realized that he was actually saying that healthcare should be a privilege, at which point I exploded.

Continue reading “I once knew a guy who thought that healthcare was a privilege”

Women in the news – the good, the bad, and the ugly

I wanted to highlight three news stories related to women that struck me in some way this week…

1.  The Atlantic has an article in response to a recent collection of essays by people – women people and men people as well – who don’t want to have kids.  In a nutshell:  Not wanting to have kids is okay.  There should be no shame or stigma for child-free women, and having children is not the be-all, end-all most important thing that anyone, including women, can do with their lives.

I’m really glad this is being discussed, and not because of the child-free stigma per se, but because it’s time that our society started seeing women as more than baby machines who are exist to please men.  Women can have fulfilling lives without being mothers.  We have no obligation to breed.

2. Stay classy, Britt McHenry.  In case anyone was unclear, THIS IS WHAT WHAT WHITE PRIVILEGE LOOKS LIKE, SOUNDS LIKE, ACTS LIKE, AND PERPETUATES. This sports journalist managed to combine fat shaming, classism, elitism, entitlement, and just general rudeness in an amazingly short span of time.  She came across as overly-privileged, entitled, narcissistic bully who lacks any sort of empathy, people skills, or basic manners.  While she says she wants to learn from this, I have a feeling that the only lesson that Ms. McHenry will actually learn is to check for security cameras before she berates people.

Oh, Britt.  You may have some degrees, baby girl, but you’re clearly not educated.  Truly educated people don’t need degrees to be educated or to be decent human beings, which you have thoroughly and effectively demonstrated that you are not.  You’re an embarrassment to the universities you attended.  I’m just glad you’re not one of our alums.

3.  CNN posted an article discussing how American women rank with the rest of the world as far as rights go.  Some highlights:

  • US lawmakers won’t even discuss, let alone vote on, a treaty committing to developing and enforcing laws that guarantee women equal rights.  The other countries who also haven’t include Iran, Somalia, and Sudan.  In the U.S., it has “never made it to the Senate floor.”
  • US ranks 65th in the world for wage equality.
  • Mothers of newborns get guaranteed paid leave in 188 countries.  Only 9 countries do not offer this, including the U.S.  The U.S. also holds the honor of being the only high-income, developed country not to offer this benefit.
  • Women in the U.S. make on average 78% of what men make, or 78 cents to a man’s dollar.  This gets worse by race – Black women make 64 cents to the dollar, and Latina women make 54 cents to the dollar.
  • Women are more represented in government in countries that Americans often look down on for being hostile to women, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, China, and Saudi Arabia.
  • 52 countries have had a woman head of state in the past 50 years.  0 of those countries is the U.S.
  • Of 197 countries with constitutions, 165 guarantee women equal rights.  Those rights are not always enforced, and some countries have exceptions built in, but the rights are there on paper.  The U.S. is in the minority of countries who do not have this.  The Equal Rights Amendment failed to get the required amount of support.

America…we are not #1.  We’re not even close.  We still have a massive white privilege issue,  we don’t pay women as much as men, we don’t pay women of color as well as white women, we look down on and stigmatize women who don’t have children, don’t give adequate maternity benefits to women who do, lack women representatives, and don’t think that the ERA should be passed, or a UN initiative committing to equal rights for women is worthy of being voted on.





Low Label Diet – Week 1

My doctor challenged his patients with gut issues to try a no-label diet, which basically means don’t buy anything that comes with a label or has more than one ingredient.  He doesn’t mean only eat raw foods, he just encourages people to make their own food from scratch whenever possible using the simplest ingredients.

My motivation for accepting it was that as my gut has healed and my digestive performance has improved, I’ve been making excuses to eat things that I’m not supposed to.  I need to stop doing that, or I’m going to end up causing all the issues I had in 2012 to come back.  So I decided that I was going to accept this challenge to get myself back on track.

But y’all, this is hard, and honestly not possible for a lot of people because it involves buying a lot of foods that will expire quickly and require a lot of prep to turn into a meaningful meal.  It could be possible for me, if I spent a lot of time making lots of things from scratch.  However, as much as I like baking, I dislike any other form of cooking and do so only out of necessity.

I opted to keep life simple by buying a minimal number of items with labels.  My labeled items include some canned veggies and corn tortillas.  The latter has exactly three ingredients: corn flour, water, and salt.  I decided that water and salt are okay.  I also have an organic jam that’s just fruit, a very small amount of added natural sugar, and some citric acid.  That didn’t bother me, either.  I didn’t purchase anything with that had preservatives, food dyes, added sugar, or any ingredient I didn’t recognize or couldn’t pronounce.

Thus, I’m going to call this the Low Label Diet.

So here’s how my meals are breaking down on Week 1:

Continue reading “Low Label Diet – Week 1″

Feminist allyship caught in the act!

So I overheard something amazing this morning.  I caught a man in the act of being a feminist ally.

There’s major construction work being done in several areas of the school I work at.  I walk past one of those areas quite frequently, including this morning.  There were at least two men in a stairwell – I could see the bottom half of one, and could hear a second voice.  It looked like they were doing something to the wall.  I wasn’t initially paying any attention to them, and they didn’t know I was there.  (This is important to note.)  But as I walked past, I heard this:

Man #1:  “I’m just saying, you can’t laugh about shit like that.”

Man #2: *Says something unintelligible.*

Man #1:  “Well think about if that was your daughter.  If you wouldn’t want someone to say something like that about your daughter, then don’t say it about someone else, you know what I’m saying?”

Man #2: *Says something unintelligible.*

Man #1:  “I don’t care, it’s not funny.”

And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is how you can be a good ally.  Thank you, random dude in the stairwell.  I am sending you all the good vibes right now.

Before it gets pointed out to me, yes, I know that the whole “think about if it was your daughter” thing is problematic, because we shouldn’t only value women because of the relationships they have with men.  I totally get that.  But I’m not going to pick on this dude for using a somewhat flawed argument for why men shouldn’t indulge in certain kinds of commentary about women.  I’m simply going to celebrate the fact that he stood up to his friend/coworker, and let him know that he didn’t appreciate whatever comment/joke was made.  We need more men to do this.

If you’re interested in being an ally, or think you already are, read this really great article about allyship from a year or so back from HuffPo.  The author makes several good points, among them being that someone who sees themselves as an ally, and who believes in equality, can still be sexist, racist, classist, homophobic, etc.  Even allies can still cause damage.  His point is that it’s an ongoing process, and a process that should be woven into your life.  He questions superficial displays of allyship and a need for praise.  And I agree – if you need to be praised for what you’re doing, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

That’s why I was so happy to overhear the exchange I heard this morning.  There were just two guys, working on something together, totally by themselves.  One said something, and the other guy told him that it wasn’t cool.  There was no one else around (or so he thought).  He didn’t do it for praise or to make himself look good.  He spoke up because whatever that comment was – and I really wish that I’d heard it – he thought it was really not okay, and he said that.  He refused to laugh at it and refused to just let it go.  I walked into a conversation in medias res and walked away again before it had concluded.  They were definitely still chatting as I walked away, but all I could hear were echoing sounds.  (Stupid crappy acoustics.)

But even though I only heard a small piece, it brightened my day more than a little bit.  With all the set backs for women’s rights and autonomy and personhood that have had me feeling angry and depressed lately, hearing something like this came at just the right time.

A non-mundane in a mundane world is mundane indeed

No-label diet plans on hold until I get this flu virus out of my body, so instead of writing about what I’m putting in my body, I thought I’d write about what I’m putting on it.

My last job in higher ed was as an analyst in an area of the university where no one ever saw me.  My colleagues and I were hidden in a corner and rarely invited to any meetings or events – we were invisible, and we were just fine with that.  We interacted with other data geeks and sysadmins and merrily complained about anyone who wasn’t one of us.  Everyone else pretty much left us alone, unless they needed something.  We were the Wizards of our Oz – the voices that everyone recognized, but no one ever saw.

Cue new job.  Different department, different reporting structure, different expectations.  Much more visibility.  I’m still an analyst, but a higher level one.  It’s assumed that I’ll be getting a PhD (and I will be – second MA will be completed Spring of 2016, PhD program will begin Fall of 2016).  I now get invited to events and luncheons and conferences.  My team is expected to present at conferences.  I was at a breakfast this morning, will be attending a seminar tomorrow, and have been invited to a concert on Monday – during the work day.  I’ve never been to a work-related concert and dessert reception in the middle of a Monday afternoon before.  It’s all so surreal.

Continue reading “A non-mundane in a mundane world is mundane indeed”

The proper care and feeding of a newborn narrative

It occurred to me as I was writing about what I’ve learned about writing the first draft of a novel is that before you can even sit down to begin to write a novel, you have to have a narrative in mind.  And narratives typically don’t come out of nowhere, fully formed and ready to be written.  They’re come from small ideas, birthed from a wide variety of different inspirations and influences, that are cared for and cultivated until they bloom into something more substantial.

I’ve gotten ideas from a number of sources.  One of the novels I’m working on now got started with a name I saw in a directory – I thought, that would be an excellent name for a character.  I’ve gotten ideas from dreams, places, a documentary, from other stories, from things I feel strongly about, from people I know – from things I observe, or things they confess.

But ideas often start out very small, and must be properly cared for in order to become mature enough to become stories.

Continue reading “The proper care and feeding of a newborn narrative”

New diet plan – no foods with labels

My doctor challenged those of us in his practice with certain gut ailments to try a radical diet:  Don’t eat anything that comes with a label.  By which he means, a list of ingredients.  Which pretty much restricts your diet to fruits, veggies, safe/healthy grains, and proteins.

I’ve been pondering this since I saw his post…thinking, wow, that’s a tough one.  It seemed totally unreasonable at first, but then I thought, you know what?  I’m going to try it.  I’m going to do it for a determined period of time – I have to think about how long I want to commit to it – but I’m going to commit to doing it for a period of time, and see how I feel.

More and more, science is finding that the things that get added to our food do bad things.  Emulsifiers are the latest thing that researchers have found that have a negative effect on the gut.  Processed sugars, sodium, food coloring, emulsifiers, other chemicals, GMOs, and lots of hidden ingredients…our food is just full of things that aren’t tested for long-term impact on humans.  Just because something appears safe in the short-term doesn’t mean it should be approved.  (I’m looking at you, FDA.)

I’m thinking I might create a separate page for this and write a bit about what it’s like.  I’m a little worried that it’ll get easy to get sick of this sort of diet.  I imagine I’ll have to get creative and start looking around for helpful recipes.  And I imagine that it won’t always be sustainable – there will be times where I’ll need to bend the rules (I’m thinking social situations.)

So in another few weeks, I’m going to go cold turkey on foods with labels, and start thinking really differently about food.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

I have feelings about ‘My 600lb Life’

So I’ve been watching ‘My 600lb Life’ for a while, and I’ve been wanting to write down my thoughts, but every time I try, it’s never as eloquent as I want them to be.  So I’m just going to write, and not worry about how it sounds.

Firs and foremost, this show contributes to pathologizing fat.  It contributes to the “fat is a disease” and “fat people are lazy and gluttonous” framing.  It contributes to the idea of the “good fatty” – the one who expresses self-loathing and wants to lose weight.

Aside – I first heard the phrase “good fatty” because I follow a number of blogs and twitter accounts, including Fat Body Politics and Dances With Fat, which is where I first heard this idea explored.  The “good fatty” phenomenon is the idea that fat people need to actively working toward thinness and actively focused on health, but in this mindset, thinness and health are erroneously conflated.  A “good fatty” would never feel good about him/herself while fat, and would comply with society’s expectations by limiting food and actively pursuing weight loss.  Someone who lives in this sort of mindset, fat or thin, would reject HAES and would feel frustrated or threatened by any fat person who does not pursue weight loss, and who accepts and feels good about their body as-is.

‘My 600 lb Life’ definitely reinforces the idea of the “good fatty” trying to fix their “diseased” body, but it’s a conundrum.  It’s portraying people on the extreme end of fat, people whose mobility is often limited and independence is compromised, and shows them crying about how terrible they feel and how ashamed they are.  But instead of compassion, I think the show is encouraging viewers to respond with, “Well, you should feel terrible about yourself.  How did you let yourself get like this?  This is all your fault.”  Close ups of people putting food in their mouths and chewing, whole scenes where the viewers do nothing but watch people eat, send a clear message – these people are gluttons who brought this on themselves.  Which then carries over to any fat person – you’re fat because you’re lazy and you eat too much.

Eat less, move more.  That’s the magic formula that’s constantly being thrown around without regard for context.

It’s not that simple.  It never is.

Continue reading “I have feelings about ‘My 600lb Life’”

Hey fat admirers: Try not to be creepy, mmmk?

I’m a bit behind on my xoJane reading, but I saw this article entitled “My 300-Lb Body Is Considered A ‘Fetish’ And I’m Simultaneously Flattered AND Outraged“.  The title speaks for itself, and the author speaks candidly about her personal experience with men who identify as “chubby chasers.”  (FTR, I hate that phrase.  It sounds predatory – we chase things that are running away from us.)

So once again, I’d like to remind everyone who identifies as a FA/fetishist/”chaser” – Don’t be creepy.  Please.  Just don’t.  I’m asking nicely.

In case you’re sitting there thinking, “But Cassandra, how will I know if I’m being creepy?”  Well, here’s a checklist for you…

Continue reading “Hey fat admirers: Try not to be creepy, mmmk?”

Everyone’s applauding Angelina Jolie, but all I see is privilege

So I think most of the Western world is aware that that Angelina Jolie’s ability to have first a double mastectomy and now her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed.  And that’s all well and good – her body, her family history, her choice.

What irritates me is how this is being touted as the “brave” choice that more women need to consider.  But all I can think about is the fact that there are many women who can’t afford the testing or surgery, or who possibly can’t take the time off from work/school/kids/life to go through multiple surgeries that have recovery processes.

CNN assures its readers that the test “is not terribly expensive” – a mere $150 – $300 will pay for a consultation with a genetic counselor.  I take issue with the phrase “not terribly expensive” – to many people in this country, $150 is exorbitant.  There are people who barely have $15 at any given time, let alone $150+.

CNN redeems itself somewhat by pointing out that some genetic counselors will work with you on the price, that Obamacare now requires insurance to cover the tests when recommended by a provider, and listed an organization that can help with financial resources.

Okay, great.  But so it comes back that you have the gene.  And you have a family history.  And it seems that having these surgeries is a solution you might want to consider.

What if you don’t have insurance?  What if you do have insurance, but no short term disability (which you very well may need)?  What if you have insurance, but it won’t cover some aspect of these procedures?  What if it does, but you can’t afford the co-pays?  What if you simply can’t get that time off from work?  What if you don’t have another responsible adult to cover your responsibilities and help you out post-surgery?  What if you don’t have the financial resources to keep up with breast implant maintenance long-term?  I understand that most insurance will cover HRT, but again, what if yours doesn’t, or you don’t have insurance, or aren’t consistently insured?

There are so, so many socioeconomic factors that go into these procedures, and they tend to favor people who have more financial resources at their disposal, and who have a solid support system to help them through the process.

I’m glad Jolie spoke out about this, I really am.  I’m glad she urges women to be well-informed.

What bothers me is what always bothers me – that there are solutions to problems that are not accessible to everyone.  That healthcare and big pharma are more concerned with making  money than providing care and resources.  That issues that impact women specifically are not taken as seriously and not covered as fully as issues that can or only impact men.

So apparently non-Celiac gluten sensitivity IS a thing

At least, Harvard says it is.

I don’t know about y’all, but I’ll take Harvard’s word – and my own experience – over the rantings of random internet jackasses who get irrationally angry over other people’s diets because they read a headline on MSNBC once that suggested that gluten sensitivity might not be real because clickbait and they’ve never had an issue with gluten therefore it must all be in our heads.

By the way, the summary that Harvard posts, about how someone can have issues with gluten but not show signs of Celiac?  Yeah, my doctor told me that two years ago.  So if you live in the Denver area and have gut issues, go see this guy.

Thank you to the friend who sent me this link.  :-)


What I’ve learned about writing a first draft of a novel

I’m writing this specifically for the benefit of a friend, but since I thought it might be helpful to others, here’s what I know about setting up and then writing a first draft of a novel.

Keep in mind I’m unpublished at the moment, but I do have an MA in Lit, I seem to pull out of slush piles, and I’ve gotten two personalized “I really like this, I just don’t know how to sell it, let me know if you have anything else/keep writing/please query me again when you’ve completed your next project” notes directly from agents.  I’m doing things right, but getting published is about more than just doing things right.  Patience and perseverance is a big part of it.

That said…

Continue reading “What I’ve learned about writing a first draft of a novel”

I’m a magnet for passive-aggressive people

This has been on my mind lately, because I recently worked with someone who had passive-aggressiveness down to an art, and so when I saw an article on how to handle passive-aggressiveness at work, I read through it.  (Not linking to it because the advice was terrible.)

But that got me to thinking about hallmarks of passive-aggressive behavior, and I realize…I’m a magnet for this sort of personality.

I wonder on some level if it’s because I am naturally assertive, so I’m bringing out passive-aggressive tendencies in conflict avoiders, and/or I have the sort of personality they can hide behind because I’m not the type to back down from a conflict – sometimes, even ones that aren’t mine.  If I see something that needs to be addressed, more often than not, I will have an opinion.

The literature about passive-aggressive behavior agrees that it’s due to underlying anger and hostility.  But I also think it’s very much tied to a refusal to take accountability.  Remember, these types of people are talented conflict-avoiders, and recognizing the need for accountability means recognizing a conflict.  Knowing that can be helpful in not allowing them to escalate you (took me a long time to learn that), but it’s hard to get them to recognize their behavior.  So every “how to deal with…” article I’ve read leaves me feeling unsatisfied, because it hinges on the assumption that the person at some point acknowledges their passive-aggressiveness, or that passive-aggressive behavior can be successfully managed by others.

In my experience, it can’t.  It often involves you walking away or distancing yourself from that person, and/or refusing to cover for them, help them, wait for them, etc.  I’ve read a lot about calmly calling out the behavior, explaining how it negatively impacts you, and using specific examples.  The thing that I’ve found is that this only works temporarily – they’ll tell you what you want to hear when backed into a corner, then go right on resenting you and being passive-aggressive the moment you back off.

So here are examples from my personal life and how I handled them, in case anyone deals with this sort of thing…

Continue reading “I’m a magnet for passive-aggressive people”

This week in fat news…

It’s getting to be that time of year where weight loss advertisements are running rampant, and people are fat shaming themselves on social media in anticipation of the Months Of Wearing Less Clothing.  So on that note…


There were a number of women in the fat acceptance movement who were aggravated over the reponse to #DancingMan, because the feeling was that had this been a woman, people would not have been as eager to reach out.  It was especially annoying to many women activists who have been speaking up about fat shaming online, in print, in art, and wherever else they can for years, only to be ignored by mainstream media and bullied/trolled, while a viral video of a man resulted in such a widespread outcry.

I just want to signal boost this perspective, because while any fat shaming sucks, we also have to get all intersectional here and to think about gender and race dynamics.  Why this video?  What if it had been a black woman instead?  Had it been a woman, particularly a woman of color or a woman who wasn’t  the right kind of fat (i.e. not simply a curvy size 16) would famous women have been as generous with support?  How would famous men have reacted if it had been a woman – or would they?

Without a side-by-side social experiment, it’s ultimately impossible to tell, but living in a world that values whiteness and maleness over anything else means that these questions do need to be asked.  And asking them doesn’t necessarily mean that Fat Acceptance, as a movement, isn’t united.  It just means that there are activists who recognize intersectionalities, and aren’t afraid to speak up when they see fat shaming being reacted to in a way that seems positive on a superficial level, but could be more problematic than meets the eye.  I applaud them for asking those questions, and ask others to consider those questions in turn.