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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Inclusive Language

How Do We Include Inclusive Language in Our Own Language?

Language has been and continues to be a powerful tool for human connection, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way. Language can be used for good, or for evil. In this generation, words definitely matter; it matters what you say and how you say it. Language can either make people feel included, or excluded. We all want to make people feel include though right? In order to do so, we need to start with the core of making people feel included - which is changing our language. Seems challenging, right? Trust me, I know how you feel. Changing your language that you’ve written or spoken your entire life, might be hard, you just have to be willing to put in the work. In order to make people feel included, we use what is called, inclusive language. Inclusive language is language that avoids the use of certain expressions or words that might be considered to exclude particular groups of people, esp gender-specific words, such as “man”, “mankind”, and masculine pronouns, the use of which might be considered to exclude women. Increasing the inclusiveness of our language is not only to become more welcoming, but to learn how to strive “to understand the ways that language often unconsciously makes assumptions about people and unintentionally reinforces dominant norms around gender, sexual orientation, race, class, ability/disability, age, and other identities and experiences”. (Unitarian Universalist Association)

I found a few things to consider in terms of checking the assumptions we make that language can often carry from the Unitarian Universalist Association:

  1. Recognize diverse family formation:
    1. For example, some families are headed by single parents, grandparents, foster parents, two moms, two dads, and more: consider “parent or caregiver” instead of “mom and dad,” get creative with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, etc.
  2. Use language that reflects what people call themselves:
    1. For example, taking the time to find out what labels or words a person or group uses for their identities and experiences rather than making assumptions, and always respecting the language a person uses to self-identify.
  3. Use “person-centered” language as a general rule:
    1. For example, when talking about groups you aren’t a member of, not using an identity as a stand-in for a person or a group: “people with disabilities” instead of “the disabled”; “transgender people” instead of “transgenders” or “the transgendered”; etc., remembering that any aspect of a person is just that: an aspect of a person.
  4. Understand and respect the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity:
    1. For example, not saying “LGBT” if you are only talking about sexual orientation; not using “straight” as the opposite of “LGBT” (transgender people can be any sexual orientation, including straight); etc.
  5. Be intentional about representing diversity in stories and curricula:
    1. For example, representing a variety of family structures, races/ethnicities, gender identities and expressions, and sexual orientations in stories shared during services and in religious education for all ages.
  6. Consider non-gendered words for the divine:
  7. Use words that encompass all genders rather than only two:
    1. For example, “people of all genders” instead of “women and men”; “children” instead of “boys and girls”; “siblings” or “kindred” instead of “brothers and sisters.”
  8. Use language that does not assume a certain level of education:
    1. For example, not assuming that all people have graduated from high school and/or gone to college (or will go to college after high school); being mindful of the reading level of language used in services; etc.
  9. Use language that does not assume a certain level of financial means or certain sort of vocation:
    1. For example, not assuming that everyone present is employed, has a stable living situation, can afford to meet their basic needs, works a first shift job, etc.
  10. Use language that does not assume all people are heterosexual:
  11. Avoid negative or demeaning language for people with disabilities:
    1. For example, “people living with HIV/AIDS” rather than “AIDS victims”; “people who use wheelchairs” rather than “wheelchair-bound” or “someone confined to a wheelchair.”
  12. Be thoughtful about the imagery you use:
    1. For example, words like “black,” “dark,” and “blind” are often used symbolically to express negative concepts. There are many alternatives and ways to diversify our use of certain symbolism.

Makayla Chacon

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Menstruation Frustration

Since coming to college, I realized how lucky I was to not have to buy my own menstrual products growing up. My mom would always pick some up for me when she bought some of her own. So this year when I got my period I went to the store to quickly grab some tampons, pads and a small bottle of Advil (the necessities). When I went to check out, my total was $20.40, I was shocked because never had this cost came out of my own personal bank account. I was not prepared to drop $20 right then, but I looked down trying to decide if there was anything in the three products I had that wasn’t necessary. But the thing was, menstrual products really wasn’t something I wanted to skimp on. 
That got me thinking, my period is something that happens regardless if I want it to or not, yet I have no choice but to spend money on it every month. Because I’m so used to casually buying these products, I’ve never taken the time to add up what exactly it is I’m needing. First, you need hygiene products such as pads, tampons or maybe both. Then there’s the cost of Advil or Midol, anything for the cramps or headaches. There’s the cost of underwear you need to buy because you got your nice ones all bloody. There’s acne medication, chocolate maybe, or birth control. Regardless of how many items on that list you choose to utilize, most mensturaters will find themselves needing at least some. It adds up being a person with a period and for some reason that’s never been a big topic of conversation, especially with women already being on the wrong side of the wage gap already. 
The majority of states in the U.S. tax feminine hygiene products, people are being taxed for something they have no control over. In America, items deemed “necessities” aren’t taxed, it varies from state to state but this list mostly consists of groceries, medical prescriptions, agriculture supplies, sometimes clothing etc. Yet something a huge percentage of our population needs, isn’t a necessity in the eyes of our government. This is just another sign something big needs to change, and the way we perceive menstruation needs to shift as well. But I have hope, a large part of solving this problem is bringing it to more mensturators attention, which is what I wanted this post to do.
Lastly, here are some cost effective tips to help during that time of the month!

  • Instead of buying expensive heating pads, wet a hand towel then put it in a plastic bag. Next, stick it in the microwave for a little bit and you’re done. Make sure to re-wet every time you put back in the microwave to reheat. 
  • To help with migraines, use some peppermint essential oil and rub some on the temples, or over the whole forehead. A diffuser or even peppermint gum should help as well!
    By: Eliza Kern

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

An Exercise in Health Thought

Ok, most of us at some point have probably talked about how we “need” to go to the gym, often disparaging our bodies in the process. There’s this cultural notion around exercise, around eating, around anything to do with our bodies that tells us that we need this, need that, and often with a tone that implies that we won’t enjoy it (and let’s be real, often times we won’t). We’re told doing these things is what it means to be healthy from the very start with grueling PE classes where teachers critique our movement based on times and fitness exam standards. We center movement around two main ideas;

One, that it has to meet a number, whether that’s a goal weight, a mile time, ect.
Two, that it’s about the result, not the process, and certainly not how it feels for us.

For some people, goal setting like that totally works, and that’s great for them. For a lot of us that’s just not the reality. When we make movement into something we only do to lose weight we take away so much from the experience of it- including the fact that your movement and your health- its for you. As a culture we’re particularly bad about this for women. Health is a broad concept and can vary widely from person to person- you can be healthy regardless of what your body type is. When we cheapen movement to something we only use to lose weight, we’re often focusing on its ability to shape our bodies to appeal to others. Honestly though, is that really what we want to make our discussions of personal health and wellness center on? What it does for someone else, for the gaze of other people on our bodies?

Here’s an alternate view- Maybe it’s about the process instead. Finding movement that feels good for us. We have a cultural sense that what’s honorable or valued is what we struggle with and push ourselves for, and that somehow what feels good is not worth as much. Not only is that a draining way of looking at things, but it means that for a lot of us, we’re less likely to keep coming back to the behavior of exercising. When I was younger, I hated PE- and by extension, I used to think I just plain didn’t like exercise. It was a setting where I only ever felt like I was failing. The thing is, if you’re doing the activity, you’re already winning- you don’t fail at running a mile just because you didn’t do it fast enough. The exercise you got doing half of a mile doesn’t disappear if you don’t make it to the end. Judging it that way is absurd. In the end, the movement that is successful in terms of health is not the one that burns the most extreme amount of calories, it’s the one that the person continues to do. And we tend to do what’s pleasurable.

One more important note on this topic- When people talk about this topic of health, it’s often to tell others what to do with their bodies on the basis of how they perceive the other person's health. Firstly, not really any of that first person’s business, right? Additionally, not only can you not tell a person’s health status based only on their body type, but if you’re truly concerned about health, then let’s talk about mental and emotional health. Health of the body doesn’t exist in some bubble outside of the cultural contexts that affect the health of our minds. What does it do to the mental and emotional health of our young women to have this emphasis placed on losing weight? Even just in terms of thinking about exercise, it makes their efforts and their bodies essentially about someone else, an all too common trend that crops up in many social issues.

All in all, our thoughts on health and exercise are often strikingly unhealthy, and  I would deeply encourage others, especially in my field of health, to re-think the way we frame exercise. 

Written by Dana Lund, Trans Program Intern

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Glory to Gloria

Never being an activist before, or at least thinking in terms of being an activist, I was not very knowledgeable of what has been done before me in the field. I never thought in the certain ways that I do now and never imagined the amount of hatred and inequality that exists everywhere. On top that, as embarrassing as it is now, I never really heard of, or knew much about Gloria Steinem and what she has done.

Attending the Q&A session she held Wednesday, March 2, at Chico State was a blessing and really molded the way I think of certain issues. Just being in the same room as her and seeing my peers filled with so much nervous excitement when she came in made me realize the impact she has had on lives. Then she spoke and her words really had an impact on me personally.

The biggest takeaway I took from her hour long Q&A was the way she explained how to cope with anger. She described anger as a good thing, and it is something we all must have and use to our advantage. We have a right to be angry, it usually means something is wrong and unfair in our lives or others. To use anger and turn it into a positive, we must imagine it as a little cell inside of us. We tap into this cell and use it as positive energy to make a difference. We need to find others who are like minded and make these connections and express the way we feel and why we feel that way. I have never particularly thought anger was a good thing or could be a good thing, but she turned the thought of it, to a positive mentality that brings people closer together.

Another lesson I took from her was her ability to take a step back, and look at the bigger picture of situations and being able to make connections when things do happen. Her example was the Zimmerman case with Trayvon Martin, she connected this issue all the way back to the prior domestic violence charges against Zimmerman. If feminism was taken seriously and he was previously charged with what he has done, Trayvon Martin would still be walking today. On top that, Zimmerman was again charged for domestic violence after the Trayvon issue. When we step back and make connections with bigger issues, it all comes down to properly assessing the situations where there is inequality. Doing so would prevent so many of the problems we face and save lives all around the world. Her way to turn almost every situation or issue and connect the problem back to issues women face was surprisingly mind blowing and honestly true.

A third takeaway from the discussion with Gloria Steinem was too not be fed up or angry with the current state of women’s right’s. She had the whole room imagine back to when women couldn’t even have the ability to cast a vote. This time era is not too far in the past and we have made great progress with where we are today. Don’t get me wrong there is still a ways to go, but we should not be angry, and Gloria again told us to channel this anger into a positive, that we use to connect with others with similar interests to help take the correct steps forward, progressing one step at a time.

From not hearing of Gloria Steinem, to hearing her words echo in my head daily, this question and answer session was a blessing. Thank you, Gloria

To those reading - thank you for the opportunity to share.  

Submitted by Robby Duron

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Representation, Please. Please

Come back to me, Gongyla, here tonight,
You, my rose, with your Lydian lyre.
There hovers forever around you delight:
A beauty desired.
Even your garment plunders my eyes.
I am enchanted: I who once
Complained to the Cyprus-born goddess,
Whom I now beseech
Never to let this lose me grace
But rather bring you back to me:
Amongst all mortal women the one
I most wish to see.

-- Sappho (Translated by Paul Roche)

I’ve always considered it a great shame that I did not know until after I started college who Sappho was. In case by chance you are in the same boat I was in, Sappho of Lesbos was an incredibly famous poet who wrote of her attraction both to men, and, more famously, women. In fact, she is the reason we use the term Lesbian, derived from the Island she called home. Where, I wondered at first, was Sappho when in high school we looked through a barrage of poets? Where are any of the many famous LGBTQ+ creatives, historical figures, and so forth in our classrooms? As a youngster with a passion for writing, I would’ve loved to see myself in this poet! Not to mention that seeing historical figures with diverse experiences of gender and sexuality gives context to the modern LGBTQ+ experience. That is to say, when one knows our history we suddenly stop seeming as though we sprung out of nowhere, an invention of modern times.

Although there are a plethora of important issues going on in relation to our schools in this day and age, I’ve always felt that the battle to have at least some LGBTQ+ history recognized is an important one. Especially since LGBTQ+ youth are often estranged from older community members on the basis of fears that they will make inappropriate mentors, these youths are starved for representation. Just seeing themselves in the people they study in history or english could be uplifting for kids who are often struggling with acceptance, both among others and within themselves. Our censorship of LGBTQ+ history creates the illusion that the identities kids experience are somehow not safe for the classroom and sexualizes young LGBTQ+ people by implying that their identities, even outside of any explicitly sexual context, are inappropriate.

With the start of this current school year (2016-2017), California is set to become the first state to include guidelines for LGBT representation courtesy of the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act. However, in our current political climate other states may be left lagging behind. Especially in light of HR 899, a Bill that had been introduced to the House of Representatives that would work to abolish the Department of Education by the end of December of 2018. While our country is far from having unified educational standards in regards to these topics to begin with, the potential abolishment of any larger oversight could make it even more difficult for standards like those in the FAIR act to take off for additional lack of unity among school systems. Overall, we face uncertain times for progress in LGBTQ+ education, but it’s a battle worth fighting. 

Submitted by Dana Lund

Thursday, March 9, 2017

"My little titties and my phat belly..."

“My little titties and my phat belly, my little titties and my phat belly,” lyrics by Princess Nokia, an amazing artist that motivates me. For a year now, I yearned for nipple piercings, but every time I’m motivated and pumped to go into a shop I back down. I’m not scared, I have multiple tattoos, and I’m not worried about the pain. I am more concerned with my little titties. I always shamed myself for having small boobs. Just recently, I wanted to get a boob job, of course as a college student I can’t afford them right now. For a time now, my little titties have been on my mind. I want to pierce my nipples to feel empowered, and it is much less than a boob job I can save thousands of dollars, but I have a fear of judgement. What if this happens; what if that happens. I know I shouldn't care, but that’s the problem I do care.

I don’t know how to just say “fuck it” and just do it. Maybe, it starts with me, I’ve been looking down on myself for having little titties. I need to give myself a break. The first step begins with this blog.

I want to share the way I feel about having small boobs and how I’m finding ways to be more accepting of them. I also want to encourage others to love thyself. To explore their options if they don’t feel comfortable, to empower themselves. It’s not easy to try and change something because society has set an expectation for that certain thing.

If you’re happy with small boobs, by all means, you’re an inspiration.  LET ME MAKE THIS LOUD AND CLEAR: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH SMALL BOOBS. But I know there’s plenty of people like me.

When I do get my nipples pierced I know, I’ll be more open to talking about my boobs and happier with them. It’s a form of self-care, and self-love. I’ll also update y’all with the healing process and the way I feel, if there is a difference and if I made the right choice.

Again, to quote Princess Nokia, “My little titties are so itty bitty, I go locomotive, chitty chitty, bang bang. Gold hoops and that name chain.”  It’s an amazing song called “Tomboy” I’ll be playing this song while I’m getting pierced.

If you’re reading this, thank you for letting me share this with you. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

An Ode to Questioning

From the first time I came out, there was an air of pressure. Pressure to be sure, certain, solid in what I was saying as though once the words rolled off my tongue to hang in the air, once my thoughts were laid open for others to see, they became something immutable. Permanent. I had from a young age picked up on two things about declaring an identity in our society: one, that it would not be without consequence, and two, that people who changed their minds about their identities were ‘attention seekers’ and ‘fakers’, and held in poor regard by gay and straight people alike. 

Now, if we’re speaking from an educated standpoint we know that there’s more to it than that, that gender and sexuality can be fluid and there are many people for whom labels will change, but in the broader cultural context there is not nearly enough appreciation for the process of questioning.
This not only adds to the difficulties some folks experience in coming out, but can be particularly damaging for certain identities- as a bisexual person, I have noticed that many negative stereotypes about bisexuals seem to stem from a loathing for uncertainty. 

For example, many times I have heard bisexuality stigmatized as being confused, a stepping stone to coming out as gay or lesbian, being unsure what we want, or more likely to cheat because we can’t ‘choose’ one gender. Now, I could go on ad infinitum about all the things wrong with these statements. Today though, I want to focus in on a common thread that runs through these assumptions: the idea that a choice must be made. It frames uncertainty as the enemy. Now, bisexuality itself is not uncertain- it’s as solid of an identity as any

I’m bisexual regardless of the gender of any partners I have had or will have, and I have no need to choose a single gender to be attracted to. My question is why the idea of uncertainty is weaponized against identities, as though there’s something wrong with continuing to explore yourself.

Why should we allow the potential for growth in our self-understanding to be used to hold us back or as a smear campaign against identities? For a lot of people it’s natural to be averse to questioning- it can be a painful time, and the certainty of belonging to a group can be a great comfort. However, questioning is not inherently bad. If we truly want to embrace our rich spectrum of gender and sexual identities, we have to knock it off with our insistence on being certain. If someone changes their label, that’s great! They’ve found a new understanding of themselves! Give folks the ability to try on labels and see what fits without judging the person (or the label for that matter) if they experience changes.

If you’re still questioning, be gentle with yourself - allow yourself the room to breathe and grow. Some of us are on a quick trip and others might be traveling their whole lives, and that’s alright.

Blog submitted by Dana Lund