THE GET TRANSCRIPT EPISODE 4 – FIGHT, OR FLIGHT?
I: Hi, everyone! I’m Ivy.
R: And I’m Rhiana.
I: And we are the get.
R: (singing) the…ge…t.
I: (singing) the get.
R: Taking you to church!
I: Welcome to Episode 4! We’re happy to be back. We had a lighter episode planned, but the episode has since evolved because of events going on at our alma matter, Yale University. Students have been speaking out, speaking truth to power, really, in a wonderful way and we have been following the events that have been happening, so we decided to shift this podcast a little bit. We’d like to dedicate it to the wonderful women and men at Yale who are speaking up about climate issues that have been going on for quite some time.
R: If we both sound a little sad, it’s because it hurts our heart. Yale is a place that we love a lot, and we also have memories of really painful racial incidents that happened during our time there. We hope, as always, that people coming after you won’t have to go through the same thing you went through, so we’re saddened that it’s happening. We’re also so emboldened and so proud of the students there who are being so vulnerable, and so honest—who are really just putting their bodies and their psyches on the line to try to make a better institution. So, this episode is really for you guys. We’re a few years out, so we want to wrap whatever love and wisdom we have into this one hour, and we hope that it helps you find…peace, laughter, somebody to trash racial bullshit with you…whatever it is you’re looking for, we hope we can help you find a little bit of it.
I: We want to thank our audio producer, Martine Powers, for the idea of shifting this episode. Also, we’ll be at Harvard-Yale, Rhiana and I, so if you need anything, definitely find us.
R: I’m a hugger. I give plentiful hugs. They’re very high quality.
I: I’m actually not a hugger. I prefer less physical contact, but I will hug all of you because I’ve actually been really impressed. I can’t get over how much incisive fire (which is the word I’ve been using to describe it) has been coming from particularly the women of color on campus. You follow a long line of women who have tended to the black community, and people who have been agitating around these issues, also remember that. This is not new. Don’t let anybody tell you that they’re shocked about people feeling marginalized at Yale University. That’s been happening since the beginning. So, today’s episode: We start with a reflection that Rhiana and I had about how to stay in spaces that can feel abusive and can be painful, and then the second part is sort of where we clapback to people who try to minimize our responses to climate issues and marginalization.
R: Right, or people who tell you to keep it cute in the face of injustice.
I: Injustice is not cute. Injustice is actually really ugly [laughter] and hard to deal with. We’re proud of you. We hope that over the next hour you see your experience reflected in what we’re talking about, and that it empowers you to keep up the fight, to keep advocating for yourselves, and advocating for others.
R: We love you, and we just wrap you in love, and light, and the knowledge that you are right. People will often tell you that both sides are right.
I: No, they’re not.
R: They’re not.
I: There’s a right side and you’re on it.
R: You are right. You are on the right side. So, go to sleep knowing that, wake up knowing that, and keep fighting.
PART I: PERSONAL (ON FLIGHT)
R: So, tell me about your week?
I: This last week was really hard. I have been experiencing a lot of anxiety around my dissertation and trying to figure out what I’m going to propose. So, in this last week I developed this very severe migraine. Last weekend, on Saturday night I had a really bad migraine—the worst I’d ever had—started and it didn’t subside until Monday. Even on Monday, I still had pain throughout the week. Then, Thursday I woke up with severe abdominal pain [laughs]
R: Oh, no!
I: I basically just had to roll up to the student health center and say, “I need an appointment.” I’d tried to make an appointment, but they were steady playing games and they told me, “You can’t make an appointment until November 5th.”
R: They always do that. Student health centers always play games. They’re always like, “You can get in three months from now.” And you’re like, “Why would I need to get in three months later?!”
I: In three months, if I haven’t died, the problem will be over. Anyway, that was a huge struggle. In general, though, I have been so distracted when trying to do my work, and distracted by everything: distracted by Facebook, distracted by podcast stuff, by cuties, anything else I could think about except this PhD, which I actually need to do so I can finish and move on with my life and into my future. So, this weekend, my mom had been offering to come visit, and I told her, “No, don’t worry about it. It’s kinda far. Blah. Blah. Blah.” But this Sunday, she was like, “I’m coming. I’m coming after church.”
R: Ooh. And if she comes after church, she’s all fired up with the blood of The Lamb.
I: She was super fired up.
R: She’s covered with the Holy Ghost. She’s ready for you. It’s one thing if your mother’s gonna come Saturday afternoon, but if your momma is ever like, “I’m coming after church…”
I: Right. First of all, the time she will arrive is unclear because church could end at any time.
R: “It’s eight pm. I’m coming over.” “WHAT?!”
I: “I thought you said you were coming after church?” “I am.” So, apparently they had done primarily worship, and they were singing and circling the walls of Jericho to break them down and stuff, and my headache… Anyhow, she had told me freshman year this thing that has actually always stuck with me, “What God has for you, no man can get in the way of that. Not you, not anybody else. If it’s supposed to be for you, it’s gonna happen.” That gave me a lot of peace at Yale, because Yale was just such a struggle. So I thought, “If I’m supposed to finish this place, if I'm supposed to be a success, then it’s going to happen.” I think throughout this PhD, I have been taking on all of this stuff, and our conversation helped me release a lot of it. It also reminds me of some conversations I’ve had with people around religion. Some people will be like, “religion is for people who don’t think,” or whatever, you know, anti-religious sentiment. I think we don’t engage enough with the psychologically comforting aspects of religion and community—and all that stuff. Maybe we’ll talk about that on another podcast! So, that’s me! I feel better. Today I went to individual therapy that was key, and I talked to an advisor about a project to try to get some support there, and I went to work with one of my friends and was actually productive and sent one of my advisors some assignments that I needed to send him—and then I left. I told myself, “I’m gonna go home and take a nap before we record.” I did that, and it feels good to be sort of getting some sense of control over my productivity. I’m feeling a lot better.
R: I’m glad you’re feeling better. I was starting to get worried about you.
I: Me, too. I was really worried. I was beginning to wonder, “Do I need to drop out of this program? Do I need to drop this podcast?”
R: I heard that, and I wanted to tell you probably not, but I remember when I was wanting to drop out and realized that I have no say here. For two years, I was telling you, “Girl, I’m gonna go.” And you were always like, “Please, please don’t.” I’d respond, “Mmm. I am pretty sure I am.”
I: But you finished!!
R: I did finish.
I: You know, you just had to reach out to say, “Girl, I don’t think I’m gonna make it.”
R: I gave you so many midnight phone calls where I’d say, “Girl, I’m about to drop out.”
I: And I just felt so bad. I felt like at that time I was feeling great, especially if it was last year.
R: Yeah, you were pretty good all of the times I talked to you. And you were so supportive when you came to visit and I broke down in tears at the table. You were like, “Okay, it’s okay. Let’s just write.” And I wrote for some more, and you said, “It’s all going to be okay.” And then we went and ate chicken.
I: Yas! So critical. I am so into comfort eating!
R: We really ate chicken and drank liquor.
I: Yes we did. It was delicious, and it was fabulous! Yeah, I just remember how hard that was, and I feel like I feel how you felt then.
R: Yes. It’s super hard. That’s why I will obviously always be here for you, but I will never tell you what to do, because that feeling is so soul-crushing and so consuming. I can definitely tell you that you will survive, and it will be fine—but how you come out, and what you decide to do…it’s all however you choose. I wanted to say, “No, Ivy, don’t quit!” but I felt like that was such a shallow thing to say when I know the level of pain that you’re in. Just saying, “Don’t quit!” is cute, and in all honesty, you probably will make it, it’s not like you can’t do it. It just felt cheap to say, “No, just stay,” because I remember how I felt when people told me that. It was just like, “You have no idea about the depths of this pain, this loneliness, this doubt in myself.” I felt like the best thing I could do was listen and ask questions about why you felt the way that you did, because there are many paths to where you want to go, and I know that you’ll pick a good one. So, whether it’s school, or becoming a content creator of some sort, whatever you do, you’re going to be fly. It’s just about what it means to take care of yourself at this moment.
R: I do think you’ll be much happier being a researcher. I think Facebook is fun because you do it in the off-time, or you know, on the side. I think you could be totally happy doing whatever, but I do think you love your research, and you love psychology.
I: I do, and that’s what has been so hard about this period. I know I’m smart; I know I’m capable; I know I love this, and have important questions to ask and answer, but this is just so painful. Generally, things that make me feel that level of pain, or feel abusive in a sense, (you know, the academic structure and that system is actually quite abusive) but generally people or structures that are abusive I would tell anybody to leave, and I would leave, generally. I’m always like, “You’re a really negative person in my life, and we’re done.” So, it’s been hard to stay, knowing that those are my values. My values are to not be mistreated, to not stay in some place that doesn’t give me life. I’ve been trying to shift what I’m doing, to reframe how I feel about it, so that I focus on the parts that do give me joy.
R: That’s exactly how I felt. I remember having so many conversations with my therapist. “Should something that I am doing hurt this much? Should it feel this bad?” I feel like most times pain in my life has been a signal to stop; that’s what I’ve been taught. If it hurts, you stop it. And now, everyone is telling me, “If it hurts, keep going.” And I feel like the Lord is sending me signals…and I’m just saying, “No. What kind of person gets in a cage with a dog that bites them all the time? Get out of the cage! Stop that dog!”
R: Everybody’s being like, “Get back in the cage.” I’m like, “Are you fucking crazy?! Do you not see these marks? These bruises? These teeth gnashes?”
I: Right. I’m telling people, “I’m anxious. I’m sad. I’m hurt.” And they’re like, “But, this is what you need to do in order to get where you need to go.” And I’m like, “Whyyyyy? Why.” Why.
R: Everyone’s like, “No, no. It’s cool. It’s really worth it.” And you’re just like, “No. No.”
I: “This!? Could it be worth it?”
R: “No. I don’t think you heard me.”
I: “I’m really hurting.”
R: “Let me rephrase this for you.”
I: “Right. Let me shout a little louder.” Seriously.
R: It’s also, I don’t know. I finished, and I’m really glad I finished, but I don’t feel like I came out with a clear answer, that if something really hurts that much do you keep going? I don’t know. I feel like at another point in my life, if I am in that much pain, I probably should stop.
R: I don't know.
I: That’s exactly how I feel. And I think it depends. You have to weigh the costs and benefits for yourself, and sometimes the answer is you need to go and some people leave my program, people decide to do one year at the Rhode’s instead of two, with the issues that we were talking about. So, the answer is not clear. I think what’s hard, also, is that people valorize when you stay in a painful situation. That feels sick. People will say, “You’re so strong” and I’m like, “First of all, I’m tired of being strong, feeling really weak, tired. I want to rest.” But if I do finish, then it’s like, “Oh my God, I really admire you for putting yourself through that.”
R: I’ve struggled with that too, because I don’t know if that’s really what I want to transmit to people. Especially the kids coming after me. To say, “Yeah, you should go through this pain,” when I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t, but I don’t know what other thing to tell them. I feel like it was also one of the biggest experiences I’ve had learning, which is that pain does not always mean leave. You know, figuring out what level of pain—that sounds really masochistic—not what level of pain you can deal with, but like you said, how to even in the midst of the pain figure out why you’re there, and then lean on that.
I: Right. Exactly.
R: It’s hard. I feel like I did learn through that experience, though, that darkness doesn’t scare me that much. I don’t particularly run away from my darkness, or anyone else’s—unless you like…murder somebody, then I’m not fucking staying around, that shit is crazy. I just remember that at Oxford a lot of people liked to only talk about their accomplishments and all that. There was this sense that if you talked about anything dark, whether it was a bad feeling, or just like an innocuous failure, no one wanted to talk about that. I remember being the person that was sort of like, “Tell me about that. Talk to me about that.” And folks would be like, “Oh. This doesn’t bother you.” I was like, “It doesn’t bother me at all.” I remember that by the time I finished at Oxford (I think it’s just because it’s a strange space) in some ways that felt like my superpower, and I will always be very thankful for getting to know that part of myself. I think it’s important to have empathy for other people, to be able to wade into another person’s darkness and not make them feel small, and not make them feel like that’s the only part of them that matters.
I: Right. I think being open, like, when anybody asked me how I was doing, I said, “You know, I’ve had a migraine for the last week,” is powerful, especially with our shortcomings, particularly with other people. On the outside, everyone thinks everything is fine for me. That’s really lonely, and that’s really hard—particularly when things are hard for me, because then I don’t feel like I have the space, so I feel like I have to overcorrect. “Actually I have a migraine this week, okay? I actually haven’t done shit this week, my advisors are all looking at me like, um, what’s good, girl?” So, I do try to push back. I’m not really interested in superwomen narratives that don’t allow for the other side of being somebody who is admirable.
R: Yeah. I think that’s interesting because I think this past week I’ve seen more discussions of black women and depression and the burden of the superwoman. Especially because of that Mary Jane episode where …*SPOILER ALERT*
I: Also, we should say spoiler alert, or whatever. Someone asked me about that for the episode when we were talking about Empire. They were like, “Can you pause? You just said spoiler alert and then you spoiled it! Could you pause for a second so I can skip?”
R: Okay, *SPOILER ALERT* I’m going to continue.
Mary Jane’s best friend killed herself. I really want to watch the episode, I haven’t yet, but I hear that the first part of the episode you watch her basically preparing for her final moment. She winds down, takes a bath, takes some pills, and kills herself.
I: Wow, jeez.
R: Mary Jane ends up having to give her eulogy, and it’s this apparently really powerful and beautiful meditation on black women and depression. I’ve seen some think pieces come out after that about the burden of being seen as the strong black women, or the superwoman, and how black women suffer in silence (all of which I think is very true), but I also wonder about the other side of that. I don't’ know if it’s the other side, but the things that we tell black children, especially black women. “You have to work twice as hard to get half as far.” Or, whatever. That just perpetuates that burden.
R: I remember when I was at the White House interning, there was this meeting of black staffers, where they were basically insisting we be perfect. They were more or less like, “Don’t ever let anybody see you sweat; don’t let them see you stressed; you just need to keep it moving.” I remember thinking, “This is the most dehumanizing conversation.” They’re telling a bunch of kids either in school or coming out of school that the way you make it is to shove down everything that makes you human—or most of it. Come here, and pretend that you aren’t human, and that’s how you’ll get rewarded.
I: And, you know that these people are going to be under more stress, more cognitive load, because of concerns about fulfilling negative stereotypes. It’s just a really toxic cycle.
R: Yeah, it just made me really sad.
[Nina Simone, “I wish I knew how it would feel to be free”]
I wish I knew how it would feel to be free.
I wish I could break all the chains holding me.
I wish I could say all the things I should say.
Say ‘em loud, say ‘em clear – for the whole round world to hear.
I wish I could share all the love that’s in my heart.
Remove all the bars that keep us apart.
I wish you could know what it means to be me.
Then you’d see, and agree, that every man should be free…
PART I: AMERICA, WHY?!? (ON FIGHT)
I: So, for “America, Why?!?” we’re going to talk about the politics of reactionary dudes, basically. Some women are involved in these efforts, but it’s generally these dudes who are really salty about people who didn’t formerly have a voice speaking up. I mean, that’s my read on what’s going on.
R: It’s true! I feel like it comes up this time of year, sort of every year, you know, because Halloween just happened. I feel like the last few years there’s been the “my culture’s not a costume” movement, which just becomes a field day for reactionary politics where people start talking about how, “It’s just a joke,” “I don’t know what the big deal is,” “It’s a day for make believe…” So, we just thought, after everyone had dealt with that foolishness, after Halloween, we would just take a moment to get all of those people together.
I: Let me just go in on Halloween for a second. If it’s just a joke, why can’t you come up with a different joke? What’s wrong with you? Can’t you be clever? I saw so many amazing puns for Halloween!
R: Are you so bereft of ideas?!
I: Right. Why aren’t you more clever? Can I help you? I have suggestions. Someone was a POM bottle. You know, we saw this girl.
R: Oh, that was so cute.
I: It was so cute!
R: I love how she wrote on her butt in puff paint the nutritional facts!
I: Yes! It was fly, and everyone was happy about it. So, you could also be bringing joy with your costume. Instead, you choose to sow discord. Why.
R: It’s so bad every year. Also, the things people think are worthy of jokes just boggle my mind.
I: Right. On college campuses, particularly students of color, people have been raising the issue of people mocking their cultures with the costumes, and now institutions are often responding. First of all, it took years. Why did it take so long? Now that institutions are responding, like our alma matter and sending out preemptive emails—which they have been sending, by the way, since we were there—every year. Literally, they’re like, “Please don’t”
R: But didn’t this one Associate Master act up?
I: Yeah, she did.
R: First of all, why do we still call them Masters?
I: Head of college.
R: Head of the college!
I: So, the Intercultural Affairs Council, and this new administrator who’s named Dean Howard, sent out an email basically requesting that people be considerate in their costumes. There was no, “If you have a rude-ass costume, we’re gonna send you out of here,” which some people would appreciate… but you know, Yale has a free speech policy. And, also, the way people use “free speech” to justify their basic-ass racism, or whatever, I’m not into it.
R: Foolishness. But as soon as folks exercise it for different things, like in favor of trigger warnings, it’s all of the sudden a problem.
I: Right. It’s like, why are you requesting for anybody to be considerate of your experience here? Part of what this Associate Head of College said in her email was, “Back in the old days, college used to be this time where you could be on the edge, and now we’re just trying to coddle.” Then, she later tweets out this article about, “The Coddling of the American Mind” and how basically college students are too coddled because they are agitating around trigger warnings and microaggressions and campus climate. That's basically what is happening. So, in her letter, she basically says, “If you see something offensive you should either look away, or you should engage with the people and talk to them about it.” I was thinking, look away, really? Also, the engaging is what got this letter to happen.
I: So, while I’m out on Halloween, if I see some drunk person in an offensive costume I’m supposed to like tap him on the shoulder and say, “Excuse me. I just want to engage with you around this issue.” Why? Why would I do that?
R: Also, why are you putting more work on the students of color and marginalized students?
I: Come on Rhiana, preach, preach, preach!
R: I’m trying to go to school, like everybody else.
R: I’m trying to get drunk, like everybody else, but now, I’m supposed to get drunk and educate you on why you can’t wear blackface? What part of that sounds like my fucking job?
I: Right? Can’t you just look online?
R: Am I getting paid?
R: Is somebody writing me a check?
I: Right. I’m actually paying to be here. There are all of these other microaggressions that I’m already dealing with on a daily basis, and now this one that is completely preventable—literally you just choose a different costume—now I gotta address it during my night of revelry? No, thanks! I’d like to pass. So, yeah. That was really annoying. Then, she tweeted out the article, and [sigh] the article…
R: The article. First of all, the way that they destroy these lovely cognitive behavioral therapy principles is a whole other thing, but basically it comes down to saying when folks in marginalized groups feel that they’re offended, it’s all disordered thinking.
R: The thing that got me in this article…let me see if I can find the line… Folks, I feel, often say about microaggressions, or if you say something might have been caused by racism, or any other discrimination, “Are you sure it nothing else was at work?” I was like, “You know what? Something that made me feel uncomfortable just happened. I really want to blame it on a characteristic that I cannot change, one that already makes me feel small in society.” Do you think that I didn’t already go through all of the other reasons? Was my hair wrong? Did I step on his foot? They act like marginalized folks just go straight to that, like we don’t want it to be something else, when honestly, most of the time we want it to be anything else.
I: Right. It would be nice to explain your marginalization based on something normal that you can control. But, recasting these things that are due to bias as things that you can control, actually does inhibit and affect the mental health of minority students on these college campuses. You end up trying to figure out, what do I do? How do I act, so that I don’t face this biased treatment? When really, there’s nothing you can do. Another thing that just happened at Yale was at a frat party, some people just told some young women of color that they shouldn’t come in, that it’s a “white girls only time after 11:15” or whatever. You would love to be able to recast that, but I don’t even know how you recast that one. Maybe…they didn’t want to put on the lights, so they wanted some light skinned people who would appear in the dark or something like that. I don’t really knowhow you would recast it—but it’s just not possible.
R: Yeah, the other thing that got me was how they were talking about how microaggressions are just—let me quote now, so nobody can come at me, Imma cite my sources—“magnification, it’s exaggerating the importance of things. Labeling.” These are two of the ‘thought distortions’ that they talk about a lot, which are assigning global negative traits to yourself and others. They say this is at the root of microaggressions. And then they cite this instance regarding Asian American students, I can’t remember on which campus, saying that someone asking you where you were born is a microaggression. The authors were like, “That’s not a microaggression!” And I was like Are. You. Serious.?! Because, if that’s not a microaggression… like, do you see people asking the white students where they were born?
I: Right! Right.
R: So how are they “reading more into this than what is actually there”? I just felt like they were missing the point. Microaggressions aren’t necessarily when the other person means to offend you or hurt you; they’re when what the other person is doing something that is designed—whether or not they mean it to be, it’s not necessarily conscious on their part—to remind you of your otherness. To tell you that you are not like the mainstream, which is exactly what that question does.
I: It just became really clear that they hadn’t really spoken to any students of color, period, before they wrote this wild-ass article. It was just really obvious. And they chose the most ludicrous examples. The example that they chose from UCLA actually roiled the School of Education, they’re still dealing with this issue. The way they wrote it up was so minimizing and wild. So, a faculty member was teaching a methods course and, according to students, was disparaging Critical Race Theory as a construct. Students were critiquing that and saying, “This is our work; this is what we’re doing. You can’t minimize this whole body of work.” I don’t know all of the details, but I know that they hosted a sit-in, and that later there was a town hall in the department where they were talking about this, where this professor—in front of witnesses—assaulted a student! He grabbed his arm, was yelling at him in his face, and this still has yet to be officially addressed in a forthright manner by the university. So, you know, in this article, they just talk about the microaggressions piece in a way that makes it clear that they didn’t speak to any of the students, and then they miss this whole next piece about how this person who was “just using microaggressions” later assaults a student because he’s upset that these students are agitating against their marginalization. That’s what all of this is. When people of color or women are agitating against their marginalization, people respond in a way that is meant to diminish their concerns. So, yeah, the article is so deeply unhelpful. Deeply, deeply unhelpful.
R: It was. And it was interesting because on the one hand, we had this article sort of talking about microaggressions and being anti-trigger warnings, which I think does present lots of things to think about and talk about, but I feel like so much is lost because there is a really deep misunderstanding of what trigger warnings are for—at least in this article, but I’ve seen them characterized like this in other places. A trigger warning is presented as something supposed to help folks avoid content, when in fact, it’s just meant to give people a head’s up so that you can mentally prepare to engage with that content.
R: Trigger warnings are not meant to say that if this happened then you don’t have to read the book on the syllabus, they are meant to let you know that the content may have some things that could remind you of past trauma. You should be aware of that, and you should gather up whatever support you need in order to engage, and should you not be able to engage, at least you have forewarning, so that you can talk to a professor. I feel like trigger warnings, at least when I have seen them used on the Internet, are more often used to say, okay, you can pass up this content if you need to.
I: And I don’t think that’s wrong.
R: It’s not. I mean, the Internet is full of things. You don’t need to open something with a graphic image or something; that’s not necessary.
R: But I feel like in educational contexts, that’s not what it means at all. I think it’s really just helpful. It’s a way of treating your students like full people.
I: Exactly, who have backgrounds.
R: Right! And you don’t know what their backgrounds are. Trigger warning for rape scenes or sexual assault scenes, especially knowing how many women are sexually assaulted on college campuses, just seems like—why would you not do that?
I: They didn’t really engage with that at all! That was what was so glaring and shocking to me, they didn’t really engage with when would you really want to warn someone. The prescription from these dudes was to discourage trigger warnings completely, and that just seems to be too far. My other issue with the article, now, I’m not a clinical psychologist, but the way that they were using cognitive behavioral therapy seemed ludicrous.
I: First of all, when you do CBT, you’re not surprised by the stimulus that scares you. They’re not like, “Hey! There’s a spider!” It’s like: Come into the office. We’re going to do CBT; you’re going to engage with your fear. Then they slowly introduce you to it. The point of a trigger warning is to let you know, Hey when you come to class today, this fear that you might have is going to be on the agenda. The other thing is that most professors are barely able to discuss issues of diversity, let alone to care for a student that might be dealing with some trauma. The prescription is that we should just teach everyone CBT? So they’re supposed to do CBT, which is a clinical therapy to themselves, as they go to class? Let me not go in, because I’m getting worked up. I’m so mad. This doesn’t make any sense!
R: It was so upsetting! To talk about trigger warnings in a vacuum, which they totally did, is one thing, but also to act like coddling is happening because your trigger warnings say there will be something with sexually violent content on your syllabus, is ridiculous. Women walk around on campus with their rapists all the time.
I: Right. Right. We never talk about that.
R: We never talk about that. Women will live in the same entryway, dorm, as their rapist or their attacker. That person will be freely around campus, and we act like the trigger warning is going to be too much coddling. It’s like, actually.. girl? Girl? That is the lowest level of coddling. That is the least you can do.
I: Right! When this Associate Head of the college tweets out this coddling article, you know, it’s just so rich. You want to protect students who want to do offensive things from engaging with the consequences of their behavior. Also, Yale is literally all about coddling its students. That’s literally the whole point of the whole thing. Her husband’s role is to make sure that there are all these fun activities in the college, and then the Dean writes Dean’s excuses, and everybody gets thousands of dollars to study abroad every summer, and there are all of these extracurriculars, and people who are going to get you jobs and help you network, and blah, blah, blah. It’s literally all about coddling. So now, when I want you to not wear a dumb ass costume, it’s coddling? And when I want just a head’s up, literally it’s a head’s up it’s not okay? I think there were interesting points raised about if trigger warnings should let people avoid the content, but I think a trigger warning as a head’s up is fine. Should everybody be able to say, “Well, I don’t want to engage with this issue”? I don’t think that’s right, but professors should be able to talk to students about what their concerns are around the topic and should be trained about how to say, okay, well we’re going to handle this discussion with care. I don’t think there’s been much, I don’t think there’s been any, discussion about how are you (professor who doesn’t care about trigger warnings, or whatever) going to make sure you handle these conversations with care.
R: I think that’s one of the interesting things and the sad things about all of these reactionary politics is that there are valid points to be made within them, but the way that they’re made just makes you feel like, “Fuck the whole thing!” I feel like it’s the same with the Men’s Rights Movement, which we were talking about the other day, or Men’s Rights Activism—which I just can’t most of the time—but you, with your big open heart, were like, “Think, Rhiana, think about it.” The truth is, there are really troubling statistics. Seventy-five percent of suicides are men, etc. Similarly with Blue Lives Matter, when people are talking about how police matter in the midst of Black Lives Matter. Yeah, it is really troubling how many officers are killed on the job. There are valid concerns going on, but: 1) They’re raised in really reckless ways so that you feel like, “I can’t even” and 2) Often the answers to these issues are to engage with the things that these groups so don’t want to engage with. So, then the answer to a lot of the issues Men’s Rights Activists raise are really dealing with fragile masculinity and more considerations of feminist theory and the way that we think of masculinity, more broadening out of those ideals—which they don’t want to deal with. For blue lives matter, the answer is taking seriously the relationship between police and community, and building those relationships back.
I: And thinking about the system that is constructed to have these really hostile relationships with people. To your point about feminist theory, they bring up this issue of divorce rate, and women generally being more able to have custody, or paid alimony—and in an article that Kristjiana sent us, it made the point that this is all the result of the patriarchy. Women generally make less money, so they need your alimony check. Stereotypes about who is a better caregiver are fed by these judges seem to be falling into. So, if Men’s Rights Activists are really concerned about taking care of these issues, they should just become feminists, and not be talking about Men-in-ists or whatever. And why, why, why do you have to wrap it in all this misogyny? Same with the Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. It's right after you say all of this hella racist, terrible, cold stuff about the victims of police brutality, then you're like, "All lives matter," and it's like uh... Reactionary politics are so disheartening. No, it's not actually not even disheartening because it's so predictable. Y'all have been making the same arguments since the dawn of time.
R: Yeah, it's like whenever a marginalized group gets a little power, decides to have a little voice, all of these people are like, "We're going to build a whole movement and we have lots of logic," but it's literally based on getting you to shut up.
I: That's literally all it's about, girl! And I'm like, ah!, I thought we were into diversity?! What happened? This is the result of diversity!
R: Yeah. Kristjiana also sent this article that's an anti-anti-trigger warnings article. She [the author] was saying that trigger warnings become a problem when students no longer just do what professors want them to do. When they step out of line with what is sort of the old guard, then all of the sudden, it's a problem. Then, they need to be censored, or they're censoring, and they have all the power--which is also really interesting. All of these articles make it sound like students have all of the power on college campuses. Has anyone been on a college campus?!
I: Right. I'm looking at these professors, like, "Word? Are you serious?" When which students have the power is it an issue? Because when the frats are doing something, or alumni are doing something, people grumble a little bit, but it's not like, "Oh my God! These people have all of the power." But, when it's women, who say, "Hey. Can you not bring these rap artists who have all of these terrible lyrics?" Or if you have people who say, "Can you not have Condoleezza Rice speak at graduation? We don't believe that she should be given this lauded position during our graduation ceremony." Then it's a problem. I'm ambivalent about bringing certain artists for musical performances and graduation things, but I don't think it's a problem. This is what was really annoying to me about the coddling article, is that they were talking about how the students being so sensitive and thin-skinned won't prepare them for the real world. But, actually, these are the kind of people that we need in the real world: people who are going to shake up the status quo, and critique what is going on. If you just sit and allow whatever, and you don't operate as an interventionist in your environment, then that's just replicating what has been happening for decades and centuries and years.
R: Right. It's also a question of who is thin-skinned, when you're getting all bent out and writing articles for The Atlantic because kids want trigger warnings in the syllabus about sexual violence. Who is thin skinned, honey? I think you are getting this confused. I feel like they’re living their lives and being young and raising hell—as you’re supposed to do when you’re young—and you’re upset because… I feel like maybe you don’t have a very thick skin. I mean, I don’t know you, so I can’t speak on your character or on your life, but it seems like you are just very bothered.
I: Right! By just having to give people a head’s up on the course content. The other thing is like, hey, you say the title of what you’re going to be talking about this week. It says what you’re going to be discussing that week on the syllabus. If people were really so sensitive, then they’d just skip that week. This is just saying, if there is going to be super emotionally upsetting information, just give people a head’s up so that they can prepare. So they can hit up their therapist, or do whatever they need to do. Professors are not therapists. Professors are barely paid enough. It’s probably adjuncts teaching these courses, so they don’t have enough money to be teaching anybody cognitive behavioral therapy, or whatever, in the class. I just hope all of these people who are so reactionary: first of all, have a conversation with somebody that they disagree with, because it just doesn’t really feel like they have engaged with any students of color about what it’s like to be on these campuses, to really be marginalized and excluded in every class, and all these clubs, and at the parties. Y’all really just didn’t think about this at all. It was so regressive.
R: Also, it seems like so much critical thinking is going on, even in the context of creating these movements. So, to say that no critical thinking is going on is just bizarre. How much thinking about theory and sexual violence (and honestly, all sorts of things that I don't’ even know about) went in to the first students asking for trigger warnings? How much discussion of critical race theory, and taking apart and really justifying their case had to go into place before colleges started sending out letters that are like, “Don’t put on blackface for Halloween.” These are clearly not students who just haven’t figured out how to think.
I: The other thing is that this is based on decades of research and scholarship! It was just so clear that these people didn’t engage with nary one article. Not even one! Are you kidding? Now, you want to tell me that the students of color saying they’re being discriminated against is disordered thinking? Is this real? I was so shocked! I just read the article for this podcast and the same is true for you, right? I just knew.
R: Yeah, I was like, oh goodness. But, because I read some things talk about trigger warnings where I thought that they raised legitimate points, I went into it thinking, “Oh. Okay.” I thought, “Maybe they’re going to make some good points.” But then, as I was reading it, I was thinking, “Tell me more, white man. Tell me more.”
I: Pretty much.
R: Because they are literally talking about things they have never encountered, and they’re labeling all feelings of discrimination, all times that students of color or women or marginalized groups say they face discrimination as “emotional reasoning.”
I: It was so dog whistle—or not even! This is why I am so grateful that college campuses have been diversifying, and that we got to go to Yale. Like, we have our critical thinking skills. We put our hat on when we read your article!
R: I am literally employed to critically think. Someone pays me money to do this, honey.
I: I critically reflected on your article, and thought, “Oh. I see what you’re doing here. You’re just trying to defend the status quo, and do violence, honestly, to students who experience violence in these classrooms.” Another issue with this article is that it’s supporting all of these people who don’t want to think about others, and supporting their actions. If that’s the way you want to be in the world, just say that. “I don’t give a fuck.” Then we can all move on! Don’t say, “No, I’m just trying to be rational. I’m just trying to be logical.” No. You’re just trying to be a jerk. You don’t want to take a second, and think, “How might this material that I am going to present to my students affect them?” You could just say, “I don't care.” Say that. Don’t say, “We’re being coddled” when we’re asking you to think about how what you’re doing might affect others.
R: Exactly, it’s just that you don’t really give a fuck. It’s fine! Just be clear, and live in your truth.
I: Right! Then we can properly side eye you, and I don’t have to wade through all of this long-ass article so that I can get to the end just to have you say, “I don’t give a fuck.”
[Lauryn Hill “Forgive Them Father”]
To survive is to stay alive in the face of opposition
Even when they comin' gunnin'
I stand position
L's known the mission since conception
Let's free the people from deception
If you looking for the answers
Then you gotta ask the questions
And when I let go, my voice echoes through the ghetto
Sick of men trying to pull strings like Geppetto
Why black people always be the ones to settle
March through these streets like Soweto
Like Cain and Abel, Caesar and Brutus, Jesus and Judas,
Backstabbers do this
Forgive them father for they know not what they do
Forgive them father for they know not what they do
R: We did have one listener question this week from the lovely Ovary Gang Member, Trilliac Arteries.
I: One of our #wokebae male listeners, who’s awesome!
R: His letter says, “So Notorious Ova-RHI, I don’t know where I got this intel, so I can’t speak to its veracity, but word on the ave is that you once were or still are a bit of a metalhead, and that you fux with System of a Down. Is this true? What’s the level of your toxicity? High? Low? Favorite bands? Do you still get down with the sickness? Do you occasionally tap that mud vein vein? Inquiring metal heads want to know.” So, I was formerly a metalhead, still am a little bit of one, I never was into System of a Down, though, that wasn’t my jam. I was into …Scandanavian metal? I had a friend who was into it. One of my favorite bands was Ice Earth.
I: Do you have a song suggestion that we could end this episode with?
R: I will look for it, because I do have a favorite Ice Earth song. I really liked Audio Slave, was never that much of a Metallica fan, although I really did try. Who else did I like? I can’t remember. I really was into Scandanavian metal.
I: Alright, everyone! We hope you enjoyed this episode. If you’d like to continue discussing with us and discussing these issues, some fellow Yale alums and I have been discussing how to build community post-Yale and online. We’ve been planning on having weekly Twitter chats, and we’ve called this project, “Currentsee” The idea is to give currency to ideas that aren’t always reflected in the mainstream, and also to provide community online. On Saturday, at 1pm PST 4pm EST, for one hour, we’ll be on Twitter covering the topic of how to create better institutions. This relates to all of the stuff we’ve been talking about in this episode. We’ll have some questions, and people who have been thinking about these problems, who are studying these problems, what we know from research that helps, what we know from life experience that helps. You can follow @currenceemedia for the questions and me @Ivuoma. I’ll be participating. Rhiana may or may not be participating.
R: I will try to participate! I’m terrible at Twitter—but for you all, I will try. My Twitter responses are mad late. I respond to things like hours later, so your chat might be over by the time my thoughts come out.
I: But they’ll be fire! You want to give them your Twitter handle?
R: My Twitter handle is @rgunns.
I: So, if you want to continue hanging out with us, this is an opportunity—and with other fly people we know and love. You are all welcome!
R: Our program was produced today by Kristjiana Gong. Our editor is Martine Powers. We love to hear from our listeners! You can hit us up on Twitter @theget_, Instagram @wearetheget, facebook.com/ovarygangproductions or via email at email@example.com. Also, you can check out our website wearetheget.com for transcripts of our episodes.
I: I'm Ivy
R: and I'm Rhiana
I: and we are the get. Thanks for listening!