The Mommy Problem

Editors Note:  This is the fifth in a series of guest blog posts about the experiences of women in a variety of settings.  Jodie Lopez (pseudonym), a professional in housing and residence life, discusses how her mother shaped her identitiy as a feminist and the lessons she learned from her mom.

The Mommy Problem

by Jodie Lopez

I’ve learned my greatest lessons in feminism from my mother. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know this because the vast majority of these lessons arrived in the form of her missteps and weaknesses. For as long as I can remember, I’ve perceived my mother as weak. Much of it is related to her lack of wanting more for herself than what she had. After my parents divorced, she held a string of ill-paying jobs. Though smart, she is not well-educated and has not in my lifetime actively sought to increase her knowledge outside of her kitchen.

Before you assume that I hate my mother, rest assured that I love my mother. I simply don’t always like her as a woman or a role model. The feeling is mutual; she doesn’t like who I am as a woman and makes that known regularly.

Growing up, I pushed myself harder than either of my parents pushed me. I fought to have more than what I was handed. It was a high school teacher who pointed out to me I would do well in college and walked me through the process of applying. When faced with the knowledge my parents would not be able to contribute to a college education – even unable to obtain a loan in either of their names – I funded my own education. I wanted more than a job so I built a career for myself. I actively find professional development and personal growth opportunities for myself, challenging myself and the way I think.

Because of my mother and her perspective, I’ve found the strength to choose for myself. I know who I am and what I want and how I want to be both perceived and treated. I’ve earned the respect I’m given (and am sure I deserve to not be given respect by those who feel that way, too). I’ve made my decisions because I saw how happy – or more often, unhappy – she was in her own shoes.

Still, even as an adult, I’m disappointed in who my mother is. She perpetuates stereotypes of women both through her actions and her thoughts. She frowns upon my career because it has interfered with a normal (according to her) life schedule of marriage and children. She doesn’t understand why my partner and I haven’t married and continue to live in different houses. She criticized my appearance my entire life because I wasn’t feminine enough. She can’t make sense of what my life is and why I choose this for myself.

I can’t thank her for these lessons. I can’t tell her that she’s been better for me than a bra burning protest or a private meeting with Gloria Steinhem. I can’t articulate to her that she influenced me to be this way by not doing it for herself.                

Feminism isn’t only about equality for women. It’s about the way women treat one another. If my mother were happy with her life, I would feel differently about her choices and support her. She’s clearly never been happy, though, and wants me to be able to commiserate with her instead of celebrating who I am. I can’t do that. Who I am is my greatest accomplishment.



The Silent E

Ten months ago – I was silent.

Yes – I know that many of you readers find that extremely difficult to believe.  I am the one that talks to the computer, the phone, the cats, and even as recently as yesterday, my luggage when it kept falling over.  I am an extrovert (an E for all you Myers-Briggs folks out there) – 100% actually – and will talk to anything that is around.  Yes – I said thing, not person, but I’ll talk to people, too.

Even so – I was silent.

For a long time, I felt compelled to tell a story – my story – and share my own perspectives and ideas about issues relating to women in and out of our field.  I have long been a presenter on women’s issues – but the clinical components that often go into a presentation do not match nor include my own personal point of view.  However, to share this point of view – I didn’t have my voice.  I didn’t even know where to look.

In the spring of 2010, three things changed that.  First – I finished that pesky little dissertation.  You know – the research and novel that stands between being A.B.D. and Ph.D.?  Yeah – that.  In December 2009, I finally graduated with my Ph.D.  Now – the excuse of ‘I just don’t have time” went away.  Second – I took a course about Women in Higher Education from Dr. Tamara Yakaboski.  This course challenged my way of thinking.  I had all of the background information (had to for the literature review for my dissertation) but it never felt real – at least not until I sat in a room with 20 other women and got challenged to share what I THOUGHT, not what I knew.  I remember vividly writing my own ‘womanifesto’ and suddenly realizing that I was connected to the words on the page more completely than I had ever been in my life.  I finally knew that what I had to say mattered – in a very real and fundamental way.  My inner feminist was awake.

Then, there was #sachat.

So- these first two things – the completion of the degree and the discovery of my voice had converged.  And then – @StacyLOliver, @ACUHOI and @TBump tell me about live tweeting and this thing called “#sachat’.  And they all push me to finally use Twitter.  So I do.  During The Placement Exchange, during sessions, and during the closing session with Sister Helen Prejean at NASPA, I tweet.  And I learn about hashtags and follow the #NASPA10 topic.  And I read things from other tweeters, including @carolyngolz and the amazingly snarky @IrmaPelt from their sessions.  And I learn about other sessions, and I engage in them.  And I LEARN.

And then I learn about #sachat.

When I get back to my campus, I block out Thursday at noon (I am CST after all) and decide to try and participate in #sachat.  And I do.  And it’s fantastic!  All of these ideas, these short bursts of brilliance, all coming together to help a large group of people understand various issues relating to professional development, or first-year student success, or social media use with student engagement, or assessment, or whatever the topic of the day would be.  Unlike others, I do not remember what the topic of my first #sachat was.  I just remember feeling connected to other professionals in a way I had never experienced at a conference, at an institute, or even in small conversations.  I felt like I was finally a part of the dynamic student affairs community in a very real, tangible way.  And it was amazing.

Back to that “voice” thing.  About two weeks later – this I do remember.  As a result of being connected to #sachat and Twitter, I started seeing people tweet about blog posts – theirs and others.  I was intrigued and thought maybe this was the venue through which I could share my voice.  I remember vividly reaching out to #sachat people and asking about starting a blog.  I didn’t know where to begin.  No problem – @EdCabellon, @LynnEllison@ReyJunco and @NikiRudolph jumped to my aid immediately.  @KARupert , @Tbump and @BeccaFick with their respective #bucketsofsunshine immediately encouraged me to blog.  @CindyKane, my Twittersister, whether you realize it or not, you were the spark that pushed me toward blogging about women’s isuses.  @JeannetteMarie – you were my first RSS feed receiver! And this #sachat community pushed my voice out there through numerous retweets when, on March 30, 2010, I published my very first post – an admittedly angry rant against a blog post about women’s responsibility for their own lack of representation in the STEM fields – on my new blog named for my Womanifesto – “The Feminist Lattice”.

Yes – #sachat has had a profound impact on me.  This community has helped me find my feminist voice.  I consider myself – finally – to be that champion of women that I have always wanted to become, and the one I have forever known was inside me somewhere, just waiting to come out. 

So, @TomKriegelstein and @DebraSanborn – you helped this Woo, Activator, Communicator, 100%E feminist finally come out of her shell.  Due in large part to you and your work – I finally found my feminist voice.  You have changed the face of Student Affairs and professional development and thankfully – my life is forever changed because of it.

Everything I Have Learned About IT Began With My Mother

by Eric Stoller
This post is dedicated to my mom and every woman who has had to fight to be recognized as an expert with technology.

I read a tweet this morning that immediately caught my attention: “Hey, #highered technologists — Can you explain #IT to your mom?” It was posted to the IHEtech account. The tweet asked the same question as the title of a new post on the Digital Tweed blog: “Can You Explain IT to Your Mom?

My response via Twitter was that my mom totally gets Information Technology (IT). In fact, she’s the reason why “I” get IT. My mom taught me to be fearless when it came to tackling technology. I learned how to troubleshoot from watching her troubleshoot technology issues. I am a student affairs techie today because of everything that my mom taught me.

There are not enough women who are in technology leadership positions. Every time someone frames women (especially moms) as being less than tech experts, it adds to the heaping pile of patriarchy that brings women down. It is not okay to ask if my mom gets IT. It is not okay to ask if anyone’s mom gets IT. The underlying assumption that your dad would understand IT while your mom would not is flawed. I get that Digital Tweed is trying to make the point that technology is complicated and that we need to do a better job of communicating what it is that we do. However, I think that Christina Dulude nailed it when she tweeted: “Using “your mom” as the de facto example of a non-tech savvy person makes me cringe.

We all should cringe. Our moms deserve better.

My mom showed me how to program on the Commodore 64. How cool is that? Thanks Mom! Now if we could only get Dad to stop printing off his emails.

Do you tweet? Follow me on Twitter.

Cross posted from Inside Higher Ed.

(Many thanks to Eric Stoller for allowing his entry to be cross posted on ‘The Feminist Lattice’.  And my mom thanks you, too.  – Julie)