Friday, October 21, 2011

On Knowledge, or My Nickname is Google

My dad, a terrifically clever man, has taught me a lot of things. How to ride a bike, how to mow the lawn, how to change the spark plugs in my moped. How to work hard, how to fish, how to use a lathe, vertical miller, drill press, and various electric saws. He read me stories about archaeology and mythology and helped me build model pyramids out of clay. And if you had a question, whether it was "why is the sky blue" or "how can I reassemble this jumble of bones into a raccoon skeleton," he would know the answer.

(A favorite story was when my Aunt took me and my cousins to the beach, and my cousin asked her something about a shell or creature she found in the sand. My Aunt didn't know the answer, and my cousin sighed deeply and said, "I wish Uncle were here. He knows EVERYTHING.")

Now that I'm a grown up, I like pursuing the idea of knowing everything. Socrates said, "All I know is that I know nothing," and Oscar Wilde said "I am not young enough to know everything," but I treat pursuit of knowledge as my job. (Just not one I get paid for.)

On one of my favorite TV shows, Bones, Dr. Brennan sometimes employs an assistant Mr. Nigel-Murray who has a love of spouting out random facts. His habit gets on the nerves of most of the rest of the cast, but I love this character, because often times his random knowledge provides a vital clue to unraveling the mystery at hand.

I find that while my collection of knowledge is useful for trivia night, it often helps me in other ways. I enjoy discovering shared intellectual pursuits at networking events. Learning about foreign cultures has been very useful in navigating my current role in an international industry, from etiquette on accepting business cards to deciphering idiomatic speech patterns.

But the sheer joy of knowing something is its own reward. As we are so often told, knowledge is power. Power to master statistics or analyze current economic and financial trends. Power to immerse yourself in another language and read all the nuances of a culture. Power to know exactly where you have come from, and to determine where you are going.

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Friday, October 7, 2011

IMBO: Being a Feminist

Though she doesn't like the word feminist because the term is so loaded within her community, she's a staunch egalitarian in a world in which there's an ongoing debate over whether husbands are the masters of their wives.
--Ruth Graham, writing on Rachel Held Evans in Slate

Why can't we like the word "feminist?" Is it because Rush Limbaugh recast feminists as "feminazis?"

In the religious world, Christianity is a huge umbrella religion. It includes Catholics, Protestants, Congregationalists, Lutherans, Evangelicals, and many, many more sub categories. Well, Feminism is a lot like that as well. There are conservative feminists, second-wave feminists, third-wave feminists, grrl power feminists, liberal feminists, Catholic feminists, Jewish feminists, socialist feminists--there are all kinds of feminists. Why must we all shy away from this word?

I'm not shying away from this word. I am a feminist. Feminism, and the notion of pushing for women's equality, and for that matter all kinds of gender equality, informs my daily life. When I vote, I vote for the candidate that will best promote women's rights, whether that's a man or a woman. When I have looked for jobs, I try and consider the one that is most fair to its women workers. When I shop, I look for items that come from companies that have women in leadership positions, or employ women fairly at least. When I have conversations, I tell people about women's issues, I point out that rape jokes aren't funny, and I let people know that I won't let others talk in ways that bring women down.

I'm proud to be a feminist. I know this designation gives people all sorts of pre-conceived notions about me, but that's not important. What's important is that I continue to be a feminist, and to use my daily life to make the world a better place for everyone, a more egalitarian place. Whether that means shrinking the political gender gap in Congress or just succeeding at having one less person tell dumb blonde jokes, I am making a difference. IMBO