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Archive for March, 2012

This morning, I read a Forbes article about the “Happiest Jobs in America”.  CareerBliss compiled a list of the 20 happiest careers, after analyzing the results of a survey they gave.  Survey respondents were asked to rate 10 different factors affecting workplace satisfaction and prioritize those factors according to the importance they placed on each factor.The factors included one’s relationship with the boss and co-workers, work environment, job resources, compensation, growth opportunities, company culture, company reputation, daily tasks, and control over the work one does on a daily basis.

CareerBliss’ chief executive, Heidi Golledge said,  “Many of the happiest jobs have some component with working with people. Folks who work with others tend to rate their happiness higher on our site.

This made me think that the survey probably did not factor in differences in age and, particularly, personality.

For myself, I rate as an INTP on the Myers-Briggs personality test, which is introverted, and the older I get, the more introverted I become.  Working with the public and closely with co-workers is stressful to me and I’ve always  viewed it as something to be endured, rather than a source of workplace happiness.  Since most jobs are this way, I’ve spent most of my working life in jobs where I’ve had to fight my weaknesses, rather than getting to work with my strengths.  Naturally, this does not make for a happy work place for me.

After reading the article, I sat and pondered what would make for a congenial workplace for me.

Because I’m in my fifties now, I’m not really interested in a job that offers opportunities for advancement; my mind is set on marking time until I can retire.  I prefer a job in a laid back environment that is as stress-free as possible and allows me to leave it at the door at quitting time.  To this end, I wish to avoid fast-paced, hectic jobs, where the bottom line matters more than the process.  I prefer to work independently and have a boss who does not micromanage nor has authority issues.  I essentially want to be left alone to do my work in peace and be given sufficient time to do it right.  I do not want to work long hours, because that throws life out of balance.  Flexible hours and/or getting the chance to work at home would be perfect.  Adequate insurance and retirement, along with reasonable sick/personal leave and vacation days is essential, too.

I don’t mind if a job is boring because I don’t define myself on what I do to earn money.  To me, boring beats the hell out of frantic any day.   A job has always been simply a means to an end for me; I’ve always worked to live and not lived to work.  After all, no one ever said on their deathbeds they wished they’d spent more time at the office.

Making lots of money would be nice, but as long as I have enough to meet my bills, with a little left over to save and spend for pleasure, I am satisfied.  Indeed, I think that time is the most important commodity one has and I seek to give up as little of it to make a living as I can practically get by with.  What’s the use of making scads of money if you have to work 70 hours a week to get it?  You spend most of your waking hours at work and what’s left either exhausted or asleep, so you don’t get to enjoy it much, anyway.  Time, once spent, is gone, and none of us gets to live forever.

So, to me, it’s better to make a more modest salary if it gives you more time to do the things that matter most to you.

What makes for a happy workplace for you?

 

 

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While reading the book, Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine, the author pointed out that one reason why very young children are so susceptible to gender role stereotypes is because of in-group bias; that they naturally want to like what they perceive as belonging to their in-group.   Because a person’s sex is continually emphasized through clothing, hairstyles, language, colors, and so on from the very beginning of a child’s life, children quickly deduce that what sex they are is something very important; more important than any other category they might fall into.  So, children are quick to adopt the things that have been presented to them as “belonging” to their sex and avoid the things labeled as for the other sex as a way of showing in-group pride.

The author went on to mention studies where children’s willingness to play with so-called opposite sex toys  varied depending on whether they perceived other children to be watching them.  That is, they were more willing to play with a wider variety of toys when they thought themselves unobserved.

Thinking back to my own early childhood in the 1960s, I remember wanting to belong to the group, but not so much if it meant giving up my right to be different.  Then, as now, I believed that everyone shouldn’t have to be the same in order to belong.  I liked plenty of “girl” things, such as Barbie dolls and dressing up in costumes, but I also like plenty of “boy” things, such as Tonka trucks and climbing trees.

Characters on TV and in movies and books didn’t have to be the same sex as me in order for me to identify with them, either.  I remember being about five years old and loving the Andy Griffith show and wanting to be a sheriff because of it.  Not once did I think I couldn’t be one, even though it was 1963. This was because I didn’t associate Andy Griffith’s maleness with his ability to be a sheriff any more than I would have thought that having the same color hair he had would have been necessary.  It was entirely beside the point for me.

Though female characters in the media were far less common than male ones when I was growing up, the ones I did identify with were the independent, tomboy types.   As a little kid, Nancy Drew and Laura Ingalls Wilder were two of my favorite book characters.   I was far more attracted to the spunky and adventurous Laura who regularly flouted the gender role stereotypes of her time, to the insipidly “good” Mary.

I was also lucky to have parents who encouraged me in anything I might be interested in and did not restrict me to the “girls” side of the toy or book stores.  I remember my mother buying me a toy sheriff’s badge and hat when I told her that’s what I wanted to be.  Never once did either of my parents tell me that girls couldn’t do that kind of work.  And I indeed grew up to work for nearly ten years in law enforcement twenty years later.  My parents did not consciously practice non-sexist child raising; rather, they subscribed to the general belief that their children could grow up to be anything they set their minds and efforts on being.

Though I agree with what Ms Fine described in the book, she did not address what factors accounted for kids like me who managed to escape the gender role prison, despite wanting to be belong to one’s peer group.  It’s something I’d be curious to know.

 

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Rush Limbaugh’s recent example of foot-in-mouth disease, where he referred to Sandra Fluke as a “slut”, is a classic example of the Madonna/Whore complex.   This is probably one of the most schizophrenic types of sexism, in my view, because men who display this attitude are ultimately screwing themselves.

It would be safe to say that nearly all heterosexual men enjoy having frequent sex with women.  Yet, through religion and other means, they have stigmatized women who are as eager as they and who approach sexual matters in the same fashion as most men do.

For thousands of years, women have been divided into two categories.  There were the “good” women who restrained themselves sexually and who were celibate when single.  These are the type of women such men seek to marry and whom they bestow what they consider to be respect.  The problem with this has traditionally been that many such women who have played by the rules and squashed their sexual desires have often, in years past, remained inhibited even after marriage.  Quite a few women found it difficult to “flip the switch” once they had that magical marriage license in hand. Many saw sex mainly as a duty; something that’s necessary to have children and to keep their husbands appeased.   Though much less prevalent now than in centuries past, it still exists often enough to  be worth commenting on.  This phenomenon is the source of the trite, sexist quotation, “Women give sex to get love; men give love to get sex”.

Then there were the “bad” women; basically the ones who have approached sex like men do and enjoy it for its own sake and those who openly viewed it as a commodity. These are the women who have engaged in non-marital sex, whether or not there is a possibility of a future marriage with their partners. For a sizable minority of men who bought  into the Madonna/Whore complex in centuries past, this even included married women who initiated sex with their husbands instead of  following his lead and seemed to enjoy it “too much”.  Most “bad” women were typically the prostitutes and mistresses and married women who had affairs.  But even women who had been raped or those who had been seduced by  their suitors who then declined to marry them, were considered “ruined” and no longer marriageable.

The original reasons for restricting the sexual expression of women are correlated with religion, but probably were for mostly practical reasons relating to ancient humans settling down into farming communities and the introduction of the ideas of private property and inheritance.

That is, ancient men wanted to make sure that the children they passed their property down to were actually theirs.  Because there was no reliable method for determining paternity in the ancient world, the only way to do this was to restrict the sexuality of women.  This is why women have traditionally been punished for having sex with any man but her legal husband and men have been mostly winked at for straying from their marriage vows.

Naturally, such a system had drawbacks for men, too.   With wives culturally required to regard sex as a duty and with no reliable birth control, horny men who wanted more sex, more lusty sex, and/or who wanted to limit their family size, for whatever reason, had to find other outlets.  Add to this, that many men had the idea that it was wrong to subject their wives, the ones they respected, to passionate sex.   Single men who wished to avoid “ruining” a “respectable” woman also had to find an alternative as well.

Thus, they turned to prostitutes and mistresses.

And this is where the schizophrenia comes in.  These were the women who provided a service for men, who provided a release from the corner they’d painted themselves into when they’d imposed rules to restrain the sexuality of women.  One would think that they would have been grateful to such women for providing a ready sexual outlet.

But, instead, they have reviled and scorned these women; women who gave them what they wanted, even knowing that the alternative would mean much less sex for them.  On the flip side, they “respected” the “good” women, but that didn’t stop them from dallying with the “bad” ones.  It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

One would also think that the fact that the original reason for restricting the sexuality of women no longer exists, now that we have effective birth control and can reliably determine paternity, would have extinguished the Madonna/Whore complex.  Granted, it has lessened to a great degree since the 2oth century.   And it would seem that men with any sense at all would fervently support the wide availability of cheap birth control, not wanting to ever return to the days where every sexual encounter with a woman was playing baby Russian Roulette.

But Limbaugh and others of his ilk, have proven that the Madonna/Whore complex still has a lot of life in it yet, despite its utter lack of logic and sense for both sexes.

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In recent months, I’ve seen many articles online about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, to use one example of fat people in public life.  Negative comments about him overwhelmingly target his weight as a source of ridicule, over all other factors first.

While I must stress that I do not in any way agree with his politics, I abhor this type of cheap shot, especially because there are so many more relevant things to criticize Christie about that make it entirely unnecessary to resort to this kind of childish name calling.   We should know better than to resort to cheap shots.

Most people learned long ago that referring to an opponent’s physical characteristics when criticizing them is offensive and unacceptable, be it race, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, height, and other similar characteristics, even if individuals don’t always practice what they believe.

But both liberals and conservatives alike feel free to hurl insults of the most vile nature toward fat people.  It’s an equal opportunity occasion to offend and indulge in childish behavior.  Scorn towards the fat is apparently the last acceptable prejudice, with people of all political persuasions engaging in insults that would be instantly and rightly seen as uncalled for if the target was from another stigmatized group.

Though this type of prejudice has traditionally and more stringently been applied to women, it seems now that men are becoming an equal-opportunity target. The comments I’ve seen about Christie and other fat people in politics and other walks of life has ranged from the subtly smirky to the jaw-droppingly vile.

Often the comments reflect an emotional moral outrage that is akin to what many people reserve for pedophiles.  The subtle and often not-so-subtle implications of such comments indicate a belief that fat people should not participate in a full range of normal public activities, but rather hide themselves in shame until they lose an acceptable amount of weight and should never expect to be loved or accepted, let alone be respected for any reason,  until they do.

Many who engage in such comments appeal to concerns about “health”, but I call bullshit.  I don’t see these same people going around making intrusively offensive comments to this frequency and intensity in regards to smoking, drinking, drug use, and other forms of risky behavior.  Indeed, many of these people engage in the aforementioned bad habits themselves, yet feel perfectly qualified to point the finger at others. Though I’ve seen some cracks about Rush Limbaugh’s drug use here and there, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the weight comments, though I do concede that with the Fluke issue, he’s invited such comments.

But the original point still stands.  There are many more things we can pick on political opponents about without having to resort to childish, ad hominem taunts.

The point here isn’t to debate whether or not it’s better to be thin or how important physical fitness is or if being thin is to automatically be in shape.  That is neither here nor there for the purpose of this post. It should not matter how you feel about this topic in order to debate civilly with people whom you vehemently disagree with or to treat fat people with the same respect you’d give anyone else in general.  Courtesy doesn’t have a weight limit.

Fat people have not forfeited the right to common courtesy just because they don’t meet current standards of beauty. And again, don’t let anyone fool you into thinking it’s about health — it’s about cultural standards of attractiveness.

You don’t see people openly jeering at smokers and drinkers in the streets, nor is the sum total of a smoker’s or drinker’s worth reduced to their personal habits or appearance as is often done with fat people, nor their ability to find romantic partners.  You don’t hear crude jokes about someone getting stuck with a drinking or smoking blind date, and I’ve never seen a “No smoking chicks” or a “No drunk chicks” bumper sticker.

Weight prejudice remains as the last “acceptable” prejudice.  Let’s change that.

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