Letter to the President

2009 August 19
by Lizzzzzz

Before I post, I want to apologize to people who have been commenting on my blog. Your comments are not showing up because I get so many spam comments that they are time-consuming to sift through. I have to get some kind of plugin to label spam. I’m working on it. Thanks for your patience.

I just submitted this on the contact page of whitehouse.gov. Submitting a letter to the president has never been easier, and as an extra added bonus, this contact page doesn’t have a red star next to title. Some elected officials and companies force you to identify your gender when writing them by making you choose Ms., Mr., Dr. etc and not having a field entry for “other” or “it doesn’t matter what my gender is in this matter, I am a human being”. Anyway, here’s what I wrote:

To President Obama:

I am writing because I have been reading many articles lately in the New York Times and other publications about merit-based pay for teachers. I also just five minutes go, saw merit-based pay mentioned by you on page 119 of “The Audacity of Hope”.

I have taught middle school math in public schools in Brooklyn and East Harlem. Next month, I will be beginning a teaching job in a private school with pay extremely comparable to what I was making in public school. Though I am not opposed to changing the way teacher salaries are determined, I think higher (or lower) teacher pay is actually not a high priority in our schools right now. I would much rather see more monetary investment in after school programs, school lunch, and support staff for teachers just to name a few concerns.

However, if merit-based pay is something you and your administration are championing, I would like to register extreme alarm at the idea that standardized test scores would be used in evaluating teachers. It is not fair to our students to place any more emphasis than there already is on standardized testing in our schools.

I strongly disagree with using standardized test scores to evaluate teacher salaries, even in part. Merit-based pay for teachers, if enacted, must be based on another evaluation of student achievement besides standardized test scores.

Thank you,
Liz Yockey

Yogurt FAIL

2009 August 3
by Lizzzzzz

I wanted free yogurt! But I don’t want free yogurt only available to me if I identify only as male or female.

This is what I sent with the  Stonyfield “help center” email form:

I started to sign up for a stonyfield rewards account. Who doesn’t love free, delicious yogurt? But I stopped filling out the form when I realized that the gender field has a *, making it a required field with only two choices. Setting up gender as a dichotomy in which everyone must strictly identify themselves (or submit to the assignment given them by others) as one of two things is ridiculous. This kind of thinking is one thing that perpetuates sexism and [denies] equality.
[P]lease let me know when you’re willing to give rewards to everyone, not just those who fit into narrow categories. I will not sign up for a stonyfield offer until that happens.

Thank you,
Liz Yockey

Corrections to my quick, careless writing are in [].

Response to a pushy adoption web site

2009 July 24
by Lizzzzzz

I saw a post on feministing today about a web site called 16andpregnant. This web site is pushing for adoption as the best option in cases of unplanned pregnancy. Ok, adoption is a valid option. Though I am pretty sure this web site only wants to give babies to white, heterosexual, married couples, I am still not opposed to them advertising this idea. I did not see any blatant lying on the site about abortion, but the thing that SUCKS is the way the web site pretends to be presenting options when really they are pushing for one agenda. The “real life” stories are about regretting abortions and all the info about abortions is rather vague. They make adoption sound like heaven and say that it puts you in control by being able to choose the parents. It also pushes for open adoption and doesn’t even mention what a closed adoption is.

The difference between pro-choicers and idiots: Pro-choicers are happy when people make the best decision for themselves. Whether it is abortion, adoption, or becoming a parent, we pro-choicers are happy to give out lots of accurate information and we DON’T shame women for thinking their life, health, and happiness is important or that they are more than just a vessel for a precious fetus (or not so precious, if its mixed race or turns out to be gay or something) to be carried in. Also, pro-choicers don’t go around killing doctors (at least not that I’ve heard).

To share my thoughts with them, I used the email form of  another web site 16andpregnant directed me to. I put in my email but not my phone number, so hopefully they won’t use that information to track down my address and post it on a web site with encouragement to harm me for a being a baby-hater.

I copied what I wrote in order to paste it here, but accidentally copied something else first. The gist was that they are shaming women for thinking of abortion and also pushing an agenda while pretending to be open-minded about many options.

Sticking Sex Where it Doesn’t Belong: PETA

2009 July 6
by Lizzzzzz

I posted a while ago that I would start doing a series of posts titled Sticking Sex Where it Doesn’t Belong. The series starts now.

PETA is constantly undermining their own message of non-violence by showing highly sexualized women in the violent situations factory-farmed animals are put in. Naked women in cages and red bikini clad women being sexily smeared with ketchup/blood are just two examples. Over the years, they’ve come under a lot of fire for trying to hype their message (of anti-violence?) by using women as meat substitutes, but PETA just doesn’t ever seem to realize their ad campaigns negatively affect our images of women by making it sexy to think about women being subjected to violence. It’s not ok. Read more here. And then, if you think you can believe the results are real PETA ads (they are), try searching google images for “peta women.”

What I’ve been making

2009 June 14
by Lizzzzzz

Last Thursday, I picked up our first share from the CSA we joined this year. Each week, we get a share of whatever vegetables and fruit the farm is harvesting. In the early weeks, shares are smaller since not everything is ready. This makes me super excited because I got a ton of food this week and my spouse and I are even splitting a share with a friend.

Strawberries, arugula, rainbow chard, sugar snap peas, and turnips with the greens still on. All the sugar snap peas and strawberries got eaten right away and we’ve put arugula on top of almost everything we’ve eaten the past few days. Here are some of the other things I made:

Creamy Chard Dip!  Chard looks similar to spinach but has a different flavor, so you can make this dip using a recipe for spinach dip.

Creamy Chard Dip! Chard looks similar to spinach but has a different flavor, so you can make this dip using a recipe for spinach dip.

Turnip Green Egg Sandwich! Sauteed turnip greens go on a homemade bun with cheese, egg, and ranch dressing.

Turnip Green Egg Sandwich! Sauteed turnip greens go on a homemade bun with cheese, egg, and ranch dressing.

Burger Bun Cost Analysis

2009 June 13
by Lizzzzzz

Since I haven’t had a job for the last few months, I’ve been baking a lot of my own bread and experimenting with different kinds of breads. With all my free time (and lack of machine help), I have even eschewed the no-knead genre in favor of hand-kneading. For general bread purposes, I make Honey Whole Wheat. I once tried to make burger buns out of this recipe but it was a tough, awful mess. Luckily An Hour in the Kitchen saved the day with a rocking light fluffy whole wheat bun recipe. The recipe is quick, easy, and delicious. I made a few adaptations, like molasses instead of brown sugar and flax seed oil instead of olive oil or butter. I also used half whole wheat, half unbleached white flour and added some Bob’s Red Mill Hot Cereal mix for a few big flecks of grain.

Delicious! I like them flat so I didn't allow them to rest 10 minutes before baking.

Delicious! I like them flat so I didn't allow them to rest 10 minutes before baking.

Taste-wise it makes sense to whip these out for any sandwich occasion, but I am wondering if it makes financial sense to keep spending time making these once I am back in busy job world come September. So, let’s compare. At the closest grocery store (Food Emporium) I spend $4.95 on a pack of 8 whole wheat organic buns. Throughout the (estimated) pricing, remember I live in Manhattan. This means 1) Prices may be higher than where you live, 2) I may actually get specialty items like organics for cheaper than you do because the demand is so high in such a densely packed place and 3) No sales tax on food.

Recipe Costs:

  • 2 tbsp yeast – Three packets costs $2.79 and I would need to use 2 packets, so $1.86. I can buy this in bulk, so I am going to say $1.30
  • 1/3 cup organic olive oil/butter – At Trader Joe’s a pound (2 cups) of organic butter is about $4, so $0.66
  • 2 tbsp molasses (instead of brown sugar) – $3.59 a jar which has 24 tbsp so $0.15
  • 1 organic/farmer’s market egg – $0.33. I usually pay $4 a dozen at the farmer’s market for local but not organic.
  • 2 tsp sea salt – $0.05 (or less). I think I paid less for sea salt than the price on Fresh Direct.
  • 2 tbsp. ground flax seed – $0.07 if I buy regular flax seeds and grind them myself. I couldn’t find a price online for pre-ground flax seeds and last time, I left them out and used flaxseed oil. There’s also a little flaxseed in the hot cereal mix.
  • 2 cups organic white flour (extra for dusting and kneading) – $0.48 as long as I get TJs or Whole Foods brand.
  • 1 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour – $0.45 with the right deal.
  • 1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Hot Cereal – $0.42 with the right deal.

Total Cost of Recipe: $3.91 for 8 buns

I’m always happy to know homemade really does save money. Good places to save more are by finding a recipe that uses less yeast or leaving out the cereal mix.  I’m almost always sure it’s healthier, but it’s nice to have financial sense on my side too. Other benefits: less plastic bags and ability to change number, size, and shape of buns

The Gender Dichotomy

2009 June 13
by Lizzzzzz

We humans have done such a good job creating a strict gender* dichotomy and then overemphasizing it in so many aspects of our lives that it seems like it is common for men to worry more about penile dysfunction than heart failure and women to feel their virginity, or lack thereof, is their most defining characteristic. It’s not fair to people who physically, socially, or emotionally don’t fit into a strict male or female category; it’s restrictive for those who do.

The first thing people need to know about you is your gender, and if it’s difficult to determine for whatever reason, then it makes for extremely awkward social situations. It’s Pat! anyone? In modern culture (and in the past) we are forced to think about our gender constantly – from when we get dressed to when we address someone on the street.

I believe that sex and gender differences are 99.9% socially constructed. I often have trouble convincing people to be with me on that, so for now, let’s just operate on the premise that much of the time, our society overemphasizes the differences between men and women and, in general, has a difficult time dealing with any situations which do not fit into a neatly defined category. Gender is just NOT AS IMPORTANT as we make it out to be through our language, social norms, media, clothing, etc.

I’m bringing this up because I am going to start doing a series of posts called “Sticking Sex Where it Doesn’t Belong” (or maybe something better, if I can think of it) which will illustrate situations which force people to emphasize gender differences and/or sexuality when no call for such emphasis exists. I’m really excited about these posts and have at least three written already in my head. Before I get to that, though, I hope to (later today) post a cost analysis of making your own delicious burger buns.

*I am using the word gender, not sex, on purpose. I do this because I believe both sex and gender are more social construct than physical reality and so I feel gender (simplified, it is less “scientific”) is the better term for my purposes almost all of the time.

Taking sides

2009 June 1
by Lizzzzzz

Many times I learn about amazing activists only because they are dead. Some of these times, it is because they are murdered. George Tiller ran an abortion clinic for many years until he was shot and killed Sunday morning. Read about it here in the NY Times and on virtually every blog I read. I am incredibly sad that this happened. I am always incredibly sad when someone who fights for what I believe in is killed.

But I also feel pretty smug and very proud. The people who are on my side, who believe the things I believe, don’t kill people. I have never heard of a pro-choicer killing someone because they are pro-life or refuse to get an abortion. In eight years, all that hit George Bush was a shoe. No one ever gets beaten to death just for being heteronormative.

I love standing firm on issues with people who know guns won’t solve their problems, who want kids to have information and choices so they don’t have to turn to violence, who know that silencing people, whether by social pressure or a bullet, is wrong.

Mercimek Koftesi with Mint Sauce

2009 May 23
by Lizzzzzz
That spoonful of mint sauce is not nearly enough. So delicious!

That spoonful of mint sauce is not nearly enough. So delicious!

I gobbled these finger food “meat”balls at a BBQ I recently attended. They were made by a friend’s parent who has recently moved here from Turkey to help take care of the adorable baby they just added to their family. I got the recipe translated orally at the event and then later my friend sent me a link to a similar recipe. Because of the ingredients I had on hand (green lentils, not red, etc.), mine came out differently but still delicious. I also added mint sauce for which I partially followed this recipe. You could also do a yogurt sauce or just eat them plain.

Mercimek Koftesi

1 cup lentils (red is recommended, but I used green since I already had some)

1 cup fine bulgar wheat (fine bulgar wheat looks almost like cous cous, but I used cracked bulgar wheat since, you guessed it, I already had some)

1 medium onion or 4 small green onions, finely chopped (I used green)

1 cup chopped cilantro (the original recipe calls for parsley, but I LOVE cilantro)

1 tbsp. cumin

2 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. salt

I soaked the lentils and bulgar in 3 cups of water overnight and then cooked them on low in the crockpot for a few hours. You can also boil them in 3 cups of water on the stove for about 30 minutes. The key, I was told, is to cook until they are almost falling apart but not quite. Red lentils fall apart more quickly than green. Mix the tomato paste and spices in. At this point, if your mixture isn’t staying together when you smush some of it in your hand, use a hand blender or food processor to make it smoother and it should stick together more. Stir in the onion and cilantro and form into small balls or logs. At the BBQ, we ate them plain. One recipe calls for serving them in lettuce leafs with a squirt of lemon on top which also sounds fantastic. My version includes mint sauce to spoon on top.

Mint Sauce

1 cup packed fresh mint or 2 tbsp. dried mint

1 cup packed fresh cilantro or 2 tbsp. dried cilantro

1 apple, granny smith or other tart variety.

juice from one lime

2 or 3 cloves of garlic

Optional: salt, a little sugar, something for a kick such as a diced poblano pepper

Squeeze the lime into a bowl (or directly into the food processor). If using dried spices, mix them into the juice and let the mixture sit for an hour if you have time. Peel and core the apple. Peel the garlic. I had to cut the apple up pretty small to use my hand blender on it, but if you have a good food processor, just toss it in. Put all ingredients together and blend or process until smooth. Let it sit in the fridge a couple hours if you have the time.

In Front of Other People

2009 May 20
by Lizzzzzz

It’s been a while since I posted. I am wavering about whether to feel guilty/bad about it. I feel as if I should feel bad that I committed to blogging and then fell down on the job, except if blogging is a requirement that will stress me out, then I don’t want to do it. So we’ll all have to settle for periods in which I blog and periods in which I don’t as well as periods in which I feel slightly guilty about it or not.

The biggest (and almost only) fights my spouse and I have ever had have been when we were in front of other people. Everyone modifies their behavior at least slightly depending on who they are with in what situation. The problem comes when my spouse or I don’t modify our behavior in the way the other one expects or wants.

Though I am not a fan of weddings and most of their attending traditions, because of the complicated double standards set forth for women and men in our society, I try to be extremely supportive when a friend or family member is getting ready for a marriage. Thus, I was incredibly stressed when I forgot the bridal shower word searches at home and my spouse revealed the secret activity and the fact that I had forgotten it to part of my family. We ended up having a disagreement in a small apartment already crowded with people which ended with me forcing him to go home and get the word search papers. Because he didn’t know how seriously I wished to take something I would normally make fun of, we had a fight — in front of other people.

A less important but I think telling example is the painting hanging above our living room couch. The painting was acquired for free and features two zebra butts. The piece hangs in our house ironically. A few weeks ago, I pointed it out to a friend who laughed with us and said it would be so funny if someone actually had the picture hanging in their house. But the truth is, this picture actually is hanging in our house and there’s no placard explaining its irony to passersby. We just expect people whom we invite into our home to know it hangs there ironically.

Now, I’m not particularly worried about our zebra picture being taken seriously or not. Who cares if people believe I have actual bad taste in art? But what if a visitor happened to notice my Pink Floyd poster tacked above the bathroom door, the one with naked female backs featuring painted album covers? Will that person know I bought it back when I was a confused 18 year old who believed the path to feminism was to ironically play out male stereotypes while dealing with my own bisexuality? Or will they think I think its ok to objectify women? Or is that Pink Floyd poster actually a true celebration of the female form?

I don’t want to care about what someone else might think about what I do, but I have an agenda which includes equality and I have to get other people to go along with that agenda if I want it to happen. That makes me think it’s important what I say and do when I’m by myself and in front of other people.

Thinking about these issues makes me want to be sure for myself where my lines are. Sometimes I imagine a person like a topographical map where many lines are drawn which curve in different ways on various issues. I personally need to know where my lines are drawn in relation to how many and which people I’m in front of. I would never ironically hang a swastika on my wall even if no one would over see it.  If I knew hundreds of people would be traipsing though my bedroom, I would take my Pink Floyd poster down because I would never know what people thought it gave them license to do and think. I never joke about rape, and I limit the number of sarcastic, angry comments I make about it to people who know me well. In a public forum, I hope I would only make factual statements about the horrors of rape and/or show passion about ending it.

I want us all to move in a direction that makes even angry, sarcastic comments about rape unnecessary because rape will be so horrific to everyone that I will not feel the need to blow off steam about the nonchalance with which many treat it. I think the best way to get there is for us all to think about how our lines are drawn, privately and in front of other people. And for our lives in front of other people, we need to keep open dialogue about what’s ok and what’s not.

For a fantastic interpretation of a recent public statement, check out Jay Smooth discussing beauty pageants.