(sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite that of the sun, going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left. It also means "in a direction opposite to the usual," which is how I choose to take it in using it as the title of this blog. We're all in the same world finding our own way.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Long Division

I remember in the fourth grade I was learning division.

We were just starting long division after having mastered our multiplication tables and timed tests the year prior. This was the year they decided to stop giving us perfectly divisible numbers. 

Gone were the days of 72 ÷ 8 = 9.
Oh no, this was the year things started to get messy.

This was the year they started giving us things like 86 ÷ 8.

But the things was, we didn't jump right into decimals. 

So we had to use remainders. (I apologize if the formatting doesn't work with my long division symbol, which interestingly doesn't have a name of its own.)


Where the r6 at the end meant remainder of 6 that is not divisible by 8.

And because I was a precocious, well-read little shit child at the age of 10, I remember being somewhat livid at having to use that little r. I knew numbers, I'd seen a variety of them in my reading adventures and not once had I come across something like 10r6. It didn't make sense to me.

So I used a decimal point. Because I was familiar with decimal points. We used them with money to mark the difference between dollars and cent. They were in the numbers on the spines of books at the library. In short, I'd seen them in actual numbers.

I was adamant, even defiant about my use of decimal points. Silently, but stubbornly.

I remember my teacher, Miss Krantz, a transplant from somewhere in the South who tried to teach us it was pronounced O-KAN-o-gan in social studies (it's more like oaken-AU-gen), was okay with my use of decimals for a while but when she finally insisted I use the r instead of my decimal points, never really gave me a satisfying explanation other than they were different. I don't remember anyone else questioning this the way I did, but then I remember that Miss Krantz had a habit of tossing and catching her whiteboard marker and that being in one of the new portables our class was one of the only ones to have whiteboards instead of chalkboards better than I remember this.

Then we actually learned long division.

     6 0
     4 6
        4 0
        4 0

Suddenly, the difference made sense. The remainder part of the r meant that it was what remained that wasn't neatly and perfectly divisible by the divisor. I had jumped the gun so to speak.

And that's what I remember about fourth grade math.

A really long discussion of patriarchy and feminism

A link to This Blog Post Deconstructing MRAs led to a very long discussion with someone who elsewhere has clearly identified themselves as anti-feminist. I don't understand that mindset, and am thankful that we remained civil throughout this exchange.

At the same time, I want to acknowledge that as a man working on feminist projects, with a history of involvement in anti-oppression work and education, I owe a lot of what I said in what follows to the women who have come before me. Part of the reasons I can respond as calmly as I did is because I am a man and so my experience is partially removed from the situation. That said, I'm still frustrated as hell and consider this particular thread dead to me.

Take the above as a trigger warning and read on with caution.


Skipping right to the conclusion, I wanted to point out this bit:
Ultimately, the existence of MRAs might make women more afraid of speaking out. I cannot emphasise how crucial this is. A lot of women are afraid of rocking the boat when it comes down to sexism, close their eyes to it or resign themselves to the fact that it’s just the way things are. The hateful messages of MRA movements only add a new layer of pressure to that. To men who are concerned with gender equality and who want to address issues with masculinity, MRAs have poisoned the debate.
Whether or not you’re well-meaning, the final effect of a movement that is a reaction to a group already reacting to the status quo is to reinforce the status quo. It often sets up an unnecessary binary that polarizes the issue.

As a man, it’s important to remember that patriarchy =/= men. Taking down the patriarchy is changing or eliminating ways of thinking that unreasonably favor men while either suppressing or ignoring women. Men might get hit with recoil because of socioeconomic status, race, or a variety of other factors, but most of the time when you zoom out and look at the bigger picture, there’s the same root cause hurting people from different angles.


Work on those causes from different perspectives, but let’s not make them competing works. And imagine, for a moment, you’re a person that doesn’t believe in the existence of the patriarchy… and suddenly *you* look like the person trying to maintain power via the status quo.

Because how it looks to me is that no matter what I do, unless I agree with *you* I’m wrong. That’s a fair point and a logical flaw that undermines the part where I talked about unnecessary binaries. I will acknowledge that.


However, trying to deny the existence of patriarchal mindsets is like trying to deny the existence of racist thought or homophobia or classicism. You’re technically correct that it doesn’t exist. It isn’t a thing that you can locate, but you are wrong if you think it doesn’t exist.

It is an intangible (and all too common) way of thinking that causes substantive inequality through personal behaviors, public policy and media representation. It’s rooted in the same kind of mindset that tells children “You can’t do that because you’re a boy/girl.” By denying its existence you are effectively maintaining a harmful status quo by denying the fact that most areas of the world believe in the inherent superiority of men either explicitly or implicitly.

If you can’t/won’t accept that such a belief exists as a basic fact supported by the experience of millions (if not billions) of people the world over, then we will never be able to agree because anything I say or do will always come back to that point that this inequality exists on multiple conscious and subconscious levels. If you’d like me to provide “proof” with a myriad of charts and statistics and articles, I can attempt to do so, but I’d rather not waste any more of either of our time trying to convince you.

Thank you for being civil and respectful.


Billions of people have also believed in the existence of Satan, or a similar font of evil. Historically speaking, based on your measure, there’s more proof of the Devil than there is of Patriarchy.

Patriarchy, on its best day is used as an answer in the same vein “God did it” is.

Even assuming there *is* a patriarchy… even if I completely agreed with you on that point the existence of a “patriarchy” raises questions itself in the same way that the existence of a deity does.

Notice how the argument/discussions always stop at “The Patriarchy” did it?

Is the patriarchy a way of thinking? is it a group of men? is it a style of living? I’ve heard it’s all three and none of the above. That’s way way WAY too open for me to accept.

The Patriarchy is whatever the asker wants it to be.


When you make the comparison to Satan, I think you misinterpret the point that I made (that billions of people experience inequality based on gender in their lives and this supports the existence of a [wrong] belief in the inherent superiority of men) as "billions of people believe in Patriarchy." This is not the same thing, I apologize if I was unclear.

And if the asker is competent, they will define for you how they use a term so you know exactly what it means when they say it. I have done so repeatedly, so to apply other definitions in the context of this discussion is counterproductive, confusing for readers and off topic (or derailing to use the language popular in anti-oppression work).

The discussion doesn't have to stop at "the patriarchy did it" if you provide concrete solutions to the problem. If (as I have done) you define patriarchy as system of thought, the solution is to change the way people think about situations. Take, for example my earlier point about the patriarchal thought processes being the same root cause of statements like "You can't do that because you're a boy/girl."

Both arise from an expectation of gendered behavior, that boys and girls behave differently and are not allowed to cross those boundaries because implicitly to do so would invalidate their gender. This is limiting to all parties involved and arises from a long history of gender stereotypes that boys are tough/strong and girls are weak/pretty or whatever. If we challenge these ideas, we are "challenging the patriarchy" because (as I have described it) patriarchy is the system of thought which reinforces those ideas. You can still do that without believing in a patriarchy, and I hope you would because it would mean you're treating the next generation as whole people who can experience a range of activities and without being limited by outdated stereotypes.

I would also like to point out that I've been very hesitant to use the term "patriarchy" because I think it's an unnecessarily broad term that doesn't completely encapsulate the actual problems at play, thus my repeated use of "patriarchal thinking" to emphasize that it is the ways of thinking that are problematic. Sometimes that thinking is on a larger cultural scale rather than an individual's thoughts (cultural narratives to borrow a term from theory) and to say that this kind of thinking doesn't exist is to say that there aren't people or systems who are sexist (i.e. causing or supporting inequality), which is fundamentally wrong, because again, you can find sexism everywhere.

To summarize my entire argument:

  • gender-based inequality exists, [and the experience of gender-based inequality is overwhelmingly one of sexism against women]
  • the fact that such inequality exists proves the existence of a way of thinking that (most often) favors men
  • by changing these ways of thinking and the institutional (legal/governmental/other regulatory bodies) structures (laws/norms/rules/representations) that support/reinforce them we can reduce inequality

Gender based inequality exists. That inequality exists does not defacto prove that it primarily benefits males. “Changing ways of thinking” often feels rather sinister to me. Presenting ones case is a far cry from “Changing how people think”. You mentioned overly broad terms… and that one sticks in my craw, yo.

I’m not saying inequality doesn’t exist, to the contrary. I take issue with the concept of patriarchy because it very intentionally narrows the discussion.

For example… people say “Patriarchy” and point to the majority of congress being male… and then conveniently and quietly forget that the majority of the voters are female (and have been for decades). Yet people will still describe this as a “Patriarchy”.


1. Fair point that the existence of inequality does not de facto imply a bias towards men, I should have backed that up better.

2. While in summarizing my argument I said “change how people think” which is a broad, general statement and you have every right to be uncomfortable with it because of that (normally I would be too); however, throughout this conversation I have repeatedly given concrete examples of very specific ways to change people’s way of thinking to address specific problems (don’t deny the existence of inequality because doing so perpetuates it; don’t reinforce and/or believe in stereotypes because they are harmful; don’t blindly accept an ideology that implicitly favors men because it’s sexist). Anyone who reads this entire exchange and still finds my final summary “sinister” has clearly missed the point.

3. With your congress example:
  • the implications of having an established man-dominated institution on the access to said institution by women is one of deterrence (it’s a lot harder to join a men’s only club when you aren’t a man even if it’s no longer a men’s only club).
  • When women voters are only presented with men to vote for, they can only vote for men, so who the voting demographic is means next to nothing (we can change this by encouraging women to join politics through multiple avenues like providing strong role models)
  • This example ignores the socialization of women to not be strong leaders in the political sense (as evidenced by characterizations of people like Hilary Clinton as cold, power-mad bitches, a demonization that can deter other women from wanting to pursue this as a career avenue)
  • Many women in power are not taken seriously unless they “act like men” because women are seen as weaker/incapable.
  • The previous two points can be addressed by thinking of women as complex human beings who are able to act in leadership capacities (something that many men seem unable or unwilling to accept because of, you guessed it, sexist, patriarchal ways of thinking that reinforce inequality against women)
  • The use of patriarchy here completely ignores my point about using conflicting definitions and thus is a complete derailment of the discussion at hand (especially since it is used very vaguely as simply “the patriarchy”). When it is not given specific meanings the way I have, patriarchy is an overly broad (vague) concept that can and has been abused in some feminist logic. I have worked very hard to not make that same mistake and would appreciate if you would stop insulting my intelligence by continuing to gloss over that fact. Yes, people make those kinds of arguments without offering concrete solutions the way I have above. Yes, that’s poor argumentation that delegitimizes the concept of patriarchal systems. Yes, you have every right to be skeptical of arguments that use partriarchy as the focal point because of that. No, that is not being done here, so please stop bringing it up because it isn’t adding anything new to the conversation.

I’ll address but one point… and I’d like you to think about it and the vast and far reaching implications of it.

If there is a field of ten men… and only men… the one that caters to a disproportionate number of females, even as he takes a proportional slice of the male vote… will win.

In other words it doesn’t *matter* what the gender of the person being elected is because that person knows who put them in office. In fact it’s incredibly bizarre to think that a man in office would automatically work in the interests of other men when history has proven universally that men in power almost never do that. Men in power help men in power.

And if the best way to stay in power is to vote for endless special benefits, programs, provisos and the like for women… that’s precisely what they’ll do. And that’s precisely what they *have* done.

acelessthan3: (this part didn't make it onto tumblr because I'd already publically stated I was done with this conversation on tumblr)

Your bolded statement is self-contradictory. If (as I understand it) you mean that a man in power would provide for his constituents (i.e. the women who voted him into office), I think the entire Texas State legislature's decisions on reproductive healthcare stand as a GLARING example to the contrary.

If by "special benefits, programs, provisos and the like for women" you mean things like welfare, reproductive rights, etc. As I understand it, most of those were never voted on, were instituted by men because they view women as weaker/incapable, and are currently being attacked across the country.

I don't see how any of this supports an argument against the existence of patriarchal thinking or even addresses it.


To all who made it this far. Thank you for bearing with me. I hope I did the conversation justice. Please don't take out any anger or frustration on  Mr-cappadocia and instead find healthy outlets to vent them.

Friday, August 9, 2013

SAT Six Years Later

I was reminded today of the SAT.

I took it very late in my college application process. Like May or June late. There were a host of reasons, one of which being a complete apathy toward any and all forms of standardized testing.

I was part of the Washington State class of 2008, which means I received the brunt of the scare treatment when they told us we would be the first graduating class to have to take the WASL and have it matter for graduation. I was also the kid who, in the fourth grade, did so well on the WASL exam that they decided to put me in a special pull-out program for advanced students.

So given the WASL and all the AP classes I took, to say that I gave no fucks about taking the SAT would be an understatement. I actually forgot I'd even registered for the test until the week prior.

Obviously, I didn't do very much SAT prep. In fact, I did none. Given my AP classes though, it was actually more of a struggle in taking the SAT to remember material I hadn't studied in 2-3 years. The highest level it went was HS Algebra II and I was taking Calculus. Trying to remember things like the quadratic formula and basic stuff like that was almost laughable to me.

Ironically, I feel like I lost the most points in the essay portion of the writing, a subject that as a journalism student and someone who had already taken the AP Composition test I was confident I would do well in. I think part of the reason I lost points was because I tried to be creative. I think my mindset was along the lines of: I'm supposed to write inside the box? Well I'm going to write around the box so that you can see the outline and know that it's there but that I'm actively defying it and doing a damn good job of it.

So given all this, I bet you're asking yourself how I did?

Honestly for all the wonders it did for me, I don't remember. I had to dig through my files and find a faded paper copy gathering what little dust can filter into a closed file folder.

But I did find it eventually.
So with no studying or prep of any kind, I got a 1950/2400, which according to the Wikipedia page is roughly in the 90th percentile.

I can't complain about this because there are probably people out there who would kill to get a score like that, but for me at least it seems like an apt analogy for my entire high school career.

It's this huge thing that's pretty much required and everyone makes it a big deal because when it comes down to it, in our culture, it is a big deal. But it wasn't a challenge. Academics didn't excite me the way everything else about school did.

I excelled in high school because I was/am fairly intelligent. I didn't get bored and give up the way I know a lot of today's youth do because I had something else keeping me engaged where my academics didn't. As a friend recently put it to me, "You did the work because it was easy, I didn't do the work because it was easy."

A huge part of that difference is because I got lucky. I was a journalism student working for the school paper. I was active in my high school's literary arts magazine. I had summer camp experiences that taught me how to express myself through art and gave me a sense of community. Looking back, I'm a little disappointed I never took the opportunity to try a sport or two. Because of these things, and with some encouragement from teachers who I now call friends and mentors, I saw myself as leader.

Something changes inside of you when you think of yourself as a leader. You set yourself up for an expectation of success. You know you have to try, you have to do well or at least do the minimum required to have the appearance of doing well or you'll disappoint yourself because to not would mean you'd disappoint the people who believe in you. And that means something, it means quite a lot actually.

So even though this post started with me bemoaning the state of standardized testing that is the SAT, I want to end it by saying thank you. Thank you to everyone who believed in me, who believed that I could do amazing things (most notably my mom).

To everyone else reading this, go out and show someone that you believe in them. You never know, it might make a huge difference in their life.