#MakeupMonday: Lipcolor Failure/Success

For those of you following my #science project of matching the Marc Jacobs berry-colored lipcolor in a product that actually stays on for longer than 10 minutes… well, I have reached a conclusion. And I’m not happy about it.

After a simply ridiculous expenditure of time and money in berry-colored lipcolors, both luxury and drugstore – including even Pat McGrath! – and walking around for 2 months with my hand looking like this…

I am left with but two usable options:

CoverGirl Outlast in Extraordinary Fuscia and Maybelline Superstay Matte Ink in Artist

Neither of these is a perfect match the way the Pat McGrath and Ginvenchy options were… but unlike those overpriced products, these two actually stay on through meals.

Here is the CoverGirl after a full day and two meals:

Here is the CoverGirl after dance:

I don’t have action shots for the Maybelline, and in fact, this particular shade doesn’t score as high on the durability scale as a few other Maybelline SuperStay Matte Ink shades do. But it’s still a good 4-6 hour option. It’s a decent color match (Maybelline on the left, Marc Jacobs on the right).

I’m still going to try the Stila Stay-All-Day in Bacca that I got, but I already know from countless disappointments with this brand that Stila is not going to deliver. And I have a L’Oreal Pro-Matte Gloss in Rouge Envy that I’m going to try out so I’ll report back on that.

But honestly, this has all been very disillusioning. Basically, either because of my body chemistry, or my absurdly high expectations based on Beauty Bakerie LipWhip performance, none of those prestige lipcolors were even remotely acceptable, endurance-wise. I expect a long-wear lipcolor to 100% last through a meal and a full day and look as fresh at the end as it did at the beginning. I feel like I wasted a lot of time and a LOT of money, and I’m really really annoyed. I did just notice, though, that Beauty Bakerie makes a Sangria Splash color that I have not tried before… what if, after all this, THAT were to be the solution? Oh, that would simultaneously appall and delight me!

Does anyone want a shipment of berry-colored prestige lipcolors? I’ll pass them on to you at a deep discount – most have been worn only once. LMK.

Mentoring as Self-Care – WOC Guest Post

I am delighted to offer another guest post in my series of contributed posts by black women and other women of color.

If you’d like to submit a post or an idea for a post for consideration, email me at gettenure@gmail.com. I pay $150 for accepted posts. The posts can be anonymous or not, as you prefer and can be about your experiences of racism/microaggressions in grad school or the career, your post-academic musings, hard-won advice for other students/faculty of color coming up, intersectional practices in teaching or research that you have found valuable, and also of course, makeup and clothes, or even tech gear you’ve found that helps in your work. More information can be found here.

Today’s post is by Guadalupe (Lupita) S. Gonzalez. Lupita writes: “I am a doctoral candidate in cognitive neuroscience in the psychology department at UT Austin. My research interests include the use of neuroimaging methods to examine racial biases in socio-cognitive processes. My current research uses eye tracking to examine how social contexts influence perceptions of racial ingroup and outgroup members. When I’m not conducting research, I advocate for social justice and increasing diversity in academia. To this end, I serve as a mentor for undergraduates from underrepresented groups and am a member of our department’s diversity committee.”

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When I attended my first lab meeting as a graduate student the first thing I noticed was that I was the only POC in the room. The lack of diversity in my program became even more apparent after attending my first Ford Fellows Conference. During the conference, a fellow Fordie and WOC asked me, “so how do you handle being a WOC in cognitive neuroscience, a field that is primarily White male-dominated?” I couldn’t answer her because I had no idea how I was going to handle being one of very few WOC in my department and in my field as a whole. I continued to think about this issue and realized I could help increase diversity in academia by mentoring underrepresented students. In fact, I knew first-hand the positive impact a great mentor can have on students of color. As an undergraduate, I experienced imposter syndrome while attending a private Christian college. I probably would have quit after my first year had it not been for a professor who introduced me to research, taught me how to navigate academia, and nurtured my passion for learning. I could tell he genuinely cared about my success because he often advocated for policies that would make campus more inclusive for students of color. After four years, his incredible mentoring helped me graduate at the top of my class.

My first mentoring experiences came unexpectedly after I hired my first group of research assistants (RAs). All three of them had two things in common: they were seeking research experience and they were WOC. Shortly after they started working with me, they expressed interest not only in my research but also in my experiences as a WOC and first-generation college student. Through our conversations I realized that I was becoming a mentor and role model for them. Although I didn’t have much experience as a mentor, I knew I wanted to be compassionate and honest with my mentees. I was particularly concerned about being compassionate because although I wanted to prepare my mentees for the negative aspects of graduate school, I didn’t want to crush their dreams in the process. To this end, during my first meeting with a mentee I always mention that I’m a Latina, low-income, and first-generation college student. I tell them that I’m the daughter of immigrants and that Spanish was my first language. I also tell them that although I’m grateful to have a career that I love, my experiences have taught me how difficult and unwelcoming academia can be for POC. By talking about my background, my goal is to show my mentees that I’m human just like them and that I also struggle in this field. More importantly, I hope that my mentees can see that WOC do belong in academic spaces.

I quickly realized that mentoring would be a learning experience not only for my mentees but also for me. In one instance, one of my mentees told me she was no longer applying to graduate school. Although I was taken aback by her decision, I tried to be as supportive as possible. Later she mentioned that during a meeting with one of her professors a few months back, the professor told her that he only recommended graduate school to his “best students.” She mentioned that her self-doubt increased because he seemed to imply that she would not be accepted into graduate school so she decided not to apply. After expressing my outrage at her professor’s ignorant comments, I tried my best to offer encouragement and support. I first tried to validate her feelings by explaining that she had experienced a microaggression and that it often happens to students of color. I shared that I had a similar experience when one of my undergraduate professors advised me not to double major because it would be “too difficult.” However, my mentor/professor helped me see that I was more than capable of double majoring. I told her that as first-generation college students we often place a high value on our professors’ opinions and reminded her that, although we see professors as experts, they can also be wrong so we should take their advice with a grain of salt. We had a long conversation about how microaggressions can exacerbate imposter syndrome and by the end of our conversation she seemed relieved and thanked me for the advice. Looking back, this has been one of many instances in which I have grown not only as a mentor but as a person.

When we talk about mentoring in academia, we often focus on the benefits for the mentees but we seldom focus on the benefits for the mentor. In fact, many people view mentoring as a one-way relationship. I’ve heard academics (usually non-POC) argue that academics of color should stop mentoring and practice “self-care.” While I agree that burdening POC with a majority of the mentoring work is a problem that needs to be addressed, I disagree with the idea that mentoring and self-care are mutually exclusive. For some of us, mentoring can be a form of self-care. For example, mentoring allows me to give back to my community. On a more personal level, mentoring helped me develop a sense of purpose and belonging in academia and knowing that many of my mentees relate to my experiences helped reduce my imposter syndrome. In addition, mentoring has kept me motivated by reminding me that my experiences as a WOC in academia provide me with valuable knowledge that can help others navigate the academy. While I realize that mentoring alone will not solve the lack of diversity in academia, I believe that mentoring is a powerful tool. In fact, during one of our recent lab meetings I looked around the room and noticed that the majority of our RAs were women and POC. Today, as I remember my first lab meeting, I can’t help but think that my mentoring efforts over the past few years might finally be making a difference.

Another Teaching Statement Cliché: The Messiah- Narrative


Today we are launching a new semi-regular series, “Missives from the Editing Trenches” written by long-time TPII editors. They are the real MVPs, working in the trenches to catch you in all your job document pitfalls — from the self-deprecating to the self-aggrandizing. They’ve seen it all and are happy to share their knowledge and give you concrete tips on how to make your documents shine.

Today’s post is by Dr. Verena Hutter.

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I will say it loud and clear for everyone to hear: Teaching Statements are hard to write. For some clients they are hard to write because they barely have any teaching experience, and they are grasping for straws.

For other clients they are hard to write, because they have a lot of teaching experience, and they want to tell us everything they have ever done.

Others cannot help themselves and do go on about their love of teaching (don’t!).

Those are all common pitfalls, but today I want to focus on another one: The Messiah-narrative.

It goes along the lines of:

“Often, students don’t understand xxx. After I had them read yyy, and we discussed zzz, they were able to make sophisticated arguments on xxx, and contribute critical observations.”

Sounds good, no? No.

First off, if students understood x and had ready y already, they wouldn’t be in your class to begin with. So you have simply described your job. Only that you have done it in a painfully self-congratulatory manner.

Perhaps, this becomes clearer if I give an example using a nuts- and bolts- course that I have taught many times in many variations, Intro to German.

“Often, students are confused that German verbs require conjugation. After I explain to them that the verb will always indicate the subject of a main clause, and show them several example sentences, they understand the importance of conjugation and subject verb agreement, and subsequently apply it to their writing.”

Sounds basic? Indeed, it is (still, always conjugate your German verbs).

But aside from its basicness, there are more problems with the Messiah-narrative. It infantilizes students, while elevating yourself and as such articulates a deeply authoritative, top-down process. Of course, you need to show that you’re in control of your classroom, and you need to point at learning outcomes, but you need to do this without belittling students or commenting on their lack of knowledge or comprehension.  

This is not to say your teaching sucks. On the contrary, some of the most engaged and experienced teachers fall into the trap of the Messiah-narrative. Why? I blame the abysmal job market and/or training students get, and societal narratives of teachers changing lives etc. And of course, administrations love to point to outcomes. “When they entered my classroom, they didn’t understand algebra, now they do.”  

Resist the Messiah-narrative! Instead, give us specific, clear examples of how you teach. Want another German class example?

“I often visualize hard-to-grasp concepts. When teaching the accusative case for example, I bring a tennis ball to class. I throw it to a student, and after they’ve caught it, we write down what just happened. Who is the subject? Ich. What is the corresponding, conjugated verb? werfe. What is the target of the action of the verb (the accusative)? den Ball. Ich werfe den Ball.  I encourage students to color and mark up the various elements of the sentences with arrows, so they can visualize the transfer of energy and the trajectory of the ball. In the future, if they are struggling over a sentence, they can repeat this exercise to pull apart the various elements of the sentence.”

These are two vastly different paras, but they describe the same teaching unit. The difference is that in the first para, I focused on me, my role as a teacher, and my awesomeness of taking the students out of the darkness of not understanding German syntax. In the second para, I used a specific example, and in detail illustrated how I bring the beauty of German syntax to students and how exactly they can apply this knowledge in the future.

How to be specific in your teaching examples? Read here.

The only Messiah worth listening to is Georg Friedrich Handel (sorry, I couldn’t resist here)

Too Big, Too Brown, and Too Much – WOC Guest Post

I am delighted to offer another guest post in my series of contributed posts by black women and other women of color.

If you’d like to submit a post or an idea for a post for consideration, email me at gettenure@gmail.com. I pay $150 for accepted posts. The posts can be anonymous or not, as you prefer and can be about your experiences of racism/microaggressions in grad school or the career, your post-academic musings, hard-won advice for other students/faculty of color coming up, intersectional practices in teaching or research that you have found valuable, and also of course, makeup and clothes, or even tech gear you’ve found that helps in your work. More information can be found here.

Today’s post is by Naiomi Gonzalez, doctoral student in History at Texas Christian University. Naiomi and I had lengthy discussions about whether or not she wished to publish this anonymously, and sought the opinions of mentors and on FB. Naiomi carefully considered all responses, and in the end decided to publish it under her name.

I’m not only brown but I’m also fat and opinionated. This means that I not only take up more physical space but that I also insist that my voice be heard and respected. For the most part, I have been lucky to have professors that have supported me throughout my academic career. They know I am opinionated and they have attempted to create nurturing environments that allow all students, particularly those from marginalized groups the opportunity to express themselves.  

However, academia in general, despite all its lofty conversations regarding the importance of “diversity” continues to embrace the stereotypes of “the big angry black woman” and the “fiery” Latina. These stereotypes pathologize and treat as character flaws the very real and the very justifiable anger that many black and latinx graduate students feel as we confront and navigate institutions that were built off of our oppression.  Issues regarding racism, sexism, ableism and the many other forms of oppression that intersect with race and gender, are not, for many of us, abstract problems that we can have a friendly debate about and then move on. Many of these issues impact our lives in very real, tangible ways.

For instance, discussions about police brutality and violence against black and brown people are not simply matters of opinion. The issue is not whether black and brown people “like” or “don’t like” individual police officers. The problem is that an institution that holds so much power is able to murder our loved ones with impunity. The issue is not that “free speech is under threat” at so called “liberal” institutions, but that black and brown students are expected to be ok with our peers inviting speakers who advocate for our continued oppression. Meanwhile we get criticized as “snowflakes” or “social justice warriors” for demanding that our campuses protect us and treat us as human beings. While our white male peers are encouraged to voice their opinions and are allowed to express anger, black and brown graduate students are often mocked for being too “emotional” when discussing subjects that directly impact our lives. White students are allowed to express their anger and displeasure and not be reduced to the stereotype of an “angry white man” or “fiery” white woman.  Yet when we protest and demand that our humanity be respected, we are often ridiculed in subtle and not so subtle ways for not endorsing the status quo and remaining silent.

How many black and brown graduate students wonder if their outspokenness will prevent them from being gainfully employed in a job market that is already focused on shutting out large numbers of people or shunting them into adjunct hell? How many black and brown graduate students worry that their activism somehow makes them “less serious academics?” How many black and brown graduate students, studying subjects dominated by white men, agonize over whether or not they be given the opportunity to be heard? How many black and brown students are at the verge of giving up-on their studies and on academia in general, because they refuse or are unable to confirm to the standards that white academia has set as normative?  Standards that claim that only certain topics are ‘valuable” or that only certain voices have the ability to be authoritative?

Academia has a lot of good qualities. In addition to the supportive professors I have had throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to travel to different countries; something that seemed off limits to me as a child because I grew up in public housing and my family relied on government assistance to survive. I have studied so many interesting subjects related to my own personal interests and outside of them. While yes, no one needs to go to college or grad school to read books, the reality is that I have learned more from interacting with my peers then I would have by reading a book in isolation. I love learning and academia has provided me with the time and resources to discover and embrace my passions. I am beyond thankful for that.

But academia also has a long way to go if it truly wants to live up to its lofty ideals and rhetoric regarding equality and diversity. It is not enough to simply acknowledge that most universities and colleges need to admit more students and people of color. It is not even enough to actively implement programs that seek to increase students and faculty of color on campus. But academia needs to be willing to embrace us: all of us. Academia needs to embrace our concerns, our opinions, and yes, even our anger. If academia is truly serious about changing and doing better, it needs to be willing to accept those of us who are too big, too brown/black, and just too much.

#MakeupMonday: Clean Your Brushes

If you do makeup at all, you know that you’re supposed to clean your brushes on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis. It’s like flossing. You KNOW you’re supposed to do it…. and yet…. days, weeks, months go by, and it is not done.

After the 5 week trip to Europe (and frankly, about a year of other traveling) my travel brushes were in a sickly state. Even I was grossed out by them.

And of course like magic, Instagram kept showing me a “Super -Fast Makeup Brush Cleaner” gadget each time I logged on. I resisted as long as I could, but of course I was going to buy it, it was just a matter of time. I mean, come on! It promises to instantly spin your brushes CLEAN AND DRY in under a minute!

Reader, I bought it.

Amazon actually has about 10 variations of this product, all from China. I picked one almost at random–it has good reviews. Is it the best, I have no idea.

But, here’s the thing: I cleaned my brushes.

Setup below. I had previously scored some super discounted BareMinerals Well-Cared-For Brush Cleaner at TJ Maxx a while back, so that’s what i used. I also had a brush cleaning mat from another TJ Maxx purchase, and brought that out just in case.

Setting to work, one by one, I took up a brush, found the rubber collar that matched its handle, inserted the brush, attached the collar to the battery-operated mechanism, stuck the brush head upside down in the little pot of sudsy water, and pressed the button. I spun the brush CLEAN up and down IN the water, and then I spun the brush DRY up above the water. (Watch the video at the Amazon link to see a demonstration). About 30 seconds or a minute of spinning per brush…. theoretically.

There was a definite learning curve involved. A surprising amount of things can go wrong with this apparently simple technology.

A: the brush handle forming a vacuum inside the rubber collar, and being almost impossible to get back out.

B: I quickly noticed that my beloved double-sided space-saving travel brushes (see below) would not fit in the rubber handle-collars. I had to do those by hand.

C: A learning moment: discovering that my foundation brushes are beyond the cleaning ability of my new little battery operated system. The thick black brush above on the right, with the white tips? That needed about three deep-cleanings, by hand, in hot water, before I’d removed all the embedded foundation.

D: Weird mishaps: about three brushes came apart during cleaning! The warm water melted the glue holding the handle and brush head together! Wut?! So, out came the handy superglue to fix that.

E: Another mishap: the rubberized handle of one Real Techniques brush turned permanently gunky/sticky from the hot water! But, it’s my absolute favorite contour brush and I’m not prepared to give it up! What to do? I grab a bottle of nail polish, and paint over the gunk! (see it drying on the left above). Two coats, and the brush handle was restored to a hard finish!

So brush-cleaning with this supposedly time-saving gadget took more fortitude and time than you’d expect. And no, the brushes were not spun “dry” after 10 seconds. They still needed to sit and dry for at least one hour.

But: feast your eyes on the clean fluffy glory of my brushes above. Do you see them? They’re transformed back to original state!

Below, my home brush set on the left side towel, and my travel brush kit on the right (minus a few sitting out to dry in the sun). All clean, fresh, fluffy, and soft.

And when I used them again the first time after washing? Whoa. Seriously, whoa. It was night and day. I had NOT been getting optimal performance out of those dirty brushes, most particularly any brush that dealt with foundation, either applying or blending.

So, I’m sold. I’ll be cleaning my brushes regularly from now on, and my new spinny gadget makes it fun. Was it quick? No, it was not. It took more than an hour to get through the entire ordeal. But assuming I don’t wait 1.5 years again, I expect the next time to go faster.

#MakeupMonday: Travel Achievement Unlocked

I worked harder than I ever have in my life to assemble a functional, packable, non-wrinkling, professionally appropriate, and above all cute, travel wardrobe for our just-finished 5-week speaking tour in Europe.

And, I did it! I loved almost every single outfit, and wore every element multiple times, and even had some not-yet-worn hot-weather options left over to wear in sweltering Washington DC, where I spent a few jet-lagged, bronchitis-y days getting my daughter set up for her internship on Capital Hill (with our wonderful Congressman Peter DeFazio).

Today I share the lewks.

Oh and btw, every single place we went, at least one person came up to whisper, conspiratorially, “I JUST LOVE #MAKEUPMONDAY!!!”

OK.

A one-piece Pact dress with belt, linen jacket (the only item i brought that needed an occasional touchup with the iron, but only rarely), tights and my new go-to work footwear, black suede booties by La Canadienne. This is a current version but I didn’t pay anything close to this price; I got a previous year version for about $200. You can get the identical style but without the winterproofing by Margaux, and other brands I’m sure.

The Pact dress again, with a different soft, deconstructed, non-wrinkling jersey jacket.

My favorite outfit: black stretch-knit Premise zip-back pencil skirt, with sleeveless polyester non-wrinkling shell and soft jacket. I can’t say enough about this jacket – a deconstructed asymetrical zip knit moto jacket. This one is BNCI, but an identical style is available from Loft, and there are TONS of the BNCI right now on Poshmark secondhand for about $20 a pop. Also, shoutout to the necklace: an ultra-lightweight magnetic front-clasp wire geometrical glory that I wore virtually every day (purchased at a small popup shop at the SeaTac airport – can’t remember name or artist, dammit. OK, I went and searched and found the necklace. Maker is Origin, but the Origin website doesn’t seem to show it anymore (although it has LOADS of cute lightweight, geometric, magnetic jewelry like this and this). Next time: I take this necklace and my Kristina Collection (each about half an ounce) and skip all my heavy chains.

Boldly mixing prints! Polka dot Max Studio self-tie shell under the deconstructed tweed-y jacket. (Bold lipcolors like below were a total FAIL in Europe. Women my age just don’t wear them and they just somehow looked garish and tacky. I ended up relying on my CoverGirl Outlast in #621 (a nice neutral) for the entire 5 weeks.

I had to look cute for travel days too! Linen jacket again with an H by Bourdeaux low-pro short sleeved knit mock turtle. And the Michael Kors Stretch Twill Leggings (or ponte). You can find these cheap at TJ Maxx etc.; I didn’t pay full price for my first pair, but did for my second in black. They were PERFECT for packing and long train and plane rides. Deep back pockets for phone, stretch waist for comfort, kept their shape, neither tight not loose, never-wrinkling. Plus my new Suavs – one of those new packable sneakers. Unfortunately they didn’t work for me. Totally cute and totally collapsible to about an inch wide for the pair, but not quite enough support for actual walking.

MY PERSONAL VICTORY: Last day of a grueling 5-week trip and I am STILL LOOKING CUTE! New scarf picked up for 10 Euro at a street market in Amsterdam. Labeled “pashmina” lol…. not. But still cute.

Kel and I doing us.

In Amsterdam I stumble upon a pop-up sidewalk discount shoe sale!! I get four pairs of super-cute European shoes at a steal! Bernie Mev, Arche and Cabot.

Of course we stop at the Museum of Purses and Bags in Amsterdam!

And just a fond tribute to my (previously introduced) travel makeup kit. It was a smashing success.

Truly, after 4 years of working on travel gear, this is the year I can say Travel Achievement Unlocked.

Share your travel fashion and makeup hacks as comments the FB page and I’ll do another random drawing for unused/barely used makeup and skincare samples! I have a ton of new ones to share!

Where You Show Out Is Where I Show Out: On Micro Macro Aggressions – WOC Guest Post

~I am delighted to offer another guest post in my series of contributed posts by black women and other women of color.

If you’d like to submit a post or an idea for a post for consideration, email me at gettenure@gmail.com. I pay $150 for accepted posts. The posts can be anonymous or not, as you prefer and can be about your experiences of racism/microaggressions in grad school or the career, your post-academic musings, hard-won advice for other students/faculty of color coming up, intersectional practices in teaching or research that you have found valuable, and also of course, makeup and clothes, or even tech gear you’ve found that helps in your work. More information can be found here.

Today’s post is by EbonyJanice Moore. EbonyJanice Moore is a (HipHop) womanist scholar and activist doing community-organizing work, most specifically around black women’s body ownership as a justice issue, and equal access to education and pay for women of color in the U.S. and in several African countries. 

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My graduate school in liberal/progressive Berkeley, California has the words “dismantling white supremacy” in it’s mission statement and a “Black Lives Matter” banner on the front of the building. I will testify with my hand on all the sacred and most holy texts that it was the most white-centering space I have ever experienced in my 36 years on this planet… and this is coming from someone born and raised in Sandusky, Ohio – which was disproportionately white and oppressive during my formative years.

White supremacy is a centering that has a violent way of making other people invisible, particularly women of color – most specifically black women; until there is a need for black women’s labor. That labor can be domestic, manual, emotional, and intellectual. This pulling at black women’s energy and then discarding them back into the oblivion of invisibility is an aggression.  

Let me take a very brief moment to explain why I do not believe in “micro-aggressions.” Harvard professor of education and psychiatry Chester M. Pierce created the term in 1970 to describe the countless slights, denigrations, and dismissive behaviors inflicted upon black Americans by others every day (Pierce, 1978, p. 66). The issue with calling them “micro,” however, is that that word insinuates that they mean less than macro-aggressions. There is a diminishing of their impact when really an aggression is an aggression. I am not less likely to respond in horror to someone slicing me with a small knife than I am if someone slices me with a large knife. Either way, a slice is a slice. It is violent.

I use to work at my grad school at the same time that I was completing my Masters degree in Social Change with an emphasis on Spiritual and Religious Leadership. As a result of working and attending seminary in the same space, I was positioned to be on both the serving and receiving end of energy exchanges with my classmates; it all just depended on whether I was sitting behind the front desk as an employee or at the desks next to them in those classrooms as a student.

My white classmates wore me out pretty much 24/7. When I say wore me out I mean that literally and figuratively. They wore me out in the literal sense in class. They would consume my knowledge. They asked additional questions of me like I was getting paid to teach them. They were reaching, demanding and wanting children from day to day. They put me on when they needed the extra thought production they could consume from me, wore me around when it was beneficial to have a smart black home-girl, and then took me off whenever they were done getting whatever they could get.

My white classmates wore me out figuratively in the fact that they never refilled once they exhausted me of my thoughts and my intellectual resources. They knew I was a work-study student when I was at that front desk but they would still ask me all manner of questions that had, literally, nothing to do with my job. For example, one week I had three different white women ask me to assist them with domestic labor. Me. EbonyJanice: The only cis-gendered black woman in full time high residency at their super white institution supposedly doing work to “dismantle white supremacy.” They wanted me to open jars for them. They wanted me to turn on stoves for them. They wanted me to change the settings on the dishwasher for them. They wanted me to wash their dishes for them.

And then they were done with me.

They would walk past me in the entrance and not speak.

They would see me at a restaurant around the corner and half smile like they were doing me a favor to speak to me.

They would greet each other in their white people yelps, shrieks and “Yays” with exclamation marks and then toss a dry, “How are you?” whenever it suited them.

They wore me out.

It is something very exhausting and triggering about being asked to take up so much space and be invisible at the same time:

“Show up EbonyJanice.”
“Don’t just sit there.”
“Your silence makes you seem like an ungrateful bitch.”
“Black girls can’t be introverts.”
“Invest in this space.”
“Give us something.”
“Dance for us if we ask.”
“Prove you are smart enough.”
“Prove you belong here.”
“Now be quiet.”

This is what a (micro) aggression looks like. This is white supremacy. This is white centering. This is violence. It may not be calling a black person the N-word or burning a cross on someone’s front lawn but it is equally as intimidating because it tells POC, particularly black women that they are not safe in this space in their own bodies so they must contort their spirits and souls within, in order to make everyone comfortable – but themselves.

“Where you show out is where I show out” is my actual anti-black racism activist and liberative sojourning life philosophy. I mean this. Usually what happens when someone aggresses against a black person, whether in some “subtle” (micro) way or in an obviously, overtly violent way, is that black people have to go out of their way to either make themselves safe by exiting the experience in silence, or being wholly uncomfortable on their own by not saying anything so as to not feel like the “aggressive” or “angry black person” – especially black women; because no one wants to be the angry black woman.

I could not care any less about being called an angry black woman (1) because 99% of people that I have ever encountered have never seen me angry so that trope is lazy and played out and (2) because if someone aggresses against me I have every right to be angry and trying to play that down and make it small will harm no one but myself; which leads to a double burden of grief that I am unwilling to shoulder on my own. Period. Because if you aggress against me, whether it is “micro” or “macro.” I’m going to call you out on it, whether that makes you micro mad or macro mad. It just is what it is.


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Pierce, C., Carew, J., Pierce-Gonzalez, D., & Willis, D. (1978). An experiment in racism: TV commercials. In C. Pierce (Ed.), Television and education (pp. 62–88). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

“You Don’t Belong” and Other Myths WOC Ph.Ds Believe – WOC Guest Post

I am delighted to offer another guest post in my series of contributed posts by black women and other women of color.

If you’d like to submit a post or an idea for a post for consideration, email me at gettenure@gmail.com. I pay $150 for accepted posts. The posts can be anonymous or not, as you prefer and can be about your experiences of racism/microaggressions in grad school or the career, your post-academic musings, hard-won advice for other students/faculty of color coming up, intersectional practices in teaching or research that you have found valuable, and also of course, makeup and clothes, or even tech gear you’ve found that helps in your work. More information can be found here.

Today’s post is by Dr. Christina McWhorter. Christine McWhorter is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mass Communications and Journalism at Norfolk State University. Her research interests include media literacy with an emphasis on news literacy and critical literacy. Her scholarship also addresses the social influence of media and media representation. She teaches broadcast journalism and television production with the goal of emphasizing the importance of storytelling through diverse perspectives.  

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Academics are intimately familiar with impostor syndrome. We know the feelings of inadequacy. We struggle to convince ourselves that we belong, and we suppress the perpetual suspicion that we aren’t enough.  

For women of color, imposter syndrome can be multidimensional. Our self-doubt is especially pernicious because it is linked to our racial/gender identity. Most WOC Ph.Ds have experienced years of gendered racism. Now insecurity can proliferate in our minds. As a result, we feel constant pressure to defend our worthiness to others and to ourselves.

Race/gender-based imposter syndrome can show up at any time but it often creeps up in group settings. Consider the following scenarios:

You’re about to present at your field’s national conference. You sit next to the other members of the panel, a row of white bodies. You smile, introduce yourself, and then look out at the audience. A sea of white faces.

______

You’re at a talk featuring Dr. Very Big Deal in Your Discipline. After quickly scanning the room (you always scan the room), you notice very few POCs. During the Q and A, in the confident, vocal crowd, hands shoot up all around you.

______

You walk into a classroom where you instantly realize you’re the only woman. As you walk toward the back of the room to find an empty seat, rows of eyes linger on your face.

______

A lot can happen in these moments. For some, the sense that you don’t belong can be overwhelming. The anxiety is palpable.

We can overcome our insecurities, but first, we need to realize they’re based on false messages that we’ve internalized. At some point in our lives-maybe as children, perhaps during our grad school years, or maybe even in our current environment- we learned things about ourselves that just aren’t true.

There are several strategies for addressing racialized/gender-based imposter syndrome. I find that I’m able to quell feelings of inadequacy by identifying these false messages- I like to call them mental myths- and debunking them.

Although I am writing from my experience as a WOC, I believe anyone can take the principles of “mental myth debunking” and use them to combat imposter syndrome. Here are some of the mental myths I’ve encountered.

Myth 1:
As a WOC, I need to prove my worth to my non-POC peers.

Truth:
There are lots of reasons we feel we must prove ourselves. For one thing, representation is important. In the minds of many, you not only represent yourself but the sum total of WOC Ph.Ds. We want to represent ourselves well.  In addition, you may feel that as a WOC, your image is already deficient (see Myth 3, below). While these feelings are valid, they don’t mean you need to prove yourself to anyone. You don’t need anyone’s approval to “fit” in academia. WOC, collectively, don’t need anyone’s approval either. When you bring your unique perspective to the table, you will find people there waiting to hear it. Approval from others isn’t necessary.

Myth 2:
My contributions are less valuable than those of my non- POC peers.

Truth:
This is a cousin to Myth 1. Your race, gender, upbringing and background do not diminish your value. Your success has not occurred despite your race/gender identity. If anything, your unique identity as a WOC Ph.D. adds to your worth and strengthens your contributions to your department, your students and your field.  

Myth 3:
Other people don’t think I’m smart enough, good enough, or that I have what it takes to succeed in academia.

Truth:
You can’t know what others think unless they say it, so resist the temptation to invent others’ thoughts by speculating. You could be completely wrong about the opinion they have of you.

I want to add an important note here: since we don’t live in a post-racial society, there is a very real possibility that some people are thinking negative thoughts about you. Nevertheless, remember this. Their thoughts of you, whether real or imagined, need not affect your view of yourself. If people think negatively of you based on your race/gender identity, they are wrong. Give yourself permission to disregard their faulty opinion.

Myth 4:
If I don’t know everything, I don’t know anything.

Truth:
It’s easy to feel insignificant in a field like ours, where a core function of the job is being an expert in your discipline.

You hear others’ presentations, read their work, and you’re impressed with their ideas. You think, “My goodness! This writer is brilliant!” You assume they know much more than you.

They probably don’t, though. Most likely, they know a whole lot about one teeny, tiny area –just like you do.  They have brilliant ideas pertaining to their area- just like you do.

If you’re an expert in your field (and if you’re reading this, you are), you won’t always know the same things as everyone else. That’s okay. Don’t be intimidated because someone knows their stuff. Be confident that you know yours.

Myth 5:
I don’t belong.

Truth:
You do belong.

Academics like to exclude other academics through institutionalized elitism. It’s a way to deal with the crippling imposter syndrome they face (see the beginning of this post).

Scholars and professors affirm this elitist system by upholding near impossible, arbitrary markers of success. Then they snub those who don’t reach the markers.

Their entrenchment in this system has nothing to do with you. As we have previously established, you are brilliant and your contribution is significant. Be validated by your own markers of success. Be proud of your accomplishments, your growth, and the positive impact you have on others.


A Final Thought:

As a WOC Ph.D., you may be overwhelmed with the fear that who you are and what you know are not enough. Resist this feeling. Treat mental myths the same way you treat other claims- analyze them for their veracity using actual evidence.

Not feelings. Not emotions. Evidence.

If any myth doesn’t hold up (and it won’t), disregard it and replace it with truth- that you are smarter, stronger, and better than you think you are.

What Happens After You’ve Gotten All the A’s – Guest Post

Dr. Tyia Grange Isaacson, LCSW, PhD is a clinician in private practice working in Berkeley, CA and globally via telehealth. She has a specialty of working with PhD students.  Tyia is sharing a series of guest blog posts highlighting some common challenges graduate students face, how these challenges can exacerbate mental health concerns and what to do about it.

By Dr. Tyia Grange Isaacson.

    Almost immediately in elementary school you are noticed.  The teacher sees how school comes easily for you and how you understand what is being taught more quickly than the others.  Your parents notice too and tell you they are proud of you. You learn that being good at school is valued and by extension you are valued.

    In my work with graduate students at the top programs of their chosen fields, I find that there are some common afflictions student face.  Growing up, students who are the best in the class are without peers and can feel isolated. The emotional pain of being alone registers in our brains the exact same way as physical pain.  As they say, it can be lonely at the top.

Yet, you continue to work hard at school.  You follow the prescribed course completing everything your teacher tells you to do.  You preform well. You know you preform well because you receive feedback—good grades and affirming comments.  Without you noticing your sense of self has solidified around achieving validation from your academic performance.  

After high school there is no question you will stay in school and go to college.  You are good at school. School is all you know. Naturally then, after college you go on to graduate school.  You started school when you were three. You are now turning twenty-eight and the last quarter of a century has been spent chasing after what it means to be a good student.  This is your identity. But what happens after you finish everything on your very last syllabus? What happens after you have gotten all the A’s? Now you are suddenly and rudely pushed out of the nest with no flight plan to study and ace. On your own you must fly or fall.    How do you maintain your sense of worth when the metric by which you have always been able to measure and confirm your self value has suddenly and irrevocably been taken away?

You are often unsure of what to think or feel.  You have trouble making decisions. You have spent your life being so terribly busy and tired from completing all of your assignments that   you never had time to look up from your school book long enough to truly figure out what you want. You wonder how you can be so utterly lost when you have been told you are doing so well.  You conclude something must be terribly wrong with you.

The patients in my practice experience distress getting in touch with their own thoughts and feelings especially in the face authority figures with strong opinions.  This occurs in part because a student relies upon her professors and advisors for her survival. She can only advance in her program with their approval and support. The relationship mimics a parent child relationship where a young child is wholly dependent upon her parent.  In certain family systems, especially those with high achievers, children are subconsciously or overtly encouraged to please their parents. Often, the separation between a child’s achievements and a parent’s ego is blurry. In other words, a parent’ co-opts the child’s success and the parent’s identity and self-worth is supported by their child’s achievements.  For such children, displeasing a parent feels threatening to a child’s sense of security and a pattern develops.

You don’t feel good when someone you need expresses an idea that is contrary to yours.  At all costs, you want to avoid disappointing this person. Even though you know it doesn’t make sense to disappoint yourself before disappointing this person you can’t stop yourself.  You know that it is ok to disagree with your advisor. You know that it is your life and you deserve to be happy and do what you want to do.  Your nervous system does not know this.  At your meeting with your advisor she tells you her opinion.  Her opinion is not your opinion and you feel a sinking in your stomach.  Quickly, your heart races. You should tell her what you think. Yet maybe your answer is the wrong answer.  Maybe you will not “get an A” if you risk your answer which is different than your advisor. Your advisor is the authority and she must know the right answer.  You can’t risk failing. You loose your voice and blink back your tears. You nod and smile. She sees you smiling and smiles back at you.

PhD students in therapy with me work to identify the early threads of their distress often starting in their families of origin.  They begin to notice when these early patterned responses impact them in their current life. Instead of relying (as they always have) on their minds, patients link their feelings to responses in their nervous systems.  Identifying thoughts and nervous system responses become a compass to help patients indicate when they need to slow down and try to do something different. Change and growth occurs when a patient can break up an intrenched patterned and respond in a different way instead of automatically responding as they have in the past.  

There is often a lot of internal backlash and noise in patient’s heads about the danger of breaking old patterns of responding.   Sometimes there is an entrenched fear that doing something different will be catastrophic. Despite a strong desire to change students frequently feel stuck.  Paradox can be useful when patients feel stuck For example, patients may work towards the goal of trying and get an “A” in working less or pleasing others less.

When one of my patients has trouble believing in herself and her right to her own thoughts and feelings I encourage her to imagine that she is someone else.  Someone she cares about and perhaps feels protective towards. My patient can easily imagine her best friend’s right to think and feel and respond as she wishes.   The work becomes believing that even without someone telling her so, without the external validation, she too has worth. It is the work of forming a self-identity that is reinforced internally.   Patients in graduate school are used to working hard. It is a different kind of hard work then getting all A’s and it is infinitely more rewarding.

#MakeupMonday: A Makeup Brush Brings History to Life

Our Airbnb in Durham, UK includes a rather extraordinary historical element that the renovators were required to preserve in this historic Georgian building. Can you spot it?

The building dates from 1708. It was a private home, and then a gentleman’s club for over a century. It’s a listed Grade II building, so historical features are required to be preserved. The range is one of only six Durham-made ranges of the era known to exist in situ. I suppose this means it can’t be dusted?

So why am I telling you all this on MakeupMonday?

Because…. I OF COURSE dug through the ashes in all the range’s many ovens! What else could I do?

And lo, I found some paper!

And of course I had to investigate!

So I pulled it out, and set to the task of cleaning.

But it was delicate. Oh so delicate.

So what to do? Naturally, get out one of my extra travel makeup brushes, and set to work!

blowing off some soot

Et voila! A 1948 official communication! From the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries!

But to whom? There seemed to be one printed address on the top layer of paper (which included the words Elvet St. – our address), but this quickly brushed off to reveal some handwritten words beneath.

But what does it say? It’s hard to make it out!

It seems to read:

….side (or …sicle?)

Rise slowly

Cockfield

Bp A….

To the internet I go. And quickly discover: there is indeed a Rise Slowly Farm in… Cockfield Village, on Raby Moor, just outside of Durham, near the market town of…. Bishop Aukland!

So there we go! Without being able to read the name, I don’t know what else to glean, but how fun to get this far.

Curiosity sent me back to the ashes and soot, and i spotted another crumbled and tightly wadded scrap of paper. I unfolded it gently. Here it is:

Isn’t it wonderful? Do you place it in the mid-1940s, with those amazing shoulders?

Without my handy makeup brush, none of this would have happened!