Posts Tagged 'feminism'

The Smitten Entrepreneur

Picture by pumpkincat210 under a Creative Commons License.

By which I mean to say: I am now self-employed. Sole proprietor of my business. Embracing the American spirit of small business ownership and all that. Pioneering. Frontier mentality. *cough* Sorry ūüėõ

Sure, it doesn’t fully solve the immediate lack of forty hours of revenue generating activities per week, but it makes me flexible, allowing me to jump on Craigslist gigs, work with my old employer and do it all within the letter of the law. Also: tax deductions. Useful in case I end up making money. Which I already did, a little, with the freelance work I talked about in earlier posts, but I needed a way to justify those funds to Uncle Sam’s tax folks. So here we are…

I built myself a website, had business cards printed and obtained a ‘home occupation permit’ (to allow me working from home) and a business license. Uhuh! I’m the real deal. Even snagged a signature from a big, burly fireman to certify that there are smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher. I’ve been networking with folks and am hoping to reel in some more assignments soon.

But Smitten Immigrant, what is it you actually do? 

Right.. I should probably mention that. The job title I invented for myself is ‘language professional’. Which means I offer services as an editor, proofreader, translator (between my native language and English) and (copy) writer. Stuff like doing linguistic quality assurance for software translations, translating user interface text, but also more traditional red pen circling of errant commas, missing capitals and ambiguous phrasing. ¬†Possibly telling you to tone down the enthusiastic superlative language of your marketing pitch because in the ‘Old Country’ ¬†your exuberance just gives cause for cynicism.

Hey, hey can we see? Show us!

Err.. no. Well. Not on here. I have considered connecting this blog to my website, since it is a large collection of my personal language wrangling that people may like to see, but I have decided against it. This is my personal blog, where I do not want to proofread what I write. I don’t want to think about the commercial viability of my posts, nor wonder about whether things may be too personal for possible clients to read.

I’m not under the illusion that a dedicated sleuther would be unable to find both my website and this blog and connect the dots. It’s not a matter of deep importance that the two never be connected. But I don’t want to make this little corner of the web a marketing instrument, which is what would almost inevitably happen if I added it to my portfolio. I’m not interested in the ‘brand’ ¬†Smitten Immigrant. I don’t plan to become a marketing guru or even a professional blogger on a personal title (although I am not averse to writing blog posts for payment).

The big thing that looking at a wide variety of language jobs has taught me, is that I want to write your text for you, or my text for me, but not the other way around. I don’t know if that makes sense to people whose field of work is not closely related to the realms of marketing and or social media, but it makes sense to me. I’m a language professional, not an internet personality. I love my work because a good writer (and even more so a good editor and most so a good translator) is invisible. It’s not me you should want, it’s the words I stick together.

Imagine you would ask me to write something. A job application for instance, which needs a good mix of personal showcasing and high quality writing. As your hired wordsmith, I need to write you. Because they need to hire you (not me). And so I need to ‘be’ you, adding nothing but the linguistic quality that makes those HR people sigh with relief because that letter is such an effortless read.

Are you averse to accepting work form people who have found this blog?

Not at all. If you see me play with words ¬†(which is really what I do here, at The Smitten Immigrant) and you like it, superfluous commas and all, then feel free to hit me up and ask me for my professional details. I’ll happily share. I just don’t want to encourage the process the other way around.


Names and IDs and little bits of sexism

Photo by Brian Suda, under a Creative Commons License

My driver’s license was about to expire. And my passport was only valid for a few more months – not long enough to be able to get it stamped with a visa.

And so I went off to city hall to get that stuff renewed. Beloved came with, also desiring a new driver’s license. When I signed, gave finger prints and handed over a passport photo, the clerk asked me if I wanted my partner’s name added onto my new license and passport. ¬†This may need some culturally oriented explaining.

I decided that, yes, please, I’d like my partner’s name in my passport on the line below my own name: the line ¬†for ‘spouse’. Mostly to have a little visual proof for those not accustomed with people keeping their names, but also because of the fun tickly sensation of, you know, having found my Favourite Human and being able to have this verified by Powers That Be. (I acknowledge that this is a form of privilege that many people do not have, by the way.)

Much to my chagrin no one gave Beloved the option. So now I have two official documents listing Beloved as my spouse and he has two new documents that totally fail to acknowledge my¬†existence. ¬†Hello?! I’m here! I married this one! I know he has a penis, but why does that imply that he doesn’t need _my_ name all up in his business? Hmm?


Game of Thrones – an opinion

(no spoilers if you’re current with last week’s episode)

This is Samwell Tarly, played by John Bradley.

Sam and three other people – late king Robert Baratheon, Varys and Hot Pie – make up the fat part of the Westeros cast of Game of Thrones. (There is also Xaro Xhoan Daxos, a liar and a traitor, but he is from Qarth, in Essos, and I’ll not discuss him here)

Now, I like Game of Thrones. I’m a sucker for fantasy anyway and this series has carefully chosen settings, overall great character development and superb acting. It has strong female characters along with the male and, despite it being ‘ period’ drama in a sense, it passes the Bechdel test¬†several times (Catelyn Stark and Brienne, Sansa and Shea and Sansa and Cersei, just to name a few). I also have a happy little celebrity crush on Jon Snow / Kit Harington. I think it’s the pout. In any case, I love the series and look forward to every new episode.

However, there is one thing that annoys me, and it annoys me more every time I see it. I’m hoping it will become less prevalent over the coming episodes and seasons.

Game of Thrones is not cool when it comes to fat people and that’s a pity and a shame, because I think it does a good job of not being exclusionary otherwise.

I have not yet read the books so I don’t know if this is something George R.R. Martin put in himself, but I believe that the series would have been stronger if Sam, king Robert and ‘Hot Pie’ had not been written as clearly inferior to their companions.¬†Varys is a different story – while he is considered unusual, he is also considered dangerous enough to make up for it. His fatness is not a defining quality, overshadowed as it is by his choices of clothing, his effeminate behavior and, of course, the known fact of his missing genitalia and mysterious past. His fatness is also not associated with a host of character flaws or, worse, a lack of character whatsoever. As spymaster and member of the small council, he may be subject to rumor and gossip, but he is considered a force to be reckoned with.

Sam is a character with potential. While he often comes across as bumbling and cowardly, he shows strength of character on par with other major characters in the tale on a few occasions. I, for one, hope that he’ll develop into a more well-rounded character. Not as ‘comically’ insecure, ¬†not as scared and inept, not as lacking in courage and will to fight. No longer the laughing stock of the rest of the people at the Nightwatch. And then I hope he stays fat. If Sam is only allowed to grow mentally while shrinking in physical size, I’ll be disgusted. Of course it is possible for a scared and insecure person to also be fat. But I don’t see why the one visible scaredycat in the Nightwatch needed to be ‘Ser Piggy’.

King Robert Baratheon used to be a capable man, charming, good at fighting. That’s how he came to be king. And then.. Then he won the war and began drinking too much. He became a drunken sot, incapable of ruling and unwilling to spend time on serious matters. He spent much time with prostitutes and fathered some bastards. In return, ¬†he was cheated on by his wife and was tricked into raising three children, none of which are his. In his seventeen years as king, he drove the Seven Kingdoms millions into deep debt. ¬†His love of the drink even leads to his assassination. Robert ends up a man who hits his wife, bullies his squire and is entirely unwilling to deal with anything that distracts him from his pleasures.

In Robert’s own words, to Eddard Stark: “I’m not trying to honor you, I’m trying to get you to run my kingdom while I eat, drink, and whore my way into an early grave.

So, while King Robert may not have started out incapable, slothful and overindulgent, he sure ended up that way, and fatally so. How better to show this than by having a scene in which Robert tries to put on armor, but has become too fat to wear it? And then laugh at himself (because when you’re fat, you better be very good at self-deprecation, I guess). While I understand that every king must have a tragic flaw, I would have appreciated it if it had not been so mixed up with his exterior. A lustful, unfaithful, overindulgent drunk can still be thin, if you know what Im saying.

Then, there’s Hot Pie. Who – as far as I can tell – has no other name than Hot Pie. Shortly after we meet him, he bullies Arya. Then, he shows himself as a braggart and a liar -and not a very good one. When fighting breaks out, he alone hides and yields immediately when found, displaying cowardice. He shows incompetentce by believing a rumor and so puts himself at risk of being killed. He pees his pants when he is scared. Later,¬†Hot Pie is sent to work in the kitchens of Harrenhal. After his escape from that castle, he decides not to continue on with Arya and Gendry ¬†and chooses to stay at an inn and bake bread.

Now, Hot Pie doesn’t get that much screen time, but when you do see him, there’s an guesstimated 50% chance that he’s eating. He’s also heard talking about recipes and food. While I don’t know what the future holds for Hot Pie, I wonder what those involved in making the series thought to gain with his character up until this point. Was he supposed to be funny? ¬†Was he just ‘filler’? Was he once an interesting, well-rounded person who got squashed into two-dimensional ‘always hungry, cowardly fat kid’ because of a lack of time for character development?

Dear people who work on Game of Thrones, I know you on’t read this. But just in case you do, please put a little effort into not giving in to sizeist prejudice. I know that ridiculing fat people is something is sometimes thought to be acceptable in this day and age. I know that you’ll appeal to many people’s biases when you correlate being fat with negative things such as a lack of courage and competence, and win some easy laughs. But think about it for a second: why would you take the easy way out here when you’ve obviously worked so hard on getting all the other things right. Why do justice to men and women alike, to cultures far and near – taking the effort to develop a whole new tongue to enhance the depth of the Dothraki people, and then drop the ball on some people, just because they’re fat.

Bad feminist! Bad!

Which is to say: I gave ‘notice’ at my job. I resigned. I am relieved and terrified at the same time.

I gave notice two months in advance, because I’m a nice woman who does not want to inconvenience her employer too much¬† (or perhaps she’s simply very much afraid of displeasing anyone, ever). January 1st 2013 will be my first day of not having a full-time activity since the day I started university as a lowly freshman. I will also give up financial independence (For a while, okay? Temporarily! Only until we’ve moved. Only because when Beloved starts studying I get to be breadwinner for a few years. Only because I’ll make up for it!). I’m looking at a time frame of three to seven months of no-job, depending on how everything goes.

Queue freak-out. Do not want. No like! Aaaargh. *panicked arm flailingl

However. Let’s look past all my fears of immediately losing all justification for my existence by changing my employment status (it is hopefully obvious I don’t apply that standard to other people who are un(der)employed, so I need to learn to cut myself some slack).

Maybe I should acknowledge that one can’t simply sell a house, move to another continent, obtain visas and passports and keep up with the many other, smaller responsibilities of life as a grown-up when there’s only two of you and the both of you are eaten alive by work, work and more work on top of a nice portion of work. Or maybe other people can do so, but we don’t have to, which is a form of privilege. Which I should also acknowledge, but perhaps not feel so incredibly terrible about that I refuse to use it.

What good _is_ privilege if you feel too guilty to use it? How about if you have privilege and use it to make other people’s lives better along with your own? If there are people out there for whose physical, immediate survival it is necessary that they spend all their resources on themselves, isn’t it sort of a duty for those who have resources to spare that they use some of them to make the planet a nicer place?

The inner feminist insists I only twist things that way to get out of the feelings of guilt.

Maybe the inner feminist should (kindly, consensually) go fuck herself, though.

I get to be happy. I should find another way than a pay check to find value in myself.  I appreciate non-financial contributions from everyone else, so I should learn to appreciate them from me. As a starting point, below is a list of ambitions for when I have free time:
– fix up the house to make it sell better (to be done in time off while still employed)

– deal with realtor

– find good homes for all the stuff we’re not bringing to the US

– handle USCIS / consular business

– arrange the international move

-arrange travel (if we have time to travel)

– keep house (save money by no longer having a cleaner)

– Cook All The Things (bento box lunches, maybe?)

– finish working through the book ‘Python Programming for the absolute beginner’ to improve future employability

– improve understanding of math

– volunteer at pet shelter (and maybe see if we can do short-term fostering!)

– volunteer at the food bank my mom has set up

– find cool freelance assignments (and enhance resume)

– find a form of enjoyable exercise

– see some friends
On another note: I have so far not had a single negative response from anyone who heard of my decision to quit. Beloved is pretty much the person who proposed it and argued against all my doubts. And everyone else so far has been telling me that they think it is an awesome idea. Even at work they’ve all been like :”Well, it’s too bad for us, but it makes total sense for you and we think you’re smart to do it.”
Can I say that I am very¬† suspicious of the total lack of opposition? I mean.. was I that obviously miserable? Does no one worry about me finding another job? Does no one feel anger-on-principle that once again a (sort of) female-identified person puts on an apron? Does nobody think I’m an idiot? Has nobody yet thought: “Oh, see? There she goes.. Not even married for a year and she strong-arms that poor guy into letting her quit working!”?

Anybody need some guilt? I’ll ship it to you for free!

The wife-stereotype: a colleague

Last week Beloved went off to another country for work related reasons.

When the weekend approached, I packed the unpaid project I am currently working on, some underwear and my toothbrush, went to sleep and left for work extra early the next day. A good nine hours later I wrapped up the work week and began the race to the airport  to catch a plane to where my husband happened to be.

The next morning I woke up early to put a few good hours of work into the  project I had brought. Beloved was dropped off at the hotel by a colleague around lunch time.

The following conversation was relayed to me:

C(olleague): “Hey, is it okay if I drop you off early? My holiday starts today and I don’t feel like working past noon.”

B(eloved): “Sure. Let me call my wife though. She came to join me for he weekend and she probably does not expect me this early.”

C: “Oh. She’s spending your money, huh..”

B: “…”

I get it, C. You’re a white man in a first world country. You have a well-paid job. You work in a male-dominated industry and (in this part of the world) in a white-male-dominated industry. Most of the people who are your colleagues follow the traditional, hetero-normative, baby-having pattern. You live in an area of the world and in a socio-economic class in which two incomes are not a necessity.

I understand that it is¬† likely that these types of remarks have previously worked well if you wanted to bond with a (white, male, supposedly heterosexual) colleague of yours. Nothing unites people more than a common enemy or, (in a part of the world in which war doesn’t really happen anymore) a communal subject to whine about.

But you’re a sexist douche canoe. And would have much appreciated meeting you so that I could have told you this to your face.

When the going gets tough, I want an apron

No seriously. If I had a bad day at work, I fantasize about baking. About lovingly folding shirts. Selecting ties. A tough week makes me think in detail about weeks’ worth of carefully laid out bento boxes my Beloved can bring to the office/ university library/ wherever he goes to bring home the Tofurkey.

It’s a form of escapism that is both hilarious (to me) and surreal (also: to me). I’m not sure if I also should call these escapist fantasies enlightening. They may be, but I don’t know what the message is. Because I’m pretty sure I’d get a serious case of cabin fever if I were to be a stay-at-home-wife. Or even a part-time-jobby-job-volunteer-75%-housework-wife. I have never been happier than now, in a set-up where I work a full-time-equivalent job which allows me to be financially independent and have a career, where Beloved has one too (but with different hours) and whatever is not done by our cleaning lady (she rocks!) we divide up by level of anal-retentiveness.

So, why the fantasies? I don’t much like housekeeping (although cooking, baking and laundry folding are by far my favourite endeavours in that arena), but I think it provides me with a sense of security. Something that says “Well, at least you can do that” when I’m am staring down the three most probably US-move-locations (one on the west coast, one on the east coast and one pretty much in the middle) and I do not see a strategy to start planning for what happens when I get there.

Really, it’s the thing that most exhilarates and terrifies me about this whole move to another continent: What Will I Do When I Am There? I’ve managed to conjure up scenarios from part-time remote employment at my current employer with freelancing and volunteering (at a pet shelter with cool dogs) on the side to complete SAHW scenarios to high pressure careers in demanding industries in which maybe Beloved gets to follow me around instead of the opposite.

The scenario I like best is that of the unattached-freelancers-with-nomadic-lifestyle. I keep translating, writing and editing, and Beloved goes from conference to panel to think tank and me, I come with, doing my work wherever and meeting everyone and seeing everything. Due to it’s absolute unplannability, though, it’s not a good fantasy scenario if the inner list maker decides something needs to be planned and scheduled and listed and flowcharted.

Hence my desire for neatly boxed up lentil stew with flowers made of naan-bread, hummus with a sun made out of slices of red and yellow pepper and whole-wheat pasta covered with stars of fresh tomatoes, and mozzarella and a basilicum moon.

I need a new category

My Inner Feminist.

Why? Because she’s on my mind a lot. She’s on my mind when I think about moving to the US, especially. She’s also on my mind at work, although she profiles herself more as an equalist:

“Explain to me why we need to use ‘he’ and ‘his’ every time we discuss a random member of parliament…”
“It is unacceptable to not also mention abortion when talking about reproductive choice!”
“We need to give examples of bisexuals explicitly!”
“We have used two examples that follow gender roles, now we need to give one that doesn’t. Therefore this lady is a welder and her partner is a kindergarten teacher.”
“Of course men can be raped too, that’s why we need to use this example and not reverse the genders.”
“Did you honestly just propose to write ‘Men who want to have a high social status will marry only attractive women’ in a textbook? That perpetuates stereotypes.”
“We need to portray interracial relationships.”
“That picture is a prime example of cultural appropriation, so we cannot use it. Do you need me to explain what cultural appropriation is?”
“We must provide a consent based model for sexual conversations.”
“Culture does NOT equate religion, and our content needs to reflect that.”
“Where are the atheists and agnostics in this book?”

And so on. It’s interesting to see what people care about when it comes to teaching other people things. In my case, the examples above give you a pretty good idea – a lot of my most passionate knowledge transfer ideas focus on gender stereotypes, sexual behaviour and racial politics.

In my private life it’s harder. My Inner Feminist is a lot less articulated when it comes to personal matters. I feel the feelings, the unrest and I can pinpoint which subjects bring them about (mostly job security, career opportunities (and a possible lack thereof) and, to a lesser extent, money), but I haven’t yet figured out what it is she needs to have in order to be happy. Posts under the “My Inner feminist” category will hopefully allow me to work through these things and help me get a better idea of what it is I’m scared of.