My friend Holly ([personal profile] hollymath) is writing a book about being an immigrant. Like me, Holly has lived in the UK for many years as an immigrant and has written poignant posts on the subject, as can be seen the foreignness tag on her DW. She has a gift for voicing thoughts for which I often struggle to find the words.

The Kickstarter for her book, Duel for Citizenship, has just 12 hours left. It can be found here. Most levels of support include a copy of the book as an incentive. If you can support her project, which I see as a vital response to the clamour of toxic and xenophobic anti-immigrant/refugee rhetoric currently dominating the public narrative, I would appreciate it too.
Humuhumu has begun to drop her T's, replacing them with glottal stops. Wa'er. Beau'iful. Floa'ing.

I presume she's picked this up from nursery somehow, but I haven't worked out from whom. It sounds very peculiar when coupled with her otherwise Brummie pronunciation ("I loike oice cream").

It also sets my nerves jangling. "Floa-ting, darling," I say calmly through gritted teeth, "Not floa'ing." Inside my head there is a tiny rage-filled fiery-eyed Nanila screaming, "IT'S GOT A T! IT'S GOT A FLAMING T IN IT! PRONOUNCE THE T!"

I'm trying to unpack why this gets up my nose so badly. I have mental mechanisms in place for suppressing the confused welter of emotions, including sadness, that assail me when she speaks and she doesn't sound American. I know that once she realises I sound foreign, she'll never be able to un-hear it. I take delight in the Brummie accent, even though I'm fairly certain that in this rigidly stratified, classist, and small-c conservative society*, she will either have to learn to code-switch or train herself out of it to achieve material success. It doesn't bother me - much - when Londoners drop their T's. I have a terrible suspicion that I've managed to internalise a certain amount of class prejudice, given that when she says "free" instead of "three" or "bahf" instead of "bath", I have the same reaction, though reduced in intensity. I don't quite understand why it applies to my child and not to anyone else, though.

* Gross generalisation, #NotAllBrits, etc.
Humuhumu is presently in love with the Clangers. She has Clangers bedsheets, the Clangers DVD and a set of Clangers miniatures, all acquired from the BBC Shop clearance.

The episodes she loves most are centred around Granny Clanger. These include "The Curious Tunnel", in which Tiny and Small discover a tunnel that sucks things up and spits them out onto the surface of the planet, coincidentally where Granny is trying to have a peaceful moment to herself, and "The Knitting Machine", in which Major invents a knitting machine as a labour-saving device for Granny. (Granny is less appreciative of this than he expects.) I suspect the attraction is at least partly because Granny is a central figure in the Clangers' clan in the way that Humuhumu's grandmothers are not, due both to distance and personality types. Granny is embedded in the home lives of Tiny and Small, always there, knitting away, napping, caring and being cared for by the other family members.

The set of Clangers miniatures included: Tiny, Small, Mother, Major and Baby Soup Dragon. The set did not include: Granny and Soup Dragon. Soup Dragon can be purchased separately. The only way to acquire a Granny miniature, however, is to buy the Clangers Home Planet play set. I can afford to, and will do this for Humuhumu, but I find it most aggravating that the only way to acquire Granny is to spend about four times more than I spent on the set of other figures. Especially since all the other Clangers are available in pairs and individually as well.
So apparently it's International Women's Day.

I have celebrated by achieving new nadirs in parenting.

Humuhumu is off ill from nursery for the week. The bloke and I had agreed I would look after her today because he had to lecture. (Don't worry, I get uninterrupted working time later in the week. Equality, you see!)

We had received an appointment for Keiki to have his eyes checked for long-sightedness and amblyopia - since Humuhumu has both - several weeks ago. I tried to have it moved a few days ago when we thought neither of us were going to be able to take him in, but was told that because of cuts in local services, the next appointment would not be available for another four months. So we kept it.

It was at a clinic I'd never been to. If I'd known then where it was, I'd probably have decided to take the appointment at the hospital in four months' time.

Humuhumu and I had to pick up Keiki from nursery in the afternoon. The area around the nursery is currently a construction zone and its entrance is controlled by a three-way traffic light. The fun thing about this arrangement is that you can't actually see people coming in or out of the nursery slip road until they appear on the main road, and sometimes they block off the slip road during the day to do work on it. So I waited patiently at the light, observed that the road appeared to be blocked, and drove past and parked along the main road. Never an ideal situation when you're on your own and have two small children to manoeuvre in and out of a car. The walk to and from the front door was long enough that when we finally managed to collect Keiki and get everyone back in the car, we were already late for his appointment. I tried to keep calm and drove off to the clinic.

The clinic turned out to be off a tiny one-lane road with double yellow lines on either side, meaning that there was nowhere to park within 200 metres of the entrance. The metal fencing around the clinic featured a dizzying array of signs, which I tried to parse as I drove carefully through the narrow entrance and manoeuvred into a parking space. The wonderful setup of this car park meant that I was blocking off two other cars, and would have to reverse very carefully indeed in order to exit.

The one good thing about the appointment was discovering that Keiki's vision is absolutely fine. The orthoptist was the one Humuhumu likes best as well, and she monkeyed around the room the way toddlers do when they like someone.

We said goodbye to the friendly receptionist. I discovered that in the twenty minutes we'd been inside, two more cars had arrived and parked perpendicularly behind me. Also, someone was waiting to take my space. In theory, I still had just enough room to reverse all the way back to the gate.

And if I didn't have a toddler and a baby howling at me from the back, and if I were not quite so inexperienced a UK driver (coming up on nine months since I got my licence), I might have been able to do it, but after three attempts to get through the gap between the building and the first perpendicular car, I was very nearly in tears.

The woman waiting to take my space parked up next to the clinic entrance (double reds) and came to my window. Another woman who had just left the building noticed, and came over as well. Both of them were terribly sympathetic and understanding, which made it more difficult not to cry. One offered to guide me out, and the other to go in and ask the person behind me to move their car. I tried twice more to get past with the guide's help, but she stopped me after the second go, saying she didn't think I could do it without taking a wing mirror off.

A third woman exited the building, and after coming over and making a lot of comforting noises, moved her car so I could, finally, get out.

While all of the above was happening, the primary school next door let out, meaning the road and pavements were full of small children. As I reversed very, very slowly past the clinic gates, I managed to read one of its signs. It said, "This car park is for registered clinic personnel and disabled persons only." Ah. That would be the icing on the cake of this EPIC MEGA DRIVING FAIL, then. To any such persons using the car park that day were inconvenienced by me: I apologise.

After we arrived home, I plonked my children in front of the television (don't worry, it gets worse) so I could dial in to a telecon. Usually this telecon takes about 20 minutes, so I reckoned two episodes of the Octonauts would suffice to keep them quiet. But of course, this was the one occasion in fifty when everything was not normal, and people actually had to have discussions about non-routine items. I realised we were coming up to the time when I was going to have to speak just as the emperor penguin episode was drawing to a close. As the end credits rolled, both childrens' heads swiveled round to regard me where I sat on the sofa with my laptop. I cringed as they spoke/babbled simultaneously.

"I'm hungry!" announced Humuhumu.
"BWABAAAACAT!" shouted Keiki.
"Can we have your input now, Dr Nanila?" requested my laptop speakers.

I cast about in desperation and my eyes fell upon the box of Mother's Day chocolates I'd been given on Sunday. Flinging the lid to the floor, I selected two at random and shoved them into my startled childrens' mouths, which allowed me to give my crucial 45 seconds of input after a slight delay. Afterwards, I discovered one of the chocolates contained raspberry liqueur. (I told you it got worse.)

Hundreds of years of women fighting to be allowed equal opportunities in working life and pay as men, and you get days like this. Is it worth it? Pardon my sweariness, but (please imagine me saying this in full American mode): Ab-so-fucking-lutely.
I tweeted about this last week, but want to put it down on this more permanent record.

In a discussion about American politics last week*, my Austrian colleague stated that in Austria, both of the main political parties in the UK are seen as quite right-wing.

We all had little sit-and-think about that one. >.<

* My colleagues like to wind me up by asking me what I think of D----- T----'s latest gaffe. I think they quite enjoy the spluttering and hand-waving and noises of despair that I am incapable of repressing on hearing his name.
I'm spoiler-immune AND I read the book before I went to see the film, so I will do everyone who is spoiler-sensitive a favour and simply put this entire post behind a cut.

Spoilers, spoilers everywhere I'm sure )

Still, A++++, will def get on DVD and watch again.
A casual acquaintance of mine made a post on Facebook that nettled me a bit, but I didn't want to reply to it there fore several reasons. First, I don't know this person well and have no idea how they'd take disagreement. Second, I make it a rule to check Facebook once a week or less. Third, I only use it to like pictures of other people's cats and babies and to make innocuous, supportive and inoffensive comments, because it is a piss-poor platform for nuanced, well-informed interaction. Thus, behold: a journal entry containing the reply I would have made if said comments hadn't been hosted on Facebook.

The post essentially said: Why do feminists think it's okay to be pro-breastfeeding-in-public and simultaneously oppose Page 3 of The Sun newspaper? Are they not contradicting themselves on the subject of bare breasts? (I'm phrasing this more coherently than the original poster did.)

Well. Let us examine the problem with this logic. It assumes that bare breasts are viewed in a manner that is completely context-free. Either they are simply fleshy bits stuck on the front of ladypersons and are totally inoffensive under all circumstances, which is an attitude I would gladly be on board with adopting, or they are totally offensive under all circumstances, which I would not. The social reality is a lot more nuanced than this. If the "feminist" attitude seems contradictory to you, it's because mainstream social attitudes towards these two particular presentations of bare breasts are most frequently contradictory, and often the reverse of what one might expect (e.g. the first is offensive and the second is not). Thus, the answer to the question is that there isn't a contradiction in adopting such attitudes, because the assumption that all mammary presentations are equal in the eyes of society is wrong.

Below lies my personal view on this glandular conundrum:
I identify as a feminist and I find neither of these boob presentations offensive. The first is a no-brainer for me, not least because I'm a breastfeeding mum. Despite what I'd like to believe in theory - that a breast being used to feed a baby is being presented in an entirely innocent way - I feel the immense social pressure to breastfeed in an innocuous manner, and thus I always try to find a discreet place in which to do it and ensure that I'm covered. It would be much easier if I could just whip out a nipple and let baby latch, of course, but I don't really want to be stared at whilst I'm feeding him, so I don't do that. I would be delighted if breastfeeding stopped being such a polarising subject, but until social attitudes change pretty drastically, I don't see it happening.

On the subject of Page 3: I don't think the breasts themselves are offensive. Taking it a step further, I think that the circumstances under which they are photographed and presented are far better than what was being proposed to replace them. The owners of the breasts are compensated (I can't comment upon whether or not the amount of the compensation should be deemed adequate), but most importantly, they have consented to be photographed. The idea that replacing these images with "candid" (i.e. non-consensual) photos of celebrities in states of undress would somehow be a step forward for feminism was baffling to me. Some of the opposition to Page 3 that I've encountered also strikes me as another way to devalue sex work and demean sex workers, we really need more of that?

I know there are those who would ask me, "What if your daughter was on a train and saw a man looking at Page 3?" I can only say that I think it best that she learns that there are images of naked people in the world and that most of the people who view them are wankers.
If you have seen me and/or Humuhumu in the past three weeks, please read the rest of this entry.

This Saturday morning, 23rd August, Humuhumu woke with red spots on her back and legs. We thought it was heat rash, but the spots had spread and widened and developed little pimples in their middles this morning, so we made an appointment with the out-of-hours GP at the hospital.

He confirmed that it is chickenpox.

She will have been most contagious the day before (Friday 22nd) and for the next five or six days until the spots begin to heal. However, the incubation period for chickenpox can be anywhere from seven to 21 days, so it's possible she was contagious while we were in London and at LonCon 3.

Please be on alert if you or your children have not had chickenpox previously. Humuhumu was lethargic and grumpy with a mild fever for the three days before she developed the spots (we thought she was just tired from the intense stimulation of the London trip), so the symptoms may not be entirely obvious. People I know for certain we had contact with include [personal profile] rmc28, [personal profile] kaberett, [personal profile] qian, [personal profile] yoyoangel, [personal profile] djm4, [personal profile] purplecthulhu, [personal profile] hano, [personal profile] coughingbear, [personal profile] major_clanger, [personal profile] foxfinial and [personal profile] liv. I offer my apologies to those, and to anyone else we may have exposed. If you know of anyone else, particularly those with compromised immune systems, that we may have come into physical contact with or with whom I was on a panel, please pass this information on to them.

Separately, I have come down with an absolutely stinking cold. It's the worst I've had in years - I normally shake these things off quite quickly but this has had me almost flat for two and a half days. So I apologise for being a vector for Con-Crud as well. :(
I was going to make a personal post this morning, but I'm so irritated by this that I'm not.

The Guardian apparently decided that one way to honour International Women's Day this weekend would be to publish a headline erasing a woman from history. I'm not going to do the article any favours by linking it here, but the headline was "First Brit in space Tim Peake: 'We phone people because it's just so cool'".

Helen Sharman became the first British person in space in 1991, when she was 27. Yes, she flew as a private individual on a commercial flight rather than as a UK government representative of a space agency. That doesn't make her not British. So I'm afraid that however much certain people seem to want Timothy Peake to be the first British person in space, he isn't. END OF.

The first British person in space was a woman. Her name is Helen Sharman. (I make a point of working this fact into every outreach talk I ever give.) Remember that. Tell everyone. Because this kind of bullshit needs stamping on by many, many feet.

ETA: I note with interest that this morning, the headline has been changed to "First British man in space". I believe this is also wrong. The first British man who went into space was naturalised as an American beforehand. However, I do not think that anyone would enjoy quibbling with me about whether or not dual nationals still count as citizens of their birth countries. >:E
nanila: (old-skool: science!)
( Dec. 23rd, 2013 09:20 pm)
[ profile] jixel asked: How about commenting on the challenges of being a (pretty) woman scientist?

I wouldn’t say it’s actually a challenge to be a pretty woman scientist. It seems to be more of a challenge for other people to get their heads round.

Facetiousness aside, being considered pretty (by a certain set of people applying a certain set of standards, ymmv) has had complicated consequences with regard to my self-esteem and my behaviour. This is relevant because of the significant component of social interaction that comprises the practice of science - a thing that a lot of scientists won’t admit to, because they are far too logical and rational and therefore superior to apply the culturally reinforced biases that permeate society to their professional lives. [insert eyeroll here]

In many circumstances, I have found it as helpful to be pretty as it probably is for any attractive person in any line of work. A lot of people treat you in a particular way when you fit certain standard definitions of beauty. I’m relatively slim (less so than before I had the baby), wear my hair long, wear makeup, spend a certain amount of money on my attire, dress with care, have symmetrical features and smile a good deal (even when I don’t feel like it - hi, social conditioning!). This, I believe, tends to lead others to place me squarely in the “comfortably non-threatening feminine person” zone...

unless I start talking about science, or photography, or any technical subject about which I have a certain amount of knowledge. I’ve noticed that my tone of voice changes, as well as my demeanour. I’m more assertive, more likely to argue a point and I’ve honed a style of retort that does not come at all naturally to me in other circumstances. I’m a lot more thick-skinned in professional life than I am in my personal one. I’ve found it necessary not only to project an “I don’t care what you think” attitude, but to actually believe it. That’s has been hard graft. It is one of the reasons I opted out of tenure-track academic work. I can’t distance myself emotionally from my work. I would find it crushing if my evaluation were strongly dependent on the reviews of my peers and not just my ability to deliver good documents and data to strict deadlines. So I’ve chosen/fallen into a line of work in which other people’s opinions of my output (other than my immediate bosses) have little to no impact on its worth. It lets me get away with staying in the “comfortably non-threatening feminine person” zone as well as minimising the angst of agonising over dismissive put-downs.

Perhaps, then, my initial statement wasn’t correct. It is challenging to be a (pretty) woman scientist. If you’re going to excel, it requires the acquisition and development of the ability to project complete confidence in your aptitude, as well as actually possessing said aptitude in spades (see: my female boss). It requires the ability to overcome the perceived weakness attached to “comfortably non-threatening feminine person”. It requires the investment of time and energy attached to maintaining one’s “prettiness”, including healthy eating, exercise and a socially acceptable appearance. And, of course, it requires the depth of study and breadth of technical knowledge required to maintain one's status as a research scientist.