I’m not sure I agree with this.  Let me preface this by saying I’m an introvert with anxiety problems and a bit of a stutter, myself.  I don’t understand what it’s like to have a fear of public speaking, or a really strong speech impediment, no.  I am not completely ignorant, though.
I think teaching kids about public speaking is good.  Chances are, whether it’s saying a few words on a special occasion, defending your thesis, or making a full-on speech, we’ll all have to stand up and talk in front of people at some point in our lives.  And being a college student, I have sat through a lot of really terrible presentations.  And no, I don’t mean the people who were scared shitless.  I mean just plain old bad presentations.  I guess I would say: public speaking should be taught, but we should stop making presentations a mandatory part of other subjects.  Or at least not until students have mastered some skills.
We had a public speaking subject in grade six.  We learned about how to talk clearly, what makes a good speech, etc.  And we presented.  Not on the book we had to read, or some thing we did a project on for science: we were given a loose topic, such as our hobbies, and we picked something that excited us to talk about.  And as I recall, we did pretty well.  I don’t have a window into the other kid’s heads, it’s true, but we seemed like we survived, and it was also fun getting to know our classmates from the inside a little.  I think a class like this, combined with some drama training, could really help people.  Regardless of our starting level of fear, feeling like we are competent, feeling like we have the tools to do the job, decreases our anxiety.
It’s a contingency thing, for me: if x happens, what will I do?  An example: I have arachnophobia.  I avoid situations with spiders like the plague.  I don’t want to be anywhere near them; even images of them can make me feel panicked.  However, I live in a basement in BC.  Spiders happen.  A lot.  Big ones.  And when they do, although sometimes it reduces me to a panicking mess (like the time there was a huge one on the toilet paper-that demotivational poster is NOT FUNNY TO ME >_<), a lot of the time, I just find me a blunt object and smite them.  My first strategy is avoidance, but when avoidance becomes impossible, I have a backup plan.  Learning some public speaking skills, and also learning some skills to deal with anxiety when it happens, seem necessary precautions for the possibility that you might have to speak in front of people some day.
I know these things are not pleasant for us.  I know they are not easy.  I know some people will never really be able to do public speaking.  I know some people will call me an ableist asshole for this.  But I support teaching public speaking in schools.  We just need to stop pushing kids up there, and assuming they already know how to do it, or they’ll just figure it out.  We need to treat it like a skill that we need to foster in them, teaching it step by step.  And maybe we need to talk more explicitly with kids about problems like anxiety, and coping skills for them.  Educate teachers so they recognise when a child is truly struggling, and can try and help.  We need to stop penalizing students for not being natural-born public speakers, just like we need to stop penalizing them for not being athletes, mathematicians, writers, or anything else.  But that doesn’t mean not challenging them.

I’m not sure I agree with this.  Let me preface this by saying I’m an introvert with anxiety problems and a bit of a stutter, myself.  I don’t understand what it’s like to have a fear of public speaking, or a really strong speech impediment, no.  I am not completely ignorant, though.

I think teaching kids about public speaking is good.  Chances are, whether it’s saying a few words on a special occasion, defending your thesis, or making a full-on speech, we’ll all have to stand up and talk in front of people at some point in our lives.  And being a college student, I have sat through a lot of really terrible presentations.  And no, I don’t mean the people who were scared shitless.  I mean just plain old bad presentations.  I guess I would say: public speaking should be taught, but we should stop making presentations a mandatory part of other subjects.  Or at least not until students have mastered some skills.

We had a public speaking subject in grade six.  We learned about how to talk clearly, what makes a good speech, etc.  And we presented.  Not on the book we had to read, or some thing we did a project on for science: we were given a loose topic, such as our hobbies, and we picked something that excited us to talk about.  And as I recall, we did pretty well.  I don’t have a window into the other kid’s heads, it’s true, but we seemed like we survived, and it was also fun getting to know our classmates from the inside a little.  I think a class like this, combined with some drama training, could really help people.  Regardless of our starting level of fear, feeling like we are competent, feeling like we have the tools to do the job, decreases our anxiety.

It’s a contingency thing, for me: if x happens, what will I do?  An example: I have arachnophobia.  I avoid situations with spiders like the plague.  I don’t want to be anywhere near them; even images of them can make me feel panicked.  However, I live in a basement in BC.  Spiders happen.  A lot.  Big ones.  And when they do, although sometimes it reduces me to a panicking mess (like the time there was a huge one on the toilet paper-that demotivational poster is NOT FUNNY TO ME >_<), a lot of the time, I just find me a blunt object and smite them.  My first strategy is avoidance, but when avoidance becomes impossible, I have a backup plan.  Learning some public speaking skills, and also learning some skills to deal with anxiety when it happens, seem necessary precautions for the possibility that you might have to speak in front of people some day.

I know these things are not pleasant for us.  I know they are not easy.  I know some people will never really be able to do public speaking.  I know some people will call me an ableist asshole for this.  But I support teaching public speaking in schools.  We just need to stop pushing kids up there, and assuming they already know how to do it, or they’ll just figure it out.  We need to treat it like a skill that we need to foster in them, teaching it step by step.  And maybe we need to talk more explicitly with kids about problems like anxiety, and coping skills for them.  Educate teachers so they recognise when a child is truly struggling, and can try and help.  We need to stop penalizing students for not being natural-born public speakers, just like we need to stop penalizing them for not being athletes, mathematicians, writers, or anything else.  But that doesn’t mean not challenging them.

(via rock-virgin-deactivated20120801)

A Very Basic Psych Study

Halfway through another post, I realized that in order for the stuff I write to be accessible, I need to define some terms, and explain a little bit about how my field works.  As a disclaimer, I am a psych student, not a professional, so my understanding of this stuff may not be complete.  If I get something wrong, feel free to correct me.  But my goal is not to be the expert on this stuff.  My goal is to help my readers understand what I’m talking about, and hopefully make academic papers easier to comprehend.  One of the biggest problems with our field is that the information we discover doesn’t actually reach the people who might need it most.  Also, if you need me to explain a topic further, tell me that too!  Stuff might seem obvious to me that isn’t.  So.  Here goes.

When we conduct fairly straight-forward studies, we are usually investigating the effect of manipulating one independent variable (IV) on a participant’s behaviour, called the dependent variable (DV).  Let’s use the example of a drug trial for an anti-fatigue pill.  Drug trials, also called clinical trials, are where we take a drug we’ve identified as safe(ish) and potentially helpful, and try to find out if it is actually noticeably effective.  (This applies to both its positive effects and its negative ones.)  If we wanted to keep things simple, we would use two levels, or groups: the control group, given a placebo pill (which has no effect, but resembles the real thing), and the experimental group, who are given the drug.  We could introduce more levels by administering different amounts of the drug; this can help us investigate what the effective dose is (the dose that helps the most while harming the least).  But let’s stick with the two level design for now.

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Posted 3 years ago 3 notes + Reblog + Facebook + Twitter

This is tangentially in response to someone’s post about a strange woman touching her tattoo.  I’m also still mulling over the article from my last post.  I was feeling grateful that I have never been touched like that by a stranger, but then it occurred to me that that wasn’t true.

Sometime last summer, I was bussing home wearing a low-ish cut top and my ubiquitous key necklace.  I get a fair number of questions about the necklace, as it is a) part of a stupid hipster trend that some people find mystifying, and b) obviously a real key on a chain, rather than something created specifically as an item of jewelry.  I actually rather like talking about it.  An older man on the bus asked me about it, and as I was explaining, poked it, and then picked it up off my chest, his hand still touching my skin.

What I would have liked to do was loudly exclaim, “Whoa!  Dude!  Keep your hands to yourself!  You’re nearly touching my boobs!”  But I didn’t.  I just stood there silently, eyes going glassy and smile turning from genuine to strained, and felt grateful that my stop was next.  Why?  Partly, I was surprised that he had done that.  But mostly, I didn’t want to make him embarrassed, or the other people on the bus uncomfortable.  I didn’t want to be a bitch, making a scene out of nothing.

What.  The.  Fuck?  This man had already made me uncomfortable.  I don’t think that ‘he did it to me first!’ is an excuse for negative behaviour, but I’m pretty sure the discomfort I felt at having my personal space violated > the discomfort other people might feel from finding out that it had happened.  I also think it would be valuable for that man to know that touching me was an inappropriate action, so he can change his behaviour.  I would like to give this man the benefit of the doubt.  I want to believe that he was just very interested in my necklace and didn’t think that touching me might make me uneasy, and that if he was aware, he would have felt bad.  What I fear is that he was a creep taking advantage of social strictures, which promote silence and passivity, to perv on a young woman.  Why do I fear this?  Because this isn’t the first time I’ve encountered stupid shit like this.

You want a list?  No?  Too bad.  Let’s get our uncomfortable on!

  • The father of some of the children I babysat often commented on my appearance, talked about inappropriate things like drug use with me, and once asked on behalf of his “friend,” who thought I was very attractive, if I had a boyfriend.
  • When my mother got me to show a self portrait to at least two of our male family friends, the first thing out of their mouths related to my breasts.  I think “Hey, nice rack!” was the gist of what one of them said.
  • My aunt regularly comes out with things like what she said the day after I had been seriously injured at a concert: “Nice bruise!  It matches your hair.  Hey, it’s like you brought it upon yourself!”  (Just to show I don’t think this stuff is exclusive to men and sexuality-it’s just easier to think of concrete examples of that.)
  • Multiple (mostly male) friends have ‘accidentally’ touched my breasts, including ‘accidentally’ cupping and stroking it under my shirt.
  • A couple of us were at a bar, and some brodouches were hitting on my (thin, model-gorgeous) friends, and then turned to me, my sister, and my bff (who are all lovely, curvaceous hotties, but…) and sarcastically said, “You guys look great, too!”
  • Same bar, but different night and different group of brodouches: one of them ‘accidentally’ poured his water down my back.  (Although I believe I did eventually go tell the bouncer, not that there was much he could do.)

There is an entire category of human interaction in which we balance vagueness against directness, so that we communicate our actual intentions while still allowing everyone to pretend nothing of the sort was going on.  Steven Pinker does a comprehensive job of explaining why this is advantageous here: Language as a Window into Human Nature.  Seriously, go watch it.  Pinker says this is why we flirt, rather than just say, “Hey, I think you’re hot, let’s bone!”  But the same social rules that save us from the embarrassment of hearing the blunt reply, “No, I think you are repulsive, and I’d much rather go home and look at the internet,” also kept me from saying or doing anything in the situations I’ve described.  Because if I did, the person could just turn around and claim that that’s not what they meant at all, that I am being oversensitive, that I should take it as a compliment.

This is the problem with Pinker’s “indirect speech acts.”  I know and they know what their true intent was, but the words, the closest thing to physical evidence we have here, don’t necessarily reflect that.  The only evidence I have is that I felt creeped out, I felt unsafe, I felt hurt.  And particularly because I am young and female, it is very easy to discredit my perceptions.  Further, we the group don’t want to have to get involved.  We know people often don’t involve themselves in other’s problems (go look up ‘bystander effect’), but why?

There’s a pretty self-explanatory survival instinct thing going on, but it’s more than that.  I would argue that we resent having to care about strangers, and we even resent acknowledging that bad things happen at all.  We like to maintain certain fantasies, about what happens in the world, who it happens to, and under what circumstances.  My fear was that, if I spoke up on the bus, resentment would win out over sympathy in people’s minds.  ’Clueless, nice old man vs. sensationalizing, overreacting bitch’ would win out over ‘handsy jerk vs. nice young woman’.  That people would turn their censure on me for forcing them to recognize something unpleasant about men and women, not in the abstract but in the real world, right in front of their eyes.  And things are further complicated when it’s someone we know, not a stranger on the bus, and we may have to integrate the idea that our friend is maybe not always a good person.

I think it would be a shame to completely remove obliqueness from human communication.  We’d lose some of the complexity that makes human interaction exciting, as well as a lot of excellent comedy.  And yes, I think the man on the bus was probably just clueless; we’ve all done something wrong without realizing it at some point.  But we should try to make it okay for people to speak up, and not worry that they will be further attacked.  And on the occasions when we do feel the urge to use vagueness to get away with saying or doing something ‘wrong’, maybe we should stop for a moment.  Maybe we should consider that if we don’t want to do it directly, if we think there would be negative consequences, maybe it’s not something we should be doing at all.

Posted 3 years ago 1 note + Reblog + Facebook + Twitter

scary-monster:

“So if you speak to a woman who is otherwise occupied, you’re sending a subtle message. It is that your desire to interact trumps her right to be left alone. If you pursue a conversation when she’s tried to cut it off, you send a message. It is that your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone. And each of those messages indicates that you believe your desires are a legitimate reason to override her rights.”

Schrödinger’s Rapist (via petitefeministe)

If you haven’t read this piece, it is truly fantastic, and really illuminates how impossible it is to separate any individual interaction from a lifetime of experiences.

(via annie-razorblade-kroy)

So much of this.

It might be a bit de-raily but it’s like there’s this total failure to realise socially that someone who is otherwise occupied is in fact otherwise occupied, not just passing time waiting for someone to come along and interact with them; furthermore we’re socially conditioned to be polite about this to the point of not standing up for our right to be left alone. 

It also plays into extrovert privilege.  Extroversion is the default.  Wanting to be left alone is a sign of a diseased or scheming mind, or a mentally unhealthy person; solitude is a condition to be remedied, even if it’s productive solitude.

This is of course, sadly and infuriatingly, especially true of women.  If a person perceived as male insists on being left alone, usually people will huff off and grumble about what a stick in the mud/grump/whatever he is, but if a woman tries to you can just stand back and watch the drama unfold as people decide she is a cold-blooded bitch or mentally unstable or otherwise a Huge Fucking Problem when all she wants is to be left the goddamn hell alone.

In conclusion, I agree that the perception (especially of men toward people perceived as female) that the desires of a person who wishes to interact override the rights of a person who doesn’t is deeply, deeply fucked up, and it seems likely that such invasiveness is in fact contributary toward/indicative of rape culture.

Likelikelike!  Just to further derail this, I feel like this fits in with the Nostalgia Objection to mp3players/cell phones/portable gaming, etc.  I spend a lot of time around ageing folkies and choralists, and so I hear a lot of censure of my generation’s fondness for technology.  Things like how listening to my music is cutting me off from the BEAUTIES of the NATURAL WORLD, which are totally in abundance on the two same boring city blocks I walk to and from the bus on (just kidding, this is Victoria and they are beautiful).  It’s true; why would I listen to my music, when I could hear the sultry sounds of traffic, rising in the petulant wail of an ambulance, the rousing hockey game floating out someone’s window, or the haunting, echoing cry of ‘ACK!’ from my neighbor?  Anyway, putting THAT aside…

One of the things I hear pretty often is, “I see all these kids on the bus/at the bus stop, and they are all doing things on their phones; no one is talking to each other.  What’s up with that?”  The main problem people seem to have with this behaviour is, again, this idea that we should all be chatting with each other, like in the Good Old Days which totally existed, or we will become socially stunted mutants or something.

Nevermind that people have always done things like read in public spaces, indicating they do not want to be disturbed.  One of my biggest annoyances is that the very people who are condemning us are responsible for creating this environment in the first place.  Obviously, we kids did not invent the cell phone, or any of the other technological demons; you guys did.  We’ll get around to making some of our own, I’m sure.  But more important than giving us the means to avoid each other, you raised us in a culture of Stranger Danger.  You taught us not to talk to people we don’t know.  If someone wanted to discuss the harmful impact this has had on recent generation’s social interactions, I’d be all ears.

I definitely think that social skills are important (yes, even for us introverts, so stop grumbling), and the inane small-talk we have with strangers is actually kind of good for our emotional health.  I also think that my generation, and the millenials following us, are learning to do these things.  But we are also learning whole new sets of social skills, such as how to clearly communicate emotion and intent in the absence of body language and tone, or deftly use a variety of mediums to connect with others and express ourselves.  We have created and learned entire new languages.  We are masters of social skills that academics don’t even have words for yet.  Please try to support us in mastering all of these skills, old and new, and acknowledge that they are all necessary in the adult world we are and will be entering.

But what are we actually doing on our cellphones on the bus?  What purpose does this serve, beyond contributing to the demise of Western civilization?  It is not so much the purpose of the cell phone, as the purpose of the bus, which is so much more than transportation to me.  It is a place to study, craft, read, get one last kiss in, eat, sleep, draw, catch up on the internets, apply makeup, game, talk to friends, or spend ten minutes not really thinking about anything.  The bus to school is for waking up and finishing any neglected tasks, and the bus home is for winding down and planning (many cellphones have calendars).  You are not observing us in an environment we perceive as primarily social. If you were, you might still see us using our phones (mind your confirmation bias, though!), but overall, I think you would see more old school social behaviour when we are, say, in a shop, out with friends, attending class and extra-curricular activities, or patiently listening to you insult our world.

I wish people would respect my desire not to talk to them.  I wish people would respect my greater interest in my tumblr feed than watching that same apartment complex roll by the window.  I do wish that my generation, introvert and extrovert alike, will understand the value of social interaction.  I would love it if there were more (non bar) environments explicitly set up for chatting with new people, like the set up in some French restaurants, where multiple parties are seated around large tables.  I suppose this runs the risk of doing the same thing to casual socializing that relegating it to bars and clubs has done for drinking alcohol in our culture, but eh…  I’m going to shut up, now.

Posted 3 years ago 942 notes + Reblog + Facebook + Twitter