Carol A. Hand
The need to explain how things came to be is part of the ongoing challenge of being different, of being from a high-context culture. Today’s topic for blogging 101 is no exception. Why this name for the blog in the header? Why this photo? And why this blogging partnership?
I’m curious to know how many people have wondered about a blog administered by partners from different states, one who is semi-retired and living in Minnesota, and one who is on a faculty in Tennessee. We are an odd pair – one is “straight” (a funny label) and of Ojibwe and Anglo-American ancestry, and one is gay. Our friendship was forged on the first day we met and firmly cemented during the test of advocating for a student who was targeted by discrimination. Although we were somewhat successful as advocates, allowing the student to successfully finish her degree, our advocacy cost us our standing at the university. I know I would willingly choose to go down fighting for social justice time and time again. I am grateful to the friend who volunteered to take the lead and withstood the ordeal by my side.
Photo Credit: Cheryl Bates and Tom Bates – Graduation Day – May 17, 2008
If I remember correctly, it was a snowy day at the end of March 2008 when I went to pick up Dr. Cheryl Bates for our breakfast interview at the campus where I taught. She was one of the candidates interviewing for a tenure-track position, a grueling ordeal that requires interviews with faculty and administrators, a teaching demonstration, and a presentation of one’s research. As I stood at the hotel desk where she stayed during her campus visit, waiting for someone to appear, I saw a lovely young woman approaching. Instantly, I felt her enthusiasm, humility, and gentle spirit. Our breakfast meeting at a favorite local greasy spoon confirmed my initial impressions. We shared stories and laughed, and of course arrived just on time for her meeting with the dean. She was whisked away by the chair of the department to face this new adventure among strangers. I am grateful she accepted the position, although I know the experiences will probably leave deep scars on her gentle spirit.
Despite her many accomplishments and the crucial perspectives she brought to a homophobic context, she was quickly relegated to the margins. I remember sitting near her in a meeting while other faculty discussed how to respond to the concerns of the national accrediting body with the lack of content in our program’s curriculum on dealing with the “isms” – folks like Cheryl and me. You know, people who were Native or gay or Black. There are several encounters that helped me understand the magnitude of the every day micro aggressions and outright ignorance she encountered. Imagine having each word you utter be misinterpreted as a sexual innuendo by some of the young female students in your class? The same words out of my mouth would not be interpreted in the same way. And how about the eager candidate who came to interview the next year who sought her out to make a memorable impression in hopes that she would recommend him for the open faculty position? “I’m so interested in your research on transgender issues. I was fascinated when I read an article on the history of dildos.” Cheryl met these challenges and many others with humor, humility and grace.
We stayed in touch as one headed to the northwest, and the other to the southeast. When I began blogging with a different partner in June of 2013, Cheryl followed the blog and would share her insights when we spoke on the phone. My former blogging partner negotiated the technical aspects of setting up our site, and although we agreed to the purpose of posting pieces that challenged the status quo, it became clear over time that we had different perspectives on what that really meant. Although open to feedback and suggestions, I grew weary of hearing that my language was too academic, my titles too long, and my insistence on citing references was pretentious. The final straw was an article I wrote about caregivers that wasn’t “good enough to post on our blog.” I rewrote it in several versions and none of them sufficed. It was then that I turned to Cheryl and asked if she would read the three drafts and let me know if any of them worked. In the conversation that followed, Cheryl said “I’m still laughing at the second version. It’s so funny and it’s good.”
So, despite my technophobia, I created my own blog to post those pieces my blogging partner didn’t feel were good enough. Unfortunately, this move was interpreted by my original blogging partner as the end of our partnership and friendship. I was deeply saddened by the misinterpretation and loss, but I persevered through the first few months. I am so grateful for the blogging friends who supported me (and my former partner) through the rough transition. When Cheryl told me she was taking a class on writing html code, I was excited and asked her if she would like to partner on the new blog. I made it clear that we were both free to publish what we felt was appropriate, but to me partnership meant the chance to make the blog feel like her home, too. She was the one who figured out how to create the header, Voices from the Margins, that now graces our blog, and how to upload the background picture. It’s a picture that has special significance to her, but that is a story I will leave for her to tell – or not.
Photo Credit: Jill, Cheryl’s Faithful Companion – Bull’s Gap, Tennessee
For today’s assignment, I’ll simply say that I believe I can now figure out how to create a header and upload a background picture in the Runo Lite theme thanks to Cheryl. So instead, today I’ll work on overcoming my fear of widgets – maybe removing those that make the site a tad too busy. Someday I might even successfully tackle adding the copyright statement to the margins instead of coping and pasting it on every post. 🙂
(A final note – I would like to thank Skywalker Storyteller for inspiring this post. Miigwetch my sister in spirit.)
Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand, and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.