Tag Archives: interview

S(Tuesday) Scraps 109


1. HOOPS: Bill Simmons, who I generally love, gets rightfully reamed by college basketball player Wayne Washington when Simmons refers to his dreads as “stinky.”

2. AUTHORS: Curtis Sittenfeld (Prep, American Wife) gets interviewed by The Rumpus about her new book, Sisterland.

3. NEW MEXICO: The New Yorker‘s Rachel Syme, writes eloquently about the hometown she shares with Walter White.

4. CELEB: I really dig this advice from Olivie Wilde in Glamour, or rather, this advice from her ghostwriter. Regardless, I’m into it.

5. MOMS: My favorite, Roxane Gay, interviews her mother for The Hairpin about how she feels about her mothering decisions, 30 years later. Should we all be so lucky as to have these conversations.

6. SPORTS: What does it say about you as a parent when you push your daughter down the path of soccer, dance, or chess? Apparently a lot?

Related Post: Sunday 108: George Saunders, OITNB, Ill-Doctrine, etc.

Related Post: Sunday 107: Amanda Palmer = awesome, millennials worry, email mapping!

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Filed under Books, Family, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Really Good Writing by Other People, Sports

So What Do You Do Exactly? Hair Model Edition

grace hair 1When I was a kid my favorite part of getting my hair cut was paging through those big coffee table books of crazy hairstyles. Remember when those tiny rubberbanded twists were all the rage? I always wondered, who are these people that waltz around rocking these edgy bowl cuts or mint-green stripes? Welp, turns out, I know one of them! This is Grace, and for the latest edition of my jobs series, So What Do You Do Exactly?, she will tell us a little about being a hair model.

What’s your actual job title? This isn’t so much a real job as an adult “extracurricular activity” [ed. note: Grace has a "real" job too], but when get hired for things I am either a “demo model” or a “presentation model”.  I mostly fall in to the category of “creative cut and color”, which tends to mean asymmetrical or severe looking cuts and colors not commonly or naturally found in human hair.

What would your title be if it described what you actually do? I work on event-based contract for a major salon brand as a hair “demo model.” That means I get my hair cut and colored by creative directors of different salons (basically, the top stylists and colorists, who set the tone for the styles that are “in”).

I think the most accurate descriptor would probably be “living doll”– my head and hair tend to be an experiment ground for whichever instructor is playing around with it that day. They know I’m quite open so I’ve wound up with pretty much every hair cut or color you can imagine. For public events that aren’t just in the salon, there is a makeup artist and wardrobe situation going on too.

grace hair 6How on earth did you get into this line of work? Very simply: I got my hair cut one day, and one thing led to another! A friend in college turned me on to this website where you could sign up to get a free haircut from an “apprentice” at a salon who was auditioning to be a full stylist, and one day I went to quite a fancy salon for my free haircut and the head stylist asked me if I’d modeled before, and asked me back to model for an in-salon training they were going to be having.
From there, I wound up doing a photo shoot with the same salon (You know those big pictures of people’s heads and faces up in a lot of salons? I’m one of them!) and some work as a color model for another salon. This was back in 2010 and I’ve been working for them regularly ever since. As I understand it, I am desirable as a hair model because I amiable and willing to pull off very creative work– I have very thick, dark hair that grows in stick-straight, takes color well, and I like to keep my hair short. I can pretty easily wear the kinds of haircuts people want to see as an example of creative work but don’t want to wear themselves– super angular or asymmetrical looks and “circus colors” for the most part.
grace hair 4How many different haircuts have you had? Best? Worst?
I honestly can’t say how many different cuts I’ve had– in fact I’m pretty much sure I’ve only had the same haircut twice since I’ve started (this December and January actually, when a stylist I was modeling for was getting really in to classic cuts “invented” by Vidal Sassoon, and I had the right hair type to show one, the five-point cut.)
I think my favorite was a few days before I graduated from college– I did a show where the stylist asked me what my school color was (maroon!) and what color the gown was (black!) and gave me these amazing angular bangs that were dyed maroon and intentionally super awesome peeking out from under a graduation hat.
The good thing is there’s really no such thing as a bad haircut because the haircut I get on stage will often be completely different than the one I go home with– they let me know when they’re illustrating techniques that aren’t “wearable” (say, chin-length wispy sideburns or bangs that cover the eyes) and are totally not offended if I ask them to change the cut or adjust the color afterwards.
grace hair 3Do you get to go to hair shows like the ones Chris Rock featured in Good Hair?  I’ve actually never seen Good Hair! But, I do a show every year called America’s Beauty Show at the Chicago convention center that is huge and really over the top, where lots of different salons and brands from all over the US show their work. The group I work for tends to be one of the classier ones there– cut and color with makeup and wardrobe, but no wigs, extensions, etc– but you will see girls (and guys) working for other groups with big hair, huge added-in hairpieces, body paint, etc. Shows are actually the best, though, because you get paid the most for doing them– depending on the number of days you work it can be in the high hundreds of dollars.
Sidenote on the money thing since I know I would wonder if I were the one reading this: There is money in doing this, but it’s not a living wage. Sometimes you’re just getting the free haircut (which if you had to pay for it, would be a $200-300 experience, so that’s nice by itself), but for more public events you do get paid a base rate per day or per event; I used my modeling money to pay for my books while I was in school, so it was useful income but not life-sustaining.
grace hair 5What would we be surprised to know about the hair modeling industry? Most people who do hair modeling are not who you’d be looking at on the street thinking, “Wow, that girl must be a model.” Hair modeling tends to be a lot more forgiving in terms of height and body shape/size; I’m only about 5’6″ and I eat food regularly and with much gusto.
You do need to be able to walk in heels comfortably, but the “model walk” that’s actually desirable is not so much a strut and hip-swag as an “I am comfortable walking in heels and can go in a straight line”. While I’ve seen a lot of the traditional super tall skinny model-type at hair shows working for other companies, the group I work for especially tends to just pull people that have the look they’re going for when they come in for hair cuts (like I did) or by standing outside of art schools.
Related Post: So What Do You Do Exactly? Tween Lit Edition
Related Post: So What Do You Do Exactly? T-Shirt Edition


Filed under Art, Chicago

Sunday Scraps 98


1. CHINA: Excellent long-form piece for the NYT Magazine about the marriage market in China. A huge gender imbalance has created a strange and stressful dynamic at every economic strata of society.

2. LENA: In this Playboy interview, Lena Dunham explains, among other things, why she’s pleased she doesn’t look like a supermodel.

3. JOURNALISM: Super fascinating look at the work of Bob Woodward. In researching his own Belushi biography, journalist Tanner Colby unravels the shoddy work of one of the most famous journalists of all time.

4. WRITERS: The relationship between writer (George Saunders) and editor (Andy Ward) is pulled apart in insane detail in this Slate interview. Jesus, these people are smaaaart.

5. BULLY: In the XX Factor‘s ongoing series about bullying, a current rabbi confronts her past as a member of a menacing tween gang.

6. GENDERMother Jones measures the voting records of members of Congress on women’s issues. Unsurprisingly, there’s a correlation with having daughters and a pro-woman voting record. Sigh.

Related Post: Sunday 97: Anita Sarkeesian, DNA exploring, Cindy Gallop and Ta-Nehisi Coates

Related Post: Sunday 96: Philip Roth, duct tape art, Playboy mansion visits


Filed under Body Image, Books, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People

Sunday Scraps 94


1. DIVA: NYMag counted out the most un-diva moments in Beyonce’s new HBO documentary.

2. GUNS: This sprawling ridiculous, incredible, challenging essay from the Center for Investigative Reporting follows “the shooter” who killed Osama Bin Laden as he reenters civilian life.

3. JOURNALISM: Did you know the Antarctica has a newspaper? With an editor and everything! Read an interview with him, Peter Rejcek, in The Hairpin.

4. CONNIE: My love for Connie Britton will never die. Apparently, I’m not alone in my devotion, at least, according to this NYTimes profile on the former Mrs. Taylor.

5. TECH: Stacey Mulcahy’s excellent letter has made the rounds this week, but if you missed it, read it now. Her 8-year-old niece wants to be a game-designer, so she wrote a letter to “future women in tech.”

6. JANE: This is a fun, short investigation into the life of Jane Austen. It breaks my heart how many of her letters were burned and destroyed. Sometimes I really do feel grateful for the longevity of internet communications.

Related Post: Sunday 93 – Guns, Atwood, visiting Chicago, etc.

Related Post: Sunday 92 – Tina Fey, sleeping portraits, Kenneth Faried, etc.


Filed under Art, Books, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People

Sunday Scraps 90


1. HOLLYWOOD: It’s the piece everyone was talking about this week, so if you missed it, play catch-up with the Lindsay Lohan/James Deen/Bret Easton Ellis/”The Canyons” how-the-sausage-is-made essay.

2. INDEX: This is Indexed blogger/writer/drawer Jessica Hagy is interviewed for Fast Company about how she found her 3×5 sized internet niche.

3. WRITERS: The Rumpus interviews Zadie Smith about her novel NW, and why she doesn’t write autobiographically.

4. TINA + AMY: How pumped are you for tonight’s Golden Globes hosting-duo? Not enough? Get more so with NYMag’s recap of their friendship.

5. INDIA: I can’t even begin to describe how dead-on this opinion piece by Sohaila Abdulali is, so I’m just going to quote it: “Rape is horrible. But it is not horrible for all the reasons that have been drilled into the heads of Indian women. It is horrible because you are violated, you are scared, someone else takes control of your body and hurts you in the most intimate way. It is not horrible because you lose your “virtue.” It is not horrible because your father and your brother are dishonored. I reject the notion that my virtue is located in my vagina, just as I reject the notion that men’s brains are in their genitals.”

6. FRIDA: A closet full of Frida Kahlo’s personal items has been locked and guarded for 85 years and has just now been opened and explored.

Related Post: Sunday 89: Avalanches, Mr. Wright, pickpockets and Matt + Ben Forever.

Related Post: Sunday 88: Russian gymnasts, the Rockaways, origins of “doubt”, Moloch


Filed under Art, Books, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Really Good Writing by Other People

So What Do You Do Exactly? Ski Edition

Julia SkiingYay! New year, new posts in my job series, So What Do You Do Exactly? Meet Julia, maker of excellent margaritas, leader of hikes, skier extraordinaire. She has managed to find that elusive combination of a) earning a living and b) doing her favorite thing all day.

What’s your actual job title? Communications and Marketing Coordinator at Beaver Creek Resort

What would your job title be if it described what you do? Snow messaging wizard, media hosting ambassador and news source for the ski area.

What’s a sample day like? How do you spend your time? During a typical day, I might arrive at work at 6:45am to set up for and execute an outdoor Skype interview with local news channels to show our new snow and to talk about upcoming events and terrain openings (It is very challenging to keep both the electronics and fingers from freezing during this process!)

I head back to the office and check emails to see if there are any urgent media requests; if there are, I respond accordingly with information, photos or b-roll. Next, I’ll usually work on any releases we have in the queue or work on a “Photo Alert” release with the best picture from the day’s photo shoot out on the hill.

For lunch I will usually hit the slopes and ski for an hour – you know, test the product. After lunch, I usually have a meeting, whether it’s a marketing team meeting to discuss where we stand on various campaigns or an events meeting to get details for an upcoming release.

In the afternoon I might also work on an itinerary for an upcoming journalist’s visit. First, I need to determine what their story angle is. Who is their audience? Then I tailor an itinerary, maybe including sleigh rides to a five-star cabin dinner, tubing, ski lessons and more. Once journalists arrive, I try to ski with them and tour them around the resort.

Which projects are you most proud of? I am really excited about our upcoming Beaver Creek Food & Wine Weekend event. We will have celebrity chefs including Gail Simmons and John Besh teach seminars and host intimate gourmet dinners. There is also a Celebrity Chef Ski Race where fans can bid to be on their favorite chef’s team and all proceeds go to the chefs’ charities of choice.

Which parts of your job do you find the most challenging? Or rewarding? The most challenging part of my is when there are crises, i.e. ski accidents, avalanches etc. Thankfully they are few and far between. The most rewarding part of my job is that I work in an industry I have been in love with my whole life and I get to talk about it and promote it for a living. A dream come true.

I feel like you’ve found a unique way to combo what you do for fun with making a living. How’d you manage that? Any advice? I feel like I am really lucky in that I get to use my authentic passion for skiing and experience in the sport to excel at my job. It is interesting to be on the guest service/business side of things rather than the consumer/athlete side. I never had any clue how many resources and people it takes to operate a ski area and corporate ski company. The only issue with having your hobby as your job is that your world becomes very narrow and sometimes skiing isn’t as fun as it should be because it’s work and not just for fun. Other than that, my job rocks!

Can someone finally explain to me how you make snow? Ahh snowmaking, it’s not as complicated as you might think. All it requires is the proper temperature (between 0 and 25 degrees F) and an air and water combination that depends on the temperature. The water and air link up to a “snow gun” and are combined so the pressurized air forces the water out onto the slopes and forms snow crystals. Voilà.

Watch Julia promote Beaver Creek!

Related Post: So What Do You Do Exactly? HIV Testing Edition

Related Post: So What Do You Do Exactly? Social Strategy Edition

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The Week in Feminism: Carrie, Kelly, and Taylor

I’ve written about it before, but feminism has an image problem. Perhaps we just need a well-executed PR campaign, some subway signs, some PSAs, a clever video series featuring a wide and attractive cast of celebrities. We’ll call it, “I’m a Feminist, and You Are Too!”

Three cases this week of celebrities discussing their feminism, or lack of it, are worth exploring:

The Good: Carrie Preston in NYMag

Preston, most well known for True Blood and a guest role on The Good Wife, just directed That’s What She Said, a comedy starring three women, based on a play written by a woman, that deals with sex and sexuality and, apparently, subways. She said:

“Movies don’t usually address any of that [references a yeast infection], any of the stuff that we do. Here’s a woman holding up a centerfold, shaving, trying to live up to an ideal, and you know she’s not going to. She represents many, many women in the world that Hollywood will never give a leading role to.

Interviewer: Unless you’re Melissa McCarthy.

And then they make an exception. And I’m glad that’s happening. But it’s very rare. As a feminist and a woman who believes in representing all females in film, I thought the only way to do that is to make it happen yourself. If we sent Kellie’s script to Hollywood, this would not be the cast. They would just want someone who puts glasses on and goes, “Oops! I’m adorkable!”

God, I love her so much. Feminism isn’t just about money, it’s about image, and autonomy, and understanding the pressures we put on women that severely limit what they think they can do and be and look like.

The Not-Great-But-I’ll-Take-It: Kelly Clarkson in The Daily Star

In an interview on why Clarkson, a lifelong Republican, is voting for Obama, she said:

 “I’ve been reading online about the debates and I’m probably going to vote for Obama again, even though I’m a Republican at heart. I can’t support Romney’s policies as I have a lot of gay friends and I don’t think it’s fair they can’t get married. I’m not a hardcore feminist but we can’t be going back to the 50s.”

This is a textbook case of feminism’s image problem. What exactly is a hardcore feminist? Bra-burning? Armpit-hair-growing? Man-hating? Obviously, Clarkson is none of these things, but neither am I, and I’m a feminist. Feminism, as most third-wavers define it, is exactly aligned with Clarkson’s ideals (equality and fairness for all, refusal to revert to the 1950s). She could be a huge advocate for modern feminism, but Clarkson is deterred from proudly joining the club because of her perception that it is full of “hardcore” extremists.

The Ugly: Taylor Swift in the Daily Beast

Swift just released a new album which, by all accounts, will fly off the shelves. In her victory tour, she was interviewed by Ramin Setoodeh. While discussing heartbreak and writing from the heart, there was this:

Setoodeh: Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Swift: I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.

Man oh man. So, so many things are wrong with this. On the surface, we’ve got the basic assumption that feminism is about men vs. women (which we know it’s not), that old standby that continues to rear its ugly head. Feminism is about equality and access to opportunity.

The subtext here is more damaging; “work as hard as guys” implies that in the past, women weren’t working as hard as guys, and all they had to do was man-up and equality would be theirs. The fundamentals here are that guys work hard, so they are successful, and girls don’t work as hard, which is why they don’t get as far. Forget centuries of discrimination, forget the wage gap, forget all that jazz. It’s just a question of hard work. This is the same bogus argument people make about black people or poor people. If only they worked harder, like those of us who were born with some advantages, they wouldn’t be quite so poor.

Related Post: Does The Good Wife out-feminist Parks and Rec?

Related Post: Just another story I’ve been ignoring.


Filed under Gender, Hollywood, Media

Sunday Scraps 76

1.VOTING: Slate has a time lapsed map marking the last 100 years of presidential elections. Oooh, watch the pretty colors change!

2. SMARTS: Atlantic interview with Randall Munroe, creator of xkcd, about his uber famous comic and his new geeky science project, What If?

3. BOOKS: How to pair cocktails with book club books, a guide from Flavorwire. We’re reading Boss in my book club at the moment, which I think requires a Chicago beer that has been purchased in exchange for a couple of votes in a tricky precinct.

4. MAGS: The Daily Beast profiles Vice, a Brooklyn based online and print magazine that uses raunch humor, on-the-ground cheap reporting, and multi-media to try to make millennials care about the world.

5. FOOD: As nutritional labels hit McDonald’s, do consumers care if their lunch is 1,800 calories? Apparently not.

6. WRITING: Words of writerly wisdom from Zadie Smith, whose new book NW I’m very excited to read.

Related Post: Sunday 75: black moms-in-chief, library tattoos, Republican history of America

Related Post: Sunday 74: Emily Dickinson, the end of the Kournikova era, Junot Diaz


Filed under Books, Food, Media, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People

So What Do You Do Exactly? Presidential Library Edition

For the second time ever, the featured interviewee of my jobs series So What Do You Do Exactly? is a dude! Yay for diversity! This is Kevin. Kevin works at the JFK Library Foundation in Boston live-tweeting things, writing things, planning things, and trying to understand why people are so fascinated by JFK eating an ice cream cone.

What’s your actual title? Communications Associate at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation

What would your title be if it actually described what you do all day? Something like Communications/Development/Events/Research/ Administrative Assistant. We have a ton of things going on as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the JFK Administration, so we have a lot of cross-departmental cooperation

Describe a sample day: My days can vary greatly depending on the type of project we’re working on at the time. Last week I got to work at 6:45 so I could shoot photos and video of Freedom 7, the space capsule that carried the First American into space, as it arrived at the Library. In general, I usually kick off my day by doing a quick email check, creating some content for our social media pages if we don’t have any saved, and getting administrative tasks — writing thank-you letters to donors or filing meetings notes, for example — out of the way as quickly as possible.

Beyond those everyday tasks, it’s hard to say what each day will hold. In the past few weeks I have spent afternoons building invite lists and coordinating RSVPs for our event at the DNC, writing press releases for the Library’s upcoming programs, editing our monthly newsletter, and live-tweeting a Q&A we held via satellite with two astronauts currently living on the International Space Station. In short, I’m either preparing for major events, or handling the events as they happen; but the events are so varied, I’m always finding new ways to be engaged in my work. I might interview the son of a former Soviet Premier next week, (hint: last name sounds like “crew shave”) so I spent my afternoon today writing some interview questions — and may or may not have stolen a few of yours.
What is the purpose of a Presidential Library? What role does it play in society? Seems like a relic…Though other Presidential Libraries have fallen by the wayside, the JFK Presidential Library and Museum has thrived not only as a collection of artifacts from the president’s life, but as a cultural institution devoted to carrying on the Kennedy legacy of civic engagement and social consciousness to future generations. (OK, that sounded pretty PR, but it’s true.)
Other presidential libraries have stayed small and local, which suits them just fine. But JFK Library has the benefit of being located in a thriving cultural hub like Boston, and can therefore plan programming for a large audience. We had an event in Charlotte this week featuring Deval Patrick, David Gregory, Chris Hughes (Facebook co-founder), and contributors from the New York Times and CNN. We house an incredible collection of Kennedy memorabilia, as well as the largest collection of Ernest Hemingway’s works in the world (donated by his wife Mary shortly after his death). The MFA, ICA, Museum of Science, Gardener Museum, and nearly every museum in Boston reach new audiences by celebrating the past while embracing the present. That’s what the JFK Museum is all about.
How has social media/technology changed museum culture? Has JFK embraced this stuff or shied away from it? Technology has only enhanced the Library’s ability to bring exhibits to the masses. We recently began a digital archival project, preserving nearly every piece of Kennedy media we own. We’ve used film restoration companies to restore audio and video of Kennedy speeches from unusable to crystal-clear quality.

As for social media, I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know our audience, and what kind of material appeals to them. It seems that posting archival material from the 1960s has been more successful than our present-day stuff. People just love looking at photos of the Kennedys or reading inspirational quotes from JFK’s speeches — we even have a Twitter account devoted solely to re-living the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy Administration day by day, and people love it. I spent last week trying to get our social media audience excited about our International Space Station event, but they were more interested in a photo of JFK eating ice cream. A photo of JFK and Jackie in Hyannis Port would trump a forum with Obama, Elvis, and the ghost of Henry Clay.
In a tough economy like this, why should people donate to a museum given all the other deserving non-profits out there? The mission of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation was first articulated by Jacqueline Kennedy, who, when describing the yet-to-be-built library, envisioned it as “a vital center of education and exchange and thought, which will grow and change with the times.” There will be ups and downs in the economy, but cultural institutions are crucial for a society’s growth. It’s hard to argue that the Library is more deserving than any particular charity, but given the drastic cuts in education funding and marginalization of teachers striking for a fair wage, I think any institution continuing to make an impact educationally and culturally should be celebrated and supported.
Which is the best Presidential Library? Having been to none of the other ones, I can say unequivocally that ours is the best. I’ll give the Reagan Library second place because my Uncle works security there. And I’ll give the Coolidge Library third, because whoever works there is going to be really excited when they get their first Google alert in 3 months. (Kidding, of course. They don’t have internet at the Coolidge Museum.)
Kevin would also like you to know that, “like a drunken sparrow, he tweets and tumbls. He also co-runs a TV blog he’s hoping to update before this interview gets published so he doesn’t look bad.”
Related Post: SWDYDE: Ambika is a social strategist

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Filed under Education, Politics

So What Do You Do Exactly? Social Work Edition

Welcome back to So What Do You Do Exactly?, my series on jobs in which I try to understand how other people spend their time. This week, I talk to Kate W, a social worker in Dallas who counsels survivors of domestic violence:
What’s your official title? Domestic Violence Coordinator at a domestic violence agency in Dallas, TX.
What would your title be if it actually captured what you do all day? I am kind of the renaissance woman of the domestic violence world. I’m an advocate/counselor hybrid. Primarily I do therapy and counseling with survivors, but I also do legal advocacy, employment advocacy, community education, fundraising, etc.
What’s a sample day? There is no sample day! Things come at me from a million different directions and my planner is my best friend. For example, here’s yesterday:
Started the day at a planning meeting about a fundraising/awareness walk that a bunch of agencies in the area are putting on. The walk, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, is to raise awareness about sexual and gender violence. Quite literally, men will walk a mile in women’s shoes (STILETTOS!). We already have a couple of police chiefs and the District Attorney participating. Tough guy cops in their uniforms wobbling along on red stilettos? Awesome. At yesterday’s meeting we walked the course and planned logistical stuff about volunteers, the emcee, etc.
I left that meeting to haul my you-know-what to my office to see a couple clients for counseling. Quick lunch with my coworkers, then another client. The last few hours of the day were spent doing paperwork (from the day’s counseling sessions), returning phone calls, prepping handouts for an upcoming training I’m doing on teen dating violence, planning what to discuss at the shelter support group the next day, and organizing logistics for a family outing (to a baseball game!) for residents at our emergency shelters.
Is there a typical client at your facility? If not, what’s the range we’re talking about? Our clients here in Dallas are mainly Latina. I certainly don’t think that has anything to do with the prevalence of domestic violence in those situations, but it’s a matter of culture. In Asian (and this includes Indian and southeast Asian cultures) cultures, domestic violence is considered a “family matter” — and women either a) don’t see it as a problem, or b) can’t seek help. In the latter case, seeking help or leaving an abuser likely means being disowned from both families (your own and the abusers)…..financially, emotionally, etc. In that way, the disparity is very obvious.
Aside from that, the range is huge in every sense of the word. I have had clients from  age 16 to 70, clients who have been in relationships for two weeks and clients who have been married for 30 years. It’s been a challenge for me to counsel the women who are old enough to be my grandmother; these women have so much to teach me. But, at the same time, they come to me with their heart in their hands looking for understanding and guidance. Oof.
Some women have masters degrees (or more) and make (or made….before leaving the abuser) six figures. It is alarming to see how much a woman loses when they leave an abusive situation. These women talk about how unfair it is that their abuser stays in the house, keeps his job, keeps his friends, etc. The women feel like they fled, and often left everything behind, birth certificates, pets, drivers licenses. Sometimes they can’t return to jobs, because the abuser would know that location. They are quite literally starting a life from scratch.
How do you separate the painful and emotional parts of your job from your own life? This is by far the toughest part of my job. My job comes with a lot of crisis intervention and truly heart breaking stories, but it is also interspersed with other stuff (like prevention trainings, community awareness stuff, etc.)  I could never do the hotline manager’s job full time, but I admire her so much since she faces crisis 100% of the time*.
Self-care, setting boundaries, and self-monitoring were talked about a lot in my graduate program [MSW]. At the time, they were the kind of discussions that made all the students roll their eyes and start checking Facebook….but now? I get it.
Boundaries are so important, and it takes a lot of self-reflection and self-awareness to identify what your specific boundaries are. I do not get my work email sent to my phone. When I leave work (even if it’s 8:00 at night), I need to be able to leave work. I do not listen to the news on the way home — music only. We also have a rule around our office that no one eats at their desk. Physically separating ourselves from our offices where we face all the crisis and pain is really important. We talk about stupid stuff at lunch–the Bachelor contestants or Youtube videos. And exercise is my lifeline; I count on the endorphins as my “reset” button after a tough day.
Lastly, I think I’m incredibly lucky to be working in a place where there is so much collaboration and sense of community. Whether it’s having someone to bounce ideas off of with regard to an especially difficult client, or my boss telling me to take a nap on her couch, we look out for each other. I never feel like I’m alone or unprepared for a situation, and that’s a big part of what keeps me motivated.

You went to grad school in Chicago with a bunch of Chicago social workers, but now you’re in Dallas. How’s the transition been? Culture shock is an understatement, personally and professionally! Most of the professional shifts have been little details, laws about mandated reporting of child abuse, details about how to go about requesting a protective order, etc.
In terms of bigger things, I think the two important ones are funding and gender roles. Illinois is known for how many state-funded social service programs exist. There are thousands of organizations funded by the state to do everything you can imagine. With that being said, Illinois is way way way overstretched, social services are not getting paid by the state, and organizations go under on a daily basis (with next-to-no notice). It’s a horrifying place to try to work! Texas also gets a bad rep for not funding social services. To an extent this is true; there are fewer funding sources to go around and the state does not pass them around freely. I am learning, however, that these funding sources are more stable than those in Illinois. So, once an organization has funding, they can count on that funding to be around for a reasonable amount of time.
In terms of gender roles, I think there is a southern mindset about male-female relations that is not as present in a place like Chicago. In my personal life, that means getting used to total strangers offering to carry my groceries in the name of chivalry. But in my work, the differences are more shocking and less charming. I have female survivors who have never handled money, never made a personal decision for themselves, and who have to grapple with the idea that they did not do anything wrong to warrant abuse. This idea of the strong male protector or “head of the house” is not a problem in a healthy relationship — to each his own — but when physical or emotional violence gets involved, a male-dominant worldview can make domestic violence even more difficult to escape or change. It is hard for me to help clients separate the abuse from “normal” dominant male roles (which don’t seem “normal” in my experience).
Is there one policy, law, educational option, etc that you would implement if you were the President that you think would severely cut down on domestic violence? Oh lord, there’s no clear and concise answer to this! Like I said above, DV affects so many different people from so many different demographics , you’d need 100 laws to even scratch the surface. And even then, it’s something that has been so enmeshed in society for so long…. I’m not sure any law or education option would lessen the prevalence. There are lots of things that could be done to protect those who do come forward, changes in prosecution practices, protection for survivors, educational or employment options for survivors, immigration policies for illegal immigrants who do come forward…..the list is endless and overwhelming.
*Go here for the national domestic violence hotline.
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Filed under Chicago, Gender