Couldn’t fit me better.
Couldn’t fit me better.
I recently tweeted that it would be awesome if the next incarnation of The Doctor in Doctor Who was a woman. Not only it would be interesting as a plot device, but it would also provide an adventurous and brave role model for little girls, of which even modern TV has too few (especially as leads, instead of feisty sidekicks). After all, we know from the show that it’s possible for a Time Lord to regenerate into a different gender. I got many interesting replies, both on Twitter and Facebook (where all my non-reply tweets get automatically posted as well). Some thought it was a good idea, but the most interesting ones, were the ones who thought it was a bad one. Most displayed typical gender preoccupations when asked to clarify. However, the most interesting one was from someone I quite respect, who asked what is and what isn’t sexism, demonstrating an honest interest to understand. I thought it would be interesting to post my reply here as well, with a few edits and additions to make it more fit for a blog post.
Better to be slapped with the truth than kissed with a lie. ―Russian Proverb
Are you already nodding in agreement and admiring the wisdom of the words above? Most of you just kissed yourselves with yet another lie.
When asked, we will all confidently proclaim we want to know the truth “even if it hurts”. We like to think we’re strong and brave like that. However, it’s yet another case of self-delusion.
There is no objective reality. As long as you don’t find out about a lie, it becomes your reality and to you, it’s just as real as the truth itself. We don’t really want to know the truth, especially when it hurts. We just know from experience that falling hurts more than being on the ground in the first place, so we prefer finding the ugly truth out sooner rather than later.
We watch the Truman Show and empathize with the poor fellow. We watch The Matrix and concur with Neo’s decision to go for the red pill. Who wouldn’t? Once start suspecting you’ve been lied to, the ground under your feet starts being shaky. You expect the worst, and need to know the truth otherwise you are slowly driven to insanity. However, this has little to do with truth and a lot to do with your perception of it. Even if you’re fully aware of reality, you might start suspecting you’ve been lied to and it will feel exactly the same, especially if you’re generally of distrustful nature.
But what if we never found out about the truth? What if we spent our entire lives believing a sweet convincing lie instead of an unpleasant truth, without ever suspecting we’ve been lied to? What’s the difference between such a lie and the truth, as far as we’re concerned?
I don’t care much about the truth anymore. But if someone wants to lie to me, it better be a pretty damn good lie, one that I will never suspect or find out about. If it walks like a truth and quacks like a truth, well…
I’ve generally led a fairly carefree life. “Difficult times” usually translated to either heartbreak or minor everyday life hurdles. Up until a month ago.
On December 18th I found out that my mother was admitted to the hospital. Her voice sounded pretty weak on the phone, but she told me it was nothing serious, just her hematocrit dropped at 17. She had anemia for all her life and I didn’t know much about medical stuff, so I wasn’t worried. On December 19th, she was transferred to the best hospital in Greece and I started suspecting that a hematocrit of 17 might actually be serious. I took the first flight to Athens and went straight to the hospital, where I stayed for the next two weeks. On December 21st we found out it was pretty damn serious, and it had a name too: Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.
“A wife should no more take her husband’s name than he should hers. My name is my identity and must not be lost” —Lucy Stone
Few topics ignite the same passion in me as the one about spousal and offspring last names. I was always dumbfounded by the number of people who favor tradition over equality on this one, many of which otherwise identify as feminists.
In most Western countries, the tradition is that after marriage, wives and children take the husband’s last name. This stems from the practice that last names indicated property at a time where married women could not own any and were practically considered their husband’s property. Today, the Law in most Western countries, makes this optional, but still an overwhelming number of couples (over 87% in the US) opt to go the traditional route.
I was lucky in that respect: My mother kept her own surname and I officially have both my parents’ last names in all legal documents. For the past decade, I’ve been unofficially using my mother’s last name (Verou) only since it’s shorter, easier and has more history. Therefore, I’m grateful she insisted I get both, at a time when that wasn’t easy. After my mother’s recent passing, I’ve started the process to legally keep hers as my only official last name.
What follows is my attempt to refute the most common arguments I’ve heard against gender neutral last name habits in the past 10+ years I’ve been debating the issue with several people of both genders.
Last September, I was approached by Alex Duloz, who invited me to take part in his ambitious new venture, The Pastry Box Project. Its goal was to gather 30 people (“bakers”) every year who are influential in their field and ask them to share twelve thoughts — one per month. For 2012, that field would be the Web. I was honored by the invitation and accepted without a second thought (no pun intended). The project was quite successful and recently we all (almost) agreed for The Pastry Box Project to become a book, whose profits will be donated to charity.
The initial goal of the project was to gather thoughts somehow related to the bakers’ work. Although many stuck to that topic, for many others it quickly drifted away from that, with them often sending thoughts that were general musings about their lives or life in general. For me …well lets just say I was never good at sticking to the topic at hand. ;) The Pastry Box showed me that I want a personal blog so this was born.
Since 2012 is now over, I decided to gather all my “pastries” and publish them in two blog posts: I will post the more techy ones in my professional blog, lea.verou.me and the more general ones below. Since most of them were somewhere in the middle, it wasn’t easy to pick which ones to publish where. I figured the best solution is to allow for some overlap and publish most of them in both blogs.
Dumbledore: “I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.”
Harry: “You mean… that stuff’s your thoughts?”
— Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The title of this blog is a tribute to one of my longest guilty pleasures: Harry Potter. I was always fascinated by the idea of a device that you can use to store thoughts and memories and offload your brain. I recently realized: Isn’t this exactly what a personal blog is for? So I decided to use it as the name of yet another attempt at a non tech-related blog. I have no idea if I’ll manage to write here regularly or if it will die a slow death like my previous attempts at something similar. But I’m willing to give it another shot.