‘You are enough’

Andrea La Marre in this blog post reflects upon her experiences of speaking in a community setting to a group of young people on the topic of bodies and body image. 

I go to a lot of conferences. This summer I did the grueling three-conference circuit including QMiP, ISCHP, and POWs. Over the course of nine days, I spoke to some brilliant academics about my work, and learned a lot. I love going to conferences; oddly, I’ve come to love public speaking.
 

As much as I love conferences, however, I have been trying to break away from speaking only or primarily in academic settings. My focus is turning to ways to speak to people who I might never otherwise interact with.

 

Like, say… a group of Girl Guide Pathfinders.

 

A few weeks ago, I delivered a talk about growing up in a body-obsessed world to a group of community members. I had no idea that the audience would be mostly teenage girls, but I couldn’t have chosen a better crowd. It suddenly no longer mattered that my methods were verging on post-qualitative; my deep dives into Deleuze during the course of my dissertation seemed inconsequential in the face of a call to speak on a different level.

 

While I’m fairly new to the world of escaping academic-speak, I’m sure many of you are well familiar with this flip. With the need to distill messages that we’ve spent years crafting into elegant turns of theoretical phrase into digestible morsels. Not to dumb things down, but to make sure that our messages land.

 

So, what does one say to a group of teenagers who are, at this precise moment, growing up in a world that makes sure that many bodies don’t, and will never, fit? In a society that is racist, classist, ableist, ageist, and still—somehow, still—sexist?

 

I tried to make the message about more than aesthetic ideals, because the feeling of not fitting runs so much deeper than that. We don’t dislike our bodies only because we don’t think they are beautiful—though we often don’t. We dislike our bodies because we are also told they are not doing enough; that they are wrong and unwelcome. We are simultaneously made to feel like not enough and too much in this world. We are told that we need to continually strive for productivity. If we fail in our pursuit, we are not worthy citizens.

 

These messages seep in, and of course they land on our bodies. The world wants big things from us, while it simultaneously wants to keep us small. Reconciling those tensions is challenging when living in a world that keeps the surface level interest in the aesthetic value of bodies, the struggle for voice and representation materialize corporeally.

 

It felt important to me to talk about how systemic oppressions, like racism, classism, ableism, sexism, heterosexism all impact how we feel about our bodies with this group in particular because conversations about bodies with teens too often remain stuck at the level of media literacy debunking the thin ideal. And while debunking the thin ideal—and, increasingly, the fit ideal—is a worthy endeavor, media literacy is not immunity. I tried to highlight how even when we know we should not be swayed by the pull of aesthetic ideals, we may still feel crummy about ourselves at times.

 

Normalizing this experience is not about accepting the status quo—far from it. It is about recognizing that this sense of being ill at ease in one’s body does not stem only from not being a supermodel, but also from living in a world that constantly demands perfection and productivity, gives some people more than others, and then tells us it is our fault if we don’t succeed.

 

During this talk, it didn’t matter how I had analyzed my data; the teens didn’t care about methodological rigour or sample sizes. They cared about stories, and ways to move forward. One of the most poignant questions I was asked echoed a question I ask my participants in each interview: if you could go back and tell yourself something when you were struggling, what would you say?

 

I found this question really hard to answer; after all, who’s to say I’d have listened to the dorky grad student standing up at the front of the room? I chose a simple answer, which is much harder to feel: “You are enough, exactly as you are. You are not measured by how productive you are, how thin you are, or how health conscious. You are enough.”

 

I chose this not because I believe in some Polyanna-esque version of complete body peace or think that we can realize a society untethered from productivity discourses tomorrow, but because I believe it’s important that we start by believing that we are, truly, enough (and not too much). I chose it because whether or not I would have believed it is irrelevant. I chose it because I hope that it resonates with the audience—now, or 10 years from now. And I hope it is enough.  

Harnessing the power of new technologies – meme workshop at ISCHP 2017’s conference

In this blog post, Neda Mahmoodi adds a commentary following a workshop held by Neda and Glen Jankowski at the ISCHP conference this year in Loughborough, UK. This is an adaptation of the abstract submitted for the ISCHP conference. From this it is possible to get a taste of the workshop’s aims to illustrate the promise of doing research in engaging ways that use audio-visual textual forms. 

Meme 1

(Meme 1)

Time constraints, increasing job precarity, and a ‘publish or perish’ culture can lead many of us frustrated with the impact our research has. Traditionally, research and theoretical studies have been disseminated through articles published in journals, or via conferences presentations. Disturbingly, around 1.8 million journal articles were published in 2015 alone and yet it is estimated that only half of these were actually read (1). However, the rise of the internet, particularly social media, has broadened opportunities. In this year’s workshop sessions during the 10th Biennial ISCHP conference, Glen Jankowski and Neda Mahmoodi discussed some of the free and easy methods to disseminate research beyond traditional academic outputs, including the use of memes. A meme is a virally-transmitted cultural symbol, social idea or concept expressed in some form of content. It can be a photo, a video, a person, a fictional character, an event, a song, a belief, an action, a word or anything else. It’s social phenomenon of mass online sharing makes them ideal for a rapid dissemination of ideas in an open access way, and therefore one small step to putting our ‘work to work’.

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(Meme 2)

During the conference workshop, attendees took part in a fun activity to ‘make a critical psychology related meme’ by captioning presented images. Examples created by workshop attendees includes Mariam Mousa’s (Auckland University of Technology) word art meme of the apple (meme 1) that taps into the theme of mental health and social media. Elizabeth Peel’s (Loughborough University) meme (meme 2) of the two wooden men explored the theme of taking a ‘hard’ line  when ‘processing’ knowledge in psychological and scientific research and theory.

 

The workshop also provided training in ‘how to make a podcast’. In pairs, attendees were given the opportunity to create a podcast by drafting their own interview questions and recording one another. This activity was described by attendees to be enjoyable and valued, with attendees stating that the activity showed how quick and simple it is to make and share a podcast, or a meme. Engaging in the activity gave attendees the confidence and skills to deviate from traditional methods of research outputs.

Notes:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/half-academic-studies-are-never-read-more-three-people-180950222/?no-ist

 

Telling tales of gendered bodies: Professor Virginia Braun’s Inaugral

Renowned feminist academic Virginia Braun recently gave her inaugral lecture: “Telling tales of gendered bodies: A personal and political reflection on critical scholarship in Trumped-up times” or the alternative title: “Trump Stole My Ontology”.

Not only is Virginia Braun lauded for her feminist work but also for her methodological innovation. Along with Victoria Clarke (see below), Professor Braun is the co-author of one of the most cited papers in psychology (an accessible guide to thematic analysis) and the co-author of Successful Qualitative Research

You can listen to her inaugural below and find out more about her here.

Alternative link to Inaugral:

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Professor Virginia Braun (L) and her long time collaborator and friend Dr Victoria Clarkecit

BME psychology

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Psychology: A history of racism

Psychology has a racist history. There are many examples: how the British Psychological Society’s early presidents had explicit ties to the eugenics movement. Or how Black civil rights activists were forcibly incarcerated under the pretense they were schizophrenic and “paronoid against the police” (Metzl, 2011). Or how intelligence research by psychologists was originally used to show Black people and immigrants should not have the same legal, political or social rights as more intelligent whites (see Phillippe Rushton’s work published in 1990 by The Psychologist).

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Psychology’s racism today
Those of us in psychology today must be careful not to relegate our discipline’s racism to the past. Psychology still has a problem with racism. The people we include in our research, the authors and editors of journal articles we set are overwhelmingly White (Arnett, 2008; Heinrich, 2010).

Our reading that we set also tends to be overwhelming white, western and male (Jankowski et al., in prep). The problems with this should be obvious. With this reading, we’re overlooking BME psychologist’s work, we’re teaching content that is less likely to show how racism relates to health, development or our social world (or any of the stuff psychology professes to explain) and more simply we are not teaching the psychology of people but the psychology of white, western (and often male) people.

The ethnicity of the authors of the reading we set in our courses is only one proxy for racism in our discpline. Tokenistically including a reading because it is authored by a BME psychologist in our course is not enough. Our teaching of psychology needs to incorporate racism and its intersecting opressions into the curriculum that we teach. We will never be able to explain how people stay healthy or how a child develops or how mental health problems are caused without attending to structural oppressions like racism.

The BME Psychology website

Myself and other Leeds Beckett colleagues have therefore set up a website signposting to BME psychological and anti-racist work. We know this is only one small step towards reducing racism in and beyond our discipline. And so we need help. If you know any of the many BME psychologists we have doubtlessly missed, please add them to our archive. If you are willing to share anti-racist teaching materials or would like to use them then please do.

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6 reasons why we have an International Women’s Day

~Glen Jankowski
As critical psychologists, we need to be critical of sexism. Days like International Working Women’s Day remind us of the importance of feminism. Here’s 6 other reasons why we need International Women’s Day.
@EmmaKennedy

1) Because men are assumed to be default persons. This ‘Male as default’ assumption can be seen in the above where Judi Dench and J K Rowling only count as ‘women’ but Ricky Gervais and Ian McEwan get to be ‘author’s’ and ‘comedians’ Source: @ Emma Kennedy
More examples here:

gender flipping

2) Because of how sexist popular representations of women are. Including in video games and comics. This Gender Flipping example shows us how male superheroes would look like if they were treated like female superheroes Source: http://junkee.com/flip-it-and-reverse-it-how-to-fight-the-gender-wars/15081

mansplaining
3) Because lots of research shows men are more likely to interrupt, patronize and ignore women in everyday conversations. And yes this happens in academia. The above image shows mansplaining on Twitter where a man corrects a woman on an article that she wrote.  Continue reading

‘Autism has never caused me any pain – but the stigma has’: Interview with Julie Dachez

~By Andrea LaMarre alamarre@uoguelph.ca

This blog post takes the form of an interview with recent social psychology PhD graduate, Julie Dachez. Julie was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of 27 and has been an activist ever since. She has just earned a doctoral degree in Social Psychology (“Another way of looking at autism: a psychosocial approach”). She is the author of the blog emoiemoietmoi.over-blog.com and of the graphic novel “La différence invisible”. She holds conferences all around France about autism and the pathologising of difference and has recently been named personality of the year by a french newspaper. Andrea interviewed Julie by email over the course of December about the experience of doing critical research on Aspergers in an environment not always open to critical perspectives.

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Image from The Medical Model of Disability: http://ddsg.org.uk/taxi/medical-model.html

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Critical texts for those new to critical psychology

~Britta Wigginton (b.wigginton@uq.edu.au)

The field of critical psychology can seem overwhelming.

I speak from personal experience. I completed my PhD in a department that was entirely positivist (‘scientific’), with the exception of my supervisor who encouraged me, despite being in the first month of my PhD, to attend the 2011 ISCHP conference in Adelaide. For me, critical psychology has been as much a professional as it has a personal (re)education into the world.

critical psychology reading list

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To the CritiSphere and Back Again: What does it even mean to be critical?

Something I struggle with is feeling like I’m not a ‘good enough’ critical researcher. I am constantly amazed and taught by amazing friends and peers that just seem to get what it means to be critical – they can integrate neoliberal or constructionist theory effortlessly and seamlessly into a conversation. I do okay if I’m in the ‘academic brain space’, but when it comes to casually referencing critical psychology in my day-to-day life, I find it a struggle. It usually goes something like this:

Me: (Sarcastically) Well, better get that cancer screening done so you can continue being a good neoliberal citizen.

Other: Why is that neoliberalism and not just plain sensible? I think you’re being a bit dramatic here.

Me: Uh, because if you don’t get the screening, you can be constructed as being to blame if you get cancer…I think…

Convincing, right? And that’s just within the health sphere.


Image: Imgur

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Grant Shopping

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Guest post from Danielle Ferndale who completed her PhD through the School of Psychology at The University of Queensland recently. Her work focuses on the area of critical health psychology and her main interests are deafness and hearing loss, qualitative methods and privilege (and oppression). Contact her at @deafresearchau  Email: dferndale@gmail.com

Recently I was in a meeting talking about grants, and needing to find grant money to fund a follow-up project to the one we were currently working on. Except that’s not really how the discussion played out. Essentially, it became about identifying where the money’s at – e.g. breast cancer, diabetes etc. and how we can make the follow-up project suit the agenda of these funding bodies. This discussion went so far as to say, that while less prevalent diseases (or lesser known) or certain minority groups of people were fascinating, that’s not where the money is at.  This is not the first time I’ve had this experience.

Logically, I understand that in order for any research to get done it needs money. And the people with the money want certain topics (or certain answers) or types of research to be explored. So naturally, we make compromises on the population we’re interested in, the methodology, little parts of our soul etc. to accommodate the focus of particular grants. I also understand, on a human level, researchers need an income in order to purchase food, afford healthcare, etc.

However, on a principle level, I find it problematic that funding bodies dictate what topics/types of research are interesting, valuable and fund worthy. Less attractive areas of research, projects with “difficult” interventions or projects with “not-readily-quantifiable” outcomes (e.g., mental health), fall by the wayside. The funding system as I understand it, and I’m a relatively new player in the game of academia, privileges certain types of knowledge over others.

 

Image credit: www.phdcomics.com

As a newby in the game of academia and grants, I’m figuring out how to forge a career within which I can do “good” research, that doesn’t compromise the values of my population of interest, my principles (which I hold dear) but will also still be fundable and publishable. And I see a few options:

  1. Quit academia and pick one of the many back-up careers I have identified (e.g. driving instructor, movie critic)
  2. Suck it up and play the game by the current rules (pick ‘sexy’ research and adapt it to the trends, agenda of others) AKA, sell my soul
  3. Learn how to sell my research or mask it so that it is appealing to funding bodies – only selling part of my soul, the part that was evil anyway.
  4. Start a cult whereby, with likeminded individuals, we adopt the ideals of ‘the slow scholarship movement’ (Mountz et al., 2015)
  5. Change the system from within, also implementing the ideals of ‘the slow scholarship movement’

However, I am yet to figure out, how does one change the system – what does this look like? Where do I need to go to see this in action? Who can I look up to and learn from? Is it possible for an early career researcher to survive within the system while at the same time changing it? I think it is imperative that discussions on this topic continue, not just within the ‘critical bubble’ but in mainstream contexts.

 

The post PhD-thesis-submission funk

By Aleksandra A Staneva; University of Queensland, Australia; a.staneva@uq.edu.au

It has been 1 month, 17 days, and 3 hours since I submitted my PhD thesis.

A PhD study involves an interesting and unexpectedly non-linear process. Non-linear, because it does not happen independently, in a vacuum; on the contrary, it happens while life unfolds with all its messiness. People move, die, give birth etc. whilst your PhD demands your time regardless.

The final stages of a PhD usually involve a ‘meta’ approach to everything. Everything you have discovered in order to not only synthesize, apply and polish the final product – the thesis, but also to make a contribution, to be able to answer the very first question that made you go for it in the first place: So what?

During the last month pre-submission, I played on repeat this song, “Technologic” by Daft Punk from their Human after All 2005 album. As I strangely spiraled down into the hypnotic tunes of command-like instructions, music kept me close to the fabric of the process and almost provided a sense of eternity. By the time I was swearing off Times New Roman, size 12, for life, I pressed SUBMIT. The 2 milliseconds of an action put an end to a 3 ½ years of a process. A gasp of relief, and a slight unfamiliar pain.

Oscar Wilde sums it up: “There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it!”. This is also known as the Summit Syndrome (Parsons & Pascale, 2007) referring to the flatness and depression usually experienced after finally having achieved something. In my case it came when I was asked: So what’s next for you?

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Some things that helped (me)

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A first-timer’s experience in grant writing: Part 2

Recently, I wrote a blog about my experience writing an Early Career Fellowship for the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia. In the first blog, I told you about some lessons from this experience: follow your interests and don’t Google your ‘competitors’.

In this blog, I want to tell you about my final three lessons:

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A first-timer’s experience in grant writing: Part 1

How did I spend the recent, beautiful Australian summer, you ask? Writing a grant application, of course! In fact, I was writing an Early Career Fellowship for our National Health and Medical Research Council. In this blog, I want to share with you what I learned through the process of writing this application. This is the first of two posts.

Let me first set the context.

This fellowship is designed to fund researchers who are less than 2 years out of their PhD. The selection criteria is weighted according to research output (50%), research proposal and environment (30%) and professional contribution (20%).

My fellowship is about smoking in the home. I’m interested in how we can support families to recognize that second-hand smoke is a problem and to take steps to reduce exposure.

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The importance of Transgender Day of Visibility for health psychology

~Gareth Treharne, Department of Psychology, University of Otago, Aotearoa/New Zealand (gtreharne@psy.otago.ac.nz)

Today and evTery March 31st is Transgender Day of Visibility (see TransStudent.org or here). This day is around 6 months away from Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is held on November 20th and memorialises transgender people whose lives have been cut short (http://tdor.info). Both days serve an important purpose in raising awareness of transgender issues. Both days are pertinent to health psychology, but transgender issues continue to have very little visibility in health psychology. This oversight of transgender issues is sometimes backed up with claims that transgender issues only need to be considered when a particular piece of research or a particular health service is specifically directed at transgender people. I argue that those claims should be contested.

Today is about celebrating the visibility of transgender people. As a gay person I feel a synergy with this day of pride in being visible. I also feel a pang of trepidation at sharing that sense of synergy because today isn’t about sexuality. At the same time, I recognise an opportunity to contribute to discussions about transgender visibility from the position of a transgender ally because I know I can submit this blog post and hopefully it will be up on the website before people living in the Americas wake up to Transgender Day of Visibility. For once I can benefit from living in Aotearoa/New Zealand’s timezone where it’s always closer to tomorrow and I usually hear about international days the day after they’ve happened.
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Theses with a difference: Taking chances in psychology

Kerry Chamberlain
Helen OE

For some time now I have been banging on about the limitations of the ways that psychologists approach their research uncritically, and lamenting the way that so many psychologists simply take up theoretical ideas and methodological approaches from others, often without providing any substantial argument in support of their choices other than to point at references to published work as a (very weak) attempt at authentication. Doing research this way serves to limit ownership of the research, restrict reflexivity, and constrain creativity around what might be done.

So it’s time to celebrate some of those people I have been fortunate enough to work with – Joanna, Dany, Helen, and Megan – who have been brave enough to go their own way, take chances, position themselves differently, and work creatively in developing and producing their theses.   Continue reading

Is There Space for Vulnerability in Academia?

~Andrea LaMarre (alamarre@uoguelph.ca)

As a graduate student, it can be tempting to hide behind an armoured cloak of protection, pretending that things like rejection – from peer-reviewed journals, from funding sources, from research assistantship positions – never happen. The face we want to show is a resilient one: a cheery, go-getter visage that shows the world (or at least your advisor) that you are eager and willing to put in the time and effort required to complete and excel in your postgraduate program.

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Lately there seems to have been a turn toward recognizing the mental health issues that circulate in the academic world. The stress that can accompany hard work in academia or elsewhere manifests in myriad ways, from distress around food and exercise to despair and feeling immobilized and unable to do the work expected of you (and that you expect of yourself). I see this increasing openness as a step toward really addressing the structural issues that can lead to highly intelligent and motivated individuals bowing out of the academic rat race to pursue alternative options – but only if we move beyond an individualizing discourse that makes each of us responsible for pulling up our socks and stiffening our upper lips.

Despite increasing encouragement of openness and honesty about postgraduate mental health concerns, making oneself vulnerable remains the exception, rather than the rule. Our vulnerability is solicited out of one side of the policy mouthpiece, while those who outwardly express their emotions in academic spaces risk being labeled hysterical, somehow deficient, or otherwise not cut out for the rough and tumble world of academia.

The case for vulnerability in academia is a complex one. To truly let emotion into the academic arena, we need to build spaces where emotions are seen as generative of creativity and innovation. Unfortunately, such spaces require re-thinking a number of things that academia holds dear: the publish-or-perish mentality, the expectation of 24-hour availability, and even the rhetoric of “but you’re doing what you love!” In the face of the poor job prospects we’re repeatedly told that we’re facing, why would we want to lose face?

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