September 10th, 2015 | Categories: Uncategorized

I’m revisiting an old favorite feature of The Communicated Stereotype known as Thing Thursday. Today’s Thing Thursday is something that really gets me twitching. Check it out here.

Girl Genius

I have a knock knock joke for Lands’ end:

Knock Knock
Who’s there?
Girl Genius.
Girl Genius who?
Doesn’t make sense to me either. I just call a girl genius, a genius.

September 1st, 2015 | Categories: Uncategorized

I finally had a chance to read an article a colleague sent me from the Harvard Business Review called Reinventing Performance Management by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall. I’m not a fan of the viewpoint the article takes, despite the optimism of the authors. Despite Deloitte’s record on diversity, here’s why:

1) With regard to who conducts evaluations and when, Deloitte seems to be putting the responsibility on the employee to get the evaluation done because, they authors argue, employees innately want to improve themselves. They say leaders should be constantly evaluating their employees so they don’t need to have regularly yearly or semi yearly scheduled evaluations. Ultimately, a process like this is self-serving for Deloitte. It saves the leaders time to not have to conduct the evaluations. Plus, it puts in place a system that rewards high achievers or those who already know the system while leaving those employees who might be insecure or shy about initiating an employee evaluation for themselves potentially in the dark about their performance. This reinforces that those already in the know will continue to get access to Deloitte’s leadership. It also creates a system in which those who aren’t, won’t be likely to.

2) With regard to what questions get asked on the performance evaluations, Deloitte is saying they want their leaders to own their judgments of employees so the evaluations are not about what the employee is doing but about what the manager is doing. This new version of their evaluation confounds two different aspects of the assessment process: criteria and judgment. Instead of articulating criteria on which judgments should be based and then, as a separate step, making judgments about employees, Deloitte’s leadership team would need only make the judgments. These are the four questions Deloitte has reduced their performance evaluations to using a typical [strongly agree to strongly disagree] scale:

-Given what I know of this peron’s performance. and if it were my money, I would award this person the highest possible compensation increase and bonus.

-Given what I know of this person’s performance, I would always want him or her on my team.

-This person is at risk for low performance.

-This person is ready for promotion today.

Confounding ‘criteria’ and ‘judgment’ pulls the wool over the employee’s eyes by disregarding that the leaders are making the judgments anyway regardless of what the evaluation form looks like. In a traditional evaluation system, the criteria for those judgments is separate from the judgment and the criteria are clearly articulated. The Deloitte system would remove this transparency so that judgments are being made but the employee is not privy to the criteria on which those judgments are based. This makes it harder for some employees to improve their work, especially those who are less self-aware. In other words, the employee familiar with how to walk the walk and talk the talk of the corporate environment will be rewarded and those who don’t will be left behind. all the while, by phrasing this as a new employee management system, the company gains the loophole of never having to justify their decision making related to raises, promotions, etc.

3) Ultimately, this Deloitte performance evaluation is bad for diversity and for employees. Yes, it would save time for the leaders. Yes, this type or constant evaluation the leaders are supposed to be doing on a regular basis with employees anyway. However, for a company that wants to see sincere improvement in their employees and is dedicated to diversity, it will not allow for that. It would not allow for employees with diverse backgrounds- other than a traditional corporate training model- to thrive in that environment. Plus, employees who lack self-awareness on some issues, and are great in other areas, will not keep their jobs very long because they could be continued to be denied opportunities for raises, promotions, and so forth and never really understand or be told why in a concrete and unavoidably clear way. Additionally employees who are happy at a company but lack certain criteria to go higher within the company can also feel dissatisfied without even knowing for themselves why and, thus, attribute it to being a poor fit and move on to work at a different company they think is a better fit. The Deloitte performance management process guarantees they will get employees who look like them, talk like them, and are the kinds of people they want to hang out with. For a company who has potential employees clamoring to be let in, it’s a self-serving biased model because it is essentially an inbreeding model that allows them to weed through the masses while doing less work to get the employees they want most anyway.

But for companies who are not as competitive or who actually sincerely value diversity and the many benefits diversity offers businesses, the model doesn’t work.

1) Employees who do not come to a company perfect, and most don’t, need training and supervision. Part of training requires a regular, consistent, collaborative, and transparent evaluation process.
2) Companies who value diversity want the right person for the job even if they are not someone we want to hang out with, even if they don’t dress exactly like us, even if they talk the same way we do.

Most companies nurture employees. An environment in which criteria for judgments are explicit will facilitate this nurturing environment in a way that will ensure anyone qualified could thrive in it.

July 6th, 2015 | Categories: Uncategorized

Anastacia Kurylo (Ph.D., Rutgers University) is the proud founder of

Her primary research area explores communicated stereotypes and their consequences for interpersonal, intercultural, and workplace outcomes. Her current scholarship focuses on how stereotypes are maintained over time through communication. As a treatise on her scholarly view of stereotypes and a foundation for the perspectives expressed in her blog, she has recently published:

    The Communicated Stereotype: From Celebrity Vilification to Everyday Talk.

    The Communicated Stereotype: From Celebrity Vilification to Everyday Talk argues that a consequential interactional dilemma is enacted when people communicate stereotypes in everyday talk. The interactional dilemma is a result of the tension between a political correctness movement that prescribes against the communication of stereotypes and the benefits gained from communicating these in conversation. Despite the punishment and shame that befalls celebrities who communicate stereotypes, people continue to communicate stereotypes in everyday conversation often evoking little if any outrage. The process whereby the vilification of celebrities diverts attention from the everyday communication of stereotypes and emboldens people to communicate stereotypes without self-criticism. The way this interactional dilemma is handled in conversation helps to explain why stereotypes are maintained over time within a culture despite deterrents intended to dissuade people from using them. An appreciation of stereotypes as poor communication choices provides the potential for the reduction of stereotype use.

As a consultant and teacher, Dr. Kurylo has trained academics, practitioners, and students on a variety of topics including:

  • Intercultural Communication
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Conflict Management
  • Gender Inclusivity
  • Teamwork and Small Group Communication Skills
  • Leadership Communication
  • Workplace Stereotyping
  • Public Speaking
  • Anti-Bullying

To read Dr. Kurylo’s work please visit Academica.Edu or ResearchNet. Dr. Kurylo publishes in a variety of formats including:

  • books
  • teaching activities
  • book chapters
  • encyclopedia/ dictionary entries
  • book reviews
  • scholarly articles
  • popular press articles
  • blogs

Dr. Kurylo is a full-time professor at St. Joseph’s College. In her fifteen years of teaching she has taught at various colleges including:

  • Borough of Manhattan Community College
  • Marymount Manhattan College
  • New York University
  • Pace University
  • Rutgers University
  • St. John’s University

Dr. Kurylo has presented at numerous conferences discussing issues related to her four areas of scholarship: stereotypes and culture, pedagogy and mentoring, new media, and public relations. She studies these topics using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies such as:

  • content analysis
  • discourse analysis
  • thematic analysis
  • experimental methods
  • survey methods

Dr. Kurylo serves as a reviewer for several journals and holds membership and positions in various communication associations and boards.

In addition to her academic work, Dr. Kurylo enjoys creating mosaics, eating in cafes, and blogging.

Dr. Kurylo is available for speaking engagements and interviews. Please contact her at:

View Anastacia Kurylo's LinkedIn profileView Anastacia Kurylo’s profile

June 22nd, 2015 | Categories: Uncategorized

The tragic shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston are horrific. Truly, there are no words and no excuses that can bring sense to this senseless hate crime. Instead of providing insights when there are none I can offer, I have left it to a friend of the family and author to speak what so many of us are thinking but don’t have the words to say or may  not feel comfortable saying. Recently, he posted this on his Facebook page.

Lilly-white power rags like the Wall Street Journal can run their vampire mouths dry over how “institutional racism doesn’t exist.” But if an individual harbors racist beliefs or sentiments, the institution they represent IS racist, and will conduct itself in a racist manner. There are degrees of this, of course, from misguided race-based fear to ignorant prejudice to full-fledged white supremacy.

But as Jon Stewart pointed out so powerfully last night, African Americans in South Carolina STILL walk to work under the Confederate flag. They STILL drive cars on roads named for rebel generals. If these are totems the state’s majority white population believes in enough to let stand, those sentiments — be it a “appreciation of heritage” (bullshit) or something far more blunt and sinister — WILL affect how an adherent conducts themselves within the context of their institution.

This was an act of racially motivated terrorism. Period. That we’re so quick to chalk it up to the unhinged bloodthirst of some mentally ill, Apartheid-fetishizing lone wolf doesn’t make it only so. If anything, it proves how quick we all still are to avoid the dirty, ever-divisive truth: In a country where the individual is believed to be the holiest institution, institutional racism is not only alive; it’s thriving.

To view what Jon Stewart said about the Charlston shooting visit The Guardian.

June 17th, 2015 | Categories: Uncategorized

Thanks to the International Association of Business Communicators for inviting me to join their panel on Diversity and Communication to take place on Thursday, June 18, 2015 from 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT) at the American National Standards Institute, 25 West 43rd Street, 4th Floor. Unfortunately, registration is now closed and no walk ins are allowed but I thought  readers of The Communicated Stereotype would find the topic and the presenters interesting. The IABC promoted the event as follows:

Diversity & Inclusion initiatives are a staple of the modern workplace, but how exactly do we leverage them to boost organizational engagement and send the right message externally?

Join us on June 18th for an interactive panel discussion on the opportunities that Diversity & Inclusion programs can provide communicators like you. Industry leaders will share their experiences and offer practical advice on how you can support these important efforts, while integrating them into your daily work. Together we will help answer some common questions:

What drives the most successful diversity programs?
How does the employee base view diversity efforts and the communications around them?
What are the new expectations for corporate communications to support programs externally?
How can communicators leverage a more inclusive organizational culture for success in other programs?

Speakers to include:
Mac Worsham – Global Diversity & Inclusiveness Brand, Communications and Marketing Leader at Ernst & Young

Currently responsible for advancing EY’s global brand, reputation, and communications related to diversity and inclusiveness, Mac has held corporate communications and public affairs leadership roles across a number of multidisciplinary private, public, and non-profit sector organizations, including Deloitte, Brivo Systems, Cassidy & Associates, and the United States Senate. He has expertise in developing integrated communications strategies, high-performing teams, infrastructures, and platforms to advance businesses’ strategic objectives across vast global networks.

Sheryl Battles – Vice President, Communications and Diversity Strategy for Pitney Bowes Inc. 

In her role at Pitney Bowes, Sheryl communicates the company’s strategy to investors and other stakeholders, develops thought leadership positions on key business issues and trends impacting global commerce, and leads the company’s global diversity and inclusion strategy. Among a wide range of volunteer activities, Sheryl is Co-Chair of the Arthur W. Page Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and she has also appeared in a variety of publications, including PR Week’s Career Guide 2012, the Harvard Business Review, Time and Ebony.

Dana Green – Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Toyota Motor North America, Inc.

Dana is the Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Toyota Motor North America, Inc. in New York City, responsible for the development and implementation of the company’s diversity and inclusion objectives, the management of the external Diversity Advisory Board, the development of a Global Women’s Initiative and data management. Dana works with multiple Toyota companies leading the engagement of management in the prioritization of D&I strategic objectives.

Anastacia Kurylo, Ph.D. – President, Fortified Communication Consulting

Anastacia is a corporate communication consultant with expertise in conflict negotiation, change management, diversity and inclusion, teamwork and leadership, and emotional intelligence. As a subject matter expert, she has taught, coached, and presented at a variety of organizations and colleges including Marymount Manhattan College, Molloy College, New York University, Pace University, Rutgers University, and St. John’s University as well as various state and local conferences, the National and International Communication Associations, and the Tri-State Diversity Council.


January 30th, 2015 | Categories: Uncategorized

Ok, so if you think gender nonconformity is a perversion of nature; if you think it is against your God; if you think blue and pink are lovely colors and what’s the big deal anyway; I am not talking to YOU right now. This blog is NOT for you. You can go ahead and STOP reading this. There is lots of reading material in the world that I am sure you would rather be reading right now. It won’t affect your life in anyway to NOT read this blog. I won’t be offended. I won’t hold it against you. I hope you’ll come back when I post on something you care about. Eventually, I promise I will. I try to be inclusive. No hard feelings. Really. Have a great day!

For those of you who value or are advocates for gender nonconformity, please read this very carefully.


I mean it. Stop doing more harm than good. I can give this advice because I used to be one of you. I used to be pro-gender nonconformity and used to all the time say how things should be gender neutral.


I can admit that now.

I was using the wrong language all along. You can say “It’s just semantics” but you’d be wrong. At least in this case. I know I was.

So please read this very carefully.


Please, please, stop!

“Why should I stop?” you ask.

Because “gender neutral” doesn’t mean what you think it means. Sure the denotation of the phrase means what you think it means:

1. noting or relating to a word or phrase that does not refer to one gender only
2. using words wherever appropriate that are free of reference to gender
3. relating to, intended for, or common to both genders
4. noting or relating to a person of neutral gender, neither male nor female

But that’s not how you are using it. That’s not what you mean when you say it. You may, for example, ask exasperatedly, “Why can’t people be more gender neutral with how they raise their children?” You may say with frustration “I have a right to raise my child in a gender neutral way.” But it’s not “gender neutrality” you want. Really, it’s not.


Gender neutrality means that you will not clothe your child in pink or blue. It means you will not allow your child to watch My Little Pony or GI Joe. Gender neutrality means you don’t believe dresses are for boys OR for girls. Forget about ballerinas, princesses, and fairies. Don’t even think about cars, construction, or robots.

If you want true gender neutral then these things, all of them, should not enter your home. They should not be worn on your child. And your child should never play, watch, or discuss any of these types of objects or ideas. And if they drew them, OMG, it would be a big no no.

My Little PonyGi Joe

Eradicating these things from your home, from your conversations, from, at the extreme, the world would be your intention if you wanted gender neutrality.

I don’t think that is really what you want.

The problem with gender neutrality the way you have been using it is that you presume you can take the gender out of the objects and ideas that exist in the world as if we can remove the gender ideology from ballerinas, princesses, fairies, cars, construction, and robots. We can’t. At least not in the immediate future anyway. Heck, we can’t remove gendered associations even in a single conversation.

Some terms are just gendered terms. Google images of princesses and cars and the contrast is obvious. There is an association you can see and feel in the contrast between these sets of images. These ARE gendered terms.

That association can’t be instantaneously undone.

You might think we can just talk or yell at a person to stop them from thinking of it this way. Actually, it is quite the opposite. “Research has shown that attempts to suppress a thought can cause an increase in the frequency of the thought” according to Abramowitz, Tolin, & Street (2001). Think about it. If you are on a diet, don’t you end up obsessing about all of the things you can’t eat? So we can’t just tell people to stop thinking of these associations. It won’t work.

We also do not yet have the technology to erase gendered associations from people’s memories using a neuralyzer and replace them with other ideas. We do not live in the alternative universe of Men in Black.

“So, what should I do?” you ask.

Make a different semantic choice. In other words, use other words. Specifically, what I think you really want to say is “Why can’t people be more gender INCLUSIVE with how they raise their children?” “I have a right to raise my child in a gender INCLUSIVE way.”

Trust me. It’s “GENDER INCLUSIVITY” you want. Really, it is.

What you want. . . and what I want. . . is for our children to be able to wear whatever they want, play with whatever they want, think whatever they want REGARDLESS Of its gender association.

The denotation of the phrase “gender neutral” isn’t the problem. It’s the connotation of the phrase “gender neutral” which leads people to think that the way to end discrimination is to neutralize our gendered world “to avoid discrimination arising from the impression that there are social roles for which one gender is more suited than the other.”

Unfortunately, gender neutrality doesn’t and cannot exist. More importantly it SHOULDN’T exist. Gender Neutrality really means the eradication of gendered everything.

Can you imagine a world without blue and pink? A world in which everything is green and yellow is no better than a world in which everything is blue and pink.

Besides, eradicating gendered everything does not solve the gendered mindset that exists in the world. Instead, gender inclusivity is the way to go.

The inappropriately named Facebook page, Gender Neutral Parenting, is a case in point. Forget about the unfortunate choice of title, the page with its nearly 5,000 likes talks about gender inclusion! It supports a child’s decision to wear girls clothes and boys clothes regardless of gender! The site advocates that dolls and trucks are for everyone! And its discussion centers around educating others about how gender inclusion is positive and valuable!

Discussing “gender neutrality” like it’s a possibility, like it’s a panacea, like it’s what will end discrimination of and violence against gender-nonconformists or lower their suicide rates does more harm than good.

It doesn’t

It can’t.

Gender inclusivity does and can. We can embrace gender variance and gender fluidity, through gender inclusion. We can do that instantaneously. We can do that RIGHT NOW.

January 14th, 2015 | Categories: Uncategorized

For today’s guest blog, we are lucky to have a post by Jessica Beth Mayer, President of JB Access who is a trainer and consultant specializing in disability awareness issues. Jessica has led disability awareness training sessions and provided panel discussions for such prestigious organizations as the Museum of Modern Art, Chase Manhattan Bank and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She serves on the Advisory Board for Accessibility Issues at the Museum of Modern Art and is an advisor to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and has guest lectured for 10 years for Cornell ILR. Jessica’s topic for today’s guest blog is the Super Crip stereotype of people with disabilities.

In world of disability there are only three types of people. There are objects of pity, objects of inspiration and objects of super human ability. All of these characterizations are one dimensional and flat.

A super person with a disability aka Super Crip is someone who is perceived as being an over achiever, doesn’t make mistakes, who seems to be happy all the time and who is looked to be overcoming her disability. Plus, she never gets frustrated by anything, including her disability.

I have Cerebral Palsy (CP) and a super crip on the outside. I am in my own business, a college graduate and I do a lot of public speaking. I seem to not get frustrated by my disability at all. On the inside I think I have a pretty normal reaction to things that I find annoying.

When I was applying for college in the 1980’s one school made me talk to a psychologist before I was accepted. He asked me “Are you an angry person?” My response was no. I really didn’t understand the question at the time. So I get it now. He meant am I an angry disabled person? I still think the answer in no. However, because my CP affects my small motor coordination skills, I do get frustrated by certain things like typing, reading and writing. Sometimes, like most people, I procrastinate especially when a task is more difficult. This is one of the major reasons why it took me a little longer to write this blog. Historically, I haven’t loved the physical part of writing and the speech recognition software has trouble with my imperfect speech but lately I have found I am enjoying the creative and intellectual aspects.

Most of us have many issues going from family to work to finances. This is life with or without disabilities. The disability part just makes it more (let’s say) interesting. There are no red capes and no magic, just learning how deal with stuff. The sooner we all stop believing in the idea that people with disabilities are somehow emotionally stronger than everybody else, we can better learn from each other. What people with disabilities are usually better at is being able to figure out new ways of doing tasks because we’ve had to be more adaptable.

The pressure of perfection is too much to handle. Every time I’d go to conduct a workshop, I used to feel an enormous amount of stress to be perfect because I thought I was speaking for every person with a disability and if a client didn’t think I was great then the company would never hire people with disabilities. I no longer feel that way. Once I stopped trying to be perfect I am better because my humanity shows through. The little mistakes I make are funny. It shows that I am able to laugh at myself and then participants learn more.

For more information on JB access and Jessica Beth Mayer, visit the JB Access site at

November 25th, 2014 | Categories: Uncategorized

The compliment. The two officers spent considerable time today at my apartment trying to help me to resolve an issue. They listened to me carefully and tried to understand what I was trying to explain to them. They informed me of my rights regarding a larceny/ stolen property report and indicated that it was up to the landlord to file the report since that was the landlord’s property that was stolen. They explained that the item that was stolen was probably stolen because it was an old unusable fire alarm that could be mistaken as a real one and therefore be a safety hazard though the object had been there, as I informed them, for 42 years. They were patient and traveled with me to several apartments so that I can explain our unusual situation in the building that some of the apartments did not include the foyer space as part of their rental while some do. The ones that include it are clearly indicated as such in two ways 1) with the apartment number indicated in front of their door which is not the case in apartments 4,5,8,9. 2) with the foyer area being identical in the apartments that do not include the foyer in their rent which is not the case on floors 4,5,8,9. The division between the two types of apartments in the building is obvious and the second officer at one point confirmed that no one is disputing any longer that considering what they’ve seen and heard from the maintenance manager that the space is part of our rental. The lead officer explained very patiently initially that he could not file a report because the foyer space- in his view- could possibly not be part of the rental and therefore it would not be breaking an entry if the landlord’s employees or representatives entered it. I took the time- as did the nice police officers- to visit other floors in the building to show the difference in the spaces where the floors were and weren’t part of the rentals. I did this in order to demonstrate that the foyer area was part of my rental space so that he could file the report since clearly someone had entered the foyer space without my consent. During this part of the visit the police officers were kind in demeanor and generous with their time.

The complaint. The lead police officer refused to allow me to file a report of illegal entry. Understandably he wanted to speak to the owner to find out whether the owner knew who had entered the apartment. I did not have the number on my cell phone and was able to get him that number from the maintenance manager and encouraged him to call. During the call the landlord said two things which very clearly changed the demeanor of the lead police officer towards me. The lead officer reported the two things that the landlord said casually in the conversation in a matter of fact way demonstrating that he had taken what the owner said at face value. 1) the landlord implied on the phone that the foyer space by our 8th floor elevator was not part of our rental by saying the tenant “can use the space if she wants to, I don’t care, I want her to be happy she’s a tenant.” While this sounded nice this was used by the police officer to justify that the owner had made clear that it was his space not part of my rental. In speaking this way to the police officer the landlord lied. It has been my rental space for over 40 years and no one from the owner’s offices have ever disputed my claims or any other claims to that space from the other rent stabilized tenants in the building. By the landlord wording it in an implicit way he was able to persuade the lead police officer without having to actually make a legal claim. Therefore the lead police officer substituted his judgment – that the landlord’s implication was a legal statement- for the law in order to prevent me from filing an illegal entry report. The landlord never explicitly stated whether the space was part of my rental or not despite the police officer explicitly asking whether the space was included in the rent. The lead police officer assumed based on the implicit response of the landlord that this was the case when legally it is not the case. But the second thing that was said by the landlord made the situation much worse. 2) According to the lead police officer I was labeled by the landlord as “always complaining”. Based on these two statements by the landlord, it is no wonder then that after the police officer got off the phone with the landlord he immediately started to treat me differently. After the call the lead police officer was combative, patronizing, made jokes at my expense, and was sarcastic.

For example, he sarcastically said “well let’s arrest the maintenance manager since he entered your apartment illegally when you first met him” based on a comment I had made that it was a repeated issue that the landlord’s representatives had entered my apartment illegally and one of them was the maintenance manager over a year ago. The lead officer also accused me of trying to misuse the police to bully the landlord based on the fact that I had used the word “rent stabilized” once in the entire hour long conversation to denote the difference between the apartments in which the rental included the foyer and which did not. He created and communicated to me an entire narrative out of thin air of my tenant relationship with the landlord in which I was a disgruntled tenant who was mad because the landlord was trying to evict me. He claimed I was trying to bully the landlord by using the police department unethically to make false claims against the landlord. This has not been the case at all and actually other than the random illegal entries to the apartment over the last few years- which I have previously handled internally out of respect for the landlord and his employees because I could at least track down who had been the person who entered and why- I have had little concerns with the landlord.

I was so insulted by his demeanor change and assumption that the landlord was speaking truthfully but making accusations against me that that I even contacted the maintenance manager to whom all complaints are sent and put him on speaker phone (letting him know I was doing so). I asked whether he would consider me a complainer. He said no. I asked whether I was one of the nicer tenants in the building. He said yes. I asked whether I contacted him a lot. He said no. I asked whether I sometimes go out of my way to help him by, for example, contacting him when we had a flood in the basement a few weeks ago that I noticed and sent him pictures. He said yes and that was very kind of me to do. I didn’t even have the landlords number on my cell phone which is further evidence that I do not call and complain regularly. Nonetheless, the lead police officer had taken the landlord’s word for me being a complainer and a liar about my legal use of the space and had clearly changed his demeanor with me to see me as a ne’er-do-well rather than a citizen worthy of knowing my rights. I felt extremely uncomfortable that I had to be defensive and it goes without saying I at times raised my voice mostly when the lead police officer became more patronizing telling me how “I am a nice lady” and so forth. The lead officer’s opinion on capitalism, rent stabilization, and political affiliation aside, I had someone enter my apartment illegally and I was being treated like I was the one who had done something wrong because a landlord hurled false accusations about me and the lead officer clearly had strong opinions and stereotypes about what he seems to think are trouble making rent stabilized tenants.

I am a chair of the board of trustees for a school for special needs students; I am the copresident of the local PTA; I am a PhD with two published books and two more book contracts in process; I am a mother of two young children ages 5 and 7; I am happily married for over 15 years. I am a law abiding citizen whose family has lived in the same place for 42 years and there are no court cases or police reports with my name on them in the local community or anywhere. I am friendly with the workers in the building and I am the tenant the super reaches out to if he needs to let someone in the building and can’t get there in time. I am the farthest thing from a trouble making rent stabilized tenant there could be and I am astonished to be treated in a demeaning way by someone who prior to the call with the landlord had taken me seriously and treated me with respect.

At some point he told me “ I didn’t interrupt you so don’t interrupt me by talking.” The astonishing part was that I hadn’t interrupted him prior to him having said that. I had my mouth closed for the entire preceding time before and after he started talking. I literally had to ask permission to speak again after a five minute tirade about why the landlord had rights regarding the stolen property and that the landlord was doing what was in the best interest of the tenants in the building and that regardless of whether it was an illegal entry it was the right thing to do for the item to be removed so I should be grateful that it was taken. When I was finally permitted to speak- literally I asked and was granted permission to speak- I asked simply what are my rights as a citizen if someone illegally enters my apartment but doesn’t take anything that is mine. He did not answer this question. Instead, he once again referred to the landlord’s implication as legal fact that the space was not part of my rental- though the landlord at no point actually made this claim because legally he cannot.

In sum. The landlord did not choose to pursue a stolen property report being filed. The police officer refused to allow me to file a report for illegal entry. After calling the maintenance manager and the owner, we have still not found out exactly who or why someone entered my apartment without any prior approval or any documentation that they had done so. No one at the owner’s office knows what happened. My rights as a citizen have been taken away because of the stereotypes used against me as a rent stabilized tenant and because of the harassment I received from the landlord by his implying his rights to space for which he does not have and for labeling me a complainer that triggered the stereotype in the mind of the otherwise previously very kind lead police officer. I would encourage the otherwise very kind lead officer to refrain from allowing his stereotypes and prejudices against rent stabilized tenant to affect the way he behaves with them. I am sure both officers are lovely people and that the lead officer had no idea his demeanor changed. However, on my end it was very clear and very insulting especially considering I still have no idea who entered my apartment and neither does the landlord.

October 16th, 2014 | Categories: Uncategorized

National Coming Out Day took place this past weekend. The topic came up on a Facebook Page I follow of whether all homosexuals should come out. The idea was an altruistic one that everyone gay or straight should be able to say who they are and let the world know! This is an admirable idea but it’s simply more complicated than that.

You see, the problem is that I never had to out myself as straight.

Not once.

So why should someone have to out themselves as gay?

We have friends who some people are mad at because they never officially said, “Yes! Friends and family, we are a gay couple.”

But you know what, why should they have to? If it walks like a duck, quacks likes a duck, then it’s a duck.

If people assume I am straight because of how I behave, I think it is fair for people to assume people are gay because of the way they behave and if we get corrected in either way then that’s fine. But to demand someone out themselves so that there is certainty around the issue is a terrible thing. It places an unnecessary burden on a member of an already marginalized group.

My son wears dresses. I don’t out my son as a boy unless I am directly asked. I don’t walk up to people and say, “He’s a boy in case you were wondering.” I don’t hide it either.

But people feel entitled to ask because they want to make themselves feel more certain. They can’t handle the stress of not knowing what pronoun they should use, what topics they should discuss, what compliments they should give, and so forth.

Guess what? The same exact ones whether you think he is a boy or a girl.

Mutual friends say, “Our friends will feel better if they can talk openly about it.” They ask, “Why don’t these friends trust us enough to tell us?”

Guess what? They already did tell you with how they are behaving.

National Coming Out Day is important because it recognizes the difficulty people who want to come out face. But if you have a friend who is gay, looks gay, acts guy, and has someone who serves the function of a significant other who is the same gender, then your friend has already come out. You just aren’t paying attention.

October 8th, 2014 | Categories: Uncategorized

I’m a racism denier. I admit it. My first go-to rationale for why people behave like jerks is never going to be racism. I am an optimist after all. Maybe they just had a bad day, maybe something you said pushed a button, maybe it’s just their personality to be like that, maybe, maybe, maybe. I’ll try every possible option before I consider racism (or any other ism) as the reason for someone being a jerk.

My advice for folks who experience someone being a jerk is typically the same regardless of how they act. I was raised Catholic after all. I was taught to turn the other cheek and that’s what I pass on as seemingly sound advice. Kill them with kindness and they will learn that you are the better person, that it pays to be kind, and that they should feel bad for what they’ve done.

That doesn’t always work. I’m a realist after all. This type of response could even fuel the fire of that person being a jerk by acquiescing to the dominance jerk is exerting, allowing the jerk to take advantage of this dominance, and putting the burden of that person being a jerk onto the victim.

Rather than facilitating that cycle, I usually don’ take my own advice and instead use an alternate theoretically-based strategy. I am a theorist after all. There is plenty of theory to support that one particular alternate strategy could be more successful. Social Identity Theory in particular suggests that

1) self worth is a basic psychological need.
2) we gain self worth from the identities we take on.
3) our identities are tied to the identities of others.
4) we feel better about our identities when they match the identities of those around us.
5) a shared group identity is known as our ingroup.
6) for our self worth to increase we must highly value our ingroup identities.
7) polarizing ingroups (those group identities we relate to) in positive ways and outgroups (those group identities we don’t relate to) in negative ways allows us increase our self worth even more.

So essentially, we make ourselves feel better by making others feel bad. Hence, the jerk acts like a jerk to outgroup members but is sweet to ingroup members. If you can switch the jerk’s perception of you as an outgroup member to an ingroup member, then the jerk will have a vested interest in seeing you positively. This alternate strategy has helped both my myself and my daughter when we have been confronted by bullies.

When I was 13, I was picked on in high school by one girl in particular. One day she tried to get my attention by saying “Hey, Anasta, Anastac, Anastaia or whatever the hell your name is!” I responded saying, “Why are you picking on me when you don’t even know anything about me … not even my name?” It forced her not to see me as an enemy worthy of her contempt. It forced her to see us as both strangers to each other not knowing anything about the other. Certainly not knowing enough to bully. By redefining our group memberships to be in the ingroups of strangers she was able to see me as similar to herself, empathize with me, and gain self worth by not picking on me as she would an outgroup member. She never picked on me again.

When my daughter was 5, she was picked on in kindergarten by one boy in particular. One day the boy went so far as to rip up one of her newly made drawings. She looked at him in the eye and asked innocently, “Why are you always so mean to me?” It forced him not to see her as a weakling worthy of his disdain. It forced him to see her as a person that didn’t like people being mean to her. I’m sure he saw himself the same way. By redefining their group membership to be ingroup members of people who don’t like it when people are mean he was able to relate to her and take her question at face value. His answer was simply a shrug of his shoulders. Her response took the point home. “So, if you don’t know why you are doing it then can you stop?” Now seeing her as an ingroup member he was able to gain self worth by siding with her. “Ok.” He said and then walked away. They’d say hello to each other in the hallways for the rest of the school year.

When someone is a jerk, I always try to diffuse the situation not by turning the other cheek but by giving them a reason to view me differently ala social identity theory. I am a proactive person after all. Redefining group membership so that we are aligned with those who are jerks to us as ingroup members instead of outgroup members can be a powerful tool to diffuse someone who is a jerk. To me, it’s an early and simple step to respond to someone who is a jerk. It’s my go-to strategy before I assume racism, sexism, or any other kind of ism.

So, I am a racism denier. I can never know with 100% accuracy what are any single person’s intentions. I am not a mind reader after all. Rather than starting with racism as a rational for someone being a jerk, I try to exhaust all other possibilities first.

So I’ve been watching in the news the cases of presumed racism by the police against black males in particular. I watched one clip on CNN yesterday that has haunted me since I watched it.

Forget about race for a minute.

You are driving in your car and get pulled over for not having your seat belt on. How do you perceive that in your mind? Cop just doing their job? Strange thing to get pulled over for? Grateful for the officer’s due diligence? Pain in the bu** because you have places to go and people to see? Regardless of how you perceive it you pull over, wait for the officer to approach the car, patiently and slowly follow the officer’s instructions for driver’s license and registration.

The police office turns his or her direction to the passenger. How do you perceive this? Legitimate? Unusual? Bothersome? Laudible? Regardless, you try to respond to the police officer’s questions as does your passenger.

Your passenger, not you, is asked to come out of the car? Your kids are in the back seat. You haven’t been given a reason for why your passenger needs to come out of the car. Your questions aren’t being answered by the police officer. How do you perceive this? What would you encourage or discourage your passenger from doing?

You try to explain your concerns to the police officer. Maybe you mention that sometimes people dress up as police officers so how do you know he is legitimate. Maybe you explain that you don’t understand why the situation has become elevated to from a seat belt issue where you’ve complied with everything the officer has asked to a situation where the passenger is being asked to step out of the car? Maybe you explain that you have children in the car and you are worried about them having a clear understanding of the law enforcement system and want it to be a learning moment for them to understand their rights and responsibilities in these types of situations? Maybe you mention that there has been a considerable amount of violence against people who look like your passenger and without any rationale for why he needs to step out of the car you are reluctant to ask him to do so? Maybe? Maybe? Maybe?

Whatever you say almost doesn’t matter as long as you are trying to come up with strategies to explain your concerns about having your passenger getting out of the car. You are talking, you are answering questions, you are laying all your cards on the table for why you don’t think this is a safe thing to do. You’ve basically tried turning the other cheek and tried applying social identity theory by engaging in a discussion of your concerns as equals (concerned citizen and dutiful police office) about what you perceive as a dangerous situation. You’ve tried everything you could.

I know some people who saw the clip- and CNN newscasters mentioned this as well- may say, “Why didn’t he just get out of the car?” But if you think about it like I laid it out earlier it’s not that simple. If you sincerely believe that the safety and well being of your family is being threatened doing the thing that would put you in the most dangerous situation that you are in fear of simply isn’t an option.

Sure he could have gotten out of the car. He had the physical ability to do so.

Red flags were going up the entire time during the pullover to indicate there was something out of the ordinary going on. Indeed, the police officer ended up shattering the window and using a taser on the man. This suggests the driver’s instincts were not entirely off-base here.

Short of coming out of the car, they were doing everything else requested. They didn’t flee the scene. They didn’t act in aggressive ways in the car. They tried to engage in a discussion wherein they explained their concerns. They tried everything.

When all else fails, you’ve tried everything, and you’ve acted in ways that were reasonable to act using legitimate strategies to accomplish mutual goals to the extent possible, and you are still treated differently, then even I would say, yes, it’s racism.