Empathetic Ethnography

It is 2020…100 years of women voting in this country.  As we look back to notable moments like this in history, we celebrate women leaders and acknowledge that the path to gender equality has not been inclusive and we are still on it.  For that reason, the Change Matrix team is beginning a series of personal essays about women.  They might be women we know who were models or mentors and influenced us as professionals.  They might be women whose work we have loved and integrated into our own.  They might be about our identification as women through a cultural lens.

KRISTIN

Arlie Hochschild is an American writer and professor emeritus of sociology at UC Berkley, most known for her recent publication: Strangers in their own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. Her book follows her deep ethnographical study as she lived in southern Louisiana for five years engaging with Tea Party voters to better understand their perspectives, especially around this perceived political conundrum: they understand that the chemical and oil companies have destroyed their environment and sometimes their lives, but they remain ardent defenders of free market capitalism.

This book shifted many of my political views in the years since the 2016 election, especially in terms of seeing things from another viewpoint. Growing up in very conservative Oklahoma, many of the people Hochschild writes about from Louisiana in her book remind me of much of my upbringing and viewpoints I am very familiar with – passionately kind, ceaselessly committed to community and family values, and very put off by government encroaching upon personal and professional livelihoods. Still, Hochschild, herself a ‘typical liberal’ from Berkley, immerses herself into their world to better understand what she calls the ‘deep story’ of her fellow Americans. She eloquently traces the nuances of folks’ beliefs, debunking typical reports of ‘the right’ that are limiting, judgmental, and paint a picture of strictly red vs. blue without nod to the vast land in between. Her book and subsequent speeches about it have inspired me to remember my own roots, recall viewpoints I’m not exposed to as much anymore now living in Colorado, and most of all to remember the utmost value to listen to each other and better understand.

Arlie inspires me as a sociologist, and especially with her fascination for how people spend their lives and make their decisions. She approaches this with empathy and an open ear, rather than a predetermined agenda to tell a story about others. Her book was timely in 2016, and remains so as we face a pandemic that is already starting to be reported on in a strictly red/blue divide. Now more than ever, she and her book are a reminder to me to keep listening, keep empathy and humility at the forefront, and remember that better understanding would benefit us all.

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Lady of the Lamp

It is 2020…100 years of women voting in this country.  As we look back to notable moments like this in history, we celebrate women leaders and acknowledge that the path to gender equality has not been inclusive and we are still on it.  For that reason, the Change Matrix team is beginning a series of personal essays about women.  They might be women we know who were models or mentors and influenced us as professionals.  They might be women whose work we have loved and integrated into our own.  They might be about our identification as women through a cultural lens.

ALICE

It’s 2020, a time where so many amazing and inspiring women have come before me. After thinking for a long time on a woman who inspired me professionally, I decided to choose Florence Nightingale as she was the first to inspire me professionally. When I was in third grade, we had to pick a notable history figure to write a report on. I stumbled on Florence Nightingale “Lady with the Lamp,”, and she was who I chose to write my report on. She had modernized nursing during a time where women were looked down upon.

Florence Nightingale was born into a wealthy family, and grew up with a good education. Even being in a higher class, she found passion in helping the wounded at a very young age. Some of the practices she implemented heavily in hospitals at the time are still followed to this day. For example, Nightingale implemented handwashing and other hygiene practices during the Crimean War the war hospitals in which she worked. It is believed that the death rate went down drastically in hospitals that she worked at because of her implementations.

Her courage and passion to help the wounded inspired me at a young age to also work in the health field. I wanted to become a doctor after learning about her in third grade, and I kept with that goal all the way to university. Once in university though, I fell in love with Public Health, which is also in the health sector. The more I became immersed in my classes, I realized that a lot of what Florence Nightingale practiced was public health, something I find very cool. Florence Nightingale was my catalyst, my inspiration for where I am today.

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A Woman of Firsts

It is 2020…100 years of women voting in this country.  As we look back to notable moments like this in history, we celebrate women leaders and acknowledge that the path to gender equality has not been inclusive and we are still on it.  For that reason, the Change Matrix team is beginning a series of personal essays about women.  They might be women we know who were models or mentors and influenced us as professionals.  They might be women whose work we have loved and integrated into our own.  They might be about our identification as women through a cultural lens.

Jennifer

Marie Curie, a physicist and chemist, was an amazing individual who received international acclaim for her contributions in both fields, including two Nobel prizes.

She faced onslaught regarding her knowledge and struggled to make herself known, just because she was a woman. Despite the reservations people had in terms of her work, she emerged victorious when they had to agree to the by-product of her strong and capable mind. Her various contributions made her the pioneer researcher in radioactivity. What lies on the other side of her multiple achievements is her inherent ability to never give up, her perseverance to be made known and recognized, and fueled by the desire to know everything and impart it to the world.

I strongly admire her strong sense of self-worth. She is the source of my inspiration whenever I feel my dedication breaking down, I think of her perseverance and get right up. In my opinion, curiosity of the human mind is something that works wonders. For if one is not curious about the wonders around them and just resigns to the daily monotony of life, one can’t discover their true self, to say nothing of the world. I admire her for her upstanding humility. By the way, her daughter commented that she did not know how to react to such popularity, for she was merely doing what she loved.

The level of recognition she received was only a fraction of what she truly deserved. My heart bleeds at the insurmountable odds she had to face to make herself genuinely known. It mirrors the depiction of modern society, which, despite its prosperity, has an impending bias toward the acclamations of a woman. How people’s reactions to news and their ability to believe something varies with gender. This deeply rooted misogyny was even more pronounced during her time, which makes her achievements all the more astonishing. Her fight against misogyny motivates me to channel my ideas onto the world without fear of oppression, for the novel and the unique are always oppressed, no matter what.

Marie Curie’s curiosity was so deeply rooted that it did not remain in her but was passed on to her daughter, Irene Joliot Curie. Not only was her daughter a profound chemist, but she received acclaim for it in the form of a Nobel Prize in 1935. This motivates me to be so influential that my effect is carried on to at least one individual in my life. It brings happiness to the feminist in me that Marie Curie was not only a strong being but also someone whose ideals were reflected in the people around her.

Marie Curie’s passion for her work was exceptional, and it paved the way for her to become such an excellent researcher in her field. I learned to keep that curiosity and passion inside me and that when the going gets tough, you get tough along with it.

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