Friday, April 5, 2013

DAY 5: My Health "Activism" Goals

This is a post that I would have answered differently just a few days ago. Yesterday, I received a verbal offer and today, I signed an official acceptance letter for a tenure track position at the College of Southern Nevada. CSN is a teaching institution where most students are earning a two-year, Associates of Arts degree. I have worked here for nearly 5 years as an adjunct and because of that, I have had a number of "other jobs."

August 19, 2013 I will begin a life with a full-time job and a side business.

This affects my plans considerably. However, I think most people would be surprised at how little it will change the focus of my life. The drastic changes are going to be in timing and resources.

I want to make two caveats about this topic:

First, I don't think of myself as an "activist." I write about my own life, the state of health care and advocating for changes. I do not boycott, protest or testify. I am more interested in changing culture than law, though I understand that changing laws can be part of changing culture. I also do not like the "anti" stance that most "activism" uses. I like being "for" rather than "against."

Second, I make to do lists (mostly because chronic pain and the medications I take to fight the pain leave me scatterbrained at times), but I really don't make goals, per se. I want to live the journey rather than plan it and I don't like to assume things will work out a certain way when another way might be more fun.

With that in mind, I am involved with some specific projects that are health and/or disability related:

Creating Courses or Special Interest Topics on Sociology of Disabilities, Medical Sociology and Trans-Cultural Nursing

One great advantage of moving from the part-time ranks to the full-time ranks is the possibility of course development. While I've already been working on some ideas, the big news this week means that I can move forward. Teaching learners about how sociology gives context to the medical system and the health care provider/patient relationship is one of my longest interests. I look forward to creating curriculum that will promote the sociological imagination in matters of medicine. Since many of our students are heading into medical careers, this will be a great opportunity.

User Friendly Vegas (Our Docu-Comedy)

We will most likely devote a lot of time to complete this project. This represents a cross-section of my academic interests, personal experiences and artist endeavors. Plus, I get to work with my favorite creative partner. This should be no surprise since I chose to write the Health Activist Challenge on this website. We have raised some seed money and are producing some trailers that we hope will help generate more money. We had hoped last summer to raise $5K, but it didn't happen, so we are seeing where the journey takes us next.

CWD: Couples with Disabilities (A Psychology Today Expert Blog with Carl Wilkerson, my husband)

Speaking of Carl, we also have several articles planned for this blog and writing for blogs can be part of my role as a public sociologist. This is a void on the internet where people always assume that for every chronically ill or spouse with disability is a perfectly able-bodied hero who can never be hurt or sick. The daily experience of many of us differs from that greatly (oh and by the way, we are super-heroes. Just not in that way.)

I Take Up Space (A Psychology Today Expert Blog about "fatism," stigma, public health and the war on fat bodies)

I will also continue to write about issues around body size. Though I probably will emphasize sociological analyses and critiques of public health more than fat activism in the future. I also want to use this opportunity as a way to teach the concepts of stigma and social empathy. I believe the current moral panic about weight stems from a desire to hide public health and medical failures. (If you want to know more about that, read Natalie Boero's Killer Fat. It is an excellent examination of the "war on obesity" from a number of different angles.)

First Person, Plural: Doing Sociology

I write a lot about sociology on my own sociology blog. I have written several articles about the health care system there. This site was inspired by the radio show Carl and I did in Victoria, BC between 2002 and 2004, called First Person, Plural.  The more interesting thing is that because I am faculty advisor for the CSN Living Sociology Club, we may build on this to make a radio show and possible a YouTube station dedicated to sociology. If we do, you can bet some of the episodes will address social issues around medicine and health.

PDA Nation (an intermittant vodcast)

Though not directly health related (and in fact, part of the point of it is that fat and health should not be linked in a causal manner), Carl and I will continue to make PDA Nation videos. The point of these videos are to have fun and show us having fun even though we struggle with disabilities and even though the world thinks fat people don't have a life. We a little more financial security, you can bet we will be out and about a lot more. No amount of Clinical Calvinism or stigma is going to stand in our way!

Living Life:
The Best Project of All

So the new job is going to make moving forward on these projects and ongoing activities much easier because of resources and more time. But remember, who knows how it will all work out. That's part of the journey.