My book, my dream

Something very exciting happened this week: my book Opting Out and In: On Women’s Careers and New Lifestyles has finally been published! Writing and publishing a book is a long process, so this has been a long time coming, but what makes it especially sweet is of course the fact that writing a book has been a dream of mine ever since I was a child.

My parents raised me to be a reader. Although we obviously had rules and restrictions, the thing that we were allowed in excess was books. (Except at the dinner table, I wasn’t allowed to read at dinner. Every time I was caught with a book open in my lap under the table I was told to put it away. And I was genuinely surprised that they noticed, every time.) Book fairs, book orders, and visits to the book store are cherished childhood memories, and I still remember the feeling of opening a newly purchased book, burying my nose in it and breathing in the scent. This is something I still do by the way, and did you know that books smell differently depending on which country they are from?

By now you probably understand what a great part of my life books are. I have always loved them, I have devoured them, and they have opened up my mind and imagination to wonderful things. They have taught me languages and the power of expression – the power of being able to say exactly what you want in exactly the way you want. They have shown me that language can be more vivid than a painting, and more powerful than weapons. And it is something I try to pass on to my children because not only do books make life so interesting, language and the ability to express oneself is the key to success, if anything. Besides, I read somewhere that people who read a lot of fiction tend to be very empathetic, as stories teach them to see things out of other people’s perspectives.

So you can imagine, the thought of writing my own book was the ultimate thing. But it was a distant dream. I didn’t think I had the ability to write a book that could compare to the novels I loved. But now I have done it, I have written a book. Not a novel, but one filled with stories of women. I am so grateful to these women for being willing to be a part of this and for sharing their personal thoughts and experiences with me. Without them, this book would no be what it is.

I have already started working on my next book, which is going to be about men opting out. I am still in the early stages as I am writing it as a part of my current research project, but I’m enjoying the process already and I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Opting Out and In. Happy reading!

 

P.S. The hardback and kindle versions are available now, and the paperback will be available in a few months.

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Who to trust

As I write this, the US is still sleeping with only a few hours to go until they wake up to the day of the inauguration of their new president. I don’t usually get involved in political debates on my blog and neither will I now. However, I don’t think recognizing that what Trump represents and the rhetoric he uses is problematic and often hateful, is taking a political stand. It’s rather adopting an ethical and humanitarian perspective.

But what has been happening in the US certainly isn’t unique. It is part of a trend that we have been seeing for a while now, in the Western world anyway. And with upcoming elections in Europe, I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen the last of it. Although this development has been and continues to be awful and scary, we can only hope that if anything good comes from it, it is a realization that we just have to do something. All of us. We cannot just sit around and think that the problem is somewhere else. It is here, it is among us, and whether we like it or not we are all a part of the society that has created this. So if anything good is to come of all of this, it is people coming together as active citizens, with a will to work to make all of our countries more humane places.

As a citizen I find these developments horrifying and highly worrisome. However as a sociologist I have to say I also observe them with interest, because based on what social theorists have been saying for years, this really isn’t very surprising.

There is something about the way of the world, which is different from anything experienced before. As Anthony Giddens writes in his book Runaway World: How Globalisation is Reshaping Our Lives, “We live in a world of transformations, affecting almost every aspect of what we do. For better or for worse, we are being propelled into a global order that no one fully understands, but which is making its effect felt upon all of us.”

Technology has played a huge part in this. It has made the flow of information instantaneous and without boundaries; it has made the world a smaller place. However technology, the information age, and new forms of media – like social media – have also helped create a new power center. We are all involved in creating and spreading news, and we are also involved in deciding what news is spread. This in turn creates a distorted world image, one effect of which is an overestimation of risk. Ulrich Beck coined the expression ‘risk society’, which he defines as our way to systematically deal with the insecurities and hazards that modernization has brought.

What this means in practical terms, is an inevitable questioning of the very foundation of our society. No longer do we trust authorities. No longer do we trust doctors to know what’s best for our health. The world has become a scary place with an overload of information, and we just don’t know what to believe anymore. On top of this, there is a lot of false information going around the internet, and unfortunately this false information gets a lot of clicks spreading it even further. And let’s be honest, most of us aren’t very good at recognizing what is false and what is trustworthy. So we trust no one. Or we decide ourselves what is true and what isn’t. Or we believe populist leaders who promise some relief by saying that all this is crap and that they will make life (or America in Trump’s case) great again.

It’s worrying.

So we are definitely living in a time of crisis. But a crisis can also bring with it creativity, clarity, and change. Let’s do that. Let’s use this crisis in a constructive way. And let’s do it together.

Reinventing the New Year’s Resolution

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. And every year I’m sort of surprised what a big deal they still seem to be. I’m like, what? Do people actually still make New Year’s resolutions? Even though we know that most of them fail by the end of February? Well, judging by all the campaigns, ads, books, and products for a new/better/healthier you that I see all over the place, they really still seem to be quite hip – or at least a great sales opportunity.

It makes you wonder. Why is it, that come January, so many people want to change who they are and how they live? We seem to suffer from a collective bad conscience regarding weight, habits, and lifestyle choices. And according to Meenakshi Gigi Durham, author of The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What We Can Do About It (a very good book by the way, I recommend it warmly), manufacturers depend on this. Through advertising, manufacturers and advertisers create myths and goals, like unnatural body ideals to name one, which by definition are impossible to achieve ensuring that consumers, especially female consumers, keep coming back for more in the hope of finally achieving what has been promised. Even though they are striving for the impossible, if they think and hope it is possible, I guess it is no surprise if they feel that they just aren’t trying hard enough. However, unfortunately, if that is the case, no New Year’s resolution will do the trick either.

But have you considered this: maybe you don’t need to change; maybe you just need to give yourself a break? What if New Year’s resolutions fail so often because they mostly focus on things we may not really want to do anything about anyway? So here’s a thought, maybe we should stop obsessing about ourselves and instead focus on others. Maybe our resolutions need to be about spending more time with family and making a greater effort to gather and keep in touch with friends. Or maybe they should be about helping people we don’t even know but who really need help. This sounds like it might be much more fun and as an extra bonus it may just make us feel so good about things that we end up sticking to our resolutions. Think about it. Instead of turning inwards, let’s make resolutions that aren’t just about us.