122 visits. 74 hours. Office Hours.

I’ve always had busy office hours as discussed here. Invisible Labor is pervasive in our world. People labor in ways that are often unseen, unacknowledged, and/or even unpaid. In order to help counter this, I tracked visits this semester. The results follow. 

I had 135 students this semester across 5 classes (plus one independent study course). 28 of these students took me for at least one (if not two, three, four, or five) course(s) in a previous semester.

There were 122 office hours visits during the Spring 2019 totaling 4,480 minutes (about 74.5 hours)

The average visit lasted 37 minutes.

  • 38 visits lasted 15 minutes or less
  • 23 visits lasted 15-30 minutes
  • 34 visits lasted 30-60 minutes           
  • 27 visits lasted 60 minutes or longer

Visitors came from a variety of groups.

  • 11 – Former students (who are not taking a class this semester)
  • 31 – Queer Theory class
  • 35 – Intro to Queer Studies classes 
  • 11 – Comparative Creation Myths class 
  • 31 – Intro to Women’s Studies class 
  • 3 – other 

There were 61 unique visits but lots of repeats.

  • 43 – 1 visit
  • 7 – 2 visits
  • 3 – 3 visits
  • 5 – 4 visits
  • 1 – 5 visits
  • 1 – 6 visits
  • 1 – 10 visits
  • 1 – 16 visits

Visits occurred across the semester, mostly in April.

  • January – 15 visits
  • February – 34 visits
  • March – 30 visits
  • April – 43 visits   

Visits occurred for the following reasons. 

  • 64 – general visiting
  • 31 – class questions
  • 27 – discussing paper draft 


Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda 

The Room (Poem)

The Room
With its spaciousness,
invites you.
With its tables and chairs,
talks to you.
With its storage spaces,
says, please stay.
With its location,
says, you are visible.
With its mix of different people,
inspires and encourages you.
The Room is a neat, different, weird place.
you don’t know The Room.
The Room manipulates you.
And kills you.
And lies to you.
And steals from you, too.
The Room, despite or because of its nurture,
kills dreams.
When you break free,
it forgets you.

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda 

Film and Television – Things On My Mind Series, #8

I use the Things On My Mind series to share collections of working, not necessarily related, ideas that don’t (yet, anyway) warrant their own article or have another home.

Law and Order: Special Victims Unit receives its fair share of criticism, much of it warranted; however, here I want to mainly recognize some of Law and Order: SVU’s strengths. Writers of this ever-popular drama certainly make little effort to demonstrate (or allude to) the realities of the justice system and provide no articulation of the long-term struggles survivors and their loved ones face.

In contrast, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit creates a world where the pervasiveness and seriousness of rape are acknowledged; where no easy, one-fix solutions are suggested; where social problems ranging from homelessness and poverty, to sexism, to cycles of abuse are represented; where victims and perpetrators basically represent the ranges of ability, age, class, gender, and race; where police, investigators, doctors, courts, and juries take sexual violence seriously and don’t blame the victims; and where a White, unmarried heterosexual, able-bodied cisgender woman–Olivia Margaret Benson (Mariska Magdolna Hargitay)–is in an authority position.

Marking categories of privilege is important. Dr. Koritha Mitchell’s recent social media activity has emphasized the importance of “marking Whiteness.” I have been thinking about this and its connection to other identity categories — e.g., (dis)ability, age, class, gender, sex, religion. When experiences or identities go unnamed, we make them invisible. This contributes to the oppression of everyone. “Marking” Whiteness, for example, involves specifically stating assumptions, involves making the historically invisible, visible.

Thus, when describing Olivia’s character, I deliberately emphasize some of her identities, including her Whiteness.

Any identity explicitly marked for any person or group should, at the very least, be marked for all others within a given context. There are no “natural” or static categories of experiences. Moreover, the more categories that are marked, the more our understandings will increase and the unquestioned powers of identities will decrease. And, identities never exist within binaries but within spectrums.

Longing for friendly worlds. Ever since I watched Lars and the Real Girl (2007), I have been unable to stop thinking about it. In this movie, Lars (Ryan Gosling) is neurodivergent. He basically inhabits his own world and has trouble living and socializing as others do. Lars makes progress when he meets his girlfriend–Bianca–on the Internet. His girlfriend, however, is a life-size plastic doll. While sadly completely unrealistic in our world, every one accepts Lars and Bianca. No one teases him. No one tries to fix him. They don’t even really think he is crazy. They accept Lars. Bianca is greeted and served meals exactly the same as Lars and everyone else at social gatherings and at restaurants. Everyone attends Bianca’s funeral without any hint of sarcasm or meanness when she ‘dies’ an untimely death. Lars has unconditional support.

Lars and his personification of Bianca even generate a very real and new kind of loving bond between members of the community. I can’t think of any other film that shows such love.

What determines a text’s value? I sometimes think about why some blogs/movies/songs go viral and other do not. Which texts scholars study. Ignore. Which ones everyday society embraces and remembers. Only cherishes after-the-fact. Is it all chance and luck? Why is Lars and the Real Girl a film that will probably be forgotten and ignored? Why is Mildred Pierce (1945) theorized and studied but largely forgotten by the larger culture? Why is Gone with the Wind (1939) still popular among the public but basically always ignored by academics? Questions…

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda 

No Room For Disabled People – Chick-fil-A at North Mopac and Parmer Lane

Disabled people are systemically abused, denied access, and misrepresented across the United States, and laws related to us are often ignored or are not enforced. While such problems of access and equity are often far worse in other countries, such is not an acceptable excuse.

Case in point:

While visiting Austin, Texas, on February 7-10, 2019, I needed a Chick-fil-A fix. The closest Chick-fil-A was the North Mopac and Parmer Lane FSU location. The first thing I noticed was that they had both handicaped (I hate that word) disabled spaces completely blocked off. They have the spaces blocked off to allow more room for and to prioritize cars using the drive-thru. With both rows of cones, which began on the other side of the building, parking in (or getting out of) one of the disabled spaces would have been absolutely impossible. 

Image of this Chick-fil-A’s parking lot. The image shows orange cones blocking the disabled spaces.
Image of this Chick-fil-A’s parking lot. The image shows two rows of orange cones blocking the disabled spaces.

After researching Texas’s law (based on the Americans with Disabilities Act) on the issue, I learned that not only is this a violation, the location of its spaces is illegal: Disabled spaces are supposed to be the absolute closest spaces to a main entrance. As these photos clearly show, these two (inaccessible) spaces are almost furthest away from the door when considering the main row of blocked spaces.

After seeing this, I reached out by email and by social media to this Chick-fil-A and to corporate Chick-fil-A. Chick-fil-A at North Mopac and Parmer Lane never responded to my message. Chick-fil-A headquarters did, but only sent a very generic (what I call) “industrial strength customer service” reply saying the owner/operator, Mark Ortego, would be reaching out shortly. Ortego never replied. I wrote headquarters again saying they should take this issue seriously, that such violations could easily result in daily fines and that such violations discriminate against their customers. I never heard anything.

So, not only are disabled people faced with access issues, our voiced concerns and needs are ignored. The Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist (Heteronormative Ableist Theistic) Patriarchy clearly does not care, and we should not expect this to change. 

(Coda: I am one of the lucky ones–currently anyway. I was able to personally park, enter, and exit this location without difficulty, at least on this occasion, but this location certainly lost business from people who desperately needed those spaces. I did see, upon circling the building to leave, one additional kind-of-hidden disabled space on the opposite side of the store. And this is only one example. I see such violations at all kinds of stores every. single. day. Often, stores do not have enough disabled parking spaces for their total number of spaces. Often, disabled spaces are blocked in some way or another.) 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda

“Generation” – Hidden Power of Words Series, #33

“Generation” (in the context of “social generations,” such as baby boomers or Get Y) might well be another candidate for my “banned words” list! As with “traditional,” “generation” focuses on the experiences and values of those privileged in a given time and place by those same experiences and values. As a concept, it tells us nothing. 

Society at large imagines a generation of “digital natives” or millennials. As anyone who teaches or even helps customers with technology can tell you, such a characterization for people born in the 1980s and 1990 is far from accurate. (And what about those born on December 31, 1979, at 11:59 PM? Dates are a funny thing.)  

“Generations” ignores all aspects of intersectionality and positionality. “Generations” falsely homogenize–quite specifically–everyone born in a given timeframe. “Generations” are–literally–what enable historical memories that envision “utopian pasts.”

Thinking about millennials and the myth of the digital natives, such ignores differences in class. People with the prerequisite money (and power and interest) had knowledge or and access to technology far before it began reaching affordability for larger numbers of people in the 1980s and especially in 1990s. People without access to money, those who live at or below the poverty level, still cannot always afford a computer or spare the time to use the public library’s computer. Geography matters, too, as access to the Internet is far from even across the United States. Some people never had the opportunity to be a “digital native.” 

Race and gender matter, too. Because of historical baggage and historical realities, these forces matter and their interaction with each other matter, too. Black “baby boomers,” by definition, grew up in a very different world than non-Black individuals. Any attempt to talk about “baby boomers” (as a singular group) will only lead to historical erasure.

People sometimes talk about how “baby boomers are retiring en masse.” This is true…for baby boomers with the appropriate resources to retire. Discussed less often are the baby boomers–the poor White women, the disabled Black trans man, the Asian woman who immigrated from Japan and has medical bills to pay, the White man who lost his pension to no fault of his own–who are forced to die at work.

The only productive use of “generation” that comes to mind is conversations about families, such as a photo showing a baby, her mother, her grandmother, and her great grandmother.

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda 

Alex Trebek. Aunt Becky. Not Your Friends.

Parasocial relationships form easily. Carefully-scripted and highly-rehearsed, people see fictional characters people on their screens from the comfort of their homes and almost naturally come to believe they really know and very much like them. People are not able to internalize that this relationship is one-sided and is with a fictional character. 

Sometime during the past week, Alex Trebek announced his current struggle with pancreatic cancer. I saw countless posts reacting to Trebek’s news. Numerous people wrote that the news was “absolutely devastating.” This baffled me.

Of course, any kind of medical scare is serious and warrants sympathy. I especially relate to this because of my already long history with on-going medical scares. I do not, however, understand the reaction of “absolutely devastating.” Such a reaction would be appropriate for a loved friend or relative, but for a celebrity, a stranger? Trebek’s family could rightly find offensive at strangers effectively appropriating their feelings.

Of course, celebrities waive everyday privacy. Of course, Trebek’s scare could awaken fears in other people. “Absolutely devastating” might well be a coded reaction for fears that have not found a welcome place in the lexicon of the everyday.

The Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist (Heteronormative Ableist Theistic) Patriarchy matters, too. (bell hooks never ceases to inspire me!) Society has trained people to absolutely accept and to unquestionably respect people like Trebek. People are supposed to see him as a “father” figure. And again, while “Alex Trebek” is his real name, his character/persona on Jeopardy! and on his other television/film projects is fictional. 

Dynamics of the IWSC(HAT)P apply to and are perpetuated by women, too.

(Quick interlude: I am not suggesting any comparison between Trebek and Lori Loughlin beyond their celebrity status and the related concerns. Trebek’s cancer battle and Loughlin’s criminal record are in no way equivalents. I write about them together here, again, because of their celebrity status and because they are both in the news right now. I had been wanting to write about Trebek but lacked a framework until having the ideas in this article.)   

“Aunt Becky” (aka Lori Loughlin) is another household name. People believe they know and love her and believe she can do no wrong. She represents an ideal “motherly” figure who distills values and traditions. Her character does not challenge or even question prevailing mores. Maybe “Aunt Becky” can do no wrong–as she does not actually exist beyond the bubbles of Full House and Fuller House (which are admittedly kind of queer, as I have previously written about)–but Loughlin, as people across the United States learned yesterday, certain can.

As with Trebek, people are expressing devastation and dismay that “Aunt Becky” would face felony charges. In the case of Loughlin, I have seen a fair number of “we’re-not-surprised-a-celebrity-would-cheat-like-that” posts, but if not for everybody knowing “Aunt Becky,” she wouldn’t be receiving this kind of news coverage. 

Alex Trebek, despite Ken Jennings’s op-ed. Aunt Becky. They are not your friends. You do not know themThey do not know you. This does not mean anything positive or negative in and of itself. The public does not know. The public only knows their fictional selves, as created by other people.

I’m reminded of an interview I watched with Roma Downey of Touched by an Angel for a project I was working on. She recounted an event of being at a hospital to see a friend and having someone run up to her saying, “Monica! I was just praying for an angel. Thank you for coming.” Downey said that she tried to explain, to no avail, that she was not “Monica.” 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda 

Banning “Traditional” – Hidden Power of Words Series, #32

As words, “traditional” and “tradition” conceal far more than they can ever reveal. Their connotations often center around static historical, narrow, privileged worldviews. While an outright ban would probably lack productivity, these words are used in such divergent ways, often with ulterior motives, so as to lack any specificity.

Thoughts about “banning” the word “traditional” came to mind this afternoon while grading Identity papers for my Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies classes. When thinking about the realm of gender, “traditional” tends to have specific uses in society. People talk about “traditional marriage,” “traditional family values,” “traditional church services,” “traditional law,” “traditional schools,” and “traditional skills.”

In each of the aforementioned examples, “traditional” is actually a stand-in for something else–often for whatever people see or believe to be or have been prevailing mores–a coded form of fearing change, of voicing some kind of phobia, of lacking aspects of or even promoting historical illiteracy, of seeking homogenization, or of stopping conversations–a performativity intended to bring unquestioned credibility. 

People could more precisely say the less concise “heterosexual marriage as practiced the last one hundred years in the United States,” instead of “traditional marriage,” for example.

Based on my knowledge of the past, gathered over the past 32 years of life and formally learned and taught for over a decade now, I have come to argue that humans do not actually live by and pass on the “traditional.” Every generation (another problematic term, for another day!) longs for the forgone “traditions” (or what they [falsely] believe to have been) of their parents’ or grandparents’ generations and every generation sees the younger generation as abandoning (what they believe to be) vital traditions and as destroying society. Such circles of life might be the only true traditions!

For example, current celebrations of Christmas in the United States have only existed for about one hundred years. And the specific rituals associated with this celebration (religious and non-religious) regularly evolve: The Elf of the Shelf being one of the most recent evolutions. And if we zoom further out–taking a Big History approach that considers history on the scale of thousands, millions, and billions of years–“Christmas” celebrations have looked very different across time and place. If we zoom even further out and look at “traditional religions” or “pagan traditions,” we begin to see that no such traditions actually exist.

Humans and their institutions change all the time

So when people talk about “traditions” or the “traditional,” what exactly do they mean?

More specific, accurate possibilities without problematic baggage might include custom, ritual, expectation, pattern, habit, cultural inheritance, legacy, or historical baggage. Regardless, considering the rhetoric of “tradition” phraseology is vital when people utilize such diction. 

While I do plan to add “traditional” and “tradition” to the “banned words” list in my “Guide to Writing in Dr. Pegoda’s Classes,” this does not mean I am not allowing the word. Mainly, I want to emphasize that the word “tradition” needs to be used in much more careful, precise, thoughtful ways. By adding it to the “banned words” list, I intend to be funny and serious but not absolute, critical but not dictatorial; thus, why I place “banned words” in quotation marks.

And, certainly, I have “traditions” (a word I find, for intangible reasons, less problematic than “traditional”) with close friends and family that I proudly call such. Maybe such is not the most accurate term, but in our case, it describes the given scenario perfectly–something we do the same way, every time because we enjoy it.

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda 


Notes on: Free Speech vs Censorship, Facts vs Opinions, and Writing

Recent events, including today’s (weird, irrelevant, distraction-mechanism) announcement by Trump about colleges and “free speech zones,” warrant a few comments and reminders about free speech/censorship and about facts/options, generally.

People should remember common sense and decency at every step.

People should respect experiences/experts and personal limitations.

People should follow the golden rule.

People today often confuse free speech and censorship. Different spaces have different rules and expectations and needs. Asking someone to “stop” attacking you is no way censorship. Telling someone they said something offensive is not denying them free speech. As as often been stated, there are consequences to any “speech,” and “free speech” protections are very limited in scope legally.

People today sometimes tend to think that any opinion is valid, including opinions easily invalidated by credible evidence. Or people are unable to see how different points-of-view result in different–and equally valid–answers to a given inquiry. As others have said, yes, opinions can be wrong. Opinions are best reserved for the subjective–tastes in something, thoughts about an experience, for example.

That every website, article, post on Facebook or Twitter, and every other corner of the Internet invites comments contributes to this problem, negatively. Very rarely do we see or hear, “I don’t know enough to comment.”

On the note of the Internet and comments, a positive aspect is a type of activism unheard of in the history of the World until the Digital Era. Some of the comments include thoughtful, argument-based observations. For example, I recently saw a comment on an article behind a paywall about law pay for law enforcement officers that roughly said: “too bad they can’t afford to read this article about them.” This comment has stuck with me for months. Even the less informed ideas that comment sections invite include arguments.

And people are reading and writing more than they ever have before. It’s certainly not a “traditional” type of reading and writing, but it’s an amazing thing.

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda