The Blindness of Privilege

May 24th, 2013 | Posted by:

Privilege is real, and it is a problem. This is a plea for us all to have better conversations about it.

I think I’m in a decent position to talk about this. After all, I am one of the most privileged people I know. I graduated from Hogwarts Harvard one year ago today. I’ve gotten sunburnt while skiing, which is probably the whitest sentence in the English language. I once got a concert grand harp for my birthday – my twelfth birthday. I’ve basically been deep-throating a silver spoon for 23 years.

In that time, I’ve had a lot of uncomfortable conversations about race, class, power, and privilege. I used to dismiss the people who used these words because none of them made sense to me and my experience. But I’ve had my eyes and ears opened a lot in recent years. I came to college, I met different kinds of people, I studied different things from different angles – the usual liberal agenda. I have a lot left to learn, but I’ve come to take the issue of privilege very seriously.

It’s an issue that comes up a lot in the secular “movement” nowadays – Richard Dawkins is swimming in it yet oblivious to it, Jen McCreight tried to start a whole new movement to deal with it – but a lot of people are still sort of staring blankly and wondering what is going on and when they can go back to debating the atheology of Firefly.

So as somebody who can relate both to the people who see privilege everywhere and to those who don’t get what everybody’s whining about, I want to help translate so we can communicate more clearly. First, everybody’s going to need to sit down and stop yelling and actually listen for a while, so go ahead and emotionally prepare yourself for that and come back when you’re ready to be an adult about this.

Good? Good.

Let’s start with something we all agree on: Facebook comment threads can be frustrating. Some extra-frustrating recent incidents pushed me over some kind of edge, which is why I’m here blogging after basically giving up on the Internet as a concept.

The other day, I posted a status update about how I’m planning on getting a second tattoo soon. An acquaintance of mine, a middle-aged man, shared some very well-meaning advice about how I should think about my future and remember that ink is permanent, and mentioned how glad he is that his 20s self had the foresight to remain unadorned. I retorted that I’d been wishing more men would tell me how my body should look, and pointed out that I know plenty of people of all ages who are satisfied with their choices of whether and how to modify their bodies. He then sent me a hurt and defensive message calling my “unfair” response a “cheap shot” and insisting that “gender has absolutely nothing to do with it.”

A couple weeks earlier, I shared an article about the enshrinement of slut-shaming in school dress codes. It got some comments, including a lot of agreement as well as some respectful and thoughtful alternative opinions; all good so far. But it also evoked a lot of outright dismissal. Here follow some excerpts from real comments by real men – men whom Facebook labels my “friends,” no less.

“I’m not seeing it.” “I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to be offended by.” “That anyone thinks that schools are out of line for outlawing clothes that are, in most cases, made with the explicit purpose of looking sexy is laughable.” “And don’t tell me that an extra 3 inches off of a skirt helps you keep cool.” “What a bunch of nonsense.” “Not to be condescending, but [condescending rant].” “This whole thing is so silly.” “I don’t think it’s symptomatic of the ‘rape culture.’” “It’s just a damn dress code.”

Here’s the deal. If somebody of a different gender than yours says gender matters in a situation, it probably matters. Just because you don’t see something (yet) doesn’t mean it isn’t there, and all your condescending, laughing, and scare-quoting will neither help you see it nor make what I see disappear. If lots of people with some common experience that you lack – a gender, an ethnicity, whatever – are all upset by something you don’t even see, chances are better that you’re facing the wrong way than that it simply doesn’t exist.

You need to be open to the possibility that your experience of the world as a male/straight/white/cisgendered/abled/documented/educated/etc./etc. person might miss out on some of the struggles experienced by your less privileged planetmates. You need to admit that this might mean they know some things you don’t and put up with some shit you don’t. You need to respect them and listen to them and take them seriously, not mansplain to them that their subjective experiences are incorrect.

One of the main problems with privilege is that usually the people who have it are nearly blind to it. I believe that this blindness exists not because privileged people are stupid or careless, but because its effects are nearly invisible to them by the very nature of the systems that make those people privileged in the first place. I think the majority of privileged people are smart, well-meaning, and compassionate, so let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are not trying to ruin everything. They just don’t know any better (yet).

As I said at the beginning, I know from experience that these kinds of ideas can be startling and disorienting to those of us lucky enough to be shielded from a lot of what goes on in the world. It’s okay to feel that way, but it’s not okay to use that as an excuse to abandon the conversation. When it comes to privilege, out of sight cannot mean out of mind.

So how are we going to get people to care about a phenomenon that doesn’t even seem real to them? I think the biggest thing here is that calling someone out for privilege can’t be a criminal accusation or a public shaming. Allow me to cast the first stone at myself: I should have found a less snarky way to point out the problematic aspects of the tattoo comment. I don’t think my response was “unfair” or unduly harsh, but it was less helpful than it could have been. Yes, privilege is upsetting, but if we start by hurling epithets, people won’t want to stick around to hear what else we have to say. When communication begins with an attack, the automatic response is to be defensive, not to listen. (See: all of atheism ever.)

Finally, one other comment on the dress code thread wasn’t overtly offensive but did illustrate a mistake that perfectly nice smart privileged people tend to make: “I maintain that one could craft a similar or identical policy divorced from history, and thus the policy itself is not sexist.”

That might be true, but last I checked, history was still waiting for its Henry VIII to come; for the foreseeable future, divorce isn’t an option. This issue of inescapable histories of oppression is discussed in an excellent blog post on Brute Reason called “Why You Shouldn’t Tell That Random Girl On The Street That She’s Hot.” This is a really fantastically good article and you should definitely read the entire thing, plus as many of the outlinks as you have time for. For now we’ll focus on this part:

In a perfect world, you could tell a woman she’s hot and she would smile and say thank you because there would be no millennia-long history of women’s bodies being used and abused by men, no notion of women’s beauty as being “for” men, no ridiculous beauty standards. Complimenting a woman on her appearance would be just like complimenting a person on their bike or their shoes or the color of their hair; it would not carry all the baggage that it carries in this world.

But that’s not our world, and it may never be. Yeah, it sucks that women often take it “the wrong way” when you give them unsolicited compliments. You know what sucks more? Yup, patriarchy.

The fact is that there is no way to magically remove yourself from history; you are embedded in oppressive systems no matter what. Just because you don’t see how a comment or action or policy relates to power dynamics and histories of oppression, that does not somehow make it officially neutral and vindicate you from any responsibility for perpetuating those systems. This means that there is no such thing as a neutral comment about a woman’s body, about race, about same-sex attractions, about non-conforming genders, etc.

There is no neutral way for a school board to police the sexualities of its female students. There is no neutral way for a man to comment on an unknown woman’s appearance. There is no neutral way for an older man to give me advice about my body modifications.

You are a part of the system whether or not you like it and whether or not you believe in it, so either you can join the resistance or you can sell your soul to The Man. Your choice.

Darwin tattooChelsea Link is the Campus Organizing Fellow at the Humanist Community at Harvard. She has left a trail of abandoned blog detritus in her wake, ranging from Sewage & Syphilis to Blogging Biblically. Before graduating from Harvard, she studied History & Science with a focus in the history of medicine, and served as both the Vice President of Outreach of the Harvard Secular Society and the President of the Harvard College Interfaith Council. She tends to kill the mood at parties by unnecessarily reciting Shakespeare.

This guest post comes to us from Sarah Chandonnet and was originally published on the Humanist Community Project blog.

For nearly five years, I’ve worked at the Humanist Community at Harvard doing what many would call “atheist activism.” I’ve been behind the scenes supporting a lot of great leaders and thinkers and helping to spread their messages of reason, progress, and pluralism to people around the world. But I’ve learned that, at the end of the day, what I’ve helped create is a network of people who turn to each other not only for shared philosophy, but for comfort and connection.

In April of this year, the city of Boston was rattled by a terrible tragedy. Many were injured or killed at the marathon, including two women who are like family to me. A week or so later, I was in a major car crash that sent me to the hospital and my car to the junkyard.

I was overcome with gratitude for the outpouring of support from Humanists here in Cambridge and all over the country. I received calls, emails, donations, and more from so many people after the marathon, helping raise more than a million dollars for my loved ones’ medical bills. My friend Molly Fazio, who has been coming to HCH since 2010 and is an active volunteer, was one of the first people to reach out to me in the aftermath of the marathon, telling me she had already sent in a donation. Two leaders from Tufts University’s Freethought group came by my office with a handwritten card the next day.

And after my accident, I couldn’t believe how many people rallied around me a second time with more calls, more visits, and more support.  Emails poured in from friends and volunteers — Tony DeBono, Judah Axe, Llaen Coston-Clark, writer Mary Johnson, and so many more — and from other secular group leaders like Ellery Schempp and Todd Stiefel, not to mention my fantastic staff here at HCH.

It was amazing just how far a vase of flowers or a note in an email could go when I working so hard to mend. Mostly, I was reminded: I’m not alone.

HCH is an organization with a mission: to build a strong community of atheists, agnostics, Humanists, and the nonreligious at Harvard University and beyond, and to do so by addressing the philosophical and pastoral needs of those who come to our events and those who share our resources worldwide.

After many years, we’ve finally found a community center that will help us bring people together better than we ever have before. Our dream is to have a big event space to hold weekly Sunday meetings, classrooms for children and adults, conference rooms for podcasts that reach around the world, a meditation space, and offices for our staff and chaplains.

But that’s not all. This new space will be a home for more than HCH — we’re partnering with local Humanist/atheist groups so we can all come together under one roof and offer an even broader range of programs and resources.

 But we need your help to make it happen!

Our new space is 2,700 square feet and located right in Harvard Square. But it needs some major construction, paint, repairs, and furniture to best serve the needs of our diverse community and make our dream a reality.

If you feel how I do, if this community is your home, or if you support secular communities and want to share in the resources we create here, I urge you to make a financial contribution toward helping to realize our highest shared aspirations.

We are a 501(c)3 organization and all of our funding comes from donations from people like you who support our vision.

Sarah ChandonnetSarah Chandonnet is the Outreach and Development Manager at the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard and has been a member of the HCH team since 2009. A graduate of Harvard Divinity School (’09), she holds an MTS in Religion, Literature, and Culture. While at Harvard, she served as the editor-in-chief of Culture: The Harvard Divinity Graduate Journal of Religion, and as the vice president of the Harvard Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists (HASH). She also holds a BA (English, ’07) from Boston University, where she studied under Elie Wiesel. Sarah’s academic interests include 19th and 20th century American literature, and Judeo-Christian textual influences. She has written for Boston University’s Daily Free Press and The Journal of the Core Curriculum, as well as Harvard Divinity School’s The Wick, and the American Humanist Association’s Humanist Network News.

So I’d ask for your prayers.

May 1st, 2013 | Posted by:

This guest post comes to us from Melanie Rucinski, a Harvard sophomore and outgoing leader of the Harvard Community of Humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics (our undergraduate secular student group), formerly the Harvard Secular Society. This piece was originally published on Melanie’s blog, musique et chocolat, in July 2012.

I have read enough books about atheism and psychology to know that prayers do not have healing power, at least not to an extent that is statistically significant. Furthermore, the fact that I am an atheist kind of goes along with not believing in the power of prayer in general. In all of my years of sporadic church attendance, then, I’ve never asked for prayers for anyone I know. I’ve considered it multiple times, but if my skepticism weren’t enough, discomfort with asking congregations I’m not a consistent member of to pray for my sick or dying family members and music teachers would still hold me back.

In the past two years, I’ve seen more illness and death in my personal life than I’d experienced in all the years before. My maternal great-grandmother died when I was five and my maternal grandfather died when I was ten, but then everyone close to me was pretty much fine for a while. In the fall of my senior year, though, my oboe teacher was diagnosed with a frontal lobe disorder (the symptoms resemble Alzheimer’s), and since then both my paternal and maternal grandmothers, as well as my piano teacher, have passed away. So it’s not like there hasn’t been anything to pray for: my oboe teacher’s health is still going downhill. My maternal grandmother had had Alzheimer’s since shortly after I started high school, and my piano teacher had been diagnosed with cancer. There have been no truly sudden deaths.

Two weeks ago, I played piano in a service at the church I consider to be my church. It’s the church at which I sang in the choir when I was growing up, worked in the nursery when I was in middle school, and have always attended Christmas Eve services. I know many of the congregation members, and they know me. If I ever felt that I needed spiritual guidance, this church is where I would go. That said, my family is not the only one to refer to this church as a Unitarian church in disguise. I am not the only atheist who attends. The church is a religious community, but it’s the community part that’s important, not the religion.

At this point, my piano teacher had taken a sudden turn for the worse. She was in hospice care, and it was clear that the end would be soon. I had seen her a few weeks earlier, but I wasn’t really sure how to respond to the whole situation. I hadn’t taken lessons with her on a consistent schedule since my sophomore year of high school, and hadn’t studied with her at all since the spring of my junior year. Although I now respect her as a musician, I had a fair number of problems with her for most of the time I was her student. My mom was closer with my piano teacher than I was. Even so, I felt that if there was any time to ask for prayers from the congregation, this was it, particularly since my piano teacher would be leaving behind her husband and I thought that he, too, could use to be in people’s thoughts.

My mom came to the service, and after failing to read my lips during the ‘Concerns and Celebrations’ part of the service (I was sitting at the piano and she was in the third or fourth pew), finally made a reasonable guess as to what I was trying to say and stood up to ask for prayers for my piano teacher and her husband.

I do get chills sometimes during sentimental moments, and I do occasionally cry, or at least have tears in my eyes. I did not expect, though, to have the emotional reaction that I did in the moment after my mom finished her request. Nothing actually happened in that moment—it was followed just by a brief silence between my mom’s words and someone else’s concerns, unlike at another church I play at where the congregation gives a verbal affirmation after each joy or concern. Something about that moment, though, and something about knowing that at least some of the congregation members would be praying for my piano teacher and her husband, did get to me.

Even if I don’t believe in God or in the power of prayer, there is something truly powerful about knowing that there are people I know or people I don’t, people I’m close with or people I’ve never spoken to, who are thinking positive thoughts in the direction of someone I ultimately do care about. Maybe it’s the idea that positive energy is contagious and that if these people somehow try to send goodness out into the world, it will eventually reach the strangers they’re praying for. Or maybe it’s just the cliche that somebody out there cares, that in some abstract way, the people in the congregation are connected enough to each other—and to me—to take others’ concerns for their own.

Later that afternoon, we got a phone call saying that my piano teacher had passed away. I actually did cry about it for a few minutes, although it wasn’t until I was on my own and reflecting again on the church service. This is just something else religious communities offer that secular communities have trouble creating an alternative to: I feel comforted by the thoughts of the congregation members in a way I would not feel comforted by the thoughts of Harvard Secular Society members (if I even felt it was appropriate to ask for their thoughts on my piano teacher’s behalf). Somehow in that moment in church I felt the pervading love one is supposed to feel in the presence of God, and while at that point it was accompanied by sadness, it was still something beautiful.

I used to feel it was disrespectful to ask for prayers from congregations I play for, almost subtly condescending—maybe taking advantage of their beliefs. Now, though, I don’t think I feel so negatively about it. In the same way that I don’t feel it’s disrespectful to sing hymns during services since I really do enjoy the group music-making, maybe it isn’t disrespectful to ask for prayers since they do ultimately provide some comfort. And even if there’s no scientific evidence that says it helps to think positive thoughts in the direction of people I love every once in a while, it certainly can’t hurt.

Melanie RucinskiMelanie spent six years of her youth in a liberal Jewish suburb going to church and Hebrew school before she became an atheist. She tells people that she is studying education research and policy at Harvard because saying that she’s majoring in Social Studies makes her sound like she’s in middle school. In her spare time, Melanie finds something like God in running along the Charles River, playing Bach, and baking pies.

The Misanthropic Humanist

December 18th, 2012 | Posted by:

This post, which is a hot mess that I am only republishing here against my better judgment out of an obsessive compulsive devotion to consistency, originally appeared on harvardhumanist.org.

This post is a part of the Humanist Community at Harvard’s 2012 Blogathon, a 12 hour blogging marathon by Chris Stedman and Chelsea Link to support HCH’s end-of-the-year fundraiser. Chelsea and Chris are both publishing one new post per hour, for twelve hours straight, and none of the posts have been written or drafted in advance. For more blogathon posts, click here. If you enjoyed this post or any of the others, please consider consider chipping in to support our work.

I became an atheist in my freshman year of college. It was a difficult transition for me. I broke up with my high school boyfriend, largely over religious differences. I was nervous about going home to spend the summer with my religious parents. I had, to my knowledge, one atheist friend – one person with whom I felt safe to be my true self.

This friend invited me at the last minute to accompany him to hear Joss Whedon, who was coming to speak on campus. “Who?” “The Dr. Horrible writer. You know, he also did Buffy and Firefly and all that.” I liked Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and had watched a few episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I was younger, but I didn’t know much about Joss Whedon besides that. “What’s he coming for?” “Some kind of atheist thing.” Sounded cool enough, and I had nothing else to do (not many friends, remember?), so I went.

The enemy of Humanism is not faith. The enemy of Humanism is hate, is fear, is ignorance, is the darker part of man that is in every Humanist, every person in the world. That is the thing we have to fight. Faith is something we have to embrace. Faith in God means believing absolutely in something with no proof whatsoever. Faith in humanity means believing absolutely in something with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. We are the true believers.

This speech was a defining moment in my life. That night was my introduction to Humanism, and Joss Whedon warned me from the beginning that it would not be easy.

He was right. Some days, it truly is harder to believe that humans can be good than that a cracker can turn into an undead god-person.

The older I get and the more I see of the world, the more I struggle with this. In a personality trait (feature? bug?) that Greg Epstein has called my “general dissatisfaction with things,” I often become overwhelmed with righteous fury over human failings big and small.

I am told every day that I am literally worth less than a man is, that a non-sentient cluster of cells has more rights to the use of my organs than I do, that I am responsible for the consequences if I am physically attacked, and that I am generally an inferior specimen of humanity.

Chris Stedman’s book Faitheist, which makes the scandalous claim that it’d be cool if people were nicer to each other and maybe even friends sometimes, somehow caused a gigantic internet controversy. How…?

Walking into a crowded place and emptying a bunch of metal into other people’s bodies is not just a terrible decision that one person made, but basically a national pastime at this point.

The Holocaust. That happened.

I am constantly surrounded by people overtly eating corpses. Everywhere I look, people are cutting up dead bodies into little pieces and putting them into their mouths and chewing them and swallowing them. What are you all thinking?

I used to do that a lot too. What was I thinking?

A lot of people get very angry when other people want to formally celebrate their love for and commitment to another person and then do nice things together like cohabitate and raise children.

Some people directly cause the deaths of children because they think it is better to pray for health and selfishly endanger everybody around you in the process than to get a life-saving vaccine.

So how am I supposed to go on talking about how humanity will be its own salvation? How can I keep babbling about fixing all our problems with reason and compassion? Why should I keep living out my values when it doesn’t seem to do any good?

This would probably be a good time to warn you that I am not leading up to a miraculous answer. I am mostly whining out loud. Happy Festivus, world: here are all the ways you have disappointed me lately.

But the fact is, even when it seems pointless, we must keep the faith. Maybe we won’t manage to save ourselves from ourselves, but it seems pretty clear that nobody else will, either, so we might as well try, right? We are our own best hope. Disappointing, maybe, but we have to work with what we’ve got.

You should also remember that wonderful things are happening all around, even though you can’t see most of them. At any given moment, billions of people are being perfectly nice to each other. The media only reports on the bad stuff because it is the exception to the rule.

It helps to have a boyfriend who is constantly ready to appease your rage with a well-timed picture of a bunny snuggling with a kitten, or an uplifting motivational speech, or an affectionate note, or a supportive hug. I actually don’t know of any other boyfriend who is as good at this kind of thing as the one I use. I don’t even know if they make this model anymore, but I recommend investing in one immediately if you fine it – maybe try Craigslist?

But perhaps most importantly of all, remember that you do not need to save the world yourself. To Frankenquote two of my favorite people and horribly mix my metaphors in the process, the arc of the moral universe is very long and life is very short, so although it does bend toward justice, we cannot always tell because we die on the march. Your responsibility is just to make a difference and not to worry about the size.

I am often comforted by a rather trite little parable that you have probably heard. A man is walking along a beach where thousands of starfish have somehow become stranded above the waterline. (Is this a thing that even happens? Do tsunamis do this? I don’t even know. Hush. It’s just a metaphor.) He sees a child picking the stranded starfish up one by one, walking down to the water, and dropping them back into the ocean where they belong. He asks the child, “What are you doing?” The child responds, “I’m saving their lives.” The man returns, “But there are so many of them. Even if you work all day, most of them are still going to die. What you are doing will not make a difference.” The child picks up another starfish and returns it to the sea, answering, “It did to that one.”

So here I am, at the end of twelve hours of blogging, attempting to wrap up probably the rambliest and least coherent piece of writing on the internet. Did we even raise any money? I have no idea. Have I revolutionized Humanism? Probably not. Did I have fun? Yes. Did I eat way too many kettle chips? Definitely. Am I still kind of disgusted with the world? Also definitely.

But I have a nice warm cup of tea here, and my boyfriend is probably downloading some cute pictures of baby animals for me to look at later. And tomorrow I will get up and keep living while I have the chance and hope for the best.

Chelsea Link recently graduated from Harvard University, where she studied History & Science with a focus in the history of medicine. She is the founder and intermittent author of Blogging Biblically, and has contributed to blogs such as the Interfaith Youth Core and Social Action Massachusetts. She has also left a trail of abandoned blog detritus in her wake, ranging from Sewage & Syphilis to The Unelectables. While at school, she served as both the Vice President of Outreach of the Harvard Secular Society and the President of the Harvard College Interfaith Council. Now that she’s graduated, she is a full-time Adult Impersonator, complete with an apartment (in the People’s Republic of Cambridge, Massachusetts) and a job (as the Campus Organizing Fellow at the Humanist Community at Harvard). She tends to kill the mood at parties by unnecessarily reciting Shakespeare.

Theonormativity

December 18th, 2012 | Posted by:

This post originally appeared on harvardhumanist.org.

This post is a part of the Humanist Community at Harvard’s 2012 Blogathon, a 12 hour blogging marathon by Chris Stedman and Chelsea Link to support HCH’s end-of-the-year fundraiser. Chelsea and Chris are both publishing one new post per hour, for twelve hours straight, and none of the posts have been written or drafted in advance. For more blogathon posts, click here. If you enjoyed this post or any of the others, please consider consider chipping in to support our work.

Josh Stanton of State of Formation recently coined an excellent new term (in a Facebook comment thread, no less) that I desperately hope will catch on: theonormative.

I love this term because it encapsulates a more nuanced and more pervasive phenomenon that I used to clumsily lump into the dissatisfying catch-all category of “religious privilege.” I don’t mean to say that religious privilege is not a real thing – it certainly is. But I think that a lot of the time, when we talk about religious privilege, we really mean theonormativity. And I think that being able to articulate this problem better will make it easier to address.

Theonormativity is when theism is the default, the standard, and everything is a deviation from this norm.

Theonormativity is when politicians say that “We all worship the same God” and pat themselves on the back for being so inclusive. It is when people do not realize that this excludes not only atheists, but also many Buddhists, pagans, and other religious/spiritual nontheists.

Theonormativity is why God has invaded our money, our courthouses, our schools, and our government in what New York Times columnist Frank Bruni calls “The God Glut.”

Theonormativity is when sociologists call me a None.

Theonormativity is behind the unsatisfactory word “interfaith” and the awkwardly inclusive phrase “religious and nonreligious.”

Theonormativity is all the forms and websites that collect demographic information with a field labeled “Religion” and offer me a checkbox labeled “Other.”

Theonormativity is people who ask me which church I go to.

Theonormativity is the question “so…what do you believe?” (Um…pretty much everything else you do besides the God part?)

Theonormativity is the crosses on anonymous graves.

Theonormativity is all the psychology and sociology studies that ask me how often I attend religious services, and all the research assistants who are bewildered when I ask whether nonreligious services count.

Theonormativity is “interfaith prayer.”

Theonormativity is the fact that I have to explain this.

Chelsea Link recently graduated from Harvard University, where she studied History & Science with a focus in the history of medicine. She is the founder and intermittent author of Blogging Biblically, and has contributed to blogs such as the Interfaith Youth Core and Social Action Massachusetts. She has also left a trail of abandoned blog detritus in her wake, ranging from Sewage & Syphilis to The Unelectables. While at school, she served as both the Vice President of Outreach of the Harvard Secular Society and the President of the Harvard College Interfaith Council. Now that she’s graduated, she is a full-time Adult Impersonator, complete with an apartment (in the People’s Republic of Cambridge, Massachusetts) and a job (as the Campus Organizing Fellow at the Humanist Community at Harvard). She tends to kill the mood at parties by unnecessarily reciting Shakespeare.