#YesAllWomen: What can men do?

Last night, as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, I noticed this post from a friend, paraphrased below:

“In the spirit of #YesAllWomen, here’s a list of things I have been advised to do to avoid being raped.”

She listed a dozen items that most young women will recognize, like “Never put your drink down at a party.” At the end, she invited readers to share their own lists of anti-rape advice they’d been giving.

Rape has been on my radar since age 10, when there was a big community meeting about preventing it. It was a rainy Saturday night in November, and all the moms in my church went, leaving the kids and husbands to construct gingerbread houses together. Naturally, we younger kids wanted to know where our moms were, so our dads and older siblings explained it carefully. It was shocking to learn about a whole new type of crime. Theft I knew about, from a few small occurrences at school. Murder and kidnapping I knew about, from the episodes of Inspector Morse my parents sometimes let me watch. Rape was something new — something that, for the first time, I had to keep in mind specifically because I was a girl.

From that point forward, I was slowly given a whole body of anti-rape and anti-harassment advice. Men, as you look over the advice below, I’d like to challenge you to try something: Go for one week with these rules guiding your life.

  • Don’t go running alone.
  • Don’t wear loose clothing that’s easy to grab or cut off …
  • … but don’t wear tight clothing that might invite attention.
  • Also, don’t wear shirts with logos across the front. Those might attract attention to your chest.
  • Always wear shoes you can run in.
  • Always park under a street light or close to the store.
  • Always approach your car with caution. Check in the back seat, and underneath your car and the car next to your driver’s side.
  • If there’s a van parked next to your driver’s side, go back to the store or party and request an escort back to your car.
  • Don’t linger in a parked car.
  • When you leave your car, travel light, keep your hands free, and move fast.
  • Try not to travel at night, especially by foot.
  • If you see a group of people of the opposite sex loitering on the sidewalk ahead, cross the street.
  • When riding public transportation at night, always sit up front where the driver can see you. Don’t wear headphones — stay alert. Stay engrossed in a book or your phone to discourage attention (though this has failed horribly on occasion).
  • If you go hiking or camping, take at least one member of the opposite sex with you.
  • If a stranger asks for your name, lie.
  • If a stranger approaches you belligerently, pretend you don’t speak English.
  • Wear your hair up or cut it short to keep people from grabbing it.
  • In elevators, stay close to the control panel.
  • If a policeman tries to pull you over at night, put on your hazard lights and don’t pull over until you’re in a well-populated area. There’s also a number you can call to verify whether it’s a real policeman, though that won’t always ensure your safety.
  • Keep a dog with you while gardening alone.
  • If you have to visit a doctor, cleric, professor, or other professional of the opposite gender, take a friend with you.
  • When you’re walking alone, put your keys between your fingers for a weapon.
  • If you work in a public space, wear a wedding ring.
  • If you get a flat tire on the road, tell anyone who stops to help that you’ll be OK — your significant other is due any minute. Say this even if your significant other is halfway across the world or nonexistent, and Triple-A is forty-five minutes away.
"No, no, my boyfriend's bring extra wheels --- two in each fist. And I left the trunk open for aesthetic purposes."

“No, no, my bodybuilder boyfriend is bring extra tires — two in each fist, actually. And I left the trunk open for aesthetic purposes.”

Did you stop reading before the end? I wouldn’t blame you if you did. Those are just the rules I’ve been given — I’m sure there are plenty more I’ve never heard. As I thought over them last night, I suddenly felt so frustrated. I had always accepted this kind of advice without a whimper, judging automatically that these were smart things to do in a cruel world. The world can be very cruel, it’s true, and much of this advice is sound. But why has women’s safety become a deep, dark maze in which they can make all the “right” turns and still get lost? Why aren’t we working harder to cut away the maze and establish a solid ground where everyone can feel respected and safe? What can men, as the largest demographic responsible for violence against women, do to help demolish this culture of fear?

I am so glad you asked.

Why has women’s safety become a deep, dark maze in which they can make all the “right” turns and still get lost?

To begin with, let’s address the #NotAllMen movement. Yes, I know that very few men are rapists and killers. Yes, I know that many men love the women in their lives deeply. But the point of #YesAllWomen is not to demonize men or dismiss the good they’ve done in the world. The point is to show how deeply fear and frustration are engrained in many women’s lives. It’s about women who are tired of carrying their keys between their fingers on the street, who want to go to the beach in a cute swimsuit and not get catcalled, who want to walk outside alone and look at the stars.

We love you men, we really do. Our wonderful fathers, grandfathers, brothers, boyfriends, husbands, cousins, sons, and friends are among you. But we have seen and read about and experienced too much violence from a handful of men to trust you all at first sight. In the words of the brilliant Twitter user jennonthego, “Imagine a bowl of M&Ms. 10% of them are poisoned. Go ahead. Eat a handful.”

As I wrote my reply to my friend’s Facebook post, I thought about what my #YesAllWomen post would be if I had Twitter.

“#YesAllWomen because I thought clothes caused harassment until the day I was catcalled while wearing a long full skirt and a bulky sweater.”

“#YesAllWomen because when I’m waiting for the bus at night, I have two choices: stand under a streetlight where anyone can see me, or hide in the shadows and hope nobody sees me.”

“#YesAllWomen because my middle-school PE teacher wouldn’t changing our daily running route even after multiple girls reported being harassed by the guys at the skate park we ran by.”

"He's just being friendly. It's a compliment."

“He’s just being friendly. It’s a compliment.”

So what can men do?

They can listen. One of the upsides of the #YesAllWomen movement has been the beautiful responses from so many men who “get it” now. Neil Gaiman’s tweet, for example, nearly made me cry:

“The #yesallwomen hashtag is filled with so many hard, true, sad and angry things. I can empathise & try to understand & know I never entirely will.”

Patton Oswalt’s contribution:

“To the guys angry at #YesAllWomen: good. You’re angry cuz you’re getting shaken up. I’m shaken up. It leads to understanding.”

Secondly, men can ask questions. Shortly after I posted my list of anti-rape advice on my friend’s thread, another friend messaged me asking for clarification. What was the impact of staying close to the elevator control panel, he wanted to know? I told him it was to maintain greater control over the open/close door function, and to exit early if necessary. “Oh,” he replied. “I’d never really thought about that before.”

They can encourage their sons and friends to treat women more respectfully. This encouragement can reside in the tiniest actions — not laughing at misogynistic jokes, questioning why a friend catcalled a women — but as Mother Teresa said, those small deeds’ echoes can be truly endless.

Finally, they can interact with women more mindfully, especially in risky situations like at night and in enclosed spaces. I have a friend who is 6’4″ and has three sisters. He grew up being very aware of his height and learning to control his movements more purposely to avoid seeming threatening. This doesn’t make him a wimp. It makes him considerate. I’ve heard from other men who used to feel a little hurt when they saw solo women eyeing them suspiciously or crossing the street to avoid them. Now that they’ve caught a glimpse the degree of caution we’ve been raised to cultivate, they’re more understanding of these actions.

Men, again, we love you. We’re not asking you to wear only pastels, or walk around with your hands up, or get a women’s studies degree. We just want you understand that even though women’s rights have come a long way just in 50 years, we still don’t have the same freedom from fear that you have. We want that freedom. We want it desperately. But it will be a whole lot easier to attain if we have your help.

Last night, I hit “enter” on my Facebook reply, read a few of the newest responses, returned to my scrolling … and immediately saw this post from a friend:

“Had to cut my run short today because of a creeper. Time to find a new route.”

#YesAllWomen. Because women are human beings.


What are your #YesAllWomen messages? What questions and concerns do you have about the movement? Comments are welcome, but be aware that I will replace unnecessarily harsh or off-topic comments with the text, “I can’t wait for the new season of Sherlock.”


Photo credit: Car and dog from Pixabay.


Counter Action: Potato–spinach–blue cheese burgers


It’s a tricky business, naming things.

I had a whole list of ideas for this feature’s title, most of which were problematic. “Noshes”? Too hipster. “The Bowl” or “The Plate”? Meh. “The Chew”? Already taken. “Round the Cauldron”, with a nod to Shakespeare? Maybe not, considering the ingredients in that particular cauldron. “Much Depends on Dinner”, stealing from Herrick? Too obscure. “Oven Lovin'”? Too emotional. “Counter Action”? A little violent, but different. We’ll go with it.

Not this violent and different. Sorry.

Not this violent and different. Sorry.

These burgers are from a bygone era. It was a prairie summer. I was twenty-two, heading into my last year of university, and living in an uncooled attic. In the mornings, I worked at the college library, shelving books, moving books, and throwing books away. My coworkers and I bonded over the ninety-degree weather and the long, deep, stinging cuts left on our hands and fingers from breaking down cardboard boxes. My roommate introduced me to Doctor Who, and inspired by the amount of running the characters did, we began running together in the mornings, before the thermometer inched too high and the cicadas grew too loud.

One weekend, my boyfriend’s parents invited me on a trip to visit their son, who was taking classes six hours away. The parents and I didn’t know each other very well. It was the tiniest bit awkward.

Every road trip needs a soundtrack. This was ours.

But by the end of the trip, I felt more connected to the family. The mom apparently felt the same way, because before I left their house to drive home, she loaded me up with a box of food: sushi, spinach–chive pasta, fresh berries from a roadside stand, and the creamiest blue cheese I’d ever tasted — part of which I turned into these burgers.

I’m done with university now, living in a much cooler climate with a different roommate, and the boyfriend has long since taken a different path. But some recipes are just too good to be linked with memories forever — they deserve lives of their own. These burgers are that kind of recipe. Would they work for a Memorial Day cookout, served on toasted buns with a roasted garlic aïoli and sliced red onions? Or perhaps caramelized onions? I’m betting so.


 Potato–spinach–blue cheese burgers

(adapted from the turnover recipe in Time-Life Books’ Vegetables: Great Taste, Low Fat)


  • 4 red potatoes
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
  • 4 oz. blue cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 c. breadcrumbs, plus more for breading
  • olive oil for frying


  1. Boil, drain, and mash potatoes.
  2. Combine potatoes with green onions, garlic, spinach, blue cheese, eggs, and seasonings. Mix well.
  3. Form mixture into patties.
  4. Coat patties thoroughly in breadcrumbs.
  5. Fry patties in olive oil until golden brown. Remove from heat and let rest on paper towels before serving.


Photo credits: Game of Thrones art from the amazing nikaanuk on deviantART, where it’s protected under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license; cricket from Pixabay.

The Golden Toga Flap: John and Hank Green

[Note to audience: According to Wikipedia, citizens of ancient Rome used to wave their toga flaps to express approval for public performances. In the style of the Golden Globes, the Golden Raspberries, the Golden Goggles, and other alchemical plaudits, the Golden Toga Flap will be a regular feature on IWtSLtY that affirms people working to improve the world. Anyone is eligible: A-list actors, small children, teachers in rural Illinois, frat guys behind me in line at Grocery Outlet. I’m not writing these blurbs for any sort of commission; I just want to spread the word about great people doing lovely things. If you have nominations for the Golden Toga Flap, please feel free to leave them in the comments or send me a private message.]


What do you get when you combine a nauseating number of Peeps, a blenderized Happy Meal, fourteen straight hours in Target, and discussions of the American health care system?

Besides something that shouldn’t be brought up at corporate networking events. That’s a given.

"This guy can eat 16 Peeps in four minutes. I really think Accounting

“Sir, this applicant can eat 16 Peeps in three minutes. I really think he’d be a valuable addition to the auditing team.”

Put it on YouTube, though, and it’s social media gold — funny, riveting, and surprisingly deep, especially when the Green brothers deliver it. Although the Vlogbrothers channel began in 2007, it didn’t cross my radar until February 2013, when my friend walked into my house, put her laptop in front of me, and said, “Watch this.” “This” was the episode in which John cooks dinner with his three-year-old son and discusses the political implications of celery sans peanut butter. When it was over, I knew that this was something I had to get on board with, so I started getting up to speed on the discussions, the punishments, and DFTBA. Since that introduction, the Green brothers and their supporting cast have taught me so much about world history, sexuality, epistemology, relationships, the importance of passion and collaboration, entrepreneurship, linguistics, social media, literature, statistics, economic disparity, and the mating habits of giraffes.

In lieu of giraffe copulation, please accept this picture of rabbits snuggling platonically.

In lieu of copulating giraffes, please accept this picture of rabbits snuggling platonically.

In retrospect, the Vlogbrothers channel couldn’t have come into my life at a better time — I was going through a breakup and rapidly approaching college graduation, with a jobless summer lurking on the horizon like the Black Gate of Mordor. At that point, John and Hank’s calm, reassuring humor was exactly what I needed to get me thinking about something bigger than myself.

"I'm never going to find a job, I'm going to die alone in a Dumpst --- holy cow, I can't *not* click on that."

“I’m never going to find a job, I’m hopeless, I’m going to die alone in a Dumpst — holy cow, I can’t not click on that.”

So here’s to you, John Green, Hank Green, and all your collaborative partners, making the world more awesome first through the simple project of Brotherhood 2.0, which blossomed into Nerdfighteria and snowballed from there into too many projects, collaborations, and sponsorships to count: the Project for Awesome, the Foundation to Decrease World Suck, DFTBA Records, VidCon, SciShow, and Crash Course, to name just a few. Your commitment to your art, to your families, to your fans, to education, to underrepresented communities, and to the world at large is nothing short of beautiful. Wherever you go next, however you next choose to express your creative enthusiasms, I have no doubt that your actions will continue inspiring people of all ages to value each other, ask difficult questions, and never stop having fun.


Photo credit: Corporate conversation and bunny rabbits from Pixabay; Vlogbrothers screencap from this episode on YouTube.

Book Chatter: The Doomsday Book

Book Chatter is going to be a regular feature here on IWtSLtY. Most of the time, it will be about books I dearly love. Occasionally, it will feature super popular books I really didn’t like, but I’m not writing about them just to criticize them; I want community feedback on redeeming qualities I might have missed.

(Spoiler alert: one of those books will be Divergent. I’m sorry if that means we can’t be friends. I’ll miss you.)

But to start on a positive note, here’s a book I think everyone should read: The Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis.

The Doomsday Book

Clicking on this picture should (fingers crossed) take you to the book’s listing on Better World Books. I’m not affiliated with them in any way. I just love their mission.

Set primarily during the Christmas season of 2054, the story follows Oxford student Kivrin Engle as she travels to fourteenth-century England for academic research. A simple two-week trip turns deadly as her caretaker realizes that Kivrin might have been sent into the middle of a plague outbreak — and with 2054 Oxford suddenly suffering an epidemic of its own, help will be very slow in coming, especially since the man in charge of the time-travel lab is convinced that the lab equipment is responsible for the epidemic. As Kivrin’s return date nears, her caretaker struggles to understand what went wrong in the initial operation and how to bring her back safely, as Kivrin faces illness, disorientation, and suspicion all alone in the Middle Ages.

So … sickness, death, helplessness, paranoia, corruption, and disastrous incompetence. All the ingredients for a heartwarming, feel-good tale, bound to join the ranks of Miracle on 34th StreetBabes in Toyland, and other Christmas Eve family classics.

“… and that’s when she saw the buboes. Can you say ‘buboes’, sweetie? Do you remember our little talk about the lymphatic system?”

I’m assuming, of course, that your family appreciates detailed descriptions of the Black Death’s effects on its victims. (Come on, who doesn’t?) It also helps if your family has gone through George R.R. Martin’s five-part training course, A Song of Death and Other Horrible Things Happening to All the Characters You Love. In The Doomsday Book, there’s a lot of uncertainty, a lot of infuriating bureaucracy, and a lot at stake — but from that muddle of confusion and grief, Willis pulls out a sweet story about loyalty whose beauty made me cry just as much as I did for certain characters’ deaths. Willis also succeeds in tempering the tragedy with humor (what does a quarantined town do with a squadron of stranded, high-maintenance American visitors?), and woven throughout the narrative is a haunting conversation about the fears and prejudices inherently surrounding new technologies. Feminist critics, for their part, will find Kivrin’s agency an interesting topic (do her efforts make a difference in the end? Or does her fate depend solely on her male caretaker’s work?), and Willis’s poignant exhibition of our tendency to sanitize history made, at last count, 368 history teachers punch the air.

Though I can see merit in some critics’ problems with the book’s length and pacing, on the whole, I really enjoyed The Doomsday Book. It would be a great gift for the historical fiction buff or science fiction fan in your life, or a riveting bus/lunch/vacation read for yourself. Just make sure you have some tissues handy.


Photo credit: The cover art is a screenshot from Better World Books; the mother and child are from Pixabay.

Biology, strudel, and other housekeeping items.

Hello! I’m Sonya.


No, that’s just my pseudonym of choice for this site. I thought about creating a cute, clearly-a-nickname moniker, like Bakerella and the Pioneer Woman did, but it appears that the “creative naming” part of my brain has withered away and been replaced by a pool of Doctor Who trivia. When I consulted Buzzfeed for name ideas, it suggested Queen Ketiraka, Keeper of the Western Front and Defender of the Vale, which is super catchy but a little long for a blog handle. So, Sonya it is.

My alter-ego: Ketiraka the Warrior Queen, destroyer of krill.

My alter-alter-ego: Ketiraka, Destroyer of Krill.

What do you do?

Well, I’m a big fan of turning oxygen into carbon dioxide, through a process I’ve studied multiple times and forgotten as soon as the tests were over. I think ATP is involved … and maybe the Krebs cycle? And something called NADH? Or is it NAACP?

This is the part of the show where I admit that I’m a full-time graduate student.

Clearly not in the biological sciences.

But if it helps my quad cred, I do still experience research snafus and massive sleep deprivation. Heck yeah. Sing it with me, grad students, to the tune of “Rule Britannia”, key of C:

On, on, we march to employment,

Fueled by coffee, fear, and debt.

Though our path seems never-ending,

Still we march with faith unbending.

Though doubtful friends and family

Fail to see our field’s validity,

Though we have long marched unfed,

Still we go with steady tread 


March on, cohort! March on!

March in pursuit of metacognition!

I’m so glad we can have these chats.

What’s the point of this blog? Are you just going to sing at people?

Sure, some of the time. I also have a lot of recipes up my sleeve that I want to share, and books that I want to review, and happy stories about good people that I think should be spread around.

Where did the blog name come from?

The long answer: When I started mapping out my master plan for this blog (twirling my mustache evilly the whole time, I assure you), I had two things that I absolutely did not want to do.

1. I did not want to hop on the Eat, Pray, Love bandwagon and give my blog a name comprised of three short verbs in sequence.

I did this with one of my first blogs. It still keeps me up at night.

2. I did not want to get all touchy-feely and spend my time talking about Thoughts and Feelings and What the Ocean Can Teach Us About Ourselves. Some people can pull that off really well in their blogs. I can’t, so I’m aiming for more of a colorful, quirky vibe.

It’s how we roll here in the blogosphere. If your passion in life is chocolate-chip cookies, don’t let anyone tell you to switch to pretzel dogs. Be true to your heart, man.

Unless your heart tells you to feed said cookies to a frog puppet. Then we'd need to talk.

Unless your heart tells you to feed said cookies to a frog puppet. Then we’ll need to talk.

In Which the Shadow Learns to Yodel, in addition to being a vivid image, is a metaphor that works on a couple of levels. The shadow is myself, with a long history of depression and anxiety and an even longer history of being shy, feeling self-conscious, and staying quiet. Yodeling, on the other hand, is loud and cheery and tells people, “Hey, I’m here and I’m doing just fine! Come on over! Bring strudel!” So through the topics of cooking and reading and affirming people, and then blogging about it all, I’m trying to break out of my usual cycle of flying under the radar. In a way, this blog is a personal training exercise for a more open life. And if I get to spread a few laughs and recipes and thoughts along the way, then that’s just the applesauce on the latke.

The short answer: Coffee, Fear, and Debt wasn’t really the tone I was hoping to strike.

Whether you’re here for thirty seconds or two hours, I hope you’ll depart with a renewed sense of hope and passion. I’ll post new content every Sunday and Thursday, so until next time, keep it real, keep yodeling, and keep the coffee coming.

~ Sonya

Photo credits: The banner photo, the penguin warrior, and the cookie picture are all from the fine folks over at Pixabay, with whom I am not affiliated.