So, I was constructing a child’s bishop dress over the weekend and became introspective (as you do).
As a librarian, I teach people how to evaluate content for its credibility, which often translates into the author not showing bias or opinion. While some professors do allow non-objective sources in their assignments (as long as the point of view is noted), most want their students to rely on peer-review articles that have no bias, or slant.
One of the last things you do on a bishop is apply the neckband. This is made from a strip of fabric cut on the bias, on the diagonal of the fabric’s weave. Because the threads cross on an “x” instead of a “+”, it has flexibility and elasticity.
In sewing, knowing if your fabric is on-grain or on-bias is essential to creating something beautiful, lasting, and functional. A grainline marking can be found on every commercially-produced pattern piece.
Given that fabric can be distorted by pulling on the bias, I can understand perhaps why this word was chosen to denote personal opinion that might sway or influence a writer toward a certain conclusion.
The thing is, bias is as beneficial to sewing as on-grain. It allows binding to curve around necklines and armholes. It creates gorgeous evening gowns that flow around the body.
Look inside the collar of your favorite button-down shirt. Odds are good that one side of that neckband is on-grain, while the other is on bias. That gorgeous pointed collar stands up and curves around your neck because of the bias side. The grain side keeps it in-form and undistorted. In women’s trousers (and many men’s), you’ll find the same thing on your waistband. Bias has flexibility; grain has strength. By laying them against each other, you can have the benefits of each without weakness.
Which brings me back to research and information literacy. It’s so easy to default to the idea that opinion, or bias, is bad, objective is good. That’s only showing half the picture. We rarely talk about the value of opinion and that it can also be credible, if you evaluate the source just like a journal author.
I don’t know how to go about this. In the end, we help patrons (students, in my case) fulfill their information needs, often outlined by a professor.
But are we truly making them information literate, or just teaching a bias against opinion?
Today is a significant day. Unfortunately, my mother had to remind me of it.
Two years ago, she had her second mastectomy for her second breast cancer diagnosis.
Eleven years ago, she had her first mastectomy for her first breast cancer diagnosis.
Even now, it’s hard to remember the entire list of treatments, medications, and endless litany of “follow-up” surgeries related to these two occurrences. Shockingly, she has no direct family history of breast cancer and tested negative for BRCA1 and 2. Twice, because the doctor couldn’t believe it the first time.
I’ve said before that any family crisis is like a tornado. Those at the heart of it have to be the most calm, while the further one is away from the center, the more emotionally indulged one can be. That might sound unfair on the surface, but anyone who has been through it can admit it’s at least partially true. I became the family gatekeeper, answering the phone, giving her health updates to wonderful friends who wanted to share their love.
Lisa Bonchek Adams recently wrote a fantastic and practical article about how to talk with someone going through an illness like this. She comments that written expressions are easier than phone calls because it’s just so tiring. I saw this to be true with my mom, as much as she appreciated knowing people cared enough to call the house.
This isn’t an article about me and being related to a cancer patient, but about my mom and what she taught me through these statistically unlikely circumstances. She showed how a mother will try to (and mostly succeed) protect her children from unpleasant realities. She showed me that you need to protect yourself and rest when you’re tired. She showed me that, if you know something is wrong, call your doctor again and demand another test. That sometimes the outcome isn’t picture perfect, but those that love you don’t care. That wigs will melt from the heat of the oven. That sometimes the best Christmas gift is a glass of wine and eyebrows.
People have said my whole life how much I look like my mom.
And if my sister or I end up going through the same things that she did, I’m okay with that. Because she’ll be there for us.
Some advice for my beautiful Miss Samford ladies:
As you’re preparing for Friday’s pageant, it’s natural to feel a little nervous, maybe second-guess which shade of neutral pink you chose for your manicure:
But I’m here to tell you, that it’s okay. It’s okay to not know the answer to a question, to say you don’t know. It’s okay to walk into a fake tree onstage, and it’s okay to smile ALL the time until your face hurts. What’s most important is that you enjoy what you do and believe what you say. You have my personal permission to say “I don’t know” with all your conviction, and it will be respected.
Respect yourself and all those around you. Love yourself and show love to your neighbor. It has taken some years for me to really see this as truth, but we show who we are through actions. We teach others how to be through how they see us, not just as a still picture, but how we interact with others and how we treat ourselves. Be someone who teaches by example.
There’s no wrong answer. Your choice to participate in the Miss Samford Program, your academic and service achievements, your personal growth. Each has a purpose in helping you form your opinions.
And in the end, my goal as a volunteer with Miss America and a faculty member of Samford University is to help provide you the assistance and experiences to become a critically thinking, productive, independent young woman.