Rosemarie Skaine earned her M.A. in Sociology. She holds honorary society memberships in Pi Kappa Delta, speech, Alpha Kappa Delta, sociology and Quill and Scroll, journalism. Publications other than seven books include coauthored national and international journal articles. Other activities include general consultation, consultation on three television documentaries, expert testimony, numerous presentations to all types of groups and interviews with media. Without further ado, please let me introduce to you Rosemarie …
Aneeta: Firstly, let me thank you for agreeing to this interview.
Rosemarie: Thank you for asking me. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my writing with you and your audience.
Aneeta: Rosemarie, I think that before we ‘take flight’ and visit all the places you have been to, tell us a little about where you live, your family and what you do?
Rosemarie: My husband, Jim, and I live in the heartland of the U.S. in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Jim is a professor emeritus in communication studies. I am very blessed to have his editing skills at my service. Our two sons are grown with families of their own. They have given us five grand children. One son lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the other lives in Buffalo, N.Y.
I am a full-time author. My day is very focused. Jim and I walk 45 minutes every morning on a hilly bike trail. The rest of the morning and early afternoon is dedicated to the creative aspects of writing. We walk again in the afternoon after which time I attend to the nuts of bolts of writing, library and research work, correspondence, interviews and promotional items. After a third walk in the evening, I’ll do mechanics of writing such as proofreading.
Aneeta: For the benefit of my readers, can you please explain what sociology is about and how did you become interested in this field?
Rosemarie: Sociology is the science or study of the origin, development, organization, and functioning of human society; the science of the fundamental laws of social relations, institutions, and so forth. I became interested in sociology when I began my undergraduate studies. I was always curious about people and how they relate to the society in which they live. For example, I love to ride around in a car looking at houses. But that’s not enough for the sociologist in me. I find myself wondering what’s behind the walls of those houses. What are the people in the houses doing? What are their meaningful choices? Are they dealing with private troubles that are also a public issue and so on. That is sociology with a human face; and that’s the type of sociology that I am interested in.
Aneeta: I also note that you had lived in China for some time. Please explain your experiences there.
Rosemarie: I didn’t live in China but I did visit there for almost a month in 1991. The extensive trip to China was a beautiful experience made possible through my husband’s affiliation with International Programs at the University of Northern Iowa. I was an official guest of honor with him in his capacity as a teacher. We were guests at Beijing Normal University in Beijing, Hebei Teachers University in Shijiazhuang, Shaanxi Teachers University at Xian and Guangxi Teachers University in Guilin. I presented on the topic of the American Family in addition to other responsibilities. We made many friends while visiting China and were successful in facilitating our interpreter from Guangxi Teachers University to study at our university here. We loved the Chinese people and enjoyed experiencing historic sites such as the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, Terracotta Soldiers, the Li River and many other majestic places.
Aneeta: In the coming issue of the
Great StoryTelling Network, our bi-weekly newsletter, we will be concentrating on Human Rights. It is only fitting, I think, that I ask you about the award you received in 1997 – The Gustavus Myers Centre Award for the Study of Human Rights in North America – Power and Gender: Issues in Sexual Dominance and Harassment. Can you please explain a little of your involvement here, the award and your thoughts of this issue of sexual dominance and harassment?
Rosemarie: The Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights was founded in 1984. It was named in honor of Gustavus the pioneering historian who authored History of Bigotry in the United States, NY: Random House, in 1943. The award is made annually. Twenty-one years ago, James R. Bennett, a retired University of Arkansas professor, started the award. He “commends works published in a given year which extend our understanding of the root causes of bigotry and the range of options we as humans have in constructing alternative ways to share power.” (http://www.myerscenter.org/). Nominations for this award are made by publishers and by individuals.
The announcement that I had received the award was a complete surprise. My publisher notified me that I had received the award and subsequently, I received the certificate of the award from Professor Bennett. I am greatly honored to have received this award.
I am convinced that sexual harassment is a human rights issue, and that we have to work to change society. As I say in the last chapter of Power and Gender, “Solving the problem of sexual harassment requires major societal changes. One change needed is a totally integrated work force, with both genders sharing equally in all jobs and in all positions throughout the hierarchy of organizational structures. A second change is for women to take control of their own labor power using whatever organizational and legal means required. My belief in a gender shared workplace and society, first expressed in 1980, has not swayed.”
I go on to say, “In 1990, before the confirmation hearings, [Professor Bernice] Sandler [the National Association for Women in Education] wrote that our ultimate aim is to have a world where men and women can have collegial relations, share ideas, work problems, failures, successes and “even like each other.” She felt we needed to be able to distinguish between friendship and sexuality. But most importantly, she echoed my own philosophy, “Relationships between men and women are changing. We are in a generation in transition, for we are giving up the old ways of relating and we are not quite sure what the new ways ought to be.” In fact, when I first began writing this book more than four years ago, one title I considered was, Power and Empowering: Sexual Harassment in Transition in America. Although I gave it up, thinking our society would get through the transition to a fashion of Utopia, Sandler is on target. Change, she states, is sometimes scary, but at the same time, it is a challenge to both men and women. She invites campuses to meet that challenge and perhaps serve as role model for the rest of the nation. We have not yet reached Utopia. Those of us caught up in the change, are also caught up in the challenge. Some individuals still believe it is their right to oppress and misuse their power. Some still treat females by their sex role rather than their occupational or academic role.”
Aneeta: I assume that most of the sexual dominance and harassment that you are talking about is when a man harasses a woman. What about the other way round? Or even when women harass women or men harass men? What do you think of that?
Rosemarie: It is possible for men to be victims of sexual harassment, but it is less likely. “One reason why some men are likely perpetrators is that sexual harassment is an abuse of power, thus, it is rooted in both the greater status of men relative to women and the social conditioning of men and women. A second reason is the negative status of homosexuality; therefore, men are less likely to make sexual advances toward men.” (Ch. 6, P & G) Although men are usually the harassers, it is a misconception that men are the only harassers. Women have also been reported to have harassed men and other women. (p. 21) In various sexual harassment videos I have viewed segments devoted to the harassment of men by men and women by women.
In my book, I ask the reader to examine an untraditional aspect of the issue of sexual harassment, the falsely accused. Employers are examining it. Scholars should as well. At the time (1996) I knew of no scholarly study on the wrongly accused.
Aneeta: Before we go to your published books, I am interested in one aspect of your ‘bio’. It says that you have provided expert testimony. As a former medico-legal lawyer, this always interests me. However, I know it only point of view of an Advocate – questions to ask and how to cross-examine. I would like to know, your experience as a witness? Tell us the story of one incident that stands out in your memory.
Rosemarie: Wrongly accused males have often been the victims of evolving policy development and law. Policy now often states that the person harassed can not make light accusations. Michael Crichton’s novel Disclosure develops the theme of a male executive falsely accused of sexual harassment by his female boss. Such a position for a male raises the issues of whose gender? Whose power? Whose control? Males are accused by women in power, but they are also wrongly accused of harassing females who are considered lower on the hierarchical scale of an organization.
This was the case for a male for whom I testified. Because of the reasons I just outlined, as an expert witness, I had to convince the judge that the male was truly wrongly accused. The fact that the female who had wrongly accused him was a student made the situation even more difficult. I write about this case in my book, Power and Gender, but I did not use real names. I called the male as Calvin. Calvin’s colleagues were also dependent upon the power forces for their livelihood. The action of the administrators in charge was politically based. The alleged harassment happened on a school sponsored trip and evolved into an exaggerated rumor. Testimony on what happened was conflicting. But “the student testified that nothing happened and that nothing was said then or in the course of the evening that was offensive or could have had a sexual connotation. In spite of her testimony and corroborating testimony from Calvin, they were not believed. Calvin feels the process failed: ‘What could’ve happened and should’ve happened, didn’t.’ He feels he was being punished for his ideological differences with the dean.” (p. 189)
Trained professionals within the educational setting did not handle the resolution of the case very well. A later court order uncovered false information supplied solely by the dean. When Calvin found himself before an internal panel, his counsel could not question the complainant or witness. Council had to direct his questions to the chair who in turn would rule whether the question would be allowed, and most were disallowed. The dean later admitted he presented false testimony at the hearing.
By the time Calvin’s case turned up in district court, I set out to demonstrate first, what occurred, was not sexual harassment because “nobody objected.” Secondly, the internal investigative procedures were politically based and in fact, violated his rights. The issue for me as an expert witness was to demonstrate that Calvin was a victim in an untraditional sense and that his situation occurred before a respected institution had good control of policy. It was important to point out that work places do not succeed to the degree they would like.
The main issue for an expert witness is to consistently stick to your expertise. If you can remain calm in relating your expertise to the case at hand, a cross-examiner will not be able to discredit your testimony, but may in fact, make what you testify even a stronger element in defense of your client. My “client’s struggle was about freedoms. He had struggled to keep the cherished value of due process alive. And he had “To Thine Own Self Be True.” (193.)
Aneeta: Now, you are the author of quite a number of books. I can see the chronology of your travels as I follow the dates of publication of each book. So, without wasting time, what I suggest is that we will go through each book and you can tell us about the book and something exciting about that particular project.
Rosemarie: Thank you, I enjoy talking about the journeys with my books.
Aneeta: Let’s begin with A Man of the Twentieth Century.
Rosemarie: A Man of the Twentieth Century is my favorite book because it is about my late beloved father. He lived a few months short of 100 years. We were very close. He was a beautiful person. He loved people and he loved life.
Description: A Man of the Twentieth Century: Recollections of Warren V. Keller, A Nebraskan is about the life and times of Warren V. Keller of Grand Island, Nebraska. Keller was born in 1900 in Mason City, Nebraska and wrote his recollections when he was 99. His experiences are interesting and reflect the great changes that occurred in so many parts of our society in the 20th Century. Warren Keller died in October 1999. He was a remarkable person who lived in remarkable times.
Aneeta: I am curious about one thing: The excerpt of your book reads as follows:
“It was a cold day when I was born on January 29 in 1900. I was born in a one room sod house in Mason City, Nebraska.”
What is a ‘sod house’?
Rosemarie: A sod house is made of strips of thick and tough grassy soil. In the book my father tells about his experiences living in a sod house. For example, Dad tells about one two-room sod house that did not have any floors; and that he remembered that his mother sprinkled water over the dirt floor to settle the dust.
Aneeta: Women at War: Gender Issues of Americans in Combat
Rosemarie: Women at War was a challenge to write. I learned a great deal and made many friends who were in the military. One of the most important messages of this book is that military women had been exposed to many of the same dangers that men in combat were. Yet, as noncombatants women not only earned less, but because they had not served in a combat classification, could never be promoted to the highest military ranks.
Description: After defining exactly what is meant by “war” and “combat,” Women at War presents historical and present-day views of the involvement of women in the military. The impact of regulations on women in combat is analyzed, as is the role of the American public in the controversy. Female combat is put into context with sociological theory; also discussed are readiness, cohesion, ability, sexuality, equal opportunity and family issues.
Aneeta: Women College Basketball Coaches
Rosemarie: The basketball book was a fun book to write. People feel intensely about the sport, but in a positive way. The women basketball coaches in the U.S. are doing a great service for our young women. The coaches do so much more than just coach games, they coach the game of life, and do it very well. While I was writing this book, I was inspired by the coaches that I interviewed.
Description: Tall, powerful athletes surge toward the goal in the last seconds of a fiercely fought game, providing excitement to an arena full of basketball fans. Increasingly, challenging games like this are being played by women’s college teams. With the passage of Title IX and the success of the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball League), women’s college teams have received more support and attention both from academic institutions and basketball fans. One of the primary reasons for the growing interest in women’s college basketball is the dedication of the women who coach these student athletes to personal and athletic success. Women currently coach nearly 65 percent of the women’s basketball teams in all divisions of the NCAA. Their commitment to their sport and to their athletes has resulted in a game and a generation of athletes unlike any other. This analysis of the role of women coaches in college basketball provides a detailed history of women’s involvement in college sports, as well as insights into the work of the great women coaches of the past and present, all highlighted through interviews with some of the most important women coaches of today.
Aneeta: Do you play basketball then?
Rosemarie: I played basketball in high school and in college. I played six player basketball and the position of center guard. (Now everyone plays five player.)
Aneeta: What about The Women of Afghanistan Under the Taliban?
Rosemarie: This book was written the year before 9/11; so it has great historical value. It demonstrates what was going on up to 9/11. Most of the time I am content when I am writing, but with the Afghan book, I felt a horror for what those women were experiencing while living under the rule of the Taliban.
Description: Even though the people of Afghanistan have in general suffered under the Taliban, women live especially difficult lives, enduring terrible hardships. They are denied basic human rights and kept in seclusion. This work addresses the religion, revolution, and national identity of Afghan women and discusses their political and religious place, thus elevating our understanding of their abuse, imprisonment and murder, and offering a basis for their rehabilitation. Powerful and moving interviews with Afghan women, conducted and translated by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan are presented and a brief history of the struggle of the Afghan women and an overview of the conflict between the Afghans and the Taliban are included. Appendices, tables, bibliography, index.
Aneeta: Paternity and American Law
Rosemarie: Paternity and American Law is a helpful book for anyone wrestling with issues of paternity. The law and practice are often out of step, but the law often also recognizes people’s need for practicality in living arrangements. People who are dealing with these issues will find the book very helpful.
Description: A father’s role in the family has been defined in various ways throughout the history of the United States. Today the line is skewed, as more often the establishment of paternity becomes a difficult process no longer defined by the old standards of marriage or adoption. This text discusses the changes in paternity laws over time and the ways in which each era’s societal norms have been reflected in those laws. Custody, legitimacy, adoption and paternity are examined from a legal standpoint. Child support, visitation scheduling and third party parenting and visitation rights are also discussed, as are current trends that affect paternity laws. Major cases, statutes and model acts that exemplify changes in paternity laws are listed in three appendices. Softcover, tables, glossary, appendices, bibliography, index.
Aneeta: What do you mean by this: “Family form is not consistent and is in a state of flux.”? In particular, what is this ‘family form’?
Family form is best explained by examples. We have single parent families, traditional two-parent nuclear families, blended families, that is, those involving step children and step parents, and extended families, those involving relatives. So, since we have a variety of forms or types of families, the form or type is not always the same or consistent. Family form is in a state of flux because the form of family in society is constantly changing. On the individual level, for example, children may live in more than one type of family before they reach adulthood. On the societal level, new forms of family are emerging, for example, the same sex parent family.
Aneeta: In this, there is one statement made: “As family forms change, the law struggles to keep pace.” Rosemarie, would you agree with me that this is not something that is limited to the field of family law alone? It happens in all areas of law.
Rosemarie: Yes, I would agree.
Aneeta: The Cuban Family: Custom and Change in an Era of Hardship
Rosemarie: One of the highlights of writing this book was the opportunity to attend as a U.S. delegate, the 12th International Congress on Family Law in Havana, Cuba. This provided both academic information and practical participatory observation research for the book. The Cuban people were very helpful and very kind. I am very grateful for their assistance.
Description: This work explores how relationships of blood, marriage, sex, and residence work in each type of Cuban family, particularly as it is affected by Cuba’s struggle to transform its economy. It also examines historical perspectives on the contemporary Cuban family, ethnicity and race, marriage, the extended family, family rights, the emigrating family, United States’ citizenship issues, religion, and the Cuban-American family.
Tables list such details as population numbers, age, life expectancy, growth, birth, and death rates, immigration and mortality rates, HIV rates, and literacy. The book also includes narratives of childhood memories from pre-revolutionary Cuba to the late 20th century, providing fresh insights into the cultural value attached to the family.
Aneeta: What is Cuba like?
Rosemarie: The United States’ delegation to Cuba was sponsored by the Bar Association of the City of New York. In cooperation with the Congress, the Bar Association made it possible for us to freely move in Cuban society. Our positive thoughts about Cuba are reflected in the words of one of the U.S. attorneys and is expressed in the preface of the book, “As is well known it is a rare privilege for United States citizens to visit this wonderful country and we feel truly privileged to spend this time among you. I can report how especially wonderful it has been to roam freely throughout the country and to feel the warmth of the Cuban citizens despite the unfortunate political chill between our governments.”
In our travels in Cuba, we moved freely throughout Havana and the southwest provinces. We visited Pinar del Río where we visited a factory that made the world famous Cuban cigars and Viñales where we observed the crops and livestock that are grown there. We observed the great beauty of the countryside, mountains, and caves. We saw the people as they went about their daily lives. It was a real education.
Aneeta: Female Genital Mutilation: Legal, Cultural and Medical Issues
Rosemarie: Description: Female genital mutilation (FGM) occurs in many parts of the world, but especially in Africa. It is a cultural practice thought to have been established centuries ago, though its origins appear to have been lost in the past. International efforts to eliminate it also have a long history. As early as the 17th century, Christian missionaries and colonial administrations in Africa attempted to prevent the practice. Today, efforts to eradicate FGM are under way within and outside of practicing cultures.
This book discusses the definition and types of FGM and explores the common justifications for the practice, along with the incidence in Africa and other countries, global laws, legal issues, rights and religion. Ethical considerations are examined, as are progress and the role of culture. Personal interviews help to expand and enrich the discussion. The book concludes with thoughts on the movement from tradition to cultural evolution.
Aneeta: You know Rosemarie, in the last sentence of your description of the book you say this: “the book concludes with thoughts on the movement from tradition to cultural evolution.”. Forgive me, but I have to ask you a question, I will have to give a little of my viewpoint here: I am of Indian origin and many today are familiar with the practice of sati – a wife chooses to die on the funeral pyre of her dead husband. This practice has long been outlawed and was considered barbaric. However, it was M.M.Kaye who best said it in her novel The Far Pavillions – I cannot remember the exact words that were written but it was something like this – it does not take a law, and that too an English law, to change traditions that have lasted centuries. In the book, a princess who before marriage, was terrified of sati, gladly succumbs to the tradition when her husband dies – she had come to love him and in death she would be united with him forever; she could not bear to live without him. Now, my question is this – when there is a movement from tradition to cultural evolution, whose culture are these women moving to? More importantly, once the move is made, is there a support mechanism in place for those who choose to change? Nothing can be worse than leaving all you know only to come to something you have no clue about and you’re left alone to deal with the loneliness.
Rosemarie: You have touched on the heart of one the controversies between the feminists of the western world and their sisters in other cultures. The early debates indicated a gap between the philosophies of these worlds. A gap which I found to be narrowing when I visited Africa. Women in Africa are moving from tradition because of influences within their own culture to do so. These influences are based in education and provision for change. Built-in to this approach are support mechanisms. For example, take the case of the circumciser. Once she is convinced that this is a service she should no longer perform, she will have to earn a living because circumcising gave her an income. Substitute training for new work is offered. Income is also a factor for other village members. For example, celebrations at the time of circumcision bring a social cohesiveness to the village and valuable gifts for the daughter’s family. One of the approaches is to encourage the continuing of celebration but without cutting. Once families realize they can continue their time honored traditions without circumcising, they are more willing to change.
You say nothing is worse than “leaving all you know.” Often women do not know what an uncircumcised body looks like or is for that matter. Classes are held demonstrating with the aid of models exactly what normal bodily features look like. There is much change taking place in Africa and most of it, now, is because of efforts within Africa.
Many circumcised women are troubled with fistulas, narrow passages or ducts, that leave them unable to urinate or defecate correctly. Unless these women get health care, they will be ostracized and considered unmarriageable. She will indeed be alone and confused. Secondly, oddly enough, in some places in Africa, young men are finding that uncircumcised women outside the village make better sexual partners. Thus, the circumcised women in their village are indeed left alone and unmarriageable even though they have had done what they thought would insure their marriageability.
Tradition and change are clashing over female genital mutilation (FGM) in African culture. Whatever change, if meaningful, has to be in that particular culture changing.
Aneeta: Rosemarie, I know that to do the research for this new book, you made a trip to Africa. Can you please share with us a story from your trip there?
We visited two Maasai villages in the Monduli District; Kigongoni and Silalei. In the morning, we visited Kigongoni. We visited with the leader of the village, Olaiguenani Landari and his cabinet. We sat in the shade of a tree at first. After a while, the Maasai said it would be better to go inside their hut because there is too much wind and it is difficult to communicate. We went inside their hut where we all sat in a circle and the discussion continued. About midway through the discussion we were asked if we would drink what they give their honored guests, hot milk. A young warrior brought us the hot milk. When we finished drinking the milk, they wanted us to drink more, but it would be too much, so we did not drink a second cup. With this group of Maasai men we discussed the roles of men and women and male circumcision.
In the afternoon, we visited Silalei. We met the Laibon, the traditional Maasai witch doctor, who is in charge. A witch doctor is a positive force for the Maasai. In Tanzania, the Maasai Laibon is looked upon as having divine power and as a healer. He allowed me to visit with the women. My interpreter, the women and I went down the hill to another tree and sat down to have the discussion on female circumcision. The Maasai women had questions for me as well. They asked, Where has mama come from? She is from America?
The traditional reasons for female genital mutilation are those that the Maasai women gave, most pertinent is preparation for womanhood. The discussion began by asking at what age the Maasai daughters are ready to go to their husband? The woman who spoke for the group said, Alike that one is ready to get a husband. If anyone wants to marry a girl like that one, they come and they bring the rings (she shows me the bracelets on her wrist. He has brought some rings to make a booking that she shall be his wife. The child she points to as an illustration was probably five years old or younger.
This gives you an idea of the setting of the Maasai and an idea of the importance placed on male circumcision and the monetary value in female circumcision.
Aneeta: I think a wonderful way to end this interview will be to share with my readers this piece written by you:
A woman Confesses: It’s Never Too Late for Lessons In Love – And Life
“That Spring [after my husband died], I met Jed at a party at the HOEDOWN, a local country western night club … He was a tall, confident man in his late thirties … Our attraction was sudden, strong and mutual. … He was expert at love making and brought out the passion in me …”
“One hoe Saturday in August, I awoke to find that I could not raise my right arm above my shoulder. I tried to dismiss it, thinking I had slept on my arm wrong. But the pain didn’t go away, it just kept getting worse …”
“My pain took its toll on the men in my life. The toughest blow came when Jed lost interest in me. Jed had always meant more to me than the others …”
“And what do I do for my sexual satisfaction while you are in periods of pain?” He asked bluntly.”
Author’s note: How did this woman cope in this sexual situation and in others? Contact me for more information on this story.
Aneeta: Rosemarie, exactly that: where and how do my readers contact you?
Rosemarie: I enjoy hearing from readers and can be reached by email at email@example.com or by posting a message on my message board at my Authors Den web site, http://www.authorsden.com/rosemarieskaine.
Aneeta: Rosemarie, I thank you so very much for agreeing to this interview.
Rosemarie: Thank you, Aneeta, my pleasure.
This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.