Posts Tagged ‘analogy’

I’ve often described myself as a fringe dweller, being on the edge of a number of communities or social groups; included, yet being fringe enough to move freely from one to another, selecting the things from each that resonated with me and deflecting things that did not. That analogy—which I first used as a teenager—is one of taking, not giving, and building myself from the possibilities I encountered.

crab buckets

Two crab buckets full of crabs.

Researcher, writer, psychotherapist and social activist Meg John (MJ) Barker uses the analogy of a crab bucket to describe how people stay in one category—such as gender, sexuality, sexual expression—where they seem to belong, or want to belong. They actively stop other people from leaving and exploring other options, just as crabs do to stop other crabs leaving the bucket. MJ extends the analogy by adding that people might escape from one bucket, only to go to another, and remain trapped, just in a different situation. MJ acknowledges that the analogy is not their original one; this article gives some history.

Crab buckets image source


Today, in a workshop-planning conversation with Rog from www.curiouscreatures.biz he commented that I brought a mix of sex-positive, queer-and-kinky-positive, with academic credibility, wide knowledge, educational skills and experience. These things enable good sex education (and play situations such as workshops or parties) for adults which can lead to personal growth and transformative learning.

I immediately visualised myself on a beach which was dotted with crab buckets, gaily running from one to another, dipping a claw into one bucket, then skipping to another, making connections with different groups, belonging on the whole beach and not just in one confined part of it. “I’ve found my niche!” I exclaimed.

Rog’s comment and this image demonstrated for me that I belong widely, and can contribute with experience and expertise in a number of ways and places. One box (or bucket) will never be enough. What this mature image adds to the fringe-dweller description is of someone who contributes to the communities, not just borrows from them. I do not fit in only one crab bucket, I own the beach and can contribute and share across its many elements. Also, I have an interesting brain.

Bass Coast beach photo by Linda Kirkman

Bass Coast, Victoria, Australia. Image by Linda Kirkman


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Had an epiphany today. I had intended to write a short piece on what my participants called FWB. After a conversation with Chris about what I was calling ‘definition’ the concept became much bigger, including questions such as; what happens in the relationship? What are the characteristics of FWBR as found in my research? I’m looking at friendship, sex, motivation, freedom, financial separation, disclosure, monogamy, non-monogamy, behaviours, and boundaries within the relationships. I have written 6,000 words on what began as a couple of pages of definition of FWBR and is now exploring the relationships in depth.

My epiphany was that I was writing the answer to my research question. My research question is, ‘What is the experience of rural baby boomers in friends-with-benefits relationships’. This 6,000 words is about my participants’ experience, and therefore central to my whole thesis. As soon as I realised that I had two reactions. The first was that this was quite straightforward and I can write this fairly easily. The second was ‘der’ – I had not seen the obvious that of course what I was doing was describing the experience of my participants in this bit. I have been distracted by some of the more specific and subtle findings, re health service use, and STI risk-taking, and worrying about agency and life course and learning more about sociology and deep theory stuff. It now makes sense to go to the essence of my question and answer it.


I was worried about how to separate out the different aspects I was writing about because they overlapped so much. I thought about applying a reverse outline to what I had written then sort it from there. I envisaged putting the text into a table and numbering the paragraphs in one column and putting keywords in another. Would Excel be a better way? I felt as though I should use NVivo more, and use it to code and sort different aspects of the writing.

I asked Chris for his opinion. He did not hesitate.  “Just keep writing. Sorting it out is something for supervision. Don’t go to NVivo, you will just get lost and distracted.”

Me: You mean it is like making lamingtons, first you have to have a good sponge and then you can cut it up into squares?

Chris: Yes, you have to make the sponge, cut it up, then dip into chocolate, then the coconut

Me: You make it pretty with the chocolate and coconut

Chris: … and your fingers get all messy from the chocolate

Me: Then you lick your fingers clean.

Chris: Yes.

This is a perfect analogy for writing a thesis. I have assembled my ingredients and am busy baking my sponge. The dissection into chapters will come later and then they can be made beautiful with all the trimmings.

Lamington image and recipe here.

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Weeding the vegetable garden is like data analysis. This was my observation when doing some overdue vegetable garden maintenance today. First there seems to be an overwhelming mix of rampant and flourishing plants, competing for attention and it is hard to separate one from another. When the weeds are pulled out inevitably something small and precious is accidentally uprooted by mistake. At least with data it is possible to put it back in again, if you notice.

ImageSome things, like the rhubarb and zucchini, seem to dominate and be very prolific, and are not always what you want to see because they are too boring and obvious. This is especially the case with giant zucchini – which are also a sign that you have been neglecting things. Rhubarb is the word said by actors when they want to make a noise that sounds like conversation but is meaningless, a reminder to keep the unnecessary babble down.

A flourishing crop of basil is an invitation to take it, value add, and make something more sophisticated, such as pesto, which is like building on an interesting idea. Some things look good but don’t go anywhere, like the lovely scarlet runner bean flowers that haven’t evolved into beans. Other things appear but cannot be identified; are they useful or not?

 The irrigation system leaked a bit, so the garden has been overwatered, but only at one end. All aspects of a project need attention, and it isn’t good for it to be focussed too much on one aspect and not the rest, even if some parts are more interesting.

When things are put in order, identified, dross cleared away, and pesto made everything seems clearer and as though progress has been made. But I still wonder about the scarlet runner beans.


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