Here is a wonderful thing. Everyone should watch it.
Another week(ish), so many ridiculous things to talk about in the news. Let's dive right in, eh?
Not Your Bubbe's Dating Game: The Atlantic reports on the sinister rabbinical rationalization for your grandma's pushiness towards other singles at Friday night services ("But Barbara's son David is such a nice boy!"). Did you know that young impressionable Jews who go on Birthright are 45% more likely to marry another Jew?? Or that all Jewish couples are traditional and hetero?? Oh wait, that's only in the fictitious world this article constructs, not the real world. But anyway, the take-away here is rabbis think Jews should marry Jews. Given that marrying another Jew is literally a pillar of the Jewish religion, this article can officially be deemed about as ground-breaking as a republishing of the Old Testament.
Rape Protection Shorts Raise $40K and Counting: When it comes to the fight against sexual assault, surely it's important to educate men and potential aggressors about their responsibility to, well, not rape people. But until that starts working, how about these indestructible shorts! Honestly, what I find most offensive/saddening about this whole project is the part where they say: "Since a female’s waist measurement is generally less than that of her pelvic area, the waist strap can be locked at a comfortable position and still prevent unwanted removal of the garment." Um, okay, so this is rape protection for skinny people? I think my waist was significantly smaller than my hips like once ever. And I had the stomach flu.
Genderqueer Activist Set On Fire on Oakland Bus: Ok, I seriously can't even begin to process this story but it's too horrible not to spread. Yesterday, SFist reported a mysterious fire-setting incident on an Oakland bus. It seemed like a random attack or maybe even an accident. But today we learn that some asshole intentionally targeted qenderqueer activist and 18-year-old Sasha Fleischman by setting them* on fire while they were asleep on AC Transit. Sasha suffered second- and third-degree burns and will likely be hospitalized for weeks. Tragic and terrifying. Luckily folks showed support by donating $21,000 to their family to offset the hospital bills.
*I apologize on behalf of the dumbass reporters at the various linked publications for their persistent mis-gendering of Sasha. Fuckers.
Brittney Griner is Your New Crush/Best Friend: Okay I swear to god I do not read Elle magazine. But when they do a several-page profile of an out lesbian 6'8'' basketball player with hands bigger than LeBron James' and an affinity for bowties...well, c'mon now. Griner clearly gives zero fucks, hates vegetables, and will not let the WNBA teach her how to put on makeup (because fuck that shit). Hmm...now that I'm re-reading, the last page of this article is full of presumptive faux-femme Elle bullshit so don't read it. If you need to wash away Abraham's relegation of the word 'genderqueer' to 'left-coast academic types' then just look at some pix of Griner and you'll be a-ok.
15% of People Think Bisexuality is Fake: In more news that is not news, a study presented at the American Public Health Association annual meeting demonstrated that 15% of respondents disagreed that bisexuality was a "real sexual orientation." As a self-identified queer/pansexual person who sometimes claims 'bisexual' when dealing with particularly binary-oriented folks, I buy it. The number of folks from across the LGBTQQAI spectrum that I've had to "prove" my sexuality to is bad enough, let alone all the straight people. Anyway, this shit is fucked because bisexual teens have the highest risk of suicide and depression of any sexual orientation. Ughhh.
Okay, because this week's round-up a particularly high bad-to-good-news ratio, let's look at more pictures of Brittney Griner being a badass while also listening to this new poem out of Angel Haze's #30GOLD project! Because good things exist!
Okay, here's the thing. Here's the thing about Ray Kelly's speech at Brown.
I don't want to call out specific people here. I acknowledge that conversation around this issue has been tense, loaded, and heated. I also acknowledge that a variety of voices have allied themselves in the fight against Kelly's speech, for which I am grateful.
But. BUT. I must also acknowledge the voices who wish to drown out the voices of oppressed communities. I need to process all the folks on my Facebook feed talking about how Brown students should not have shouted down and cancelled Kelly's inevitably offensive, appalling lecture in List Auditorium today.
I cannot see one more status pleading that we ask him hard questions; that we engage in discussion with one of the most lauded racists of our time; that we be more "open-minded" in pursuit of a campus community that embodies Brown's values (whatever those are). It makes me want to BREAK THINGS. Here is why.
Certain populations in this country are told that what they say deserves to be heard. Certain demographics are lauded for having strong opinions, for pushing the envelope, for speaking loudly and standing up for what they believe in.
Do you know who these people are? Guess. GUESS. (Hint: Not women. Not POC. Not LGBTQA. Also, they look like a lot of the folks perpetuating anti-protest rhetoric on my newsfeed.)
Now, please understand that I certainly recognize that my white privilege, my Ivy League education, and my strong personality empower me to speak and be heard in many situations. I am entitled to a platform in many communities, increasingly even on this blog and especially as I try to raise awareness of my writing and work. I believe that I deserve to be listened to, and that makes me entitled. I constantly examine this position, hoping to continually use this entitlement in solidarity with folks less privileged than myself. (And if you have constructive things to say about how this essay is not pursuant to that goal, please engage with me!)
I was also taught my whole life that what I have to say is less important than what white men have to say. I was taught this by the media, by gender expectations, by visions of leadership that did not represent me or my female peers. I was taught: glass ceiling. I was taught: stay quiet. I was taught: make me a sandwich.
From what I have gathered and learned from my incredible friends and peers organizing an enormous effort to shut down Kelly's lecture, my experience is not unique. Many of us in minority or oppressed communities feel that our voices are not valued. Some have, in recent years, been taught this in not-so-subtle fashion by the New York Police Department. Violence and oppression from the police is status quo in New York City today. I have felt this impact to an extent myself, having been exposed to sexism and verbal harassment from the very people allegedly keeping me safe. This state of fear is a direct result of Ray Kelly's "proactive policing," including stop-and-frisk.
It has taken me years to develop a sense of my voice, and to find comfort in speaking my mind. I find empowerment in feminist, activist, and anti-racist communities who echo and amplify messages that guide my decision-making every day. I work and aspire to one day claim those descriptors, myself.
But despite the growth and proactivity of progressive communities, we are not living in an equal society. We are not living in a world where anti-racism is "the visible opinion," as some horrible person wrote on Brown University Compliments. We live in a world where oppressed communities ARE OPPRESSED. THAT MEANS THEY ARE NOT LISTENED TO. And an auditorium at Brown University, though we so desperately wish to believe ourselves special and unique, is not absent the context of our not-at-all-colorblind society.
I am not at all surprised that many folks opposed to Kelly's policies didn't even entertain asking him questions. Why? Because I was never taught that if I simply ask a well-thought-out question, someone in a position of power will listen to me. Because collective action, chanting, and protest is many communities' only hope of being heard in a society that is simply unwilling to acknowledge their voices.
I don't understand the logic that if those opposed to Kelly would just ask him questions, somehow some greater truth would be told. That is simply a privileged understanding of how politics and debate operates in our country. The only truth is the truth of human experience. And human experience in New York City, under the military control of the NYPD, is in desperate need of a new "visible opinion." Human experience has showed us that stop-and-frisk is destroying communities and lives. Asking communities affected by or opposed to that policy to stay silent IS OPPRESSION.
I so wish we lived in a society where I could expect that, given a platform and time for Q&A, Ray Kelly could engage in conversation with students positioned against his racist policies. Unfortunately, as a New Yorker who is far too aware of the direct consequences of white male privilege, I strongly disagree that such a space could have ever been created today.
In sum, thanks to my Brown friends for fucking shit up.
Sometimes when I write long posts for this blog or talk to friends about whatever sexist, racist, oppressive, normative, annoying, frustrating, or dickish thing we just read on the internet, I feel like this guy.
All the speaking out and pushing back can feel like I'm just yelling at the clouds. Sometimes it's discouraging; other times it's just fucking funny, like this guy. (It gets me every time. I can't with The Simpsons.)
So since I haven't come up with anything significant to say so far this week, and rather am full of a multitude of tumbling thoughts that will likely have little-to-no impact on the clouds, here's a link round-up. Maybe if you read these links, and you also get angry - and maybe even some other people do, too - and we all yell at the clouds together, our combined yells could move the clouds. Just a little. And then a little more sun could shine through.
Evictions Up 26% in SF: Did you know that a landlord can evict you because they want to move into your apartment? Take that, innocent tenant! This happened to 185 households this year in San Francisco. In related news, a prominent eviction case in Noe Valley was settled this week - and by 'settled,' i mean 'those nice folks were thrown the fuck out to make way for luxury condos.'
13-year-old Innocent Boy Shot and Killed by Police: Yesterday at 3 p.m., Andy Lopez was shot and killed by Santa Rosa police officers. Andy was carrying a fake rifle, which police believed to be real. There are no words and no excuses for this despicable crime and terrible loss.
'Busted at Barneys for Being Black': I had to go ahead and borrow the NY Daily News headline on this one. Trayon Christian was arrested outside of Barneys after purchasing a $349 Ferragamo belt with his own damn money that he worked damn hard for. Apparently, he was too black for cops or Barneys employees to believe he could afford the belt, and they suspected he'd stolen someone's debit card. Ey! Fuck you! Trayon is suing Barneys and the NYPD.
Everything Angel Haze Touches is Gold: Let's be happy about something for a minute! Angel Haze is fucking killin it everywhere and especially with her freestyles. Try to keep up. New album 'Dirty Gold' dropping soon.
The Fake Male Feminist Chicanery: Minh Nguyen takes on "male feminism" in this cool post over on Kiese Laymon's Cold Drank. Money quote: "We don't have to be grateful for the crumbs of lazy and fraudulent feminism men give us." Yup! Also: if you haven't read How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, DO IT NOW IMMEDIATELY PLZ.
#MensRightsMovies: Yeah, this was the funniest thing I saw all week. "You've Got Male Privilege." "Girl, Interrupted By a Man Who Knows Better." "I'll Tell You What Women Want." This is why I'm on Twitter. Also, what the fuck is men's rights? (Don't worry, I KNOW WHAT IT IS.) Like, seriously, GTFO. No one likes you!!!
Happy Thursday, internet.
Oh blahhhhh. Hating on Mark Bittman is such a regular hobby in my life that it might as well be part of my byline. But he makes it so damn easy. So, here we go again.
Bittman wrote a piece this week called 'How to Feed the World.' I'm already snoring. But since hate-reading is another of my favorite activities (let's consider hate-reading to be the umbrella hobby under which 'reading Mark Bittman' is situated), I read it. The piece was normal huff and puff about Big Ag and monocropping until this line (emphasis mine):
While a billion people are hungry, about three billion people are not eating well, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, if you count obese and overweight people alongside those with micronutrient deficiencies.
Can we just talk about this for a second? "...if you count obese and overweight people alongside those with micronutrient deficiencies." Bittman is equating the issues of hunger and obesity, as does again at the end of his piece (emphasis mine):
...if the standard American diet represents the low point of eating, a question is whether the developing world, as it hurtles toward that nutritional nadir — the polar opposite of hunger, but almost as deadly — can see its destructive nature and pull out of the dive before its diet crashes. Because “solving” hunger by driving people into cities to take low-paying jobs so they can buy burgers and fries is hardly a desirable outcome.
Here's the thing. It has definitely been demonstrated that both obesity and malnutrition can be deadly. But the assumptions Bittman makes in this piece about the diets of overweight and obese Americans are overtly offensive and backed with no data beyond vague jabs at the "Standard American Diet" (which I guess is mostly burgers and fries). Not to mention the fact that equating overweight and malnutrition masks an unimaginably enormous swath of political, structural, and environmental issues that perpetuate a starving underclass across the world. He does dig into these issues, but referring to living situations of the "peasants," "poor," and "working class" as one and the same is unsatisfying and uncritical - much like the majority of NYT reporting! (Zing!)
Of course Bittman wouldn't mention that there's ample research indicating that overweight folks can maintain perfectly healthy diets and lifestyles - in fact, I know several such people myself, and since my BMI is classified in the overweight category, I guess I AM one of those people. And those people can still live long lives (maybe even longer than you skinny folk!). Or that the way we measure obesity and overweight in this country is inherently flawed, negating much of the research that has been done on the health outcomes of overweight/obesity. OR that the more we perpetuate fat-shaming in our conception of health (thanks, doctors who hate fatties!), the more likely we are to have a society where children are bullied for being overweight, where 1 in 100 people suffer from body dysmorphia, and where the third most common chronic illness among adolescents is anorexia.
It's easy to brush aside these issues as unrelated to Bittman's championing of 'feeding the world.' Actually, that's what much of the food movement has done for a long time. But riding the wave of obesity-shaming just because it's media-friendly - and normalizing assumptive rhetoric around fat bodies - is lazy and regressive. Solutions to world hunger and poverty are politically and agriculturally complex, and in fact have little to do with the 'Standard American Diet.' Dumping blame and shame on fat folks is a tired narrative that represents the ultimate in stagnant, lazy journalism. Did I mention it's lazy?
Also, I can't sign off without mentioning this line (emphasis mine):
I have dozens of friends and colleagues who say things like, “I hate industrial ag, but how will we feed the poor?”
I AM LOL-ING. Tell me more about your friends, Mark! They sound really great, not at all condescending. I bet your last dinner party conversation was really deep, what with everyone's white furrowed brow mulling over how they could solve the problems of the peasants.
Le sigh. Do better, Mark. Must I keep reminding you?
[did you know: this is a Safe space?
when our elbows are touching
and glasses of wine and whiskey clutter our table, and
your eyes open wide honest –
I don’t know how it feels to be comfortable
to be not alone
to be Safe -- ]
[did you know: you smell like soil?
when you come home in the afternoon
and the morning was warm, but
your fingers are cold from the earth –
I don’t know if I feel anything anymore
if I’m happy
or just – ]
[did you know: you are beautiful?
when you don’t give a fuck
and you dance, with
your arms and hips exulting –
I don’t know when I’ll fall in love
or if ever
or with myself – ]
*This piece was originally published in Bluestockings magazine in the Spring 2013 issue.
Drake's new album came out. I <3 Drake. And, it appears, Drake <3's potlucks!
I'm the only one that's putting shots up,
He speaks the truth. There is absolutely nothing worse than when you have a potluck and folks show up empty-handed, or with salsa or a bag of baby carrots and you're like, seriously? Get out of my house. Well, I suppose there are some things worse than that. But anyway. Why hasn't anyone written an in-depth analysis of Drake's food references? Maybe it's my calling. I'll get back to you.
it's very green here,
fountains and running water.
no one sits outside.
so many iPhones,
wedding rings, and shoulder bags.
...YOUR SHIRT IS UNTUCKED!!!
In my continuing, late-coming, and (intended) life-long education on race- and gender-based oppression, I came across Baratunde Thurston. He's not news to folks more savvy than myself, but has come into some more notability with the quasi-recent release of his book How to Be Black. Plus here he is on the cover of Fast Company. FWIW.
I came across him via Marc Maron's WTF podcast, where he was this week's guest. You can/should check it out here. He has a fascinating story and is also a hilarious human.
Plus, here's a conversation about conversations about race between him and Tanner Colby, who wrote Some of My Best Friends Are Black, facilitated by Soledad O'Brien. I can't get behind everything Colby says in this panel - his problematizing of 'white privilege' is particularly narrow-sighted, and his tone/demeanor screams SWM to me - but he definitely knows his shit and is an overall good guy? Anyway, definitely interesting, listen below!
This week sees the coincidentally cruel overlap of 9/11, when we sit with the fragmented memories of the moment our nation was irreparably harmed, and Yom Kippur, when some Jews sit with the all-too-clear memories of times they've harmed others. We ask for forgiveness, and pledge revenge. We weep for the lost, and mourn our own mistakes. A week of sadness, undoubtedly. But could it be, also, a week to look back at how far we've come? So here's my 9/11 story.
A brief interlude for this honest, overwhelming bit by Jon Stewart, from his first post-9/11 show:
I was 10, 5th grade. I remember listening to the radio, I remember seeing smoke from my classroom window before my teacher pulled the shades. I remember sitting in the coat closet with my best friend, crying together as students were taken from class and into the principal's office. I remember loudspeaker announcements and wondering if my dad worked in the World Trade Center (he actually worked in midtown, but given that I haven't truly understood what my dad does for work until this year, that nuance was beyond me at age 10). I remember the news, the replays, the planes crumbling and buildings falling like they were made of water.
I wasn't prepared for the respect and reverence my experience of 9/11 would draw once I left New York for school. Growing up, of course, we had all experienced 9/11 first-hand. There is truth in the stereotypes of gritty New Yorkers. I don't remember a long period of mourning. I don't remember self-doubt or -pity. I remember resilience, and silence. Long silences, that would soon last for the many months between anniversaries and serve as a reminder that dwelling would get us no closer to our revenge, to our victory. [For the sin which we have committed before You with evil inclination.]
So it wasn't until I reached Providence that I really understood the meaning of having experienced 9/11 as a New Yorker. Others asked, wide-eyed, where were you the day of the attacks? Well, at school of course, like you probably were too. Where were my parents? Well, they were at work, and my dad had to walk back across the bridge but he's a marathoner so it wasn't a big deal. Was it a sad day for me? Well...
Because it was for a while, and then it wasn't anymore. When we collectively reached the period of silence - "we" who were able to move beyond the attacks, we who still had our loved ones and jobs and comforts - I wasn't sad anymore. [For the sin which we have committed before You by hard-heartedness.] These were the Bush years, and I was angry about war, and felt acutely aware that time wasted on remembrance could be better spent on progress. I was also acutely aware that 9/11 was in some ways just another day. That city, my city, has been mourning for 12 years, and when you've been mourning and rebuilding and reinforcing the protective walls around your collective heart for 12 years and 6 hours it becomes exhausting to begin thinking about what effort or exhibition or event could appropriately capture our grief, and our fatigue.
This year I find myself in San Francisco, where 9/11 has probably long since left the daily consciousness of folks on the street. And I find myself feeling more deeply rooted in New York, partially because this place makes me miss that place, and also because my otherness makes me long for the silenced mourning, the perpetual remembrance, and the inevitable repentance for the sins those attacks provoked us to commit. [For the sin which we have committed before You under duress or willingly.] I was changed that day. It just took me a while to realize how.
[For all of these, God of pardon, pardon us, forgive us, atone for us.]*
*please appreciate the prayer snippets in this post as they were meant: a hopefully thought-provoking literary device, not to be confused for a declaration of the quality of my own faith/belief or as a judgment/desecration of others' faiths/beliefs. the snippets are from 'al chet,' a traditional jewish prayer recited on the yom kippur holiday. thanks!