Back in October, I traveled up to New York to interview Marion Nestle about her new book, Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning). The audio is available now; you can listen to it here.
Hey y'all. It's been a while since I've transitioned any of my 17 essay drafts into the public eye, for some number of reasons. They'll make their way soon enough.
For now, a brief update: I recently began work at the New America Foundation in Washington, DC reporting on economic power consolidation and monopolization in the food and agriculture industry. It's a big step for me, for my writing, and it has been a fun ride so far. I'll be publishing work from that project soon...keep an eye out, here and on Twitter.
This piece was first published on BluestockingsMag.com.
At the Out of the Binders Symposium (known on Twitter as #BinderCon) this weekend in downtown Manhattan, apologies were in the air. “Sorry!” for stepping on my foot accidentally in the bathroom line. “Sorry!” when I accidentally cut someone off while grabbing a sandwich. “Sorry!” when a presenter realized the room was too packed for folks squeezing in from the hallway. Sorry, sorry, sorry. It seemed everyone was sorry for something. But at a conference for women and gender non-conforming people, I found this less than surprising.
One of the pat pieces of advice often offered to women is to apologize less. Instead of excusing ourselves for bumping into someone, we apologize for taking up any space at all. Instead of standing behind our statements, we apologize for rambling on too long. Instead of stating our feelings, we apologize for hurting someone else’s.
This is madness, and it must be stopped. Right?
Thanks to everyone who read my piece "Seeking Invisibility," and special thanks to Roxane Gay who retweeted it and thus brought it an enormously higher profile than it would in my modest (but supportive!) Twitter world. I swooned.
Since the piece, I've been thinking about why it resonated with so many folks, and whether it still resonates with me. If I want it to still resonate with me. I went shopping last week and bought a bunch of new clothes, including a pair of flappy, structureless, exposing shorts I would typically believe only stick-thin hipster girls could pull off. But I let myself wear them, and enjoy them, and they worked. They werked.
Reading more Roxane Gay (always so much to read, always so satisfying). She writes:
Today I went to a clothing store. I wanted to find a few nice things to wear for someone I want to look nice for when I see them soon. I am caring about my appearance. I am caring about myself, maybe. This is new and I think I like it. It’s embarrassing. Nothing makes sense anymore. I am blushing.
I don't have a "special someone" to dress for, but then again maybe I do and it's myself. Linking caring about my appearance and caring about myself seems slippery. My instinct is that it is somehow antithetical to my feminist principles to assert that varying my wardrobe may represent a step towards self-love. But aren't we all just bad feminists anyway? There is so much freedom to be had beyond those labels.
Just something to chew on.
So if you've spent any time talking to me about books, writing, feminism, or literally any topic in the last two months I probably took a couple minutes to fangirl over Roxane Gay. Her two books released this year, Bad Feminist and An Untamed State are brilliant and her blog is nuanced, hilarious, and insightful. I am super into her because she is great and you should check her out. Also she often live-tweets episodes of The Barefoot Contessa. It's about time someone brought Ina into the spotlight.
I've been quasi-obsessively reading through the archives of her blog for the last few weeks. I seriously can't get enough of her writing, and she writes a lot. Recently I came across this paragraph from a short post entitled "Real Talk Topics":
So I was recently tipped off to Borgen, a Danish political drama about life at "the Castle," Denmark's government headquarters. I love political dramas, and this one has a woman (Birgitte Nyborg) as Prime Minister, so I'm all about it. I've been binge watching and just finished season 1. This contains some spoilers, but also the first season of Borgen aired in 2010, so if you're really so invested, you should just watch the show.
A couple weeks ago, in my newly adopted neighborhood of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, a woman stopped me outside my house. "I'm looking to move into this area," she offered with little introduction. "Do you think that this is a...safe neighborhood?"
Our brief conversation - in which I informed her that I had moved into the area just days before, but so far was quite enjoying myself and the neighbors - clearly left her unconvinced, nose wrinkled in a nervous smile as she trotted off toward the subway. I had a sneaking suspicion she probably wouldn't move here.
"Is this a safe neighborhood?" When this unknown white woman asked me The Question, groups of young black children and Hasidic men passing on the street, I felt the weight of her subtext. Will those people hurt me? Can I keep my distance from them without feeling bad about myself? Is there a Whole Foods nearby? In today's New York, coded language is the dialect of young white people toeing the Venn diagram of gentrification and prejudice.
What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices—more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal. Reparations would mean the end of scarfing hot dogs on the Fourth of July while denying the facts of our heritage. Reparations would mean the end of yelling “patriotism” while waving a Confederate flag. Reparations would mean a revolution of the American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history.
Ok, so first of all, I think the bell-hooks-Beyonce-terrorist thing was way exaggerated. [If you haven't yet, watch the really excellent New School panel where the incident took place. hooks is in conversation with Janet Mock, Shola Lynch, and Marci Blackman.] In case you missed it, here's what happened. When Beyonce's hyper-sexual public image came up in the course of this otherwise un-Beyonce-related panel discussion, hooks said:
I see a part of Beyonce that is in fact anti-feminist...that is a terrorist, especially in terms of the impact on young girls. I actually feel like the major assault on feminism has come from visual media and from television and from videos. I mean just think - do we even know, of late, any powerful man of any color that's come out with some tirade against feminism? The tirade against feminism occur so much in the image-making business and what we see.
The other night, I was out with three friends dancing at the Salon, a bar/club in Providence. The Salon is a cool spot: ping-pong tables and arcade games on the ground floor, dark lighting and techno music in the basement. We'd been out for a few hours prior, and were ready to hit the dance floor. In the dark basement, my friend and I started dancing together, as we are often wont to do. Note that we're sexually empowered, queer ladies. So suffice it to say we weren't swing dancing.
Just moments after we starting getting our groove on, a flash startled us from the sidelines of the dance floor. My friend acted first, breaking away from me and striding toward the flash. "Put your fucking camera away!" she shouted, pushing the man's phone down. I was quick behind her and shoved him further away from us, vaguely aware of snickering from him or his cronies and acutely aware of my limited capacity to physically challenge any of these men. They slinked into the darker outer perimeter. Panting, the whole scene remarkably unnoticed by other dancers, we returned to our friends.
Writer, eater, feminist, musician. Let's talk.