What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

This week’s theme is “absolute distraction.”  Without further ado:

Why Being Solo and Poly Has Made Me a Happiness Evangelist (The Toast)

I’ve been thinking a lot about monogamy and polyamory lately, so this article came at the right time.  This is a really interesting, personal account of how the author sort of fell into polyamory:

I still know far more poly women than men, which clouds my anecdotal reporting on how men versus women react when hearing I’m non-monogamous. However, I do get the most straight-up judgement from mono-normative women who assume that being a tiny minority of a tiny minority of a relationship style must be the best, because I sound like what our culture tells men they’re supposed to want: a strong, independent woman who doesn’t demand monogamy.

Why Men Don’t Like Funny Women (The Atlantic)

I sent this to my best friend this week, because this is something we talk about all the time.  She is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, and I’m no slouch myself.  We both agree that we are funnier than 99% of the dudes we meet and interact with, and yet are flummoxed by the fact that dudes so often are put off by our humor.  This article talks about all that, and much more, in very depressing, very insightful ways:

The way men and women laugh and joke has been so different for so long that it’s hardened into a stark, oppressive social norm. Norm violators get punished, and often, that means funny women are punished, too.

Mental Illness and the Male Gaze (Guerrilla Feminism)

Go read this right now.  Go:

The Sexy Tragic Muse can be found in music, film, literature and pretty much every other form of media. She’s not dissimilar from the Manic Pixie Dream Girl – in fact, I would argue that there is some crossover between the two tropes – but she is also very much her own distinct type.  She is usually young, and nearly always white.  She’s often portrayed as being hyper-sexual – she’s the type that 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy was referring to when he said “Emotionally unstable women are fantastic in the sack.” She’s damaged, often as a result of sexual assault or other abuse by men. Her life carries with it some kind of Deep Lesson, usually a lesson that a male protagonist needs to learn.

What got you reading and thinking this week?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the things I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.  Without further ado:

Why Harvey Danger’s 90’s Alt-Rock Hit “Flagpole Sitta” Endures (A.V. Club)

I owned (and loved) Harvey Danger’s album featuring this song, and it’s still a song that resonates for me today.  Call it nostalgia or whatever, but it’s a catchy as hell song.  This piece over at the A.V. Club offers a really insightful, in-depth look at how the song still exists today, complete with interviews with the band:

This perseverance likely has something to do with the song’s unique timbres and unorthodox approach, Nelson theorizes. “I think it jumps off the radio. The fact that the distorted bass is a lead guitar element is really unusual. That shuffle beat is incredibly captivating and fun. It sounds noisy and chaotic and raucous, but then the melody is very catchy. And almost every line is sort of a memorable aphoristic slogan, which is by design, in a way. It’s also really snotty. There’s a snideness about it that is in keeping with the experience and the inner life of being a certain kind of teenager.

Aziz Ansari on Race, Acting, and Hollywood (NYT)

This op-ed, written by Aziz Ansari, is relatively short and wholly awesome.  Ansari tackles all kinds of things in it, and they’re all worth your time and consideration.  If you haven’t watched his new Netflix show Master of None yet, please do so.  It’s one of my very favorite things to come out of 2015.  This part stuck out to me:

Here’s a game to play: When you look at posters for movies or TV shows, see if it makes sense to switch the title to “What’s Gonna Happen to This White Guy?” (“Forrest Gump,” “The Martian,” “Black Mass”) or if there’s a woman in the poster, too, “Are These White People Gonna Have Sex With Each Other?” (“Casablanca,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “The Notebook”).

Jagged Little Pill: An Essay (Medium)

Jagged Little Pill wasn’t my first album, but it was my first favorite album.  It’s one I still love (I just belted out all the words to “Head Over Feet” while making oreo truffles in the kitchen a few weeks ago, much to J.’s chagrin) and I revisit it fairly often, for something that is 20 years old.  This essay by Morissette is super excellent:

There was a cultural wave swelling…a readiness, perhaps, for people to hear about the underbelly, the true experience of being a young, sensitive, and brave person in a patriarchal world. This wave was moving through culture with or without me, and I happened to grab my glittery surfboard and rode that wave like a feisty androgyne on the back of a megalodon.

What got you reading and thinking this week?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the things I’ve been reading and thinking about this week:

Every Episode of Saved by the Bell, Ranked (Vulture)

So great:

Saved by the Bell is evidence that nostalgia alone can keep a pop-culture artifact’s flame burning endlessly. A monster hit for NBC’s Saturday-morning programming during its run from 1989 to 1993, the teen sitcom featured little in terms of innovation or quality — its plots were well-worn in cliché, the acting ranged from competent to deplorable, there were very few high-wattage guest stars, and the jokes possessed a staleness that Generation X would presumably wretch at a few years later.

Spoiler alert: Jessie’s Song is #1 on the list, as it should be.

Everything You Wanted to Know about Project Greenlight from Effie Brown (Buzzfeed)

This season of Project Greenlight was something to behold.  I loved watching it, and a large part of that was because Effie Brown was so amazing, despite how terrible everyone else was.  This interview with her is very, very telling:

And then I do think a little sugar will get me further. It pisses me off that I have to think that way or do that, because if I were a man, I would not have to, but you know what? I’m not a man. This is where I am right now, and if I want to succeed in this business and do more and tell more authentic stories from the Other, I’m going to have to learn…I’m a hard worker, I bust my ass as a producer, I’m really great at my job, but I have a chip on my shoulder. I am a flawed person in a really difficult situation with other flawed people, and it just happened I have a camera on me, so that’s awesome.

How to Apologize (The Toast)

This is excellent, funny, and a little too real for me at times:

Make a cursory moral self-examination excusing yourself from all responsibility and justifying everything that you did. If this does not work for you, try an exhaustive moral self-examination in which it turns out that not only is everything is your fault, but that you are also responsible for the feelings of everyone around you, and if they experience disappointment or frustration or resentment, it is because of some inner flaw of yours, and it’s up to you to make them feel better.

What got you reading and thinking this week?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the things that got me thinking this week.

‘Things Will Never Be the Same’ The Oral History of a New Civil Rights Movement (The Guardian)

It’s been a year since Michael Brown was murdered in broad daylight by police officer Darren Wilson, and not a lot has changed.  People are still being murdered by police in America every day.  They are still walking away without criminal charges.  America is still a country in which white supremacy reigns.  This piece at The Guardian is excellent and should be required reading.  It runs down the events on that August day a year ago, and moves forward from there, all while providing the details in the voices who lived it:

The gassing was almost surreal, because it felt like we were at war but that doesn’t make any sense. It felt like I had just been attacked by a group of people that are supposed to serve and protect me in my community, which is where I was.

It’s a long piece, but it’s excellent and worth saving to read later.

Five Great Questions I Was Asked as a Reference Librarian (Book Riot)

Kelly Jenson’s list of questions she was asked when she worked as a reference librarian is pretty awesome, but my favorite part is when she talks about working with teens who are described by their parents as “not being readers”:

Like magic, they open up. They’re happy to explain that they don’t like “big books” or that they can’t stand books like The Hunger Games. They then begin to open up other things to me: they love video games. They love books where a boy has an adventure. They loved the time they watched that one movie because it was scary or really funny.

Here’s What’s Missing From Straight Outta Compton: Me and the Other Women Dr. Dre Beat Up (Gawker)

Just last week I had a conversation with my mom about making a point to go see this movie, and then I stumbled across this article.  In it, Dee Barnes, who used to host a popular TV show called Pump it Up!, was beaten by Dre after he became angry about a segment on her show.  Gawker asked her to watch the movie, based on Dre’s life, and reflect on it.  And now, I’m not sure I’m going to go see this movie:

That event isn’t depicted in Straight Outta Compton, but I don’t think it should have been, either. The truth is too ugly for a general audience. I didn’t want to see a depiction of me getting beat up, just like I didn’t want to see a depiction of Dre beating up Michel’le, his one-time girlfriend who recently summed up their relationship this way: “I was just a quiet girlfriend who got beat on and told to sit down and shut up.”

But what should have been addressed is that it occurred. When I was sitting there in the theater, and the movie’s timeline skipped by my attack without a glance, I was like, “Uhhh, what happened?” Like many of the women that knew and worked with N.W.A., I found myself a casualty of Straight Outta Compton’s revisionist history.

This is definitely a piece that is worth reading, whether or not you have any interest in seeing the movie.  It speaks to larger issues within our culture, and the way we revise history (and treat women).  I still think a movie like this is important, but I also think a discussion about why the uglier aspects of life are removed from a biopic is one worth having.

What got you reading and thinking this week?

Book Review: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Jon Ronson has spent the past several years traveling around to interview people who have been shamed in public and embarrassing ways.  These people have been called out on their jokes and behavior all over the internet and have suffered real and lasting consequences: firings, death threats, and general public scorn.  Ronson examines these public shamings, the history of such a practice, and why we as humans are so drawn to this public form of democratic justice.

It’s a complicated thing that Ronson is trying to do here, and he mostly succeeds on some levels.  His exploration of the individual shaming cases, which seem to be front-loaded at the start of the book, is fascinating.  Whether or not the reader thinks these people did anything wrong (virtually all of them did, just in varying degrees and perhaps none deserving of the social media outcry that resulted), their case studies still present a great deal of food for thought.  Readers will enjoy trying to figure out whether these people really regret their actions or just the result of their actions–there’s a lot of hand-wringing about whether or not they’re actually at fault for anything.

Where the book stumbles somewhat is where it feels like Ronson was scrambling to pad the book’s content somewhat.  Forays into other topics, some of which are only tangentially related, work far less well, serving only to drag down the book’s momentum.  Also, Ronson himself is kind of insufferable at times, and if the reader has done any reading about the controversy surrounding the ARCs of the book and an excised (insensitive) line about rape, they’re likely to go into the book with some preconceived notions.  None of this is bad, per say–it just makes for a different reading experience.

One thing that Ronson falls woefully short on is examining how much harder a time women have in these public shamings than men do.  Although he makes mention of the fact that the women receive far more rape and death threats, Ronson doesn’t take any time to extrapolate what that means.  He also makes mention of the fact that nearly all of the men who are shamed and fired were offered other (better) jobs within a short period of time, while the women were not.  There’s a lot of interesting stuff here to unpack, and Ronson skips right past it.

On the whole, it’s an interesting read that will work well for discussions of the dark side of social media and public shaming.  Individual chapters are stronger than the whole, which will lend itself well to classroom assigned reading.  These would have worked better as a few essays and not as a whole book.  Borrow, don’t buy.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. Riverhead Books: 2015.  Library copy.


What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

Let’s get to the links.

My Wedding Was Perfect – and I Was Fat as Hell the Whole Time(The Guardian)

I love Lindy West for a lot of reasons, and she never ceases to impress the hell out of me with her writing and fearless devotion to being totally honest and unapologetically herself.  This piece about her wedding and being a “fat bride” is so excellent:

There’s an awkward three-way tension between wedding culture and feminism and fat acceptance – because of what “acceptance” demands of women in our culture, a lot of fat activism takes the form of fat women trying to “prove” that they can wear the trappings of male fantasy and traditional gender roles just as well as thin women. Fat women can be pretty. Fat women can get married. Fat women can “get” conventionally attractive husbands. But how is that constructive? Male approval isn’t where my self-worth comes from – and that realisation was a huge part of what made my current relationship healthy and fulfilling.

And this:

Choose your rituals, but make them yours. If you want to look like a flower market ate fat Betty Draper and then barfed her up in the middle of a haunted forest (YEEEESSS!), great choice. If you want to get married to a burrito while wearing a barrel with suspenders, I’m cool with it. If you think the very concept of marriage is hot garbage, that’s legit. But regardless, remember that you absolutely do not have to “fix” your body, chase after “flattering”, be somebody’s dark secret, or beg for permission to be happy.

Bad Blood: Taylor Swift’s Misguided Feminism (Ravishly)

If you aren’t caught up on what happened, Nicki Minaj was snubbed for a nomination in a major category at the MTV VMAs.  She tweeted her displeasure at this, and implied that if she were “a different kind of artist” (read: white, thin) she would have been nominated.  Taylor Swift, who was nominated in the category, felt personally victimized and tweeted out an obnoxious response.  This launched a thousand think pieces.  This is one of the best and most accessible ones:

Taylor Swift’s feminism (I don’t even like to call it that, but my feminism leaves room for any and all women to consider themselves feminists, and I stick to that because I have, you know, actual principles that guide my politics) is the kind of feminism that makes me want to shut my head in a car door a few times. It lacks critical thinking or inclusion. It’s about nothing but gender, and in the most limited of terms.

And this:

In being so reactionary, in not considering the many different ways womanhood is experienced and the context of Nicki’s thoughts and concerns, Taylor Swift did the very thing she so condescendingly accused Nicki of doing. She pitted women against each other. She detracted from the real and important conversation, and made the news and media coverage about two ladies fighting. And guess who was the victim in these news stories? Just guess.

Not a very long read, but definitely a worthy one.  I’ve always enjoyed Taylor Swift’s music while finding her mildly problematic, but this makes her seem like the goddamn worst.

White America is Addicted to Black Death (Dame Magazine)

This is a hard read, but it contains important questions and truths that need to be examined.  Taking the focus on a white artist who has created an installation recreating the death of Michael Brown as a way to help “the healing process,” this author takes issue with basically all of it:

Why must Black agony be appropriated and sold to the highest bidder? Is the oppression and degradation of Black people always going to be on the auction block? One piece of the exhibit, a Confederate flag with the names of the nine victims of the Charleston church shooting, has sold for some $4,500. Moore and the gallery owners claim that a small percentage of the money will go to a worthy cause.

Also, this very important point:

In reality, the exhibit is a show of privilege, as evidenced by the fact of who is empowered to do such “artistry,” and who is not. Can you imagine an exhibit by a Muslim artist of 9/11 victims? A Nazi Holocaust exhibit by a German artist?  Or a Black-Caribbean artist’s rendering of Colin Ferguson’s mass slaughter of commuters on the Long Island Railroad?

Upsetting, thought-provoking, and wholly worth our time and consideration.


What I’m Reading and Thinking About this Week

These are the things I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.  Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

On Reviews about the Black Experience in America (Book Riot)

I haven’t read the new Ta-Nehisi Coates, but it’s on my shortlist.  This excellent piece by Justina Ireland examines how (white) book reviewers think and write about books by black people is so worth your time:

The reviewers’ refusal to see the basis of Coates’ argument, that there are in fact two Americas and one is based entirely upon and sustained by black suffering and that it is possible to love a country and hate how it treats you at the same time, is critical to the tone of their reviews. If they don’t see the problem it doesn’t exist. Their perspective clouds their ability to fully synthesize Coates’ work the same way a black American would, a fact neither reviewer chooses to acknowledge.

I basically want to copy the whole article (seriously, go read it!), but this also stood out:

Both the New York Times review and the review from the Economist bemoan Coates’ bleak outlook and his apparent lack of hope…Hope is hard to come by when nine people are gunned down in the middle of their place of worship, an act of terrorism labeled an unfortunate incident. So Coates doesn’t talk of hope, he instead talks of harsh reality and the historical context that white America chooses to ignore. After all, systemic racism isn’t a black creation, it is a white one.

For All the Girls Who Are Part Monster (Diversity in YA)

Sarah McCarry’s astoundingly brilliant piece over at Diversity in YA is another must-read this week.  It’s very short–like three paragraphs–but it’s powerful stuff and it’s absolutely beautiful:

People always accuse women of writing autobiography, as if our imaginations are too tiny to conjure up stories we haven’t lived: I can tell you now that none of what happens to Tally ever happened to me. Like Tally, I’ve longed after the secrets of the universe, though she’d scoff and then some at my sad insistence on tarot decks and astrology charts.

Why the Gilmore Girls Fandom Lives On (NYT)

I’ve rewatched Gilmore Girls countless times (it’s become such a joke in our house that J. shouts NOOOOO every time the show is even mentioned), and I’m currently listening to the delightfully strange Gilmore Girls Podcast in between episodes of the other podcasts I’m current on.  So this piece came at the right time (there is no wrong time when it’s one of your favorite shows of all time).  The piece focuses on the Gilmore Guys podcast, and has some lovely insight into why the show resonates, still:

Emotional speculative fiction takes place closer to home but is no less fantastical. When done well — as was the case with “Gilmore Girls” — it takes everything recognizable about life but adds the qualities that remain elusively out of reach in reality, like satisfying endings and triumphant character arcs, where loss is ultimately redemptive and learning experiences are peppered with witty repartee.

What got you reading and thinking this week?