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?



What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the things that got me thinking this week:

Not Off the Hook: The White Myth of Black Forgiveness (The Toast)

This is a really great transcript of a conversation between Mallory Ortberg and Carvell Wallace, and it’s well worth a read.  I mean, it’s not an easy read:

Mallory:  It seems this idea of forgiveness is 1. an act that is about keeping one’s own soul free from bitterness and destruction and 2. as a process. But more often white people or just society at large tends to think of it as a final act that lets the offender feel unburdened from guilt. Does that seem roughly accurate?

Carvell: Again, I don’t know what white people actually think. But it seems like there is not nearly enough urgency about getting this racist shit under control and it doesn’t seem like the “endlessly forgiving Negro” story is helping that at all. This is why I cringe when I hear white people sharing stories of black folks who were royally fucked over six ways till Sunday saying “I forgive you,” like “isn’t this beautiful.”

America has a long history of raping, robbing, enslaving and killing people and then urging those same people to find and express forgiveness and peace. So when I hear “pray for peace” from a white person in the hours after Charleston, it lands very, very wrong.

But it’s very, very worth it.  I’m going to be sitting with this one for a long time.

Let’s Stop Calling Weight Loss a “Journey” (Refinery 29)

I hate-follow a couple of bloggers/instagram “fitness” people who talk about their weight loss as being this epic “journey.”  This piece stood out to me because of that, and also because I’ve lost some weight lately and have never once thought of it as being a “journey” so much as an attempt to stop eating seven pieces of pizza in a sitting and pretending that I could out-train a bad diet.  So Kate Harding (who is awesome) and her piece about her own experience with weight loss and body acceptance is really interesting:

Beginning to blog about body acceptance was my toe across the first threshold. My new road of trials involved trolls, self-doubt, lingering self-loathing, more trolls, lots and lots of well-meaning dieters begging me to tell them that their reasons for losing weight were pure and noble, and somehow, this meant they were more likely to keep it off. Eventually, a community developed around the blog, which radiated the support I needed to keep going, but temptation was always there, in the form of a culture that hates happy fat people, not to mention my memories of how kind and supportive loved ones, acquaintances, and perfect strangers were when I was losing weight.

She’s awesome, and it’s not a long article.  Go read it.

The Best New Books Released This Summer: A Guide (Gawker)

This is mostly for me.  I love book lists, and I love perusing books that are about to be released.  My to-be-read list is out of control, and this list won’t help things.

What got you reading and thinking this week?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the things that got me reading and thinking this week:

How Hollywood Taught Rebel Wilson to Lie About Her Age (Buzzfeed)

If you’ve been following the news of a source “revealing” that Rebel Wilson has lied about her age, then this is an interesting piece worth reading.  Anne Helen Peterson is great and I will read anything with her byline.  This piece takes a critical look at Hollywood’s expectations on women throughout history:

Our expectation for total transparency when it comes to celebrities’ histories is a relatively new phenomenon, borne of the ease with which anyone can play amateur archaeologist with another’s past. “Authenticity” is no longer judged by a star’s commitment to her art, or an ability to portray the truth of an experience through that art, but the absolute fidelity with which she has represented every aspect of herself.

It’s a really, really interesting piece and well worth your time.

Why Does Being Single Still Feel so Pathetic? (Dame Magazine)

This thoughtful piece about a new book by Kate Bolick, called Spinster, asks some interesting questions about the identities of women in the modern age, namely: are women people yet?

Which is to say: Are women able to develop identities that are independent of their relationship status—wife, mother, singleton, etc.—or are we still primarily defined this way?

There’s a lot of really good criticism here, as well as links to other super smart women exploring the topic.  The article ends with this thought:

It’s not Bolick’s fault that male desire shelters women from scorn. But until women writing about singleness no longer feel compelled to set themselves up as the cool girl who either has a man—or could get one at any time—I’d say the answer to her question is no, we’re not people yet.

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

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

Her Facebook Disaster Show (Salon)

This bit from the article sort of sums it up:

As I watched her misery unfold, a strange thing started to happen to me. It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t nice, and it wasn’t something I could talk about without feeling the tight noose of judgment around my own neck. I began to feel good. I began, even if only for those few minutes spent checking her page, to stop doubting my own life. It was Facebook Schadenfreude. I had it bad.

I find pieces about how Facebook makes us feel interesting because I chose to disconnect my own Facebook for myriad reasons.  I don’t miss it and I think I’m emotionally much healthier without it, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t relate to posts like this, about concepts like Facebook Schadenfreude (or my personal favorite, fremdscham, which is embarrassment on the behalf of someone else).

The piece makes a great point about the difference between the posts from people you know and the ones you merely watch.  There’s a lot to think about here with regard to sharing on the internet and how we relate to one another in a social media drenched world.

How to Survive the Death of a Friendship (Bitches Gotta Eat)

I totally understand that the style of Bitches Gotta Eat isn’t for everyone.  There are times when the style even grates on me.  But this piece about ending friendships is both funny and very very true:

and i know what you’re thinking, “WHO WOULD EVER WANT TO STOP BEING YOUR FRIEND, SAM” and the answer is: three or four dummies i had to search through my gmail contacts to delete because i got hacked and the thought of spamming that one jerkface with phony weight loss URLs and uncashed nigerian royalty checkswas motherfucking excruciating. i couldn’t let her know that my password choice was weak, I AM TRYING TO BE THE WINNER OF THIS BREAKUP. because i’m petty.

Powell offers practical advice on how to move on, too, telling us to “juice that lemon” once the friendship is over:

the hardest thing about being a good friend, for me, is biting my tongue while my friends do and say the stupidest shit ever. have you ever had to keep a straight face while pretending the woman across the table from you is a smart, rational human being as she describes why the items she found while digging through her boyfriend’s trash have led her to believe he’s cheating on her with a co-worker? no!? WELL I FUCKING HAVE.

AT 18, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is Still Revolutionary (The Atlantic)

Happy birthday, Buffy:

Television has had lots of complex, admirable teenage heroines since Buffy, but it’s hard to think of one so consistently empowered to take control of the circumstances around her, whether in the middle of a graveyard, surrounded by vampires, or in her bedroom, grounded. Buffy’s super-strength is a physical attribute endowed by the forces of destiny, but it’s also a state of confidence and competence that carries her through the varying traumas of having the fate of the world always on her shoulders.

What got you reading and thinking this week?