Well, I’ve just graduated from college (here are my reflections on that, if you’re interested and missed it). I haven’t done of these for a while, so there are a lot of great pieces here. Hopefully by the time you’re done reading them I’ll have stopped feeling so weird about being an alumna (askdfa;lksfja;lsdfjsf) and will be ready to write again.
1. If you only read one of these things: Over on Culturally Disoriented, there’s a piece about the “family members, friends, neighbors” approach to mental illness advocacy, as exemplified by President Obama at the National Conference on Mental Health. It is so difficult to pick out just one quote from this, but here you go:
Note the construction of the sentence: “We all know somebody – a family member, a friend, a neighbor – who has struggled with mental illness.” The person with mental illness here is always someone else. They are always removed from ourselves. They are the people we help, the people we are sad for, the people we want to save. The people who are sick, the people who are hurting, the people with the problems – they are categorically not us. They are other.
2. Once again people have been whining that the term “cisgender” is “offensive.” Maeve explains why they’re wrong:
The main reason I’m offended by the constant questioning of ‘cis’ and people calling it an abusive term, is that it suggests that when we talk about gender, cisgender people are automatically ‘normal’, and transgender people are to be singled out. It posits cisgenderism as the default. As many homo- and bisexual people have said over the years to heterosexual people: you’re not normal, you’re just common.
3. I’m not the only one writing about Northwestern and depression lately. There’s a beautiful and sad piece on Sherman Ave by Ali Parr, a classmate I unfortunately do not know:
It’s easy to feel insignificant in a school this size. To feel like what you’re doing doesn’t matter, because someone else is doing it better. We are constantly competing and comparing ourselves to others, and feeling like shit in the process. I am pleading with you to stop. Stop comparing yourself to others. They think differently, they move differently, they look differently. They are different. The differences, and what we do with them, are what make humans amazing creatures. We each have something unique to share, and we each have the chance to impact others’ lives more than we know. But individuality means nothing without the support of other individuals. We need to nurture each other, to encourage, to talk. We need to not be afraid to openly and freely discuss issues. To not be afraid. We need to ask for help. To help others ask for help. We need to look out for each other.
4. s.e. talks about medical decisions and how harmful it is when people are forced to make them based on cost:
Because we live in a system where people have to hold fundraisers for basic medical treatment, and where people have to refuse advisable and possibly necessary care because they know they can’t afford it. Where a 65 year old man in hospital after a serious medical event refuses a glass of juice because he’s afraid the hospital will charge him $4 for it, and that will be $4 more on a medical bill that will run into the tens and possibly hundreds of thousands. Patients focusing on costs, of course, are going to be experiencing high levels of stress at a time when they should be focused on recovery, but telling them not to think about the expense, to ‘focus on getting well,’ is ludicrous, because what happens after they get well? If they damn the costs and go for the ‘best’ care available, they may well lose everything.
Heteronormativity isn’t just about the presumption that everyone is heterosexual. The expectation that boys woo girls feeds into your mind the expectation that relationships are necessary for fulfilment, and you are less than if you are not having particular kinds of sex with a particular, and a particular kind of, person at particular intervals. It’s about what Lauren Berlant calls the love plot, in which love is produced as a generic text enabling society to interpret your life as following certain conventions. It’s not about what you want, it’s about what you’re supposed to want. You’re not encouraged to think about what you want in relationships, if anything, so much as you are encouraged to fit a script. Heteronormativity messes things up for everyone, straight people included.
6. Chana thinks I’m good at arguing! And so, in this case, was Richard Dawkins.
Despite these and a hundred other examples, the myth of shared female experience prevails. Why? Well, the easy answer is that because “women” are so vulnerable to so many different injustices, even if that vulnerability is vastly different from one group to another, lumping us all in together gives us a louder voice and more power to change things. Even if that’s true, the downside of all this lumping together is significant. Because it allows the people with the loudest voices within the group to always be dominating the conversation. And because those voices rarely, if ever, even understand the experiences of the less-heard members of the group, not only can they not speak for them (which they shouldn’t be doing anyway), they can rarely even understand the importance of making space for them to speak for themselves.
I must say that I find this really unfair. I mean, I’m a nice girl. I have a lot to offer as a friend, like not being a douchebag and stuff. But males just don’t want to be friends with nice girls like me. They can’t help it, I guess; it’s just how they’re wired, biologically. Evolution conditioned our male hominid ancestors to seek nice girls as mates and form friendship bonds only with the other dudes that they hunted mammoths with. It’s true—I know this because I studied hominids in my fifth-grade science class.
9. Crommunist discusses how to distinguish Islamophobia from legitimate criticism of Islam:
The final typical error I commonly see from critics of Islam is where one group or individual is held up as the type specimen for all Muslims. Videos of a disgusting sermon preached by an imam will make the rounds on Facebook, or a crime committed in a Muslim country will hit r/atheism, and every atheist watching will begin to concernedly cluck their tongues and regurgitate shopworn lines about ‘Muslims’. These same atheists, meanwhile, will vigorously (and accurately) point out that prominent atheistic mass-murderers do not represent all atheists or even most atheists (or even many atheists).
How many times do you see parents/people violate children’s boundaries like this every day? Children are tickled (when they’ve expressed displeasure at it) they are taunted and teased and disregarded when they express emotions or “embarass” their parents. We send the message loud and clear from a very early age that children have no rights to their own bodies and they do not have the right to their emotions. The message is:
“What happens to you, and what you feel, does not matter.”
11. For people who are still confused about what censorship means, Erin explains:
Applying pressure to a private business that has condoned, promoted or not taken a position against hate speech against women is not censorship, it’s activism. Our lives are increasingly defined by corporations and their policies. Telling an advertiser to stop objectifying women isn’t censorship, it’s applying consumer demand within the free market. Telling a business to stop sponsoring a show that calls women sluts for using basic birth control — nearly every woman in this country at some point in her life — isn’t censorship, it’s assisting them and other consumers in allocating their dollars wisely. Telling a user-dependent website to stop tolerating rape imagery isn’t censorship, it’s an uprising within the user community for the purpose of adjusting community standards to those that are safer for everyone. Private corporations are free to ignore the activism, and they are also free to do the right thing. When given sufficient nudge they often do, because women are important consumers.
12. Robby defends the concept of women-only groups (he’s talking about secular groups specifically, but this really applies to everything):
But some forms of exclusion can be OK, even if others are not. A group that excludes women is not equivalent to one that excludes men, for the simple reason that we live in a culture that heavily privileges men over women. Creating events that increase the autonomy of men at the expense of women reinforces that disparity, whereas creating events that increase the autonomy of women at the expense of men does not, and may even erode certain inequalities.
13. Jason discusses strawman conceptions of privilege, and defends the term:
Today, as I write this, I have done a number of things that are expressions of my privilege. I used electricity, all day long. I’m writing on a laptop computer, as I often do well into the night. I did groceries, and I did not go hungry. I ate very well. I did some chores around the house. I took a hot bath. I breathed clean air. I drank clean water. I took my omeprazole on time, reminded by my smartphone. Hell, I walked from point A to point B and didn’t get shot at, not even once. All of these things are little luxuries, so commonplace in my life that I am not conscious of them most of the time. They are all expressions of privilege.
That doesn’t mean I have to feel particularly guilty about being white, straight, male, middle-class, living in an area of the world that is not war- or gang-torn. Being conscious of these privileges, and working to reduce inequalities for others when I see ways to do so, is so integrated into my being now — after years of having my consciousness raised in such manners — that I consider it a moral imperative. As a person with a fully-functioning sense of empathy, I truly feel pained when I see people in circumstances that disadvantage them, even ones I don’t experience personally. I might never fully grasp the scope of their own pain, but that doesn’t exempt me from recognizing that pain and because I have a working sense of empathy, wanting to reduce it.
14. Over an Autostraddle, an incredible piece about one woman’s perspective on street harassment as a butch:
There is something strange about the street harassment I receive as a butch in that it is often terrifying and extremely triggering, but something about it makes me feel justified. I am glad these men see me as a threat. I’m glad I’m being read in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable and violent and all the things I fear with every fiber of my being, because even though I know firsthand what terrible things that humans can do to other humans, I’m proud of igniting that in someone who recognized me as queer. It makes me feel like I’m succeeding at my genderqueer identity, at my butch identity, in my masculinity. I’m glad I unnerve that man. I want to thank him for making my nose bloody, just like I want to thank the man who hit me in the face at the bar and the one who called me a “fucking bulldagger” when I stepped between him and his girlfriend.
Hit me, I want to say to them even when my skeleton is quivering with the fear of the familiar and the fatal. I fucking dare you, I want to say. I feel goddamned alive.
15. Keely wrote a really sad and poignant post about leaving her PhD program:
It’s kind of like being broken up with by a person I knew was bad for me. I loved them, cared about them, want them in my life–but I also knew that being fully committed to them was making me miserable, was going to kill me if I kept going the way I was going. I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to resolve the issues that were making me miserable– I was unlikely to ever remake academic culture to be more respectful of work-life balance, to learn to healthily run on less sleep/time for self care, to be willing to brave the insane competition for jobs and for grant money that is the result of a national research budget that doesn’t even keep up with inflation. I knew I was probably going to have to make my graceful exit eventually, because I couldn’t change science enough to tolerate me and my needs, and because I couldn’t suffer thanklessly forever.
16. Chelsea explains how privilege blinds us:
Here’s the deal. If somebody of a different gender than yours says gender matters in a situation, it probably matters. Just because you don’t see something (yet) doesn’t mean it isn’t there, and all your condescending, laughing, and scare-quoting will neither help you see it nor make what I see disappear. If lots of people with some common experience that you lack – a gender, an ethnicity, whatever – are all upset by something you don’t even see, chances are better that you’re facing the wrong way than that it simply doesn’t exist.
17. Ferrett does some equations involving assholes:
That was Stage One of my incipient Asshole Theory: Assholes will consume a certain number of other people. Whether it’s Russell booking planes for guests or a dazzling troll in some forum who raises good points, an asshole will cause some percentage of your crowd to go “Fuck this.” And the first stage in Asshole Theory is that you must place a value upon the asshole, and then figure out how many people s/he is worth losing.
Rather than fighting for every woman’s right to feel beautiful, I would like to see the return of a kind of feminism that tells women and girls everywhere that maybe it’s all right not to be pretty and perfectly well behaved. That maybe women who are plain, or large, or old, or differently abled, or who simply don’t give a damn what they look like because they’re too busy saving the world or rearranging their sock drawer, have as much right to take up space as anyone else.
I think if we want to take care of the next generation of girls we should reassure them that power, strength and character are more important than beauty and always will be, and that even if they aren’t thin and pretty, they are still worthy of respect. That feeling is the birthright of men everywhere. It’s about time we claimed it for ourselves.
What have you read or written lately? Leave links in the comments.