Bad Feminist Reading List

I’ve always considered pop culture widely, deeply, extensively, obsessively. My friends and I used to spend endless hours analyzing Harry Potter, building detailed backstories and predictions. This habit was encouraged in graduate school, where critical conversation is always given more weight than the artifact being considered. When Serial was airing, I devoted more time to the podcasts about the podcast than I did considering and consuming the official episodes.

Now that you know this about me, it makes sense that Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, a book brimming with detailed essays analyzing pop culture and our lives, would become an instant favorite. I’m excited about Roxane Gay– and that’s only partly because her PhD is in the same unknown-beyond-academics field I staggered through for my MA. (I feel an absurd connection to Rhetoric and Composition/Communication people because, and I’ve tested this considerably, nobody knows what it is unless they’ve personally been involved in it.)

My favorite part of Bad Feminist was how generative I found it. It made me want to learn more and to create on my own, which are the two greatest gifts a book can give. So, here’s a list of books, articles, and other media referenced in the essays of Gay’s “Gender and Sexuality” section. These are things I want to read for the first time or revisit in a new context, but this is not a comprehensive list of all the media you’ll find referenced and discussed in Bad Feminist. This should keep us all busy for a bit though, especially as we all Resolve to Read More This Year.

From “Garish, Glorious Spectacles”
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble
Kate Zambreno, Green Girl
Helene Cixous, “Laugh of the Medusa”
Joan DIdion, Play It as It Lays
Richard Brantigan, The Abortion
John Irving, Cider House Rules

From “Not Here to Make Friends”
Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
Claire Messud, The Woman Upstairs
James Wood, How Fiction Works
Sara Levine, Treasure Island!!!
Pamela Ribon, You Take It From Here
Megan Abbott, Dare Me
Lydia Millet, Magnificence
Claire Vaye Watkins, Battleborn
Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
Marguerite Duras, The Lover

From “How We All Lose”
Hanna Rosin, The End of Men: And the Rise of Women
Caitlin Moran, How to Be a Woman
Kate Zambreno, Heroines
Junot Diaz, This is How You Lose Her

From “Reaching for Catharsis”
Diane Spechler, Skinny

From “The Smooth Surfaces of Idyll”
Roxane Gay, An Untamed State
Dawn Tripp, Game of Secrets

From “The Careless Language of Sexual Violence”
Lynn Higgins and Brenda Silver, Rape and Representation
Sarah Nicole Prickett, “Your Friends and Rapists”
Margaret Atwood, “Rape Fantasies”
Laura Tanner, Intimate Violence

From “A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories”
Garret Keizer, Privacy

From “Beyond the Measure of Men”
Meg Wolitzer, “The Second Shelf”
James Salter, Last Night
Elizabeth Strout, generally.

From “A Tale of Two Profiles”
Katheryn Russell-Brown, The Color of Crime

I hope you’ve read Bad Feminist or plan on finding it soon. Find a good lady friend who will mail it to you after she reads it—thanks Madelaine! In the mean time, check out The Butter, edited by Roxane Gay. I’d suggest starting with my friend Sam’s brilliant and wrenching “Highlights from the Apocalypse.”

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Tonight in Ferguson

Tonight, my privilege means that I can close my Twitter app. I can turn the volume down and cry for our society that isn’t broken- it’s been shattered since its inception. I can shake with fury and yell at these injustices without fear of personal retribution. I can sit with pen and paper, then put my fingers to these keys and I won’t be disturbed by demonstrations, because the streets here are filled with white people indulging in the privilege of ignorance.

But to say that my town is ambivalent tonight only holds a mirror to my own acts of passive violence. How can I erase and silence the voices of all those here who push back against this unjust dominance?

Tonight, I scrolled through Twitter reposting and reposting and reposting because my own words would not come and my own words should not be elevated tonight. And as I scrolled and shared these raw jagged-edged thoughts, the university in my town posted photo after photo of smiling white children holding their acceptance letters. So I asked them to stop, because they shouldn’t be doing that now, when the only thing the rest of us can think of is Mike Brown, and the fact that he will never smile at a university.

Tonight, I watched as every media outlet displayed split screens—an empty anticipatory courtroom; streets full of protesters. They did that because they knew what would happen. Didn’t we all? I watched as the president called for peace on half the screen while the other half exploded in smoke from the canisters of tear gas police threw into crowds of citizens.

Tonight, I sat across the table from my mother and I remembered when I learned about Martin Luther King Jr.’s dreams for the first time. There, in the multicultural 90s, in Washington DC, in a school that was entirely black save my sister and me, we were told rosy lies. They told us that Dr. King had peaceful dreams and he wasn’t angry because there wasn’t anything to be angry about because we used to swim in different pools and we all share now.

When I am six years old, I tell my mother this story I’ve learned in school and she looks at me sharply. I was there, you know. In 1963, the March on Washington. When she tells me this I am ecstatic and jealous because my mother had been there, she saw it happen, and I am reveling in the joys of having an older-than-average mother because none of my friend’s mothers saw Dr. King talk about his dreams. And I so wish that I had been there. Then my mother is even sharper. You do not understand. You do NOT wish you were there. I do wish I’d been there and she doesn’t understand that Dr. King’s dreams are a Big Thing because it is February and we are learning all about it.

My mother does her best to instill the sense of terror that historical period carried. She tells me about her friends who feared for their lives because they were black. She tells me of riots that scared her, even though she was white. She tries to tell me that there was nothing romantic about it, that we built such a corrupt world that violence was the only way out. She tries to tell me about the deaths that led to those dreams. She tries to tell me that they’ve taught it all wrong, that it wasn’t peaceful because there was everything to be angry about. But it’s all been lost between the decades and privilege between us so I pretend to understand, but privately I think she’s crazy for not constantly bragging about her former proximity to Dr. King’s dreams.

I don’t think I really understood what my mother was trying to tell me until tonight, and I know that’s a privilege, too. We are still living it and there is still everything to be angry about and it is not beautiful or romantic and we cannot lose this reality in the decades that span out before us. My white privilege means I am only now realizing the weight of what we have created, of what I unintentionally perpetuate. My privilege means that I can write a self-indulgent blog post about my own experiences and convince myself I’m doing something productive.

But I am doing harm if I only take up the hashtag, “Black lives matter!” in these unavoidable moments.

Tonight and every night, I am complicit. I must confront my complicity in this moment and all those innumerable moments that do not headline the national news. As a white American, I must find a way to use my position to confront what I have contributed to creating. Because black lives matter, tonight and every night. Black lives matter beyond a Twitter hashtag, and we must learn how to enact that belief. I don’t have the answers and I am finally realizing that I haven’t even been listening to the questions.

Wicked Kind of Women

This weekend, I was honored to perform at the Denver Art Society alongside a group of incredibly talented, smart, and savvy women. Being surrounded by fearless women has been and continues to be one of the most important parts of my life, and I feel so lucky to be supported, challenged, and loved by such a wonderful group. Below is a rough transcript of the piece I performed at the Wicked Kind of Women reading– just imagine it embodied with a lot of improv and sass! And stay wicked, women.

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When my friend Whitney told me about this all women reading, I was so excited. I love women. I think women are so cool and important and should always have a platform for telling their stories. Louis CK once said, “I don’t think women are better than men. I think men are worse than women.” And I relate to that so much. When I see a woman, I’m like, “Cool! I bet she is smart and funny and has had fascinating life experiences that I would love to hear about!” I feel like I am that Bikini Kill song—Rebel girls you are the queens of my world!

I saw a tweet once that said, “You know the old saying, boys will be trash.” And I relate to that so much. When I see men, what I usually think is, “Well. Looks like you crawled out of a semi-decent dumpster this morning.” Men usually find this really offensive and say, “You CANT hate ALL men!” I mean, first of all, don’t tell me what I can and can’t do, but secondly, let’s unpack this idea. There’s a difference between the individual and the collective. So, while, yes, there are good men and I know many of them, all men do belong to a collective nebulous system that gives them privileges to the detriment of others. That’s what I’m most concerned about—not even the inequity of men being advanced, but the part where the privilege causes tangible harm. If you’re so upset that I’m saying that this system of male privilege and toxic masculinity contributes to the continued murder of people who are not men, you’re probably not someone I want to spend my time with. I feel like I have to say ALL men, yes, ALL men. If I don’t, nothing will ever change because every man will assume they’re in the good man group– which is like the Blue Man Group with slightly less body paint. If it makes all you men and men sympathizers feel better, I have to consider this exact same thing with all of my privileged identities—being white and straight and able-bodied and about a thousand other things. Yes, I’m an individual who tries to do active good, but I’m still a member of those nebulous groups that do active harm.

But it really is true that I don’t hate all men. Here’s a story of a man I don’t hate at all. Art. The post office guy. We have this whole comedy bit down where I go in to mail a package and he says, “Liquid, perishable, fragile, or hazardous?” And I say, “No!” And he says, “This isn’t a care package full of batteries?!” And I say, “No!” but sometimes I like to mix it up. Yesterday, when Art said, “Liquid, perishable, fragile, or hazardous?” I said, “Oh yes, all of those things.” And he said, “Batteries?” “No, Art. A six page handwritten letter analyzing the new Taylor Swift album.” And without even missing a beat he goes, “Then we’d better insure it for at least $100.” Yes, Art. You bet we’d better. I like Art so much!

It is possible that Art is always so sweet to me because he thinks of me as his 12 year old granddaughter. This is not unusual in my life. I have to try really hard to look like a legal adult. Once, recently, I had put a lot of effort into looking like an actual adult human. I was flying on an aeroplane which is always a great opportunity to pretend to be terribly sophisticated. You can sit in an airport bar looking mysterious and unapproachable. So that’s the look I was going for. But on my way to the airport bar, my hair tie set off the TSA’s body scanners. And the TSA agent pulled me aside and said, “Okay, we have to pat your hair but I’ll need you to wait right here until we call in a representative from unaccompanied minors.” At which point I said, “I am not an unaccompanied minor! I am on my way to look mysterious and unapproachable in the terminal bar! Look at my sophisticated outfit!” And she said, “You look 12.”

I went to a literary costume party once and I decided to simultaneously make my youthful appearance work for me while providing social commentary on sexual abuse of young girls. Which is to say, I went as Lolita. My friend went as Humbert Humbert and I really thought we were illustrating, once and for all, that Lolita is not a book that should not be romanticized. I put a lot of effort into my costume. I wore a nametag that said Dolores Haze, which is Lolita’s actual name. I was out to rehumanize her! I wore an incredibly non-sexy work-appropriate outfit that I wear all the time in my non-costume party life. It’s actually my most complimented outfit. The last time I wore it I was stopped by no less than five women, all who told me it was super cute. For the costume party, all I did was slap a nametag on that outfit and put my hair in pigtails.

But all I remember from that night is being incredibly uncomfortable. I have never been catcalled or hit on or sexually propositioned so much in my entire life. This is deeply disturbing to me because I did not look sexy. I looked like a twelve year old. I was trying and succeeding to look like an actual child and that’s when I was most attractive to men. All kinds of men, too. Men my age, men much older than me, homeless men on the street, the PhD holding men who paid to go to that literary costume party. A former professor of mine- who did not recognize me- tried to pick me up. He called me a seductress. Even though I felt completely creeped out by this evening, I was mostly terrified for actual 12 year old girls. Who is keeping them safe? Who is stopping men from shouting these horrible things at them?

Have you waltzed through the girl’s clothing section of any store recently? If you haven’t, take a quick goosey gander the next time you’re in Target. Actually, maybe you shouldn’t aimlessly wander through the girl’s section… I’ll just tell you about it now. There is no longer a difference between women’s fashion and girl’s fashion. Sometimes I’ll pause next to a very cute ensemble that I would wear out in public and I’ll look a little closer only to realize it’s made for a literal four year old. And before you get any fancy pants ideas, no, I do not have the sartorial tastes of the recently potty trained. I’ve been to middle school. All that fearless abandon and willingness to mix prints was stomped out of me years ago.

When I was a kid, the girl’s clothing section was filled with, like, spandex bodysuits in every color. On the one hand, I’m glad nobody has to experience that kind of humiliation, although I do believe that kind of embarrassment builds character. On the other hand though, I really worry that we’re taking something away from kids by making them wear tiny versions of grown up clothing. And I feel really conflicted about that feeling, because I don’t want to censor anyone’s body or fashion choices. That’s what high school dress codes are for. You know why those dress codes exist, right? Because we’d rather send girls home from school than teach boys not to lose it over three inches of exposed shoulder. And if that doesn’t tell you exactly who we value and who we believe deserves education, I just don’t know what to tell you.

So, I don’t want to go all high school dress code on girl’s wardrobes. But I also feel like we’re not saying, “2nd graders, you are people and we respect that even at 7 years old, you do have bodily autonomy, and you can wear whatever you want and we will all respect that.” I feel like what we’re saying is, “You must wear this padded bra, even though you haven’t learned long division yet.” Those are a real thing, by the way—padded bras for baby girls. It’s a sick sick world. And I know that there’s really never been a time where it’s been safe to be a girl or woman in this world, and maybe I’m just more aware of it now, but I feel like we’re publicly declaring that we think of children as tiny adults and because of that, we’re not properly outraged when terrible things happen to children. I think we should all be horrified when women are threatened and catcalled and most people aren’t horrified at all. But it feels even worse when it happens to a kid who already has very little agency in this world. So many girls and women have stories about being sexually propositioned in the street when they were actual children and I don’t get why we’re not freaking out about it.

Have you all seen that CNN video where a woman of color and a white guy ‘debate’ catcalling? I don’t suggest watching it, because it’s just rage-inducing. It’s basically just this sad white guy yelling about how he should be allowed to threaten and harass women and the woman listening to this rant makes the most beautiful reaction faces. You should watch the video just to see her incredible facial expressions. Well, this week, some guy posted that on my Facebook page and said, “Let’s critically discuss this!” And, like, what? What do you want to critically discuss here? The fact that men are trash? Because I think I’ve already established that. But then, some other random trashman shows up and says, “Any fem who says catcalling is never okay is just being a bitch. Because cold approaching is different from catcalling and that’s always okay.” I got so furious that I just deleted the whole thing, because I don’t need that misogynistic bullshit anywhere in my life. Anyone who refers to women as “fems” or “females” should not be trusted. That is a dehumanizing tactic. Anyone who believes that a woman is a “bitch” for stating she doesn’t want to be violently threatened, should not be trusted. And anyone who really thinks that it’s harassment to yell, “Nice ass, suck my dick!” but thinks it’s completely acceptable to walk up to a woman, block her path, make her feel trapped, and say, “Hello female with a lovely rump, put your lips on my penis.” Should definitely never be trusted. That person should probably be on some kind of watchlist. These men who pretend to be feminists while espousing deeply harmful ideologies are what Margaret Mitchell would call mules in horse’s harnesses. More succinctly put, they’re asses.

They’re the kind of guys who think women shouldn’t wear makeup. Just this week, I overheard a guy say, “Yeah, but, like, I couldn’t honestly tell a woman that she’s pretty if she has makeup on because I don’t know what she really looks like.” And what I want to know is, when I come into work wearing one outfit one day and then wear a completely different outfit the next day, does that rock your world? Do you find that deeply unsettling?

These are the kind of people who believe in the friendzone. The thing that kills me about this idea of the ‘friendzone’ is that by the time a guy thinks he’s been ‘friendzoned’ the woman doing the zoning did not consider him a friend. I have never thought, “Oh, yay! Here comes my BFF Jim. He’s such a good and dear friend. My favorite part about him is the way he keeps trying to force me into a romantic relationship!” No. The guy who gets ‘friendzoned’ is the guy I run away from every time I see him coming. I’ve stopped using the term ‘friendzone’ actually. I’ve never ‘friendzoned’ anyone. I have been ‘girlfriend zoned’ many times. You can’t just decide that I’m obligated to be your girlfriend and then have a fit when I don’t agree. And honestly, the way you go from “Date me!” to “You dumbass ho bitch!” in 2.5 seconds does not endear you to me in any way.

I feel like I got off track for a bit there. The point I was trying to make is that when my friend Whitney told me about this all women reading, I was so excited. Because sometimes it feels like the whole world is actively working against women, so it’s really important to have this space where we can tell our stories.

SO ANYWAY YAY WOMEN

Shake It Off

Current events locally, nationally, globally, geopolitically, and in my own personal life are a mess right now. “A mess” trivializes the realities of these situations (except in my personal life. My personal life is not a humanitarian crisis. It is just a mess.) But I don’t know how to talk about all of those things just yet. I’m still struggling through a lot of it and I’m not ready to do it publicly. So, today we’re going to talk about something I do know how to talk about: my girl Taylor Swift.

It’s all but impossible to have any conversation about Taylor Swift without somebody bringing up the Politics of Taylor Swift, which is always exhausting and almost always sexist. It seems like everyone wants to hate my girl Tay– which is what I’ve taken to calling her because all the baseless hatred has made me enormously protective—mainstream media says she’s spiteful and uses boys to get hit songs and feminist media has a habit of saying she’s an airhead who’s obsessed with boys and nothing else. Ugh, y’all. Ugh. I’m not spending much time on this today (check back for a full essay later) but I’ll reiterate what I always say: hating women hurts all women. Also, Taylor Swift is great. I love her. I write a blog called Angry Feminist Killjoy and I utterly, without an ounce of irony, adore Taylor Swift.

On Monday evening, there was this big livestream event where a bunch of information about Taylor’s (yeah, I’m first-naming it) new album was revealed. And of course I watched that live! My life is, as previously established, Not Great Bob, and I knew that Taylor Swift could fix it. She’s just that good. And she did! The livestream starts and she’s ON TOP of the EMPIRE STATE BUILDING. So cool! Successful young women taking charge! My heart! And then pretty shortly she drops a brand new single and it’s so great. I just instantly love it and forget all my problems and can’t wait to get in on this new Taylor Swift Era of Good Times With Lady Friends! And then she announces her new album—which, you know, go ahead and clear my calendar for October 27. And then, because this livestream is wonderful, she’s like, PS: here’s my brand new video.

The video starts and is so great and fun and I instantly loved it just like I instantly loved the song. One of the many unfounded things Taylor Swift is constantly criticized for is her ~bad dancing~ and this video responds to that in the most fun, funny, and self-deprecating way. Here’s Taylor, bunny hopping around with professional ballerinas (an approach that probably would have made my years of ballet classes a lot more fun) and now she’s terrified in a crowd of modern dancers (which is so funny, genuinely humorous, I laughed out loud) and then she’s in this cute lil gold bob with super cool gold lips trying to be futuristic (I don’t even know what to call this kind of dance) and then she’s hanging out with this Vanilla Ice-esque group of dudes and it’s all great! It’s fun, it’s funny, it pokes fun at her own ~bad dancing~ and then…

I’m sure you know where this is going. Crashing down, is where. Crashing down horribly. All of a sudden, Taylor is facing the camera while a group of mostly black women twerk. And she’s dressed up in a really horrifying stereotypical outfit that honestly feels like it belongs in some kind of What Not To Do This Halloween List. And then, because it actually gets worse, my girl Tay crawls through a tunnel of twerking women. This is, unfortunately, the screencap for the video. The whole thing should go straight onto an Inappropriate Things For White People to Do list. The first time I watched this, I just kind of sunk into myself and deflated and thought, “Taylor, come on, no. No, no, no. Please don’t be doing this.”

I spent all night thinking about the video and sent my friends a 1000+ word email at about 7 am. Maybe we’ll end up talking about it and another post will end up here. But for now, I’m going to continue this stream-of-consciousness narrative babble. I’ve read scads of articles and opinion pieces and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to critically and fairly respond to this piece. I’ve had to dig through a lot of nonsense (but the Politics of Taylor Swift!!) to find legitimate criticism and, like all criticism should be, the conversation is nuanced. Is the twerking scene racist? Is it racist to presume that it’s racist? Is Taylor making a mockery of twerkers or is she making fun of herself for being unable to twerk? I’ve heard really compelling arguments on all sides of these questions!

Here’s where I’m at… you need to watch the video before you start talking about how much you hate it. Because, again, we’re all brainwashed into this insane Must Hate Taylor Swift zombie mode and consequentially a lot of the criticism of the video doesn’t make any sense, because the people yelling about it haven’t actually watched it. The big one here is the claim that the only PoC in the video are the faceless twerkers. That’s patently untrue. Which you would know if you watched the video.

One of my biggest problems with Lily Allen’s Hard Out Here was that she’s standing still, surrounding by twerking black women, while literally saying, “I don’t shake my ass because I have a brain.” So in that case, it’s clearly sending a message that the twerking black women around her don’t have brains. With Miley Cyrus, I’m constantly bothered by the way she attempts to claim black culture as her own. She wants to ‘celebrate’ it, but ends up appropriating it. I listen to Lily Allen and Miley Cyrus and I genuinely like both of them as musical artists. I’m not trying to say that they’re the real villains and Taylor Swift is exempt. She’s not. The makeup and costuming and tunnel… not okay. But I do think there is a marked difference in intentionality—not that intentionality matters most of the time. Ie: I didn’t intend to hurt your feelings, but that’s what I did so now I have to take responsibility for that. My point is, I think this case is a bit more complicated than some of the others we’ve seen.

I really think Taylor was trying to make fun of herself in the video, and I think it worked brilliantly right up until the twerking scene. I’m not mad about Taylor dressing up like a ballerina or a gymnast or any of the other personas she adopted in the video. I don’t see that as appropriative. Because poking fun at ballet and gymnastics and contemporary dance doesn’t hurt anyone. It’s fun and really funny to watch Taylor fumble around before the (totally stellar) finally scene where she (in that amazing all black ensemble) dances, footloose and fancy free with her fans. All of that is awesome! Because it doesn’t hurt anyone.

Twerking is a hot topic of the cultural moment, and the conversation usually involves white women pointing at black women and laughing. So, while Taylor was probably just trying to laugh at herself—these things, especially race things, don’t happen in a vacuum. We have to consider the cultural climate and context and how that effects a message’s reception, regardless of its intention. So, if one of you could get me Taylor Swift’s personal contact information, I’d really like to relay all of this information. Actually, no. As much as I would like to have Taylor Swift’s personal contact information, I am not the person who should be having this talk. Either white people need to stop making music videos or we need to hire a Don’t Be Racist consultant to review all music videos before they are produced. That person should get Taylor’s contact info. (And that person should not be me because I am so obviously not an expert on race.)

Finally, here’s where I’m leaving off tonight: I think this video has really harmful and upsetting elements. I wish it didn’t. I wish all our celebrities were required to take a seminar on race and gender theory. I’m really glad the lyrics aren’t problematic the way the video is. Thank god this isn’t a Blurred Lines (lol, rape!) or even a Hard Out Here (I’m too smart to twerk!) situation. That makes it a lot easier for me to accept the problematic elements of Shake It Off and still wholeheartedly love it. And I want to acknowledge that as a white woman who isn’t daily and constantly affected by racism, it’s a lot easier for me to say, “Yeah, this is shitty but ~I love it anyway!!~”

And that’s all for tonight. 1500 words later… I’m going to go continue having feelings about my girl Tay, and really work on trying to verbalize my feelings about everything that’s happening in Ferguson, Gaza, Syria, and even my own inconsequential life. I’d really like to continue to have nuanced conversations about this stuff, but please, for the love of god, don’t make me delete a thousand comments about how you hate Taylor Swift because you think she’s evil.

Don’t Be Racist this Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo has been driving a lot of traffic to the post I made last year, about casual racism and cultural appropriation. Thanks to everyone who linked to that post and to everyone who kept me busy by leaving idiotic comments for me to delete! The comments are so close to being permanently disabled here, which is unfortunate, but I don’t know how many more times I can point to the Rules of Effective Discourse before I just give up.

Last year, I remember trying to be very gracious in undertaking a dialogue around how and why Cinco de Mayo generally does more harm than good. But since I’m still getting messages about how moronic I am for thinking so, I’ve decided to be more direct this year.

When I was growing up, there was a “Multiculturalism and Diversity!” push in public schools. Well-intentioned as this may have been, it resulted in a seriously off-base cultural education for my generation. When you have folks outside of a culture try to teach cultural traditions and practices to other folks who are also outside of that culture, what you get is a lot of stereotypes, simplifications, and flat out misinformation. For instance: how many people do you know who think Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican Independence Day? When did you figure out that Cinco de Mayo isn’t Mexico’s Independence Day?

There’s nothing wrong with being invited into a culture and celebrating in a way that is both responsible to the culture and personally meaningful. There is a problem with celebrating Cinco de Mayo by enacting a racist caricature that involves being wasted on tequila, donning a poncho and sombrero, and talking about swimming across rivers. And if you still think I’m a moron for telling you as much, there’s just nothing else I can (or want to) do for you.

But here are some fun things you can do instead of being racist today!!

  • Check out Feministing’s awesome 8 Feminist Ways to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo
  • Read this cool post that compiles one brave soul’s attempt to respond to Cinco de Mayo ignorance
  • Think about all the ways white people have already embarrassed themselves (ourselves) in the past few days… May 3rd’s Free Comic Book Day, May 4th’s Star Wars Day… I mean, just look at this. Don’t be an embarrassing white person today.
  • Don’t send me hate mail for pointing out that white people do dumb and embarrassing things.

Dare to Use the F-Word

Happy Galentine’s Day! Galentine’s Day is a Leslie Knope-invented holiday that celebrates lady friends. Valentine’s Day is for romance, Galentine’s Day is for friendship. One of the most fun parts of being a feminist is learning to reject all the girl-hate we’ve been taught and embrace the incomparable awesome-ness of having lady friends.

In that spirit, I’m happy to share Dare to Use the F-Word, an exciting podcast project out of Barnard College. One of the coolest, most grounded, and most intellectually engaged feminists I know is a Barnard graduate. It’s been interesting to hear her talk about her experiences with feminism while being a student there, and it’s exciting to see the direction feminist discourse is taking on the campus.

Dare to Use the F-Word is great. I live alone and don’t have a television, so I spend a lot of my downtime listening to public radio and podcasts. Dare to Use the F-Word is wonderful and I’ve really enjoyed listening to the episodes. More on the podcast, and an excerpt from President Debora Spar’s recent interview on the podcast can be found below, in a post republished from Barnard’s website.

Dare to Use the F-Word is a new monthly podcast series created by and for young feminists. Street harassment, food activism, body image and slut-shaming are among the diverse issues discussed in the series, which is produced by Barnard College and the Barnard Center for Research on Women and aims to spotlight contemporary issues and activists. The podcast is available for download on iTunes, where you can also subscribe to the series.

In a recent episode, Barnard President Debora Spar, author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, talks with feminist media activist Jamia Wilson about how the drive for perfection affects young women today. Following the interview, President Spar shared her thoughts on the direction of feminism for the next generation.

Read this exclusive piece below:

Since the release of Wonder Women several months ago, one of the questions that I’ve consistently been asked is “how is feminism different today? What do you hear on campus? Do young women want to be feminists, or not?”  It’s a complicated question, without an easy answer.  Because young women, of course, don’t speak with a single voice or share a common attitude.  Some are quick to embrace the term feminist.  Others despise it. And many – sadly, for the mothers and grandmothers who opened doors for them – no longer really have a sense of what the word implies.

My own view – shaped, I’m sure, by the particular environment of Barnard College, a staunch and early defender of feminism in all its many guises – is that most young women today are feminist in nature if not in name.  What I mean is that they implicitly assume that the goals that feminism fought for are theirs to claim.  They assume, for instance, that they will work, for pay, for at least long stretches of their lives.  They assume that all jobs – be they in finance or law or public office or industry – are open to them, and that they will receive roughly the same salaries as their male co-workers.  They assume that their bodies are theirs to enjoy, and treasure, and share as they wish.  They presume that birth control is widely available; that relationships are theirs to make, break, and determine; and that the world is every bit as open to them as it for their brothers.  In other words, they think, without even thinking about it, that they have equal rights with men.  Which was, after all, the central goal of feminism.

What they don’t do, necessarily, is credit the feminist movement for this state of affairs, or eagerly claim the label of feminist for themselves. This is perhaps unfortunate but also understandable.  Because how many young people generally race to thank their ancestors for bequeathing the world they did?  How many adolescents want to attach themselves to the same political causes as their parents or grandparents – especially when they feel as if those causes have already been fought for and won? Or as one older woman once expressed it to me:  how many hard-core feminists of the 1960s defined themselves as suffragettes?

To be sure, there are many young women today who proudly wear the label of feminism, and are expanding both advocacy and theory in fascinating ways: leading the global fight against sex trafficking, for example, speaking out against domestic violence, and pushing at the very definitions of sex and gender and identity.  But there are others, too, the reluctant feminists, who carry the mantle even if not the name.

Continue the conversation by spreading the word about the amazing feminists we cover on our show. Click to tweet: Listen to Barnard College’s Dare to Use the F-Word podcast series to hear how young women are reshaping feminism. http://bit.ly/IDIgGg

Thanks to Alex for sharing this post with Angry Feminist Killjoy and have a very happy Galentine’s Day!

Dale Hansen, Be My Valentine

Like Leslie Knope’s ideal man, Dale Hansen has the brains of George Clooney and the body of Joe Biden. And you’re lying if you try to tell me you weren’t feeling some major sexual attraction when Mr. Hansen started QUOTING AUDRE LORDE.

And in that moment, I swear I hated straight white men a little bit less.

Since NFL-hopeful Michael Sam came out as gay earlier this week, all sorts of sports folks have been in an outraged tizzy. Then Dale Hansen (Unplugged!) came along with a great response.

Right before quoting Audre Lorde he did say, “I’m not always comfortable when a man tells me he’s gay. I don’t understand his world. But I do understand that he’s part of mine.” That sort of sucks because, ugh, why is everything always about you, straight white men? You know who’s not always comfortable? Gay folks living in your heteronormative society! But then he quoted Audre Lorde on national television and I went into a trance.

Here’s another gem from the video:

You beat a woman and drag her down a flight of stairs pulling her hair out by the roots; you’re the fourth guy taken in the NFL draft. You kill people while driving drunk; that guy’s welcome. Players caught in hotel rooms with illegal drugs and prostitutes*; we know they’re welcome. Players accused of rape and pay the woman to go away. You lie to police trying to cover up a murder; we’re comfortable with that. You love another man. Well now you’ve gone too far.

*Just to be clear, this is a pro-sex worker blog!! We don’t demonize sex workers here!!

In all, this is pretty delightful. Do you think Dale Hansen has a Valentine’s date yet? Those Clooney brains; that Biden body. Be still my heart!

Hard Out Here

Back in November, internet feminists had a heyday with the release of Lily Allen’s video “Hard Out Here.” My friend Sam sent a link to the video and a group of the grad students in our department tried to unpack our concerns with it over an email thread. With their permission, I’m going to reprint that conversation here. Even though this is (certainly by internet time) outdated, I think it’s interesting to consider how we collectively form our opinions and challenge each other’s ideas.

Originally, we all thought the use of black women’s bodies in the video was a parody of Miley Cyrus’s recent (and continued) fetishization of black women’s bodies. In the course of our discussion, Lily Allen released a statement making it clear that no such parody was intended. That essentially ended the conversation and any hesitant defense of the video. Ultimately, it’s a good attempt but the violence and privilege of White Feminism are all over the video.

Sam: It’s hard out here for a bitch.

Lydia: I have been thinking about this ALL day. On the one hand, I love it. On the other, the use of WOC feels super problematic. I think it’s supposed to be a further satirization, but there’s really no explicit discussion of it. None of the lyrics reference race or the way white artists use WOC’s bodies in music videos, it just reconstructs that stereotype. So while I feel like Lily Allen is making a comment on it, it’s not explicit and is in a way further silencing/objectifying/disempowering. UGH HELP ME UNDERSTAND, WHAT DO YOU THINK???

Sam: That’s exactly what I was just saying to Jesse!!!…she is still coming from this place of power…her appropriation, even if satirical, is privileged. I tried to think that perhaps she was trying to mock Miley’s “black women as prop” thing, but now we have it in another form because, like you say, there is no explicit discussion of it.

Mocking the appropriation by appropriating it without acknowledging the “it” really just furthers it.

Lydia: It’s so frustrating because that’s such a glaring, harmful piece of the video but I feel like the rest of it is important for a wide audience to experience. But creating an army of White Feminists is not going to help anyone. ughhhhh. My hope is that teenagers see this, feel inspired, get into a Women’s/Gender Studies class and learn about intersectionality.

Megan: Y’all…..
#1 Sam, thanks for sending this! I love this vid. New fave….Pentatonix get lost!

#2…..the satire was blatant to me, and so I’m wondering if a discussion about the appropriation is necessary? I mean, I don’t think we (the ppl on this thread) need that explanation because we get it…so I think she doesn’t need to provide an explanation to an audience like us. Her satirical appropriation speaks for itself, even if it comes from a place of privilege. She can’t help that she’s privileged…in fact, I’m reminded of an Audre Lorde quote. Can’t remember it verbatim, but it’s something like “people should use their privileges for the benefit of others (to help stop oppression).” I think that’s exactly what Lily Allen is doing here, but Sam and Lydia are quite right in saying that she doesn’t explicitly say that she’s doing this. She expects the audience to figure it out. And perhaps that’s presumptuous on her part, but I think it’s also a sign of respect for the audience, since she’s basically saying “you’re smart enough to figure out what I’m doing here. So figure it out!” However, on the other hand, maybe the general public might need an explanation. I could see a lack of discussion being particularly problematic for people who don’t understand satire and/or privilege. Okay, so maybe the inclusion of a discussion is contingent upon different audiences. I dunno.

#3 Hope y’all are having a good night. I’m eating a salad and reading Foucault….talk about the BEST NIGHT EVER!!

Just found this comment on YouTube….this user agrees with you, Sam and Lydia…

“The thing with satire is that it DOESN’T WORK IF YOU CELEBRATE THE SUBJECT MATTER! e.g. the objectification of black women. Use a bunch of white women twerking to get your satirical idea across Lily!”

Vani: I love you all for having this debate in a mass email. PLEASE STILL DO THIS AFTER WE GRADUATE. YOU MAKE ME FEEL LESS INSANE.

Sam: WE ARE MASS DEBATERS. SOMEONE HAD TO, SORRY GUYS.

Lydia: MASS DEBATING ALL OVER YOUR EMAIL RIGHT NOW.

Someone once said (lol, like I know who, what are citations???) that satire goes up, that satire is meant to critique those with the power, who create the oppression. That’s why most rape jokes are the absolute worst, but this Wanda Sykes one is SPOT ON because she’s making fun of rapists and the idea of rape, etc, etc.

So I feel that in this instance, the character of the white man directing the video should have been a more prominent figure, because HE’S the one who needed to be satirized. In this delivery, it feels too much like it’s falling back on the WOC… and I honestly think the whitewashed masses are too bought in to realize what’s happening. BLEH.

Amanda: I’ve been thinking a lot about this, because I generally like what Lily Allen does. I think that her critiques of pop culture are smart and subtle. I understand what you guys are saying. I think that it’s probably true that her use of satire will be lost on some. One of the things that we’ve talked about in my classes is the idea of intentions vs. consequences.

It might be that an author’s intention was to make a certain point, but if they’re too subtle or ambiguous, what are the consequences of their text? Ultimately, the consequences are important. For me, the satire is blatant. For those that are just looking for entertainment, this may not be the case.
I guess the question is: to what extent can we hold an author accountable for their audience’s ignorance? To what extent does she need to blatantly show that she is commenting on this behavior and not promoting it? I dunnnotheanswer!

Here’s one of the better ones, I think: The Fear.

Sam: Jezebel. [This article includes Lily Allen’s response to criticisms.]

Whitney [resident punk rocker and musical aficionado]: NOT TO MENTION THAT IT’S THE WORST SONG I’VE HEARD ALL YEAR!!!

DAY TWO: After Lily Allen’s response, now we all know it wasn’t any kind of parody.

Megan: Thanks for sharing the Jezebel article, Sam! Lydia and I were talking about it yesterday….I was under the impression that Lily Allen’s video was an obvious parody of Miley Cyrus, but sadly I was wrong :/ It’s shocking that she’s like completely oblivious to what’s going on….makes me think about the video very differently now.

On a related note, you all might be interested in checking out this game….it’s “A Day in the Life with Female Experience Simulator

HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!!!!!!

ICWA, Baby Veronica, and White People Being the Worst

It is hot. I am miserable and sweaty and the rampant racism rearing its nasty head around the country this week has not been improving my mood.

Let’s talk about the Indian Child Welfare Act and the Supreme Court’s wrongheaded ruling on the Baby Veronica case. One of the best courses I took as an undergrad was called Native Women, Children, and Tribes. That class taught me more about my white privilege and the innumerable ways we continue to oppress, marginalize, and enact violence against Native populations than I ever would have had the wherewithal to learn on my own.  People in positions of privilege often don’t realize they have it until someone else, usually someone without that same privilege, points it out.

When we learned about ICWA in my course, I didn’t totally understand it because I wasn’t acknowledging my privilege and the storied history of white violence against Native children and their families. This is embarrassing now, but I remember feeling a bit offended for a second. I thought, “I could give a kid a great home. What do you mean I couldn’t ever adopt just because I’m white?” And then the heavens opened and I was punched in the face by the mighty fist of, “Hey, there white person, you’re the worst!”

The Indian Child Welfare Act is meant to ensure that Native children remain with their families and their culture. White people are the very last people who should be considered when a Native child is being adopted. And that’s totally valid. The conversations happening online around this issue are disgusting- much like my initial reaction to learning about ICWA. “Why can’t we adopt them? We could give them more opportunities and a better life!” Here’s the thing, white people: there are plenty of non-Native children who need homes. You can’t adopt Native children, because they are not toy poodles for you to parade around. Removing a Native child from their culture is a blatant act of violence. Remember the American Indian Boarding Schools?

But that was a long time ago, right? We don’t do that anymore! Well. It wasn’t that long ago. When white people remove a child from their culture, especially when that culture has been historically, systemically, and continually obliterated by those same white people, violence is continued.  The Indian Child Welfare Act tries to stop that violence. I don’t see how anyone can argue with that. And then the Supreme Court did. Of course they did.

Following the Baby Veronica case has been akin to watching the quick dissolution of common sense, which is how this entire week in United States politics has felt, really.  The National Indian Child Welfare Association has an awesome fact sheet on the case. Here’s the short version, if you’re not caught up: a native child, Baby Veronica, was placed for adoption with a non-Native couple. Veronica’s father, Dusten Brown an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, never agreed to the adoption and never waived his parental rights. The adoption of Veronica was never finalized. When Brown became aware of the adoption, he immediately sought legal counsel to stay the process and assert his parental rights. This was a little difficult for him because he was in Iraq. That’s right. When Brown returned from Iraq, a South Carolina district court and Supreme Court ruled ICWA valid and custody of Veronica was transferred to him. But the prospective adopters, the Capobiancos, kept appealing and the case went to the US Supreme Court.

Earlier this week, SCOTUS ruled in favor of the Capobiancos, contesting the validity of ICWA. Because apparently white people still can’t kick the habit of ignoring the laws made to protect Natives from white violence. Because white people are the worst people. The SCOTUS majority objects to ICWA, because they just don’t like the way it dissuades white people from adopting Native children. Which is the entire point of ICWA. To prevent the continuation of racist violence. The SCOTUS objects to preventing that. In further SCOTUS stupidity, they literally suggested that Brown surrender his parental rights and then try to adopt Veronica himself. Because that makes perfect sense!

Now, the case is getting kicked back to a district court, and there’s a chance that Brown might lose custody of his daughter. Hopefully common sense will kick back in at some point and Veronica will be allowed to stay with the biological father who wants to raise her. I really hope that happens, but you just can’t trust white people to do the right thing.

I sometimes think about going to law school, just because of situations like this one. I’m so frustrated by the whole thing. What really kills me is that you know if a white serviceman was in this situation, there’s no question that the child would be returned to his custody. If a white dude went to Iraq all while fighting for custody of his child, the media would be completely in his favor. But Dusten Brown isn’t a white man, so he’s not afforded that same respect. Or any respect, really.

Another thing that just kills me about this case is the website that’s up in support of the Capobiancos. It’s called Save Veronica. Save Veronica? Are you fucking kidding me? She’s not in danger! This child is living with her biological father who has been fighting tirelessly for his legal rights. Save Veronica? From what exactly? A loving home with her family? I can’t even. I hate white people. I really do.

This Week in Politics [part 1]

If ever there’s been a week that’s made me want to move to Sweden… well that’s every week, really. But this week in particular has been vexing in regard to US politics and culture. This week reinforced the many reasons why the United States ranks sixth overall on the Social Progress Index. (We’re seventh in personal freedom and choice, sixth in personal rights, fourth in equity and inclusion, and forty-eighth in ecosystems sustainability. OUCH.) Sweden is ranked first overall.  I want to go to there, Liz Lemon. But running away or choosing not to care doesn’t do any good. Apathy does not an ally make.  Let’s talk about two big things happening around the US this week, and why we should care.

The Supreme Court overturned DOMA. Huzzah, hurrah, it’s about time. I’m annoyed that this is even an ‘issue’ that the government needs to intervene upon. I’m more annoyed by all the idiotic and frustrating responses coming out around the ruling. This morning I heard some lady on NPR say, “Of course I don’t support same-sex marriage because I don’t support same-sex couples.” Hi, lady. I don’t support you or your bigotry! Other people were going on about the man/woman marriage precedent set by the Bible, which is a totally valid argument since this country is and should definitely be governed by that particular religious text. I feel absurd stating that I’m being facetious here, but apparently there’s still a large group of people who don’t understand why the Bible isn’t a credible political document. Hey, y’all. Don’t like same-sex marriage? Okay. Don’t have one. And while you’re at it, stop trying to legalize discrimination. All that hatred doesn’t look cute on you.

Wendy Davis is a rockstar. Oh, man. Oh, men. Oh, white men of the Texas senate. You are the worst. Wendy Davis led a one-woman filibuster against SB 5, a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks and would close most clinics across Texas. For thirteen hours, Wendy Davis stood and spoke against the bill. She did not sit. She did not even get a bathroom break. For thirteen hours. Republican senators tried to trick her into speaking off topic, a violation of rules, which would have ended the filibuster. They tried to claim she broke the rules by receiving assistance putting on a back brace. When the bill was finally voted on, the numbers were in favor of passing SB 5. (After all that!) The vote took place a few minutes after midnight and was therefore invalidated on a technicality.  But because white men in politics can do anything, they tried to change their own rules. They tried to kill the bill, even though the vote was taken after midnight. Wendy Davis was treated terribly all day long by a bunch of people without uteruses (Hey there, white dudes. Don’t like abortion? Okay. Don’t have one.) and then they tried to change their own rules. All that hypocrisy and cruelty doesn’t look cute on you. Oh, and Big Media? The way all of you felt the need to comment on Davis’s pink tennis shoes? That sexism doesn’t look cute on you, either. And I clearly know about what looks cute on people, seeing as I have a uterus which radiates fashion sense. That’s a biological fact, isn’t it?

I love the idea of politics and hate the way they’re carried out in this country. A cursory glance at any comments section will show a lot of sweeping and often off-topic generalizations about “all liberals” and “all conservatives”. We’re so mired in our camps and we all get off on hating each other so much, that we’ve lost the ability to converse like compassionate humans. We can’t even treat each other with basic decency. (Someone helped you put on a back brace because we won’t let you sit down and we don’t care about your physical wellbeing? Rule-breaker!!!) We’re not willing to listen to each other. This includes me- I don’t want to hear anyone’s ideas on why they think homosexuality is wrong. I’m a fallible human and I don’t have time for that nonsense. I just wonder when we’re all going to realize how terrible we are, and decide to do something about it. When are we going to decide life could be a little better if we tried to be a bit more like Sweden? Is that ever going to happen? I worry about the fact that none of us seem to be concerned with the embarrassing and shameful conduct of our country.

Speaking of that shame and embarrassment… tomorrow we’ll be talking about racism. George Zimmerman, Paula Deen, and the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Indian Child Welfare Act…get ready. This Angry Feminist Killjoy is coming for you.