Links Roundup: April 2017-October 2018

Been a while since I did this, since my reading has slowed down to a crawl. Still, I realized that I’ve accumulated some articles since my last post, so here they are.


Serena Williams is owed an apology for much more than a penalty (Sept. 2018)

What’s more worrisome, though, is that Ramos’ disciplinary grandstanding from, quite literally, on high also served a more chilling purpose, whether it was intentional or not. His refusal to respect Williams as an honest competitor doubled as a public and humiliating warning to the young Osaka, whose Haitian father famously decided to recreate Richard Williams’ training philosophy with his own daughters.

It was affront enough to the tennis establishment when the Williams sisters won their way, over and over and over, by following the unconventional methods of their irascible patriarch. But a subsequent generation, and a copycat one at that?

Unacceptable.

And so not only was Serena Williams being punished for her own success, so too was Osaka, who sat with a towel draped over her head moments after she won, as if she was ashamed of her accomplishment. What should have been a moment of triumph was one that appeared more steeped in grief, so much so that Osaka felt compelled to apologize — for winning!


Orientalism Is Alive And Well In American Cinema (Apr. 2018)

There’s no overt malicious intent to Isle of Dogs‘ cultural tourism, but it’s marked by a hodgepodge of references that an American like Anderson might cough up if pressed to free associate about Japan — taiko drummers, anime, Hokusai, sumo, kabuki, haiku, cherry blossoms, and a mushroom cloud (!). There’s a plot development in which poisoned wasabi is hidden away in sushi, and a scientist character named Yoko-ono, who is voiced by Yoko Ono. This all has more to do with the (no doubt intricately designed and decorated) insides of Anderson’s brain than it does any actual place. It’s Japan purely as an aesthetic — and another piece of art that treats the East not as a living, breathing half of the planet but as a mirror for the Western imagination.

In the wake of Isle of Dogs‘ opening weekend, there were multiple headlines wondering whether the film was an act of appropriation or homage. But the question is rhetorical — the two aren’t mutually exclusive, and the former is not automatically off the table just because the creator’s intent was the latter. More importantly, it’s possible for Isle of Dogs to be both a charming story about humanity’s rapport with canines (try saying the title out loud) and an act of erasure; it can showcase both what its director has traditionally done well and how he’s opted to lean directly into one of his most evident blind spots.


America Is in Love With Asian Music, but Asian American Artists Still Can’t Catch a Break (Mar. 2018)

The absence of visible Asian Americans in music points to pretty clear racism, obviously. But it also points to the broader issue of what, exactly, it means to be Asian American. That’s a complicated conversation, especially since America has a fairly narrow idea of what a person of Asian descent looks like and, well, does.

[…]

To be fair, one of the most popular pop icons today, with seven Billboard No. 1s and 10 Grammys under his belt, is Asian American. But most people don’t see Bruno Mars, whose mother is Filipina and whose father is Puerto Rican and Jewish, as Asian. Part of this is embedded in an ongoing discussion of how Filipinos and people of other Southeast Asian descent fit into the Asian identity, as well as how multiracial people self-identify. (Mars has spoken about embracing both his Filipino and Puerto Rican heritages, as well as navigating the music industry as a mixed-race person.)

But it also has to do with the fact that Mars doesn’t “look” like what America considers Asian—namely, East Asian. Other mixed-race Asian Americans have similarly evaded being categorized as Asian. While artists like Tyga, Hailee Steinfeld, Nicole Scherzinger, and Anderson Paak have Asian heritage, they aren’t typically considered Asian American artists. This is at least in part because they present as white, black (part of a long, recognized history of mixed-race blackness in America), or “ethnically ambiguous.” They don’t necessarily wear their Asian identity the way that those who “look” Asian inherently do.


I Started the Media Men List. My name is Moira Donegan. (Jan. 2018)

One long-standing partial remedy that women have developed is the whisper network, informal alliances that pass on open secrets and warn women away from serial assaulters. Many of these networks have been invaluable in protecting their members. Still, whisper networks are social alliances, and as such, they’re unreliable. They can be elitist, or just insular. As Jenna Wortham pointed out in The New York Times Magazine, they are also prone to exclude women of color. Fundamentally, a whisper network consists of private conversations, and the document that I created was meant to be private as well. It was active for only a few hours, during which it spread much further and much faster than I ever anticipated, and in the end, the once-private document was made public — first when its existence was revealed in a BuzzFeed article by Doree Shafrir, then when the document itself was posted on Reddit.


The Counter to Trump’s Xenophobic Racism Is Not Exceptionalist Immigrant Narratives (Jan. 2018)

Let’s get one thing straight. Africa could indeed be composed of 54 individual, sentient piles of shit, and it would not make Trump’s immigration policy and rhetoric less abhorrent. The social contract that we abide by comes with an expectation of respect for our basic humanity, an expectation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—not a degree audit. These “exceptional immigrant” narratives being peddled are unnecessary and irrelevant and feed into the idea that people born into poor circumstances do not deserve the same opportunities as others.

[…]

Buying into that line of counterargument is buying into the validity of our value being dependent on what we have to offer the West. We are more than a brain and resource drain. Fuck that Western colonialist mentality and fuck Trump. He can think my cousins shit on banana leaves all he wants, but they still deserve fair treatment.

In general, when it comes to rebutting the never-ending stream of incoherence that Trump insists on hammering us with in 2018, we need to stop accepting his parameters for debate. Stop letting Trump determine the rules of engagement. Proving to Trump that we can be perfect Americans—migrants who assimilate and accept the incumbent institutions of white supremacy without question—is degrading bullshit that we need to leave in 2017.


CB Cebulski’s Asian Mask: Why the Anger? (Dec. 2017)

What about kids who read Yoshida’s work and thought, “maybe I can do it too!” You might say “what’s wrong with that? He made an Asian kid happy!” Except it was a lie. The kid grows up. The kid tries to work for Marvel. The kid does not get to work for Marvel.

And that’s another argument people have been clinging to: “You just want to work for Marvel. Well too bad, kid; it’s hard for ANYONE to work at Marvel.”

It’s deeper than that, though. It’s not just that the kid doesn’t get to work for Marvel (though if we’re going there, it does suck that the kid does not get paid for their skills when comic writers who—frankly—aren’t very good channel a false identity and end up with an EIC’s salary). It’s that the kid is told what counts as “Asian enough” for Marvel, and it’s not Asians: it’s not them, and it’s not people who represent them.


Let’s Just Stop Writing Long-Form Profiles Of Nazis (Nov. 2017)

What absolutely fantastic writing! No dithering purple prose, no self-indulgent backpatting. Gets right to the point, while also being entertaining and eminently readable. This is the kind of writing I want to see more in news today.

I wish journalists would just come out and admit it: they don’t write profiles of Nazis because it’s responsible journalism, they do it because people love reading about Nazis. “THE NAZI NEXT DOOR” is classic tabloid journalism. It sells papers, it reaps clicks. The New York Times writes about Tony Hovater for the same reason that the History Channel converted to All Hitler, All The Time: it allows the audience to indulge its guilty enjoyment of the lurid and macabre while pretending to consume something educational and informative. The journalist who wrote the Hovater story convinced himself he was interested in Deep Questions about the roots of evil, just as I’m sure the makers of the History Channel’s Nazi Titanic believed they were doing valuable scholarship. But both are, at their core, empty sensationalism.

[…]

There’s another reason Nazis get a lot of press attention: writing about them allows journalists to feel extremely pleased with themselves, and criticism only reinforces that self-satisfaction. Most mainstream journalists are anxious about being perceived as having a liberal bias, even though they clearly do have one. Something bizarre therefore happens, whereby many journalists actually try to be more sympathetic and fair-minded to those on their right than they are to those on their left. (This is why The New York Times will hire a racist climate-change denier like Bret Stephens as a columnist, but won’t have a columnist who supports Bernie Sanders.) Criticizing journalists who write Nazi-profiles for being too nice to the Nazis will actually make them feel as if they must have done their job well: the implicit rule is that If Both Sides Are Mad At You Then You Must Be Objective. A journalist who receives pushback from liberals for choosing to humanize white supremacists can feel good about themselves for resisting the forces of Partisanship in the name of the Truth. There is no way to make a journalist feel guilty about producing this kind of work, because the very suggestion that they should have a “conscience” sounds like a suggestion that they should care about values rather than facts. Same with the criticism that you’re “giving the white supremacists what they want.” Journalists take pride in being committed to truth over consequences, so “This helps spread the message of Nazism” is not a critique that resonates with media professionals, who see themselves (like scientists who further the development of weapons systems) as free of having any duty to control the possible political implications of their work.


The myth of the male bumbler (Nov. 2017)

Such a great article that clearly articulates a phenomenon that many of us have witnessed but have been unable to put into words. I know I’ll definitely be referencing this article for years to come.

There’s a reason for this plague of know-nothings: The bumbler’s perpetual amazement exonerates him. Incompetence is less damaging than malice. And men — particularly powerful men — use that loophole like corporations use off-shore accounts. The bumbler takes one of our culture’s most muscular myths — that men are clueless — and weaponizes it into an alibi.

Allow me to make a controversial proposition: Men are every bit as sneaky and calculating and venomous as women are widely suspected to be. And the bumbler — the very figure that shelters them from this ugly truth — is the best and hardest proof.


The Problem With Sense8 (Aug. 2017)

A lot of folks of color have criticized Sense8 — and for good reason. This is probably the best article I’ve read that encapsulates why Sense8 is so, well, racist.

There is no easy, cohesive way to deconstruct and analyse all the issues in “Sense8”, but they can be boiled down to one major problem: racism. The show is racist, and the racism is ingrained in every element and storyline. Whitewashing, White Savior narratives, demonization and desexualization of people of color… There is so much wrong with the show that explaining it all seems nearly impossible.


We Need to Talk About Digital Blackface in Reaction GIFs (Aug. 2017)

Images of black people, more than anyone else, are primed to go viral and circulate widely online — in trauma, in death, and in memes. Reaction GIFs are an uneasy reminder of the way our presence is extra visible in life, every day, in ways that get us profiled, harassed, mocked, beaten, and killed. Long before the Internet or television, merry racist characters like pickaninnies and coons circulated the same social space as lynching postcards. Being on display has always been a precarious experience for black folks. Scholars such as Tina Campt and artists like Martine Syms consider what it means for black images to be reproduced as stock visuals in history and culture. “Representation is a sort of surveillance,” Syms recently told The New Yorker. Reaction GIFing looks less innocuous with the consideration of how overrepresented images of black people have become within the practice.


What It Means To Be Trans & At The Beach In America (July 2017)

The beach, the pool, the lake, or anywhere skin is expected to be shown can be emotional places for anyone with a body. But those of us who are trans have (at least) another layer of anxiety: Are we safe? Are we “passing” in a way that fits the cisnormative ideal that is forced on most trans individuals? If we expose our bodies, are we also exposing ourselves to potential danger?
And the truth is, the answers to those questions vary hugely from region to region, place to place, even day to day. “Safe space” isn’t an umbrella term, and while there are certainly places like Riis in major, queer-friendly cities like NYC, trans people in smaller and more conservative locations have to constantly work — and band together — to find and protect safe spaces where they can be themselves, free from expectations and, yes, danger.

Bottom Shame With A Side Of “No Asian”: A Message For All You Racist Grindr Users Out There (July 2017)

When challenging the stigmatization of gay Asian men, we must be careful not to reinscribe the standards of normative masculinity. For instance, the knee-jerk response by Asian American critics and activists has been to assert that Asian men are just as masculine and potent as men of other races. This is obviously true. But, such a defensive claim ends up reinforcing femmephobia. What’s wrong with being effeminate? That’s an intersectional issue. Fat, femme, Asian, whatever, we shouldn’t throw each other under the bus.

I’m not interested in combating the truth or falsehood of Asian men as weak, submissive bottoms. Rather, I’m more interested in expanding how we think about Asianness and masculinity and femininity. I want us to consider the erotic and desirable in terms of an ethics of pleasure and agency without policing what is or is not legitimate.


If you’re black in America, riots are a spiritual impulse not a political strategy (June 2017)

A riot is not a tactical decision for political gain. It is a liturgy. It is a spiritual grasping for emotional justice, for an assertion of self. It is an attempt to bring back into wholeness that which has been split. It is meant to reify the dual senses of life and death, hope and fury, that circumscribe the black experience. The flames of a riot are dramatic and angry. They are destructive and a violation of the most core aspects that bind our society together. And yet they are honest and true, dispassionate and inevitable. And by the time they arrive, they have been crying for centuries to be set free so they can do the work of consuming every little shop and bank, every receipt and toy, every pencil and photocopied government form that has played a part, no matter how small, in your continued oppression. When Jeremiah in the Old Testament was told he must not speak the name of the Lord for fear of persecution, he remarked that “his word is in my heart like a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” In our days of darkest rage, the word of the Lord comes in the form of fire. In our days of darkest rage, fire is the only thing that makes sense.


Obama’s Drone Warfare Is Something We Need to Talk About (June 2017)

Teen Vogue hitting it out of the park with their journalism. This is the kind of content that teens should be reading.

Although Bush was the first to use drones, authorizing nearly 50 drone strikes, Obama expanded drone warfare, launching at least 10 times as many drone strikes as his predecessor.

Drones are unmanned – but not unpiloted – and used in lieu of traditionally manned/piloted aircraft. U.S. officials often praise drone strikes as having “surgical” precision, but data shows otherwise: Drone warfare is killing civilians — even outside of war zones.


The War On ‘Fake News’ Is A Danger To Us All (May 2017)

Too often, we think that for something to be true, it must be “objective” — that is, not expressing any particular perspective. In reality, just because a story is arguing a partisan thesis does not mean it’s necessarily “fake.”


Call-Out Culture Isn’t Toxic. You are. (May 2017)

There are two main reasons why “calling-in” is bullshit. One: because those who eventually started calling-out already unsuccessfully tried calling-in on multiple occasions. Two: because calling-in is the social equivalent of “take it up with HR”.

Before a call-out happens on something that is, relatively, smaller in scale, there are usually multiple very small discussions with the offender on why they should stop a certain kind of behavior. There are usually attempts to disengage, to block, to mute, to ignore, whatever often flawed tools social media allows. It is only when those CEASE TO WORK that a call-out occurs. In other words: it takes 50 call-ins before someone is tired enough of being harassed to make the call-out.

Calling-in allows for people to claim a problem is solved without actually solving it. I’m sure any Black femme in corporate can tell you of a time they reported something, was told it was “dealt with”, only to find the offender received a slap on the wrist, if even that. It hides the entire process so that no one can verify what happened. It also allows major harassers to keep their abuses private.


The Gentrification-to-Prison Pipeline (April 2017)

The grim reality of gentrification for a large portion of the Cass Corridor’s population has been evident for years. In the eyes of city officials and the big corporations that now control that section of Detroit, the “limits of development” did not call for public participation but for confinement. We were viewed as obsolete commodities that had to leave whether we had some place to go or not, and many of us didn’t. This is how the city of Detroit’s approach to “social development” came to rely so dramatically on the bricks and mortar of prison at the expense of other responses that would have been both more humane and more effective — such as social development with people in mind, not profit.

If we are willing to take seriously the consequences of a justice system that is the extension of money and power, it should not be difficult to reach the conclusion that enormous numbers of people are in prison simply because someone else’s vision for the future did not include them. We were sent to prison not so much because of the crime we may have indeed committed, but largely for the expropriation of land (i.e., gentrification), which requires getting rid of the people who live on the land. Social development, urban renewal and the like are just new words for what sociologists in the past called imperialism, and what we can loosely refer to as colonialism. Gentrification and colonialism are the same processes largely because they share the same goals — dislocation, expropriation and the pursuit of profit.


Adoption Is A Feminist Issue, But Not For The Reasons You Think (April 2017)

Here’s a truth that can be hard to hear: Adoption is a trauma. The separation of parents and children, the dismantling of families, even at birth, is very often traumatic and can result in enormous amounts of suffering and lifelong consequences for first parents and adoptees, as well as the families and communities to which they belong. The majority of first parents surveyed say they were never truthfully informed about the potential for trauma, to themselves or their children. They are often told they might feel a little sad for a while and then they’ll get over it — but many don’t. And many parents say they regret their decision, even if they feel like it was probably the right one to make at the time.

Here’s an even harder truth: The adoption industry is a business. It generates billions of dollars each year and requires other people’s children in order to stay profitable.

Here’s the toughest truth yet: Those children are almost always the children of poor and working class people, people of color, native and indigenous people, and young people. The people who adopt them, who directly benefit from the economic and racial oppression of these groups, are most often middle and upper-middle-class people and are primarily white.


Men Recommend David Foster Wallace to Me (April 2017)

As an English major, I relate to this article on a visceral level.

I opened this essay with the cocaine story because exploiting my own physical experiences, especially sexual, establishes and theoretically validates my reflexive resentment toward Wallace (by way of his fans) before anyone has time to question me. It also encourages continued scrolling. Then I considered cutting the paragraph because I don’t necessarily want the internet to know that story. Now it does. Yet in either case, the choice was mine to make, and this is, of course, why it enrages me so much when men exploit women’s sexual suffering for Art.

It is enraging to have a straight man tell me a story about straight men telling stories to a woman about straight men acting like shitheads. I understand that this is the point of the text. I know. I understand that maybe other men wouldn’t absorb the message unless it was being told to them by another, probably smarter and better educated man. But then why do men keep recommending his work to me? BECAUSE I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW.


All your faves are problematic: A brief history of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, stanning and the trap of #blackgirlmagic (April 2017)

And so we find ourselves in a moment in which the sort of black girl magic that is visible in popular culture is no longer subversive. Instead, the catch phrase too often celebrates only certain kinds of black women, and in so doing essentializes what it means to be a black girl, and what magic ought to look like. Rather than the emancipatory arrogance that has helped oppressed people survive exploitation, black girl magic offers a smug and increasingly narrow celebration of black womanhood.

And so, for many who remain on the fringes of even black womanhood itself – fat black women, trans women, disabled black women, dark skinned black women, poor black women, queer black women, sex workers who are black women – the notion of magic simply doesn’t apply.

It is virtually impossible to be magical while navigating systems of power that are genuinely hostile to those who seek to resist them. So for example, it is not evident in the hashtag movement, whether or not the struggles of black women who survive welfare and criminal justice systems — and do not tweet about their troubles — qualify as black girl magic. Do those who survive physical abuse and continue to go to school but are not straight A students make it onto the list of woman crushes?


Meet the Woke Misogynist (March 2017)

This one’s an oldie but a goodie. I still reference this whenever I need to talk about the specific phenomenon of “woke” men being assholes.

Tinder Bob is a cinematic example of an infuriating phenomenon: the woke misogynist. The woke misogynist is a guy who talks a big game about gender equality and consent, uses vocabulary like “triggering” without rolling his eyes, wears a pussy hat to the Women’s March, prefers to fuck feminists and may freely call himself one, too—then turns around and harasses you, assaults you, or belittles you. Perhaps his behavior throws you off because, unlike the whimpster or emosogynist of the aughts, he’s confident in himself and his pro-woman bonafides. Or because he apologizes nicely and indulges you in a thoughtful conversation after the offending incident. Or, most likely, because his misogyny is more ambiguous and subtle than that of, say, Bill Cosby or Roger Ailes or Donald Trump.


When A Woman Deletes A Man’s Comment Online (Feb. 2017)

Many western debates have had a strong element of privilege running throughout their history. To be able to imbibe at a salon, stand at a podium, or sit at a roundtable while sparring about the minutia of important issues requires a surplus of time, a dispassionate objectivity, and a platform that many don’t have the luxury of possessing around issues that can be life or death. We live in a world where the most hotly debated issues surround questions of women’s rights, health care, racism and racial oppression, immigration, trans rights, reproductive rights, and religious discrimination. To be able to take issues fundamental to the health and safety of millions of people and turn them into sport where winners and losers are decided by talking points requires some level of insulation from the negative impacts of the outcome in order to enjoy participating.

It is no surprise to me that online debate has become the international sport of cis white men. Those who are least likely to be negatively impacted by the outcomes of discussions regarding the rights of marginalized people, who are driven by little more than ego and the risk of slight discomfort if society is made more equal, can gleefully jump from post to post, forum to forum, challenging the heartfelt pleas of those most at risk. “Well actuallys” are flung at those working for justice and equality like drive-bys of apathy. And those who are fighting for their lives are then forced to battle each challenger bearing advanced degrees in Google and entitlement in order to prevent the outright dismissal of their lived experience.

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