I remember the first time I noticed men looking at me. I was eleven, maybe twelve. I was with my mother in the car—on the way home from church, of all things—and the thrill of occupying the front seat still buzzed somewhere at the bottom of my throat. When we were parked a red light, heads bobbing to some song on the radio, my mother muffled a laugh and told me the man parked next to us was looking at me. I didn’t believe her, but when I glanced to my right I made brief eye contact with a man who I would have figured to be closer to my mother’s age than my own. He snapped his eyes back to the road, grinning.
“He was looking at you, not me,” I corrected, when the light turned green and we drove away. My mom just shook her head and smiled. “He was checking you out,” she assured me. “You’re a pretty girl.”
I felt sick and exhilarated, small and large all at once. I thought I was marked, somehow, by the gaze of a stranger—like I was able to call myself something new for having been seen.
Emma Cline’s debut novel The Girls deals richly in the subject of being seen, of the constant awareness of their own visibility that young women so often feel but so seldom verbalize. The novel’s protagonist Evie Boyd narrates a heady, tumultuous recollection of a summer in her youth, which she spent in the company of a group of people that most now refer to as a cult. The “summer of ‘69” cliché finds itself refreshed in a coming-of-age meditation: as alcohol leads to drugs leads to dark and unexpected violence, Cline’s narrative focus—and Evie’s gaze—remains fixated on the only constant, on the girls. Continue reading
The most romantic and seeming true picture of the writer is this: fevered at his desk in the late hours of the night, hands dotted with ink, floor littered with crumpled stanzas, hunched and scribbling in a fit of inspiration as sleep, that temptress, eludes him.
In the early morning hours of Friday, the 30th of September, presidential candidate Donald J. Trump took up this standard and assumed the ultimate expression of creativity—with a few minor adjustments. His paper was an Android smartphone. His lines of verse were semicoherent tweets. His pen was a tiny, tiny finger. Continue reading
Alternative title: “There is no jar of ectoplasm.”
Here is something I learned this week: Dan Aykroyd is an alien conspiracist.
This may be, to me, the most significant facet of his identity. Dan Aykroyd may be anywhere between 25 and 50 percent of the reason that we have such cinematic treasures as Ghostbusters and The Blues Brothers, but more interesting to me is his deep knowledge of Canadian UFOlogy symposia. Without Dan Aykroyd, we would not know that crossing the streams results in total protonic reversal, nor would we appreciate the importance of particle beams in the history of alien encounters.
This is all to say that Dan Ayrkoyd’s greatest gift to humanity is also possibly his least-known contribution: a feature-length documentary by Canadian sham David Sereda entitled Dan Aykroyd Unplugged on UFOs (2005). The production value is at Marianas Trench levels, the special effects were probably made in PowerPoint, the camera operator was likely Sereda’s 6-year-old niece, but this is my favorite movie of the year. Continue reading
(Clothes are text too, guys – everything is text.)
Hillary Rodham Clinton, doting grandmother, American Badass, made history this week as she was officially, truly, irrevocably nominated for President. Say what you will about HRC as a candidate—she’s certainly not without problems—but the outfit she chose to wear, the set of clothing that will be archived in American historical texts for probably ever, was nothing short of a masterpiece.
Hillary is a self-declared pantsuit aficionado, and she stayed true to form as she glided onto the stage Thursday night. But this suit stood out: every inch of fabric was a soft, snowy white. Set against the strangely industrialist décor of the Convention, dark and glinting, Hillary positively glowed. The costuming choice (because politics is really just high-stakes theatre) was a bold one, and not without strategy. Continue reading
This book is not the only medium available to me that demonstrates the systemic plundering of black bodies by the conglomerate of American institutions we see fit to call a society. Between the World and Me is a secondary source—I can get much closer to the massacre than that.
This week, in Minnesota, Philando Castile was shot four times while he reached for his ID during a routine traffic stop. His girlfriend filmed the aftermath, and millions watched in real-time as she navigated that deadly space between trauma and an officer of the law.
Just two days before that, in Louisiana, Alton Sterling was pinned to the ground by two officers and shot fatally. Onlookers caught this incident on video as well, and in the span of less than a week the resulting media of both these incidents have roused the shock and outrage that they should.
The assassination of five Dallas cops during peaceful protests against police violence heaped onto the nation’s despair, and when the sniper who killed them declared he had set out with the sole intention of killing as many white officers as he could, many people began to think—tragically, deceitfully—that this was war.
These events and the media unfolding exponentially around them are all texts we should approach with critical minds: by now, if we have been diligent, we might have seen a pattern emerging, might have noted the futility of video documentation in shocking the nation awake, in holding the police forces responsible for their crooked execution of an already unbalanced justice. And we should all—I believe this strongly—read Between the World and Me before we set out to make our judgments. Continue reading
I came across this work—it’s poetry, really—in the comment stream of an article from the New Yorker that had been making the rounds on Facebook. The article, a lively if sometimes trite treatise calling for the abolition of high heels from everyday wear, turned fashion into a feminist issue: The author argued the almost painfully obvious position that footwear that constricts, pains, and even damages the body does not belong in a world where women are working tirelessly to maintain sovereignty over their bodies. I shared it most vigorously—being myself unable to wear high heels as they are expensive and I would rather pay for something pleasant—and it was well received by those in my online cohort who have also revoked diets, body hair removal, and other painful “necessities” of womanhood that are really just bullshit if you stop to think about them.
At any rate, the article crossed my digital path again earlier today, and I thought I might check out the comments to gauge public opinion on the issue—I knew that my friend group was likely not a representative sample. There was, of course, the usual nastiness that one encounters whenever women exercise their voices in public online spaces—from men who would rather the author have stopped wearing heels in silence than complain about it, to men who thought the article’s topic disqualified the author as a feminist when she could have been building homes for burn victims in Somalia. And then there was “Women Like This,” a singular work of verbal mastery—a poem, truly—that left all the other hecklers and supporters and “Becky have you read this”ers in the dust. Continue reading
When I heard the buzz that there was, floating around the media ether, a new advertisement for a feminine hygiene product that showed real blood, I felt the same way my grandmother must have felt when the newspapers announced she could now buy luggage with wheels on it. This is great, but did no one really think of it before now?
That we have been forced to watch, for decades, various disembodied female hands wipe the most vomitous of ground-beef spills from nondescript surfaces with their preferred brand of paper towel, and yet have not witnessed a single pad or tampon come into contact with blood (or even blood-colored liquids), is just as laughable as the male squeamishness around most female bodily processes. And don’t let me begin to complain about the ratio of period blood to actual vomit on network television: of these things, only one is disgusting—is actually a common symbolic stand-in for the experience of disgust. But I digress.
Playing period-coy is a common theme in advertising, and has long been a source of frustration and derision from the feminist corners of the internet. And so it was with great hype that this fabled commercial surfed its way to my computer screen. But after a couple views, I remain palpably un-hyped. Continue reading
I knew Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s name only from the Beyoncé song (ladies, tell ‘em). And so when a close friend recommended earnestly her newest novel Americanah, I expected (so, so whitely) a smart and sharp commentary on race, nothing more. A work of nonfiction dressed up in fictional names. And while commentary is certainly a catalyst of the story, one of its strongest flavors, the novel contains multitudes beyond simply that. It is, at its core, a love story: a tale of well aimed psychological depth and emotional heft, where the characters’ feelings can stack on top of you like steep, rolling hills.
Americanah follows Ifemelu, a young Nigerian woman who moves to America during college; and Obinze, her first—perhaps her only—great love. Ifemelu and Obinze meet in high school and fall for each other, fast and hard, with a precocious kinship of spirit. But after a series of strikes render their educations inert and Obinze fails to obtain an American visa, they must part ways: Ifemelu to America and Obinze to London. Continue reading
In the words of my wise friend Ellyse, “Whatever Game of Thrones lost after season 2, they got it the fuck back again.”
“On Wednesdays we throw shade.”
This weekend’s episode, cruelly and cuttingly entitled “The Door,” carried an emotional heft I did not know the creators of the show to be capable of until they crushed me beneath it. From beginning to end, from the wall to Vaes Dothrak, the minds behind Game of Thrones told a tale of uncompromising sorrow that was capable of moments, despite their horror, of startling beauty. Continue reading
Note: Before I begin, let us all knock wood. I mean it. Knock the wood.
Game of Thrones re-entered our lives last night, much to the rejoicing of nerds around the world. Social media blew up with branded content, message boards overflowed with theories and speculations, and some of my college friends even sat in an Iron Throne pitched up at an outdoor mall in Denver. Bastards.
But many fans approached this season with a skepticism uncharacteristic of premieres past. The writers and creators of the show were buried under a mountain of online flak last summer for their treatment of their female characters, especially re: Sansa Stark and sexual violence. Rape narratives were pulled from thin air (George R.R. Martin, author of the book series, is a little more into consensual zoinking), and badass women left and right disrobed for no apparent reason other than the ratings. Add this constant series of abuses to that Jon Snow shit, and some people just thought it wasn’t worth coming back to see the story through. Continue reading