“[O]ne drawback of being surrounded by educated and well-read people is that, if there’s a benefit, they can be magicians with language, chameleons about who they are through the use of words. With issues as intimate as dating and feminism, it’s not only ironic to be deceived by empty sentiments of anti-sexism, it’s dangerous. What troubles me is that for many women I know, sexual assault and date rape remain a common experience, despite “male feminism” becoming more fashionable over the years….
[C]onfusingly, misogynists are sometimes men who speak softly and eat vegan and say “a woman’s sexual freedom is an essential component to her liberation. So come here.” It’s a tricky world out there. And while I’d prefer a critical approach to gender from men I elect, read, and even bed, in my experience, the so-called feminist men I’ve met deep down have not been less antagonistic or bigoted toward women. What I see over and over again is misogyny in sheep’s clothing, and at this point, I would rather see wolves as wolves.”—
Reminder not to listen to what people say but rather what they do. Which should be obvious but many men who don’t say they’re feminists are actually much more respectful of women than those who do. (True or not true? Recent experience says true.) Either way it’s not great, but how many people can I keep shutting out of my life?
“One factor that makes interaction between multi-ethnic groups of women difficult and sometimes impossible is our failure to recognize that a behaviour pattern in one culture may be unacceptable in another, that is may have different signification cross-culturally … I have learned the importance of learning what we called one another’s cultural codes.
An Asian American student of Japanese heritage explained her reluctance to participate in feminist organizations by calling attention to the tendency among feminist activists to speak rapidly without pause, to be quick on the uptake, always ready with a response. She had been raised to pause and think before speaking, to consider the impact of one’s words, a characteristic that she felt was particularly true of Asian Americans. She expressed feelings of inadequacy on the various occasions she was present in feminist groups. In our class, we learned to allow pauses and appreciate them. By sharing this cultural code, we created an atmosphere in the classroom that allowed for different communication patterns.
This particular class was peopled primarily by black women. Several white women students complained that the atmosphere was “too hostile.” They cited the noise level and direct confrontations that took place in the room prior to class as an example of this hostility. Our response was to explain that what they perceived as hostility and aggression, we considered playful teasing and affectionate expressions of our pleasure at being together. Our tendency to talk loudly we saw as a consequence of being in a room with many people speaking, as well as of cultural background: many of us were raised in families where individuals speak loudly. In their upbringings as white, middle-class females, the complaining students had been taught to identify loud and direct speech with anger. We explained that we did not identify loud or blunt speech in this way, and encourage them to switch codes, to think of it as an affirming gesture. Once they switched codes, they not only began to have a more creative, joyful experience in the class, but they also learned that silence and quiet speech can in some cultures indicate hostility and aggression. By learning one another’s cultural codes and respecting our differences, we felt a sense of community, of Sisterhood. Representing diversity does not mean uniformity or sameness. ”—
Bell Hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (pages 57-58)
“The disposition to deny any intimate bond between art and ethics is the consequence of a larger artworld endeavour to hive off art from other social practices and to establish art as an autonomous realm unto itself. That is, if the artworld is a domain independent from the external concerns of any other social institution, then it straightforwardly follows that art is something distinct from ethics and certainly not beholden to it.”—from “Art and Alienation” by Noël Carroll in The Life and Death of Images: Ethics and Aesthetics.
White Americans have a criminal history; they have a criminal nation. The nation is built on criminality and murder and exploitation. It is a part of their collectible psyche. The United States is a mafia government. No one has done more damage and degradation and murder, rape, and robbery than Europeans. Therefore, in order to escape confrontation with their true criminal nature they must accuse others of being criminals. What we call projection. They must become obsessed with the criminality of other people. And Black folk become those other people.
"You call the Indians savages, so you can behave toward them savagely." That’s the function of stereotyping. If I call you a criminal, then I can treat you criminally. "I don’t owe you justice. In fact, shooting you in the street is justice. We know you’re already a criminal, why should we bother to take you to trial?"
[T]he narrative about Shepard’s death, haunted by the poignant photos of his melancholy-but–beautiful, young, white face, proved sadly fortuitous for a culture better at exacting revenge than wrangling with how to create conditions that don’t drive people to desperation, or how to fully comprehend what drives people to engage in acts of vicious brutality. In the drama of good and evil that undergirds America’s vast prison-industrial complex, there are only corrupt villains and innocent victims…
So much about the Shepard case has hinged upon his whiteness, his exceptionalism and his innocence that unraveling that story threatens our very narrative about crime and punishment. If we can no longer soothe ourselves with a story about innocence lost and then restored, then we have to start thinking about what justice really looks like, even for people we may not sympathize with, who are not martyrs.
“There was something about the west coast that just seemed a bit much. The extroverted beauty combined with the insistent good vibes set me in a slightly defensive position. The undeniable desirability of the place seemed, if not strictly antithetical to the Midwestern mindset, then at least a little at odds with the humility of my homeland. The ocean and the bay, all those rolling hills, the pillows of fog over that gleaming white city—it all just felt kind of gratuitous. It isn’t that the Midwestern soul is not attracted to beauty, but it has a hard time seeing such abundance and declaring itself deserving of it all. “Who needs such a view every day?” my people say. “No, no, I’m fine with the corn.”—Ian Stansel (“Finding the Essential in the Literary Midwest,” Ploughshares)
E:I want to get a tattoo, of S. Beckett's first line in his novel Murphy, which reads: "The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new." but then it might be tooooo depressing a line to get tattooed on me like, forever. thoughts?
S:haha, yeah maybe you should put it in your butt crack
Lazy. Feckless. Entitled. Bankrolled by their parents. Fond of ironic facial hair and fixed-gear bicycles. You’ve heard all these stereotypes before, of course, but have you stopped to think about where they manifest these days? After a decade of think-piece merriment, the lazy stereotyping of hipsters seems to have finally tapered off, but only because it’s been replaced by something even more pernicious. The same clichés that used to be applied to a small and fundamentally insignificant subset of a generation seem to have been extended to that generation as a whole: in articles like this and this (and, of course, this), millennials have replaced hipsters as the mainstream’s cultural punching bag of choice.
The sort of lazily reductive thinking that boils a diverse cohort of people into a checklist of convenient stereotypes was bad enough when it applied to a single subculture — but at least there was indeed a point in time when hipsters existed, albeit never with either the numbers nor the influence to justify mainstream culture’s ongoing fascination with them. Whether the stereotype still has any currency is very much open to debate, but it at least had some basis in reality.
But how did it come to represent an entire generation? The answer, it seems, is that the hipster was the first and most visible manifestation of culture to emerge from the millennial generation, and as such provided a convenient handle to grasp for writers struggling to understand that generation. The enduring fascination with hipsterdom led to the entrenchment of the characteristics that the media liked to identify with hipsters as being representative of young people in general. And now we’re at the point where those characteristics somehow considered to be representative of an entire generation, so much so that you often see “hipster” and “millennial” used interchangeably.
I probably shouldn’t need to spell out why this is problematic, but nevertheless, here goes: we’re talking about a group that contains, depending on how you count, about 77-80 million people in America alone. This is a group of people that is more socioeconomically, ethnically, and ideologically diverse than any generation that’s come before. It’s a generation so diverse, in fact, that it challenges the whole idea of a generation as a homogenous, monolithic entity to which characteristics can be ascribed. And yet the characteristics that are ascribed to it are defined by a narrow, decade-old stereotype that provides a questionably accurate portrait of a small subset of middle-class white people.
The kid whose parents came here as refugees and is working at a 7-Eleven to save money for college? He’s a millennial. The African-American single mother waiting tables for tips? She’s a millennial. The Mexican kid pumping your gas? He’s a millennial. None of these people bear the remotest resemblance to the hipster stereotype, and yet it’s used again and again to describe the entire generation to which they belong.
You never hear about this stuff, of course, perhaps because it’s a lot harder to ridicule millennials as privileged and entitled when you have to think about the fact that as of last year, the rate of unemployment for people 20-24 was some 5.4% higher than the national average, and 21.8% of people under 18 in America are living in poverty, a figure a full eight percentage points higher than those 18-64. It’s harder to complain about millennials still living at home when you have to acknowledge that maybe the reason for that is the ongoing economic shitshow wrought by the global financial crisis, a crisis that had precisely nothing to do with millennials, but whose legacy they get to deal with for the forseeable future.
There’s a sort of determined ignorance about the way that the millennial generation is depicted in popular culture, a sense that the people doing the stereotyping don’t really want to know the the truth behind their clichés, because the truth is difficult and complicated and doesn’t make for being put into a convenient box like the hipster image does. But we should demand better, because a cultural discourse that consists of variations on the phrase “These darn kids and their darn smartphones” helps precisely no one.
It certainly doesn’t help millennials, obviously, but it also fails the generation who’ll be entering old age when the kids struggling to pay off their student loans finally inherit whatever the baby boomers have left them of the world. When you make statements like “the Millennial Generation as a whole, people born between the late ’70s and the mid-’90s, more or less — of whom the hipsters are a lot more representative than most of them care to admit” (a quote taken, inevitably, from the pages of the New York Times), you serve only to perpetuate needless misunderstandings, creating a generation gap that needn’t exist.
And more importantly, you also ignore the very existence of the majority of millennials — people who aren’t privileged, white, and middle-class. America has already spent far too long pretending these people don’t exist, so maybe the next time Time or the New York Times or the rest of the boomer media wants to sink the boot into the millennial generation, they could perhaps stop and consider exactly who it is they’re ridiculing. But I’m not exactly holding my breath. It’s way easier to just catch the L train under the East River, stick your head out at Bedford Ave, and then head back home to bang out a sniggering trend piece that makes the obligatory references to social media, smartphones, “artisanal” food, and Lena Dunham.
“Meritocracy, in general, and the notion that tech is somehow a level playing field, unspoiled by entrenched societal attitudes that affect literally every single other industry on earth. Silicon Valley isn’t a meritocracy when I’m the only girl at a Bitcoin meetup and my opinion is dismissed as “cute,” and it isn’t a meritocracy when women founders struggle with fundraising because investors think their wombs are ticking time bombs, and it isn’t a meritocracy when people of color and the poor find it more difficult to succeed in tech. Once we get that through our skulls, maybe we can move forward and things can get better.”—#10 among Jessica Roy’s “number of things I won’t miss about being a “tech blogger.’”
Interestingly, the audience effect doesn’t necessarily require a big audience. This seems particularly true online.
Many people have told me that they feel the dynamic kick in with even a tiny handful of viewers. I’d argue that the cognitive shift in going from an audience of zero (talking to yourself) to an audience of 10 (a few friends or random strangers checking out your online post) is so big that it’s actually huger than going from 10 people to a million.
“I sometimes wonder if book length, intentionally or inadvertently, signals to readers a novel’s supposed importance. Certain novelists who have achieved high literary profiles, like David Foster Wallace, Haruki Murakami and William T. Vollmann, have all published extremely long books — in the case of Wallace and Vollmann, over 1,000 pages. With some notable exceptions, women have not published many well-known doorstops since Doris Lessing’s “Golden Notebook.” As it happens, we live not only in the era of the abbreviated attention span, but also in the era of the book group, whose members often set a strict page limit. Yet does the marketplace subtly and paradoxically seem to whisper in some men’s ears, “Sure, buddy, run on as long as you like, just sit down and type out all your ideas about America” — what might in some extreme cases be titled “The Big Baggy Book of Me”? Do women reflexively edit themselves (or let themselves be edited) more severely, creating tight and shapely novels that readers and book groups will find approachable? Or do they simply not fetishize book length one way or the other?”—Meg Wolitzer (“The Second Shelf,” New York Times)
When I was a kid, I used to go over to friend’s houses and notice that their parents never seemed to bully them or hit them. I assumed this was just because they had a friend over, and that their parents terrorized them all the time when I wasn’t around. I didn’t identify my situation as abuse or reach out to a teacher or counselor because I thought everyone had to live through this. I was probably twenty by the time I realized that some families really don’t humiliate and belittle their kids, ever.
I wish someone had gotten that through to me. I wish instead of saying vaguely and uncomfortably “you can talk to the counselor if you have problems at home,” my teachers had said flat-out “it is not normal to be afraid of your parents, and not normal to be unhappy whenever you’re at home, and you can ask us if you’re not sure if something’s okay or not.” I wish someone could have taught me that wanting to be safe was human instead of selfish.
And I’m probably going to make a whole post about this so I won’t belabor the point right now, but this is why feminists care about media and memes that normalize rape. (Or that stigmatize the words “rape” and “rapist,” but enthusiastically normalize the act of forcing sex on people, as long as you don’t call it that.) Because it tells people that rape is normal, that it’s a popular and accepted way to express romance and/or dominance, and we can’t assume that everyone absorbing this culture knows “of course that’s not how it really works.”
“Finally, you must confront the reality of the platonic ideal of a chopped salad: it is almost disturbingly easy to eat one with a regular, repetitive motion. The experience is consistent from start to finish, with toppings and dressing evenly distributed in every bite. In some ways, the evenness of the product begins to approach that of a smoothie or a shake…. You don’t even have to look at the bowl while you’re eating a chopped salad, and, if we’re being honest, you could probably eat it with a spoon. This might be convenient if you happen to have a short or nonexistent lunch break, which is to say that it makes for great desk food. But it might be unpleasant if, like me, you have a ruminative mind that might lead you to see a chopped salad as merely pre-chewed.”—Silvia Killingsworth (“My (Chopped) Salad Days,” New Yorker)
“I’m pretty incoherent. I walk around believing that I have strong coherent positions and that they’re strongly reflected in my behavior and my choices and my speech, much more than I suspect is really the case. I identify with a political life without, I think, successfully living one…. And sometimes I make these halting gestures, and they mean a lot to me when I make them. I’ll pick a cause and I’ll be doing what I can for it, in this muddle that we call life, and then I think I sometimes also wander away a lot, too. So I’m nothing clear at all.”—
“Prisons do not disappear social problems, they disappear human beings. Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.”—Angela Davis (via sadbrownprincess)