Hot Mess Syndrome

Why High Achieving Women Pretend Their Lives are in Shambles (Kelli María Korducki)

The Cool Girl, boyish and feckless while conventionally hot, makes us want to either befriend her or bed her. The Hot Mess, on the other hand, endears us to her neuroses. But the two archetypes are rooted in the same basic belief: that to be visible in the world as a high-achieving, creative woman, you’d best be a little bit of a fuck-up.

On account of her smarts and circumstances, the Hot Mess gets that her success needs to look a little bit like an accident in order not to garner resentment. Her messiness is equal parts internalized misogyny and compensatory measure.

Why Women Choose to be Single

Why Women Choose to be Single (Feminista Jones)

Activism and education around sexual harassment and sexual assault are teaching women that they are not to blame for how others treat them and that no amount of respectability politicking is going to improve outcomes, so you’re better off living your best, authentic life. Further, we are in an important moment of heightened social awareness that is translating into women being less tolerant of emotional bullshit and pulling their relationship standards up from beneath the floorboards where they’ve been for decades.

It’s Not Too Soon

It’s Not ‘Too Soon’ to Talk About the Kobe Bryant Rape Case (Josh Levin, Stefan Fatsis, Joel Anderson)

The way that I think of it is that if your support and your admiration for Kobe is strong enough, like if you really loved Kobe, you idolized him, that should be real enough to sustain an analysis or review of his life as he lived it. Nobody is telling you how to mourn or that you can’t feel sorry for the fact that he died or that it was a tragedy, because it is. But that should not therefore dictate the way others choose to remember him or what we want to say about his death.

Victims everywhere are watching. Survivors in your life right now are listening to this and reading this and hearing all the dismissals. Survivors aren’t in a community all to themselves. They’re part of all these other communities.

Why Can’t Men Just Say I’m Sorry?

Why Can’t Men Just Say I’m Sorry? (Sady Doyle)

Most women genuinely want to have good relationships with their male friends and colleagues. When someone presents himself as a “good,” feminist man, we want to believe it, because a life where you cannot trust half the planet is no life at all. Yet these unequal relationships—women with male friends, queer people with straight friends, people of color who socialize with white people—only work if the privileged party is willing to make themselves vulnerable and admit that there are things they don’t know. At the point where solidarity conflicts with self-interest, men routinely fall apart and blow up at women rather than admit they’ve made a mistake.

Hearing that you’ve messed up can be a way to understand the issues better, but only if you’re willing to learn from it. If someone close to you points out that you’ve said something sexist, you gain nothing by blowing up at them or calling them a liar. Only the hurt person knows for sure how damaging your comment was. You can shame that person, and thereby end or damage the relationship, or you can say you’re sorry. Even if you don’t fully comprehend how you hurt someone, the apology itself is an act of growth; it means you admit that your actions can have an impact you didn’t anticipate.

The Enduring Whiteness of Jane Austen

Recognizing the Enduring Whiteness of Jane Austen (Marcos Gonsalez)

Unmarked, and universal, whiteness structures this classroom, this university, this world.

But they don’t know what whiteness is because they have never had to see it before. To them, white students and white professors discussing white literature feels like nothing out of the ordinary; it’s just the way things are, the way things are meant to be.

Yet my suspicions linger over the politics of retellings because the dominating forces over our art and culture are notoriously guilty of telling those of us who are queer, disabled, trans, and of color, that our original stories are too particular and niche to reach a large enough audience. The stories these white writers craft are universal templates, apparently.

What does it look like to retell Lin Manuel-Miranda’s In the Heights? Nella Larsen’s Passing? Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior? The question becomes tricky because these works, like all works by any kind of writer, like Austen or Shakespeare, possess their specific social and cultural contexts, all of them their own beautiful specificity. Yet some of us are always more universal, always able to be just Art, just Literature, just Author, and never, lest we say it, lest we give up the ruse, white.

Instagram Face

The Age of Instagram Face (Jia Tolentino)

Ideals of female beauty that can only be met through painful processes of physical manipulation have always been with us, from tiny feet in imperial China to wasp waists in nineteenth-century Europe. But contemporary systems of continual visual self-broadcasting—reality TV, social media—have created new disciplines of continual visual self-improvement. Social media has supercharged the propensity to regard one’s personal identity as a potential source of profit—and, especially for young women, to regard one’s body this way, too.

What did it mean, I wondered, that I have spent so much of my life attempting to perform well in circumstances where an unaltered female face is aberrant? How had I been changed by an era in which ordinary humans receive daily metrics that appear to quantify how our personalities and our physical selves are performing on the market? What was the logical end of this escalating back-and-forth between digital and physical improvement?

The Worst Harms

How Can We End Child Sexual Abuse Without Prisons? (Victoria Law)

If we can acknowledge the horrors of the criminal justice system and the prison-industrial complex, I think that can create more space for us to have real conversations. Part of the problem of trying to address child sexual abuse is that we’re still trying to protect our family members from the state. More can change if we can open up and say, “What does accountability look like? What does that look like if we knew that the person wasn’t going to be in jail, but we’re clear that they have to be held accountable?”

When I think about accountability, it’s having conversations where we talk about taking responsibility for one’s actions and exploring what healing could look like.

Lean In

When White Women Practice the Politics of Polite (WOC & Allies, Medium)

Black blogger and activist Sassy Latte says this about power: “as people in marginalized communities gain access to power, the effect is that people who have power are going to have to give some of it up.” White women, did you feel those ‘nice’ nerves tingling and twitching as you read that sentence? Did your brain default to, ‘but, but, we can do this in a calm and orderly fashion! There’s no need to be radical!’

If it did, you’re not alone. We are wired to reach for compromise. We crave the illusion of order, and we truly believe in civility, laws, systems and RULES. Why? Because all of them were created to protect US. Our niceness is simply tacit complicity in the injustices and inequalities that keep people of color systemically and generationally oppressed.

Long Live the Queen

Queens of Infamy: Njinga (Anne Thériault)

Much of Njinga’s legacy in the West has been rooted in racist, sexist propaganda created by white people; it’s only recently that a more accurate depiction of her life has begun to gain traction outside of her homeland. The credit for this shift goes to scholars like Linda M. Heywood, who have meticulously stitched together academic sources, contemporary documents, and details passed down through oral traditions to create a fully fleshed-out portrait of Njinga and her accomplishments.

There are few monarchs in recorded history who are Njinga’s peers when it comes to longevity, skill, or achievement, yet she’s rarely included in Western lists of great kings and queens. While she was able to enchant — or at least grudgingly impress — many people during her life, racism and misogyny soon began to distort her legacy in Europe.