books and reading · pop culture

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the things I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.  Without further ado:

Apologia (The Hairpin)

This is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately (not the Pantene commercial that this writer uses to broach the subject, but the actual content of her essay, natch).  Because this essay is me:

It’s the worst type of un-feminist stereotype: the woman who feels ashamed of existing, ashamed of taking up space, ashamed of asking for what she wants or needs. I apologize even when I absolutely don’t feel that I’m in the wrong. I apologize when I’m furious. In fact, the more strongly I feel like someone should be apologizing to me, the faster “sorry” falls from my lips.

Yeah, it’s definitely a problem.  And it’s definitely depressing as hell:

The tragic thing about apologizing is that it works. It makes you seem less aggressive, less threatening, less obnoxious. A woman crying because you did something that hurt her feelings is scary, she’s demanding, she’s raw. A woman crying while saying “Sorry, I don’t mean to be so emotional, I know this isn’t really a big deal”–well, that’s much less uncomfortable. That’s someone you can continue having a conversation with, because she’s acknowledged that her emotions are entirely her own fault and she’s asking you to take no responsibility. That girl is likable. She’s easy. She’s low-maintenance.

This entire piece is incredible and tackles so much of what frustrates me about the bullshit pseudo-feminism ads like the Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty” and the stupid Pantene ad perpetuate.  Go read it.  It’s really brilliant.

Saying “women should stop apologizing” without even trying to address the root cause of the behavior–which, again, is misogyny, not “women being crazy”–is, well, about the level of feminist discourse I would expect from a shampoo commercial. This is advertising, not empowerment. Just like the Dove “Real Beauty” ads that went viral a while back, it exists to sell a product, not kickstart the revolution. And that’s fine. But it really rubs me the wrong way when people start talking about it as though it’s genuinely transformative.


Girls Ruin Everything: Stephenie Meyer, Lois Duncan, and Childhood Nostalgia (Book Riot)

It’s no secret that I love Kelly Jensen’s writing, and this piece over at Book Riot is an excellent example of why.  By taking a piece of pop culture news that’s gotten the internet up in arm this week (Stephenie Meyer adapting a Lois Duncan book into a movie), Jensen is able to more fully explore the concept of women’s success and what it means.  And it is, unsurprisingly, quite brilliant:

In 2014, there are still people who are fine with women’s success as long as it’s not too successful. But once they hit a certain level of success, they should step back and allow others to move forward. While women can be successful within established constraints, they better not reach beyond that. Success must be met with grace – being thankful for what one has rather than striving for more – as well as the understanding that it was luck rather than hard work, drive, dedication, or, god forbid, ambition, that drove their success.

What’s so fucked about the outcry over Meyer’s adaptation of this is that it flies in the face of what the internet has been clamoring for all this time: more female-centric stories being told in movies and TV.  Meyer is taking her own success (and she is successful, no matter what your thoughts on Twilight are) and using it to support and promote other females.  If anything, she’ll bring a new audience to an author that another generation loved.  Whatever, internet.  You can’t have it both ways.

All The Crazy Ones (Tomato Nation)

I think Sarah D. Bunting is completely amazing for many reasons, but this piece at her blog is really quite moving.  It’s kind of about the loss of a personality like Robin Williams, but it’s mostly about other things:

This is pretty much every funny person you know, and most of the writers. The actors, too, a lot of them, and the people who sing, and the late-night Al-Anon meeting. What if nobody is laughing or humming along? What if we try even harder? What if I drink this thing, and it still hurts but I don’t care as much, so I’ll drink and drink and drink it, do something human, and remember: I am a shame. A terrified, frantic, desperate, annoying, ugly, boring shame, unique in my unsuitability for love.

It’s not a long piece, but it is riveting and well worth your time.

The Power of 29: An Ode to Being Almost 30 (NY Mag)

As a 29-year-old, this article obviously hits my sweet spot of playing right into my narcissism while also making me feel better about the course my life has taken thus far:

But even for women who realize they still have a lot of things to figure out, around age 30 a sense of acceptance begins to settle in. It’s when many of us experience our first big career payoffs, and allow ourselves to exhale a little because for once it doesn’t feel like we’re building our lives from scratch. On the cusp of 30 — in stark contrast with prior milestones like college graduation — you’re set up to finally start living your best life, or at least a realistic approximation of it. You realize you’ll never be a wunderkind, and you’re okay with that. In general, you give way fewer fucks.

It’s a pretty short, fairly interesting look at what it means to be entering your third decade.

For Women on the Internet, It Doesn’t Get Better (Daily Dot)

I’ve linked to posts about this before, but this is a really thoughtful piece about the completely wrong idea that things will just continue to get better.  This myth is perpetuated by our society, but it’s not actually a thing, and historians have been talking about it for years.  This piece chooses to focus on the idea that as a woman on the internet, just by opening your mouth, you subject yourself to harassment:

Most worrying of all is the fact that many female content creators leave YouTube after their very first video because of the sorts of comments they receive. These women learn all too quickly that the price they have to pay to be a YouTube personality is a sense of security and emotional wellbeing. If you’re a man, imagine walking into a store only to be greeted by waves of employees throwing dog shit at you. You’d leave, too.

The push-back on this, of course, is that it’s “just the internet” or that women need to grow a thicker skin.  This is, of course, bullshit.

 The Internet didn’t make men into sexist assholes; they were sexists assholes to begin with. The Internet just provides them with easier and more public ways to display their terribleness at the expense of women’s health and well-being…YouTube comments aren’t “just the Internet.” They’re not the product of a group of otherwise nice guys who suddenly become evil when they wear a veil of anonymity. YouTube comments are actually a nightmarish glimpse into the sexist attitudes that define the fabric of our own existence in the “real world,” a world that, like YouTube, is owned and dominated by men.

Word of advice: don’t read the comments, because obviously.

What got you reading and thinking this week?


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