books and reading · pop culture

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

Another week of upsetting white supremacist bullshit and victim-blaming rape culture.  Here’s what got me reading and thinking this week:

Our Stories (The Butter)

So this week there was this weird, not-very-well-written book review of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist on a website that I have liked and read in the past (and will do so again, whatever, not the point), and in this “review,” the reviewer questioned whether or not Gay had given enough details about her own rape in one of the essays.  Like, what the actual fuck?  The backlash, as you might expect, was fairly swift, but the reviewer was like, “This is why I was scared to publish it on the Internet! WAAAAHHH” and whatever, I have no sympathy for that kind of concern-trolling bullshit.  But then Gay published this essay on The Butter this week, and it is so, so excellent:

I write around what happened to me because it’s easier than going back to that day, to everything leading up to that day, to what happened after. It’s easier than facing myself and the ways, despite everything I know, in which I feel culpable. I write around what happened because I don’t want to have to defend myself. I don’t want to have to deal with the horror of such exposure…I want to protect the people I love. I want to protect myself. My story is mine.

It’s a super hard read, and obviously deals with details of sexual assault and rape, but it is really excellent and I encourage you to go read it in full.

I See a Book and Get Angry and Write a Thing (Terrible Trivium)

Anne Ursu is pretty rad, and this week, she wrote a piece about fat-shaming and children’s books and how we perceive fatness in this society.  In particular, she focuses on a children’s book she discovered recently called Don’t Call Me Fat! A First Look at Being Overweight.  And it is fucked:

So. No. According this this book for kids, you can’t be fat and feel good about yourself. Being called fat is an insult. This physical state of being is terrible thing to be. And, no, the book isn’t some misguided attempt to help overweight kids navigate the world and feel good about themselves, it is about telling them not to feel good about themselves so they lose weight.

The problem goes deeper than this single book, though:

And there are not many books out there to help fat kids be okay with themselves. Because thinness is such an inherent value in our society that we don’t think we’re supposed to tell overweight kids be comfortable in their skin—we’re supposed to tell them to be uncomfortable. Like in the rest of media fat kids—especially fat girls—are invisible in kids books. And when they are visible the book is often about the problem of their fatness; overweight kids don’t get to just exist and be in the world and have stories of their own.

It’s a really excellent, intensely personal piece and it’s well worth your time.

I Believe Shia LaBeouf – a Person Doesn’t Have to be Likable to be a Victim (The Guardian)

Lindy West is amazing, and this piece is no different.  Recently Shia LaBeouf revealed that he was raped by a woman during his performance art piece #IAMSORRY.  The response was pretty much what you’d expect: people were scornful, doubtful, etc.  Very few people seemed to accept that this might be something that happened to LaBeouf, and West has some provoking thoughts about this confusion and doubt:

The fact is, it doesn’t matter. A victim doesn’t have to be relatable or reliable or likable or “normal” – or even a good person – for you to believe them. You can be utterly baffled by someone’s every move and still take their victimisation seriously. LaBeouf’s bizarre behaviour and his sexual violation are in no way mutually exclusive, nor are the latter and his gender. “He was asking for it.” “Why didn’t he fight back?” “Why didn’t he say ‘no’?” “He must have wanted it.” “He seems crazy.” These are flat-out unacceptable things to say to a person of any gender. In a culture where male victimhood is stigmatised as feminine and weak (toxic masculinity is, above all, an extension of misogyny), believing male victims isn’t oppositional to feminism, it is a feminist imperative.

As usual, West is thoughtful (and angry, rightfully so) and sharp.  Rape culture, folks.

What did you read this week that got you thinking?


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