- The Sweetest Thing, by Deborah Fletcher Mello – Liz also reviewed The Sweetest Thing and she ended her review with interesting commentary about the state of criticism in romance circles.
I feel that talking about the writing in The Sweetest Thing is a fraught issue, because there is a problem with people saying “all romances by/about people of color are badly written.” That is not my point. The romances by PoC I’ve read are all over the map in terms of writing quality, just like the romances by white writers.
I also think “bad writing” can mean “uses words in ways I’m not familiar with” and I hope that’s not my point, either. Some of my struggles with the writing style were me getting used to a vernacular that’s unfamiliar to me (for reasons of region and religion as much as race, I think). Like the “repast” after Pop’s funeral or the way Mello uses “spirit” to cover a multitude of things I’d call character, personality, soul, heart, and maybe even genitals. I don’t mind adjusting to those uses in the least. That’s part of the point of reading diverse books–reading about people who talk and think somewhat differently from me.
- We Always Blame the Victim – This piece by Kate Harding about how unwilling we are to see who perpetrators are mirrors what Teju Cole said in his article about Kony 2012. It’s hard to see any progress happening.
We live in a country full of racism, but no racists; rape, but no rapists. And the common denominator is power. To believe a rape survivor’s word over that of her male classmate, colleague, teacher, or superior officer is to upset the natural order of things, privileging the voice with less cultural authority over the one we expect to have all the answers. Likewise, believing Dorian Johnson’s testimony over Darren Wilson’s means rejecting lessons we’ve been taught from childhood, both explicitly (the police are there to help you) and implicitly (White people are more trustworthy than Black people).
As a society, we’re happy to offer our love and support to victims of power-based violence, but holding actual human perpetrators accountable is another story. We prefer our racists in white hoods and our rapists in ski masks, so we never have to confront the abusive, domineering, murderous upstanding citizens in our midst. The ones who attend our churches, teach in our schools, and ostensibly protect our communities. The ones who couldn’t possibly do something like that. The ones who do things like that, every single day.
- The New Republic: An Appreciation – I’ve never really paid much attention to The New Republic and this eulogy by Ta-Nehisi Coates makes me pretty sure that was for the best.
TNR made a habit of “reflecting briefly” on matters that were life and death to black people but were mostly abstract thought experiments to the magazine’s editors. Before, during, and after Sullivan’s tenure, the magazine seemed to believe that the kind of racism that mattered most was best evidenced in the evils of Afrocentrism, the excesses of multiculturalism, and the machinations of Jesse Jackson. It’s true that TNR’s staff roundly objected to excerpting The Bell Curve, but I was never quite sure why. Sullivan was simply exposing the dark premise that lay beneath much of the magazine’s coverage of America’s ancient dilemma.
- Remembering ‘fiercely funny’ disability activist Stella Young – I was sad to hear that disabled writer and speaker Stella Young had died suddenly. Such a smart and witty woman. What a loss.
[H]er Ted talk, “I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much” got more than a million views and started a conversation that rages on even now as the year draws to a close.
In it, Young systematically took apart familiar motivational material and delighted her non-disabled Sydney audience by introducing them to what she called “inspiration porn”.
She talked about pictures of disabled people that she had seen being shared online with captions such as “your excuse is invalid” and “don’t quit, try”. She didn’t have time for them and said they objectify disabled people for the benefit of non-disabled people. She said: “The purpose of these images is to inspire you, to motivate you, so that we can look at them and think, ‘Well, however bad my life is, it could be worse. I could be that person.'”
- On Rolling Stone, lessons from fact-checking, and the limits of journalism – A fact checker who’s also a feminist weighs in on this confusing, upsetting clusterfuck of a situation Rolling Stone created. I hope Jackie finds some peace and safety, and soon.
In their statement, Rolling Stone admits to just one mistake: agreeing to honor Jackie’s request that they not contact the accused men because she feared retaliation. They write, “We should have not made this agreement with Jackie and we should have worked harder to convince her that the truth would have been better served by getting the other side of the story.” That’s not actually a full accounting of their failure here. In reality, Rolling Stone not only didn’t contact the men, as Jackie requested, but also seems to have not done anything else to verify the most basic factual details of Jackie’s account and also wasn’t transparent about what they had and hadn’t been able to independently verify. In doing so, they failed to uncover the discrepancies in Jackie’s account before it was published — discrepancies, mind you, that are the kind of discrepancies you’d expect to find when fact-checking a first-person account of a traumatic rape survivor and that in no way offer damning evidence that her whole account is not true. In doing so, they left Jackie without the primary benefit — the tremendous gift — that the fact-checking process gives to journalists and their sources: the assurance that if the story is challenged — and Rolling Stone had to have anticipated it would be because rape survivors are always, always doubted — an institution has your back. It was as much a feminist failure as it was a journalistic one that they didn’t do their due diligence to ensure they were ready to stand by Jackie when the inevitable happened.
- A Linguist Explains the Syntax of “Fuck” – Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the grammar of “fuck”.
The seminal linguistics article about fuck is called “English sentences without overt grammatical subject” and was written by the suspiciously-named Quang Phuc Dong in the 1960s (we’ll come back to that). The article asks us, is fuck really a verb? That is, the command “close the door” is a classic transitive verb followed by its object, but is “fuck you” the same?
It seems like it could be, until you realize that the equivalent sentence with any other verb just isn’t a thing: there’s no such thing s “*admire you” or “*express you”. You can, of course, say the command “admire yourself” or “express yourself”, but now “*fuck yourself” is the weird one. (We’ll set “go fuck yourself” aside.)