2018, celebrity, Inspirational, LGBTQ, pop culture, television

I’M SO GRATEFUL THAT I CAN HATE ON “QUEER EYE”

I find Bobby on Queer Eye annoying and I love that I find him annoying. I love that I can roll my eyes at Antoni loving avocadoes, and I enjoy that I can be confused about what Karamo’s actual role on the show is.

There is a criminal dearth of queer representation in mainstream media, and the small amount that we do have disproportionately illustrates cisgender, white gay men of certain attractiveness and privileges. However, I feel like this is the first time that I can remember seeing multiple, nuanced depictions of queerdom. And that makes me super happy.

A few years ago, Looking premiered on HBO. It centered on three white and white-passing gay, cisgender men in San Francisco. While I personally liked it, the show was widely panned by critics (fairly and unfairly) for projecting a narrow and specific type of queer experience. I do not think that Looking in and of itself was a bad show, and I think that it portrayed a certain kind of experience relatively truthfully. However, the problem was that it was the only mainstream show that really had any queer people as the main focus. So from the get, it had this incredible pressure to portray every type of queer person.

The problem with early representation is that it’s impossible to depict everyone. But with so few options, people (rightfully) want to see themselves represented. It also runs the risk of preventing other queer stories being told because when, if, things fail, people use that as proof of failure.

I started thinking about this when I watched a video from the queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10. They were asked to give their favorite season (season 5), and the simplicity of that struck me. We now have ten seasons of a show about queer people in drag. We have enough to even be able to pick a favorite season. And we have enough to have less-than-great seasons (season 8, I’m sorry). That in itself is a huge victory.

And that feeling reverberated when I was watching Queer Eye. In five years, when Bobby Berk has his own design show and possibly a spot on an HGTV mid-morning show, I’ll probably forget that I found him annoying on the Netflix reboot of Queer Eye. At that point, I’ll hopefully have my own apartment, and I’ll be dying for him to recommend the best way to shiplap the fuck out of my house. In five years, Antoni will be a hot-as-fuck almost-40-year-old in a beautiful New York loft, and Karamo will be…I can’t really imagine but he’ll definitely still be good-looking as hell.

By the way, Bobby definitely has blisters on his fingers from hammering two-by-fours and lower back pain from lugging in antique armoires. In one of the recent episodes, he completely renovated someone’s kitchen, redesigned their closet and all Antoni did was bring the subject to someone else who taught them how to make fresh pasta. I’m screaming!!

I realized how lucky I was to be able to be annoyed by Bobby or Antoni or Karamo; to see a depiction of a queer person and not feel like I have to like them because I have no other option. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my queer forebears. There are so many people who paved the path that I now walk so effortlessly on, people who did it for nothing more than the idea that someday, in their wildest dreams, people like me could breathe a little easier.

I’m working my way through the pilot of Pose (it’s riveting, I’m just totally scatterbrained) and I also listened to a podcast that interviewed Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, one of the two couples involved in the Prop 8 lawsuit that restored same-sex marriage in California. I have the privilege of being white, able-bodied, cisgender and surrounded by a healthy support system, so I forget too often how many people struggled, and still struggle, in my community.

Representation matters, and Queer Eye and Pose and RuPaul’s Drag Race are more than just TV shows: they’re proof that queer people exist, that they can flourish, that they matter.

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2018, Politics

ARE YOU CONFUSED ABOUT THE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT DETAINMENT POLICIES? I AM, SO I TRIED TO BREAK IT DOWN.

The other day, I read a New York Times piece that detailed one mother’s journey with her eight-year-old son from Guatemala to the United States, where they were detained and she was deported. Her son remains in the country, one of more than 2,000 children who have been separated from their parents as the result of a stricter border policy.

The story was gut-wrenching, and I became completely overcome when the mother described how she was given tranquilizers after landing back in Guatemala because she was so hysterical. At the time of the article’s publication, her son had no idea that his mother was not being held in a U.S. facility.

When I tried to research more about the policy that has been separating parents from children, I found myself getting more and more confused. There was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, giving a harsh speech about “zero tolerance,” but then there was Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of Homeland Security, saying that there was no such policy. There was President Donald Trump saying that the policy was the result of the Democrats, and yet there was reports that Stephen Miller, the president’s chief advisor, was responsible for drafting the policy.

It was confusing on purpose, because if people cannot get a clear answer on why something is happening, they tend to stop asking. For a few days, that was me – policy is confusing enough without the addition of fake news and blame-shifting. But the idea of that little boy, and his mother, stuck in my head and forced to research it more.

Here’s what I found, using Snopes.com, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Fox News.

In 1997, the Flores Settlement Agreement was created after 12 years of litigation that centered on what to do with children who illegally immigrate. The Flores Agreement stipulated that you cannot hold a minor for more than 20 days before releasing them to family, shelters, foster care systems or sponsors. In 2008, President George Bush signed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which requires unaccompanied minors from countries other than Mexico or Canda to be placed with U.S. relatives or the Office of Refugee Resettlement while going through removal proceedings. Neither policy required or stipulated that children be separated from their parents, as Trump claimed.

In April and May of 2018, Attorney General Sessions announced a change in immigration policy to a stance of “zero tolerance” that would prosecute any adult caught trying to enter the United States. That included people seeking asylum, rendering them criminals. Therefore, even if they make it through the court system with their claim of asylum, they would first and foremost have a criminal conviction of illegal immigration. This is a change from previous policy, which demarcated that asylum-seekers go through the proper channels. He also said that children would be separated from their parents. And because children are minors, and thus cannot be charged with a crime, they are not detained with their parents and are thus separated. In an interview with the New York Times, Stephen Miller reiterated the “zero tolerance” policy.

So, there is no federal law that requires children to be separated from their parents, nor is it the fault of the Democrats. The problem, then, seems both bureaucratic and political. The bureaucratic: there are not enough immigration officials to process claims of asylum and issues of illegal immigration. That means that most cases are not dealt with within the 20 days stipulated by the Flores Agreement (most are not even dealt with within a year). In addition to that, the “zero tolerance” policy removes asylum seekers (and restricts the terms of asylum, thus forcing more people to be prosecuted for criminal offenses, seemingly increasing the wait time. Under previous administrations, the gridlock was so bad that some people waited years for their day in court; in the meanwhile, they were released into the country’s interior. That, obviously, is not ideal, but then leads to the question: Why not hire more immigration officials?

According to an article I found on Fox News, Senator Ted Cruz (Republican – Texas) has proposed emergency legislation for just that. His bill would double the number of immigration judges to 750, “mandate that illegal immigrant families be kept together,” and expedite asylum claims within 14 days. According to the New York Times, Trump rejected the proposal on the basis that some of the immigration judges could be corrupt. Other Republicans are working on extending the length of time that minors can be detained, with the (probable) intention of mitigating pressure to separate.

In response to it all, the Trump administration has doubled down.

“Those who criticize the enforcement of our laws have offered only one countermeasure: open borders, the quick release of all illegal alien families and the decision not to enforce our laws,” said Nielsen. “This policy would be disastrous.”

“Democrats are the problem. They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13,” President Trump tweeted. “They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!”

There are roughly one thousand problems with everything going on, but here are a few I’ve boiled down: by separating parents and children, you are causing intense emotional damage and trauma to both parties. You are also putting the impetus on the American foster care system to take care and control of these minors. You are chilling asylum seekers, and overflooding the immigration system with criminal offenses. And most of all, you are treating people like animals. You are not giving them the basic human respect and decency that should be afforded to all people, regardless of what side of the border they exist on. I understand that this is complicated; I understand that this is a result of labyrinthine bureaucracy. But this is your job. If you can’t fix this, then we need to find people who can.

“Change the laws,” Trump has repeatedly cried. But this is not the law; this is the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy at work.

There are hundreds of nuances that I’m sure I’ve missed, so if you have anything to enlighten me on (in a respectful and human way) I’d welcome it. Writing this out was as much for me as it was for anyone else, because I needed to find a way to understand it all. I highly recommend checking out Snopes, which is a fact-checking website that provides links to actual policies and breaks tough jargon down into consumable bits, but I also cannot stress the importance of reading across news sites. The Times, the Wall Street Journal and Fox News are the trio that I generally try to read when attempting to understand something.

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2018, Politics, television

SAMANTHA BEE AND THE THEORY OF PUNCHING DOWN

Header: TBS via Vulture

Two things can be true at once: that’s the case when I’m eating McDonald’s (happy and sad), the case for Schrodinger’s Cat (both alive and dead), and it’s the case with Samantha Bee, comedian and host of TBS’ Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, calling Ivanka Trump, daughter of President Donald Trump, a “feckless c*nt.”

It is completely inappropriate, wildly disastrous to the point Bee was making about the treatment of migrant children, and annoyingly hypocritical of liberals to be more forgiving; it is also, at the same time, categorically different than Roseanne Barr comparing Valerie Jarrett, former senior adviser to then-President Barack Obama, to an ape. These two things can both be true.

In the outrage news cycle of coverage surrounding Samantha Bee, many conservative pundits are calling for TBS to cancel Bee’s show, citing liberal indignation and demands for cancellation of Roseanne. The ABC reboot was cancelled a few hours later. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders herself called for TBS to cancel the show.

“Her disgusting comments and show are not fit for broadcast,” she said in a statement, “and executives at Time Warner and TBS must demonstrate that such explicit profanity about female members of this administration will not be condoned on its network.”

Re the Roseanne Barr controversy, Trump only commented to say that he was owed an apology by Disney CEO Robert Iger for the “HORRIBLE statements made and said about [him] on ABC.” When asked about Trump’s statement, which focused on himself rather than Barr’s comments, Sanders said, “The president is simply calling out the media bias; no one’s defending what she said.”

Here’s the thing: I hate what Bee said. I really like her show, and I enjoy her as a comedian, so I was disappointed and upset by the words she used. I was watching CNN this morning, anchor Poppy Harlow and CNNMoney Senior Media Reporter Oliver Darcey said that Bee’s wording made the story about that, rather than the policy. I agree with that: I think that was probably part of the reason why Bee said it, but I also think that Bee is smart and cutting enough to have made her point without resorting to the c-word.

However, there are several things that separate what Bee said from what Barr said. First, Ivanka Trump works in her father’s White House administration. Several people were calling for Bee to separate the child from the father, but when the child literally works with the father, I don’t think it’s unfair to call her out. Additionally, Ivanka Trump has made the “working mother” her platform, so a policy that brutally separates asylum-seeking migrant mothers from their children would fall under Ms. Trump’s purview.

Secondly, there is the theory in comedy of “punching down” versus “punching up.” When making jokes, “punching down” refers to making fun of people who are more oppressed than you; “punching up” is making fun of people who are more, categorically, powerful than you. Roseanne Barr, a white woman, making fun of Valerie Jarrett, a black woman, using bigoted racial stereotypes is “punching down” because Barr is a racial majority in power and she is using the same logic used to condone slavery to make fun of a racial minority. Samantha Bee, a white woman with a platform, calling Ivanka Trump, another white woman with a platform, a c*nt is not punching down; it’s punching up, or at least punching sideways. Bee, unlike Barr, does not have the continued support of the President of the United States. And if we are to hold people accountable, we need to hold everyone accountable: including the president. Because while liberals can be hypocritical, if you don’t have an issue with the president bragging about grabbing women by the pussy, then why do you have a problem with Samantha Bee?

Thirdly, there is a difference between using a curse word and invoking a racist, bigoted myth used as justification for oppressing an entire race of people.

What Bee did was crass and unfortunate. What Barr did was racist and evocative of horrors that the United States allowed in the not-too-distant past. Lindy West, a contributing columnist for the New York Times, wrote this: “Chattel slavery in America ended 153 years ago. I am only 36 years old, and when my father was born, there were black Americans alive who remembered being the property of white people. Slavery is not our distant past; it is yesterday.” Racism pervades today, arguably as strong as ever. It’s not even hidden anymore; people are openly racist. It’s the reason why, as West points out, Flint, Michigan still does not have clean water; it’s why Trump took such an issue with black players in the NFL peacefully protesting for Black Lives Matter.

Bee made a horrific, rude joke, but it’s not comparable to Roseanne Barr. You can be outraged by what Bee said but still understand that it’s different to Roseanne. Two things can be true at the same time.

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2018, college, Humor, Life, Millennials

One year on from graduation: EAT, GAY, LOVE

It’s officially been one year since I graduated from college, and I weirdly felt fine about it. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that I was working that day – nothing distracts you like an endless array of customers screaming about groceries – but it also could probably be attributed to the fact that I spent literal months stressing and freaking out about the fact that I was graduated that I think I exhausted it out of my body.

But the official end of the first year, even without the heart palpitations, made me take stock of what I’ve accomplished since then. Lol! !!

🙂 EAT 🙂

Part of the unspoken (but passive-aggressive) rule of moving back home was that I was going to responsible for cooking dinner. This wouldn’t be a problem (I’d been cooking for myself for over two years !) except for the fact that my family is both rude and not shy about criticizing my cooking.

So I really tried to be better about cooking (i.e. not burning things and calling it “intentional” or “crispy”), and I’m excited to bring that with me in my next iteration: as a gay monster and University of Southern California Annenberg graduate student. My mom keeps saying, “Your roommate will be so impressed!” which for some reason, like, does not inspire confidence. “My mom thinks I’m a good cook!!” doesn’t roll off the mature tongue.

Before this year, I don’t think I knew what “dredging” was, and now it’s literally my favorite thing to do to chicken and white fish. Also, I never cooked white fish before!! Now I love a good sole!! A year ago, I was microwaving potatoes, and now I’m literally so obsessed with finding the perfect method for making sweet potato fries that I’m going to write a blog post about it.

😉 GAY 😉

The second, and skinniest, thing I accomplished is mah body. I feel weird talking about my body for like 8000 reasons, but one is that I’m thin. I’ve generally always been thin, and – thanks to future medicine and the plastic surgery I plan on getting – I’ll probably stay thin. But to combat depression and a freelance lifestyle, I recommitted myself to the gym and lost 20-ish pounds this year.

I knew going into this body journey that it could be a dangerous path: when I was at my most depressed, the gym was a salve that gradually became a crutch. I was obsessed with going, because when I was there I could zone out and forget everything else.

I think I went into this year of fitness a different way, and I set weight goals, yes, but I also set goals outside of weight loss. I’ve written about this before, but I became obsessed with doing unassisted pull-ups. Upper body strength was never a huge part of my workout-life; in high school, I was a long- and mid-distance runner, where the emphasis was put on stamina and pacing (shorter distances place a higher premium on upper body strength). So I never really thought about pull-ups, and kind of dreaded them.

But as I started working out more – and probably aided by losing a few pounds – I began feeling the unassisted pull-up coming into my grasp. Currently, I can do 4×4 unassisted pull-ups (with 12 lbs dumbbells clamped between my thighs) and 4×4 unassisted chin-ups. My new goal is to do 3×8 pull-ups (I’m currently able to do one set of eight, and can maybe do two sets on a good day).

Setting these goals that existed outside of any weight loss put the emphasis not on cutting calories or excessive cardio, but building up my strength. I began feeling like I was training to be some sort of gay, chic spy. I’ve leaned out more, and I can see the whisper of those 11 abs that lady yoga instructors have sometimes. Goals. Also I’d like to hit (however briefly) 169 pounds for the hilarious joke. It will not be funny to anybody but me.

😀 LOVE 😀

Despite the fact that I’ve gone back – officially – on dating apps, this section is not about my quest for a man. I know that my future husband, wherever he is, is probably in his last year of medical school, and has to gather a net worth of a couple mill before we even meet. And I love that for me, and he loves that for me.

I’m talking about self love. I went back into therapy this year, after a tumultuous few months away from it. and while it has not been easy – it’s actively been very hard – and I don’t think I’m nearly there yet, I feel like the work I’ve done, and the realizations I’ve made, have been very positive and very important for me. A lot of therapy is recognizing patterns you’ve engaged in, how they relate to larger behaviors, and what those behaviors mean in the grand scheme of your psyche. It sounds kinda simple, but lol it is tiring y’all.

🙂  😉  😀

I’ll be honest, I’m sure I would feel very differently about this year being up if I didn’t have my next step planned out. I’m excited to go onto my next step, and I can breathe a little easier on this anniversary knowing that I’ve got at least one thing in the future planned.

It also matters very much to other people. It’s socially acceptable, in what I’ve witnessed, to have something coming down the pike. People like knowing that you’ve got some sort of plan that fits into what they think you should be doing.

I had a customer the other day lean over and say, eyes kind and completely unaware of how condescending her question was, “Do you know what you want to do with your life?” In her eyes, working at Trader Joe’s was not good enough; it had to be a transitional station and not a destination. So I can’t pretend that part of my chillness about being a year out from graduation is the fact that my plan lines up with societal expectations on me.

This took a turn, but it’s all connected in my mind. This year out of school has been emotionally trying; facing professional uncertainty, rejection and trials have really made me think about what I want to pursue. And while I’m currently so excited and happy about where I’m going, it’s important for me to acknowledge that this year was not just about passing time or waiting for the next thing to come along. This year, in its entirety, was meant for me – it was meant for me to grow and to challenge myself and to experience new, sometimes uncomfortable, things.

I’ve included this because it’s a bop and it’s what i’m listening to as i’m editing this. 

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2018, celebrity, LGBTQ, Politics, social media

AM I A BAD GAY PERSON FOR NOT CARING ABOUT JOY REID’S BLOG POSTS?

I’m young, and I love my computer, so I didn’t come across Joy Reid, an MSNBC host, from her show, A.M. Joy, or guest-hosting on other programs. I discovered her through Twitter, when I noticed that several writers and journalists whose opinions I respect retweeted her. I scrolled through the profile, enjoyed what she had to say, and hit the follow button.

She remained largely out of my mind except for the occasional tweet in my timeline. Her opinions were always valid, sharp when needed, and seemed to be well-researched and reported.

Then, the first story popped up – a Twitter user posted screenshots of blogs using homophobic rhetoric written between 2007 and 2009 on the Reid Report, a now-defunct blog of Joy Reid. I felt disappointed, like “Ugh, someone I liked did something bad.” But I didn’t unfollow her, because I still trusted her political opinion, and expected the story to blow over. There are plenty of journalists who I personally might be annoyed by, but whose reporting proves valuable, so I didn’t give it a second thought.

Until the next story popped up. More screenshots, more homophobia. More crassness.

When I say that this story does not matter, I do not mean, “It does not matter if someone is homophobic.” It does matter; and it matters very much to me. But in the context of everything else going on, I find that I care very little about what Joy Reid said about gay people a decade ago. She does not make policy; she is not in charge of any government programs or bodies. She is not promoting active anti-LGBTQ laws. If she were a lawmaker, or campaigning on a platform of equality, then yeah, it would be good information to know. But she is not. She is a journalist, she had an opinion, she said that opinion. A decade later, that opinion is seen as ugly and inappropriate.

I do not agree with the words she used; I do not agree with her trying to out people, or the way she spoke about Ann Coulter, or Lindsay Graham or Charlie Crist or any of it. I think it was offensive, petty, hurtful and mean-spirited. I think it was a shitty thing to do, even in the social climate in which it was written.

For the record, I also don’t believe Reid’s claim that she was hacked. I think she said those things, and she’s embarrassed now, and because the internet trolls would have a field day if she admitted that. I am not defending her; she was and is an adult who wrote those things, regardless of whatever excuses she’s using now. I think it’s stupid that she’s lying, but I also think this entire thing is stupid.

I also recognize that I, as a white, cisgender, able-bodied queer person, largely have the ability to say, “This story does not matter.” I’m sure it matters to other members of my community, and I do not diminish that, their feelings, or their reactions.

But to lampoon Reid for thoughts she had a decade ago would require us to go back and lampoon every single thing like that. In the early 2000s, most people in the mainstream media were not doing a good job talking about queer issues. Because, frankly, Will & Grace was homophobic – it was femme-shaming and white-centric. Modern Family portrays Mitch and Cam more like platonic roommates than a couple. Golden Girls had a gay cook that mysteriously disappeared after the pilot episode. I will never forget you, Coco (his name was Coco!).

The reason I care about this (and why I’ve spent 700 words saying I don’t care) is that there are queer stories that desperately need to be told. And while I think it’s nice that support has rallied around Reid – no one should be an island – I resent that this still is the story that’s rolling around in everyone’s head. In a world that already prioritizes everything above queerness, there seems to be precious little bandwidth dedicated to covering queer stories. It’s like arguing about the curtains when the house is on fire.

For instance, it’s been a year since news broke that, in Chechnya, gay and bisexual men were being targeted, persecuted and abused. There were stories of concentration camps, luring and violence via social media apps, and many victims are still missing. There has been no significant response from the Russian government, and the leader in Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, denied the allegations by simply stating that there are no gay people in Chechnya. Other than outlets that specifically traffic in queer stories, such as NewNowNext and the Advocate, and papers such as The Guardian, there has not been significant media coverage.

Stateside, there are still seven states with “No Promo Homo” laws on the books – “local or state education laws” that expressly prohibit the “promotion of homosexuality” and, in some cases, “even require that teachers actively portray LGB people in a negative or inaccurate way,” according to GLSEN.

The Human Rights Campaign reported that, in 2018, eight transgender people have already been murdered. Transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, are disproportionately affected by fatal violence. Insider recently reported on the health gaps that the LGBTQ community faces in receiving medical help.

These might seem like separate issues, and you could argue (rightfully) that reporting on Joy Reid’s past blog posts does not mean that we cannot also report on other things affecting the LGBTQ community. And you’d be right, except that that’s not always the case. Too often, we focus on click-driven news, too often we focus on things on little consequence.

What do Joy Reid’s past writings have to do with the very real risks that the queer community is facing today? In reality, very, very little. So why does this continue to be a story? Report on it, lay it all out there, and then move on.


Header source: Vimeo

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2018, feminism, Politics

FEMALE POLITICIANS AND THE CHRISSY TEIGEN CONUNDRUM

A few days ago, columnist Jonathan Chait from New York Magazine published a piece titled, “Democrats Have Great Female Presidential Candidates. They Need to Avoid the Victim Trap.” In it, he described the ways that powerful female politicians, namely Junior Democratic U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), are reported about in the media.

He describes Senator Harris’ June Senate Intelligence Committee interaction with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in which Harris continually pressed Sessions to answer questions that the latter tried to dodge with the excuse of a particular “policy.” Numerous times, Harris was interrupted by her male colleagues, leading to numerous articles reporting on that, rather than Harris’ strength of interrogation.

“The men-interrupting-women theme fell into a familiar source of social media umbrage,” wrote Chait. “And those reactions, initially registered on social media, formed the basis for much of the coverage that followed.”

Chait highlighted the coverage of Harris as an example of “victimhood” in order to make his point that female politicians lean into that victimhood as a way of appealing to the leftist base.

“On the left, victimhood is a prime source of authority, and discourse revolves around establishing one’s intersectional credentials and detailing stories of mistreatment that reinforce them,” said Chait. “Within the ecosystem of the left, demonstrating that you have suffered harassment or microaggressions is a big win.”

He described a recent GQ profile of Gillibrand, who went into more detail of the sexual harassment that she’s endured. “Much of the story followed this theme, describing not only Gillibrand’s leadership on the issue of sexual harassment, but her status as actual victim of harassment.”

He ended his article by saying, “Playing to the most popular tropes in progressive circles on social media is a seductive way for Democratic female candidates to capture attention from activists. It may not be their straightest path to the White House.”

When first reading it, the premise could have been extremely interesting and valid. The argument could’ve been directed at the media, and the ways that we often lean into stereotypical representations of women. It might’ve been a lampooning of the articles that, instead of applauding Harris and Gillibrand for their perseverance, focused on the male interruption.

However, the headline and ending paragraph seem contradictory to what some could say is the meat of Chait’s piece. It took the twist of assuming, or at least implying, that Harris and Gillibrand at least partially to blame for the coverage they received. He never acknowledges the obvious – that Gillibrand and Harris did not create the coverage that portrayed them as victims.

Chait plays into the very thing that he is critiquing. Rather than writing about them as he argues they should be written about, Chait imposes his own world view upon these women by assuming what they must be thinking and doing.

It’s a phenomenon that’s come up recently in an entirely different sphere, a situation I’m dubbing the “Chrissy Teigen Conundrum.”

“if I had my choice, not a single story would ever be written about any tweets of mine. they make people (me) seem like…the most annoying people,” Teigen tweeted, about…I guess the thing I’m doing. “the “clapback” wasn’t “epic”, it was just a fuccccccking tweet – just please stop with these stupid words.”

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 3.32.17 PM

It’s a common critique of Chrissy Teigen, that she is annoying or omnipresent on social media. But as she points out, rightfully, that’s not because she’s doing anything. It’s because journalists make the choice to write about everything she does, and use clickbait-y titles to draw readers. But because all we see is “Chrissy Teigen,” that’s all we associate with the deluge of coverage.

We are not annoyed by Chrissy Teigen, we are annoyed by the coverage of Chrissy Teigen, with which she has nothing to do.

Blaming Chrissy Teigen for the coverage she receives is as ludicrous as blaming Harris or Gillibrand for the victim-slanting coverage they garner.

I don’t doubt that people leaning into certain narratives is true in some cases. But I don’t think that’s what’s happening here, or what’s happening at large. Chait views victimhood as a media or political strategy. In his lens, there is no way that Gillibrand could be discussing the harassment she’s received for any other reason than to garner sympathy in a 2020 presidential run. It’s possible that Gillibrand was not ignorant to the fact that she would gain sympathy, but that was in addition to shining light on a malignant and previously hush-hush tenet of politics.

And if that’s his view, it’s bizarre that he does not point out that Trump won on a platform of victimhood, playing up the false victimization of white, middle-class Americans, particularly men. He does not mention this once, preferring to attack female politicians who, as far as we know, did not request such coverage. He does not mention Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), or how she pushed back against Treasure Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s meandering with “Reclaiming my time,” which could ostensibly be considered the antithesis of victimhood or rerouting the “man-interrupting-woman” trope. He also fails to point out that, despite instances of harassment, these female politicians rose to the uppermost echelons of American politics.

“Spinning” narratives, particularly ones of hardship or victimhood, is not new, nor is it a particularly female action for politicians to take. However, it is almost always women who are slammed for taking part in that.

“On the left, victimhood is a prime source of authority.”

There is the notion that victims disclosing harassment are doing it with nefarious or shady intentions. The truth is that, often, the intent of disclosure is very clear: to open dialogues about harassment with the aim of minimizing and eliminating those situations. There is power in opening up about being a victim, but that in itself does not constitute a power play.

Pointing out bias (in gender, sexuality, race, class or religion) is often just that, but it also serves to highlight that there are peoples (often of intersecting identities) who are disproportionately affected by biases.

Painting Gillibrand’s discussion of the sexual harassment she’s faced, or critiquing Harris for how she was covered, has a very distinct aim – to discount sexism, racism and other biases as political ploys and grabs at attention. It diverts from any conversation about how these things came about and what might be done about them.

Chait’s argument, under the guise of concern, boils down to this notion: if you have been a victim, then you are weak. If you disclose harassment or abuse, you are seen as weak. And people do not someone weak in the Presidency. Again, it’s telling that he does not bring up Trump, who constantly and consistently affirms his place as a victim – of the media, of the Democrats, of the political system. So perhaps the problem is not the victimhood platform, but the fact that they are not men.

The article ignores that people who have been harassed, assaulted or victimized are survivors; have thrived despite such obstacles; and that those people might actually make better, more empathetic and more driven presidents than, say, someone who has no experience with such hardships.

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2018, Life, Rambles

GOLDEN HOUR

Written while sitting outside Starbucks in the sun, surrounded by wealthy mothers with Goyard totes, sipping on a tall cold brew (in a grande cup, for maximum product!) and streaming Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour” off the titular album.

I just got back from a weekend trip to Boston (Chic! Tea!), and it’s the first time that, despite having gone back for weekend trips before) that I stepped actual feet back on my college campus since I graduated almost exactly eleven months ago.

When I went back up in October, I was fresh and wounded from the school year having started (the first one that I was not there for) and so I avoided it on purpose. I was starting a new job, but I was definitely far from settled, and didn’t know what I was going to do with the rest of my year, let alone my whole life. I still don’t, but things are slightly more settled.

This year has been an unintended sabbatical and break for me. After graduating, I had these unformed plans of “Graduate. Move home. Find job. Rinse. Repeat.” I graduated; I moved home; I started applying for jobs. I rinsed, I repeated.

I emailed a local magazine on a whim to do an informational, and ended up with some freelance writing. I got a job doing freelance copy-editing and dipped my toe into a full-adult-human workday. To make up the in-between, I applied for a job at a local Trader Joe’s. I started studying for the GRE and began researching graduate programs. Slowly slowly, I began to fill up my days and the months began to pass. The panicked, failure feeling began to dissipate (not completely, but in small bits).

With the extra time, I dove (well, tepidly stuck my toe in and then dove) back into therapy. There were serious things that I wanted to tackle, things that I had not had the time, mental capacity or vocabulary to tackle before. Before, addressing certain topics would make them real, which would make them impossible to ignore, and would therefore open me up to vulnerabilities. This year was an entire twelve months of vulnerabilities, so I figured there was no time like the present. Why not knock out all of my anxieties and issues in one fell swoop? (It’s not that simple or that clean, but honey let me have this!)

I have not successfully come out on top of any of the issues that I wanted to tackle (if anything, they’ve proved to be more complex and multifaceted than I originally believed) but they no longer feel insurmountable. They no longer feel like cracks in my pavement or deal-breakers. In short, I no longer feel unfixable.

I’ve also incorporated more color into my wardrobe. If you’re thinking, “Whoa! This is a shift from talking about psychiatry!” then you’d be right but you’d also be not in my brain. A lot of how I dressed, dark colors and baggy cuts, was to detract attention away from my body. I wanted to have attention, but I didn’t want my body – or what I considered to be a coterie of problems – to be at the nexus. But over the last few months, as I’ve been opening up about the sources of those issues, I’ve felt myself craving color on a level that I never have before.

I wore a glorious gold hoodie over the weekend, and endured some teasing from my friends about its vivacity. But I didn’t care because it was so sunny and beautiful and eye-catching. I picked up two t-shirts – one pale pink and one pale yellow – from a local thrift store, colors I would never usually gravitate towards. But I’ve felt more confident, and with wearing color, I feel like I’m saying, “You can see me. I’m okay with it.”

I’m hitting a golden hour of sorts. I’ve endured gray moments over the past year, some downright turbulent and stormy, but I can feel myself hitting my stride. Large parts of that are due to being more settled – in life, grad school, and myself. But I think it’s also that I’m, for the first time, allowing myself to be seen – to be opened up in different ways.

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2018, Life, Things Happening RN

TRYING TO BE HOT AT MY FIVE-YEAR REUNION

On Saturday, I had my five-year high school reunion.

I went in with low expectations, and by that I mean that I went in with the highest expectations and fully expected to be disappointed.

I regularly make jokes about the kind of person I was in high school; “I looked like a thumb with eyes” is a common one, given the fact that I had red, horrible skin, didn’t figure out a haircut that worked for me and I plucked my light eyebrows into impossibly high, thin arches that rendered them completely invisible in photos.

Embarrassingly (although everyone is guilty of this) I was obsessed with maintaining a façade even more than I was obsessed with maintaining a severe eyebrow arch. I probably even loved saying the word “façade” in high school. Difficult pronunciation and a squiggly accent mark? Chic! Essentially, I was kind of geeky and not-chic, except that I thought I was the most chic. Animal-print? Yes please. Neon? Why not! I was also perhaps most famous in high school for having a blog, and by that I mean, I was gay and literate and wrote about it.

Going into this reunion, I had one main goal: make everyone want to kill themselves with jealousy.


I assumed that this goal was very much attainable and also very much in the bag. However, things started to unravel very quickly. A tussle with a sheet mask ended up with me having a slight allergic reaction. A haircut ended up looking a little too egghead. My skin, which has been on a journey not dissimilar to Arya Stark trying to find her way back to Winterfell, decided to have a flare-up! Everything was coming up rosacea!

For reasons that I discuss extensively in therapy but will not disclose here, I feel a powerful need to prove myself to everyone, but particularly people who dislike me. Given the fact that I went to an all-boys Catholic prep school and was gay/wore leopard-print, I was not wanting for enemies or bullies!

I showed up to cocktail hour an hour late and dressed fucking cute, and immediately realized that I would not get through this night without alcohol. I was sucked into a conversation with a former classmate about his career track. He does something client-facing, and wears ties, and honestly that’s all I could remember because I was too busy scanning the faces of other classmates and making mental notes of everyone who got hot.

As I mentioned, I went to a prep school, whose main exports are insecurity complexes and people who work in square professions – finance, real estate, anything that has you start as an “analyst.” I was one of maybe four people who was in a creative industry, and reminder, I barely have a job! I was back in an environment that both fostered trust-fund fist bumps and discouraged me making any sort of “anal-yst” jokes! It was tough!

To overcompensate, when people asked me what I did, I formulated a square and safe response. “I’m a writer, and I’m going to grad school in July.”

Over the course of the evening, I got progressively looser and more annoying. “I’m a writer” became “I’m a freelancer writer,” which became “I’m a freelancer writer and I work at Trader Joe’s,” which somehow devolved into “I write about gay stuff!” and then completely deteriorated into just “Gay!”

To be fair, it always ends up that way.

But sometimes I realized, as my answers about “What I’m Doing” became sillier and more honest, is that people responded in kind. I got an accountant to admit that if I don’t pay taxes, there’s a possibility that nothing will happen (don’t do this though, pay your taxes). I asked a civil engineer if he got inspiration from that underground cavern in Marvel’s The Defenders. He did not laugh!


When I was saying hi to somebody, the person next to him saw me and made to do the “How are you doing!” facial shift.

The problem with this was that we never had a conversation in high school. I knew who he was because he’s hot, and he knew who I was because I’m gay, but no words passed betwixt us. So when he said, “How’ve you been?” I responded with “I’m good – I’m excited to have our first conversation ever!” And all he could do was laugh because literally it’s true.

And once we got over the truth, we actually had a conversation. We talked about high school, his work, my work, marijuana dispensaries and being hot.

I detest small talk because it kind of defeats the purpose – it’s meant to facilitate conversation, but it actually becomes a barrier against having real conversation. It becomes “Where did you go to college again?” and “What have you been doing?” instead of “Did you love college?” and “What do you think of Cardi B?”

By the way, people have high praise for Cardi!

I understand the impulse to put your best foot forward – I’m the fucking mayor of Putting Your Best Foot Forward – so I’m not sure exactly what snapped in me, but I’m glad it did. Because instead of exchanging meaningless pleasantries, I actually dug into real conversation with both old friends and people that I had never connected with in high school.

High school was messy in roughly eight thousand ways, and these all made going back into the Vineyard Vines viper’s pit quite stressful, which is probably why I became acutely obsessed with my appearance. A classic redirect to avoid confronting past trauma, sis!

But despite it all, I’m glad I went. I got a chance to look hot in suede boots, call everybody “hon” and “handsome” and snag an alumni baseball cap. And at the end of the day, that’s really all I could ask for.

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2018, Mental Health

MARIAH CAREY COMES FORWARD WITH BIPOLAR II DISORDER DIAGNOSIS

Header image source: Wikipedia


I’ve come out three times in my life. First as gay, second as depressed, and third as a ride-or-die Kelly Clarkson stan. Strangely, it’s only the last that has caused permanent strife in my family. I expected that; the truth is hard to hear.

On Wednesday, skinny legend Mariah Carey announced that she has been dealing with a diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder. In an interview with People, Carey described that, while she was first diagnosed in 2001, it was only in the last few years that she fully accepted and grappled with treatment.

“Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” she said to People editor-in-chief Jess Cagle. “It was too heavy a burden to carry and I simply couldn’t do that anymore. I sought and received treatment, I put positive people around me and I got back to doing what I love — writing songs and making music.”

It’s easy to drown this announcement in platitudes and inspirational sayings. It’s easy to say that Mariah is brave. It’s easy to say that this is important. It’s easy to bury this in well-wishes and forget how desperately important this is.

So it needs to be stated regardless: this is fucking important. This is fucking brave. And this is life-saving.

I was fifteen when I started going to therapy. I was nineteen when I went on medication. I remember the first time I went to CVS and picked up my prescription. I carried it back to my apartment, the small paper bag crunched up into my sweaty fist furtively. I eyed the small blue ovals with displeasure, and resented every swallow, every day, until one day I didn’t.

I am, relatively, extremely lucky. I live in a bubble where my mental health does not limit or define me. I have friends who have their own struggles, and I have parents who have advocated for me. It’s easy for me to forget the magnitude of disclosing mental health now that it has become so normalized for me.

But I let myself forget sometimes that I started writing about my depression and anxiety because when I needed it most, there was no literature that I found helpful. There were dry, clinical descriptions, and there were void-swallowing depressing missives. There weren’t people that I could relate to, people who were “normal” and functioned.

And in 2001, I can’t imagine the hostile environment that Mariah was facing when she received her diagnosis. It would have probably been career-ending to come forward, as a woman and as someone with bipolar disorder. She would’ve been labeled disruptive or crazy or entirely unreliable. She would’ve been a national joke.

It’s only the last few years – if that – that I’ve noticed a shift in the conversation surrounding mental health.

If I had had someone like Mariah – or Demi Lovato or Kesha or Dwayne Johnson – when I was fifteen or seventeen or nineteen, I think that I would progressed out of that shame a lot more quickly. I probably wouldn’t have been so reticent to accept help. I didn’t know that you could be successful and also depressed; I didn’t know that this didn’t have to be a life sentence or a limitation.

Despite the strides we’ve made, disclosing mental health issues is still a major risk. There’s a stigma attached to it, stigma that could eliminate job opportunities or personal relationships or credibility. That stigma is reduced when people disclose their own struggles, and represent as people who are functioning, productive and driven. It also opens the conversation to the ways that mental health can contribute to people’s downfalls, when people aren’t functioning or productive or driven. It can open the conversation about the ways that we are failing people who struggle with mental health.

Because there are people like Mariah, who had wealth and time and resources to understand and cope with her diagnosis. There are people like me who have a supportive family and a network of people.

But there are so many people without those resources, without the access to therapy or medication, for whom mental health can be detrimental. This helps them.

“I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone. It can be incredibly isolating,” Mariah told People. “It does not have to define you and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.”

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2018, Politics

GIVE ME THE PHONE

“When your old-ass parent is like, ‘I don’t know how to send an iMessage,’ and you’re just like, ‘Give me the fucking phone and let me handle it.’ Sadly, that’s what we have to do with our government; our parents don’t know how to use a fucking democracy, so we have to.”

A few weeks ago, I read a profile of David Hogg on The Outline. Hogg is seventeen and, along with Emma González, one of the loudest voices for gun control in the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 people dead.

I found the article after a lot of conservative outlets had been circulating a rumor that Hogg and González were “crisis actors,” people paid to pretend that they have been in the shooting. In the profile, Hogg comes across as brittle, scathing, running on anger and entirely exhausted. And as I was reading the profile and watching the attached video, I found myself wondering what happens when to Hogg, or González, or anyone who survived the Parkland shooting or any other gun shooting, when the cameras go off and the lights shut down and the anger diminishes for a moment.

They’re all subsisting on anger and rage – rightfully – and I thought about how desperately sad it is that after this trauma, they’re not allowed to just sit and cry and recover. Because of the situation they’re in, the situation we put them in, these kids are not, and cannot, be kids. They have to be advocates; they have to be warriors. In stripping them of their safety and their friends and their lives, we’ve also stripped them of their right to grieve.

When David said the above line, about the phone, it made sense to me. Gun massacres are becoming increasingly common in America, and the news cycle is always the same. It happens, we react, the news churns for a while and then, inevitably, everyone moves on. These kids are fighting so hard to stop that from happening, because as soon as we move on, we are signing the death warrants for someone else. The fact that it’s a month on, and we’re still seeing action from the students is not just impressive, it’s unprecedented.

They’ve witnessed the adults in their lives, the adults in government, refuse to protect them, choose guns and money over them. And so they have to protect themselves, advocate for themselves. It’s beautiful in its own way, but it’s disgusting that we’re asking children to take up the fight for gun control. And it’s disgusting how people have vilified them for asking for life; how people have gone after Hogg and claimed it’s fair game, how someone called Emma González a “skinhead.” How people derided the school walkouts today as an “excuse” to skip school. That people cannot have the empathy or the willingness to understand is astounding but not surprising.

These kids shouldn’t have to do all this, but they are because the adults refuse to do anything. Give them the fucking phone.

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