National Poetry Month

When I downloaded the “random words” app on my iPad, I had no idea it was National Poetry Month. Instead, I was looking for a way to jumpstart my creativity in a meeting that was sucking the life out of me. Interestingly, the poem below based on an image I chose from my files and the words generated from the app actually inspired me to do more found word writing, ie to be more aware of the words, phrases, and messages in my world and to transform them into art.

autumn breezy light/immaculate in the fields/laughing wonder/ fresh/ tremble me

For the month of April, I will be writing down grafitti, bumper stickers, quotes, etc. and doing short writings on why they intrigued me or simply passed me by in the past and transforming that into poetry. I won’t make you sit through all that processing, but I may post a poem or two … we will see.

What are you doing for National Poetry Month?

The Beauty of Books

Did you know it was eBook week, in which we are all asked to celebrate the eBook by reading at least one?

Long time readers have been privy to my “reading in the heat” debacles with the iPad and have also no doubt followed the links to historiann’s discussion of eReaders here and elsewhere, so I won’t go into those issues again. What I will say is that there is something amazing and wonderful about surrounding oneself with the written word in a way that is visible and tangible. Combing through the stacks in the library or discovering an old bookstore and walking it aisles endlessly. I think it became easier to overlook real books when bookstores became flooded with over-bright lights, corporate coffee screaming at you from just beyond the paid for by the publisher displays or the slightly corporate masquerading as alternative rose, purple, and blue rooms of an occasionally union busting store that caters to hipsters and poc in the know are getting more and more wary of racial profiling in. And now we have 1,000 book libraries in slim casing, with no pages to dog ear or sense of their magnitude. They have little more substance than the video games or movies we carry on the same devices. They have little substance at all considering they can be deleted, changed, or reclaimed by the  store that sold you the book at any time. No one can come into your home library on a whim and say “oops, we’re sorry we didn’t actually mean to sell that to you, so we’re taking it back” or add advertisements to its back or front pages. We live in a digital age. And I am an iPad owner who is seldom seen without it. But I can tell you, nothing seems more peaceful than when I am sitting in my home library, surrounded by books, soaking it all in.

Oscar? What Oscar? Where?

In a year in which the nominees for the biggest awards are sans people of color and the hosts are 12, and at least in Franco’s case lack any class whatsoever, I find comfort in this:

There is so much love in their eyes it makes me believe the Oscars are about more than patting each other on the back in expensive outfits the cost of which could help some people pay their health insurance bills, eat real meals, and survive another day.

Oh well, at least Robert Downey Jr. did not take this opportunity to talk about having sex with all the female nominees (including the underage one from True Grit) during their award announcement like the last award show. BUT WAIT instead we had an aging Douglas flirting with the women hosting and up for Best Supporting Actress. It was nice to see him up and talking, and even better that the Academy Awards allowed an elder man with a speech impediment give an award; something other “shiny, pretty people” shows should do more often. However, sexism is sexism is sexism. Somebody please tell men chosen to present awards that neither the SAG nor the Academy Awards (or the Emmys for that matter) discriminate on the basis of cisgender alone and these awards are neither named “pretty girl award” or often given to people without real talent who have worked just as hard as the men who are not objectified win they win their’s.

Oh well, maybe they will leave Mr. Blackface Downey Jr. out of the memorial montage, like they did to poor Corey Haim. That’s two prestigious award shows in which his passing was not mentioned. Once is an oversight. Twice? Especially after Feldman’s public berating of the SAG organizers? That’s just a shame. He may have been troubled but a lot of people made a lot of money off of him in his hey day and more importantly, he turned critically acclaimed performances in films like Lucas. He deserved better in death even if they could not give it to him in life.

(and to think Hattie McDaniel actually risked her job to try and make this role less offensive than written;

can you imagine what the script says)

So yeah, I could analyze the mtv-ization of the awards in ways that were not funny nor entertaining, or slag off the wardrobe choices, or even celebrate the wonder of first time winners. But instead I am just going to say perhaps they need to hire a real comedian, learn to leave the sexism behind, and actually honor all of the stars that the Hollywood machine once praised and then spit out when they didn’t taste as sweet. You can do that can’t you? Afterall, I had to sit through a montage of Gone With the Wind from the people who used to give out a DW Griffith award, I think you can at least get some things right.

(yes I did file this under bitter much; I know my shadow)

The Shadow Knows

My friends and I have been participating in a Jungian reading group. It is the one thing in my overbooked schedule this term that feels as though it is just for me; probably, because it is. A lot of our time has been spent discussing the issue of the Shadow and the Ego (or the Real Self as some of us prefer). What has been most interesting to me about the group is the way that two words have become mobilized as ways to silence others “reactive” and “shadow”.

(this man’s art is amazing, check out his blog)

For those who do not know “reactive” means just what it sounds like, i.e. you have high emotions around a certain topic that likely indicate it’s your stuff not someone else’s.”Shadow” is a huge topic I am about to reduce to less than a sentence, so Jungian folks feel free to look the other way for a minute. At it’s most basic it means the parts of yourself you have rejected and on a conscious level, likely no longer know they exist as part of you. So, when you bump into someone who makes you super “reactive” you are likely hating on your own “Shadow”. Make sense?

For the most part, both concepts are incredibly fruitful in making people look  at their own stuff and own their behavior. But an interesting thing happens on the oppression highway … can you guess? There are two types of Jungians whose privilege blinds them to how they oppressive: (1) the ones who swear up and down that their Shadows are the parts of themselves they learned from their evil parents who done them wrong, and therefore deflect their oppression on to said, absent, parents and all the work they have had to do on their stuff (i.e. very little except learning anti-oppression lingo) and (2) the ones who swear even louder that you are “being reactive” and really you need to do some work on your Shadow self because they’ve done theirs. Ugh.

This does not just happen with oppressions mind you. In our group, there is a person who has studied Jung for years (which probably means he picked up a book to impress a girl in late high school after she waned on Marx … there I go, being reactive again). He knows Shadow theory better than any of us and never hesitates to point out other people’s Shadows or the “reactivity.”  Usually this finger pointing in the name of embracing one’s real self happens a few seconds after he says some sexist thing about women being the earth, or emotional centers because we have babies, or other “please do me because I am so in touch with my feminine side” bs and gets called on it.  But some times, it happens because he has openly mocked someone else in the group for not understanding a heady concept in the reading and when other’s of us come to that person’s defense he starts in with “reactivity” and “Shadow” finger pointing at speeds that make his little wagging finger hard to even see; oh, but it is there.

(cover art Detective Short Stories 1938; @Syracus Library)

Recently, I was coming around the corner from my office and He Who Shall Not Be Named, was engaged in a full on gossip session about one of my colleagues from the group. He was “diagnosing” this person with an endless list of pathologies and actively connecting them to things that are considered private in the confines of our discussion. The person he was talking to was both eating up the insider information about my colleagues childhood traumas and laughing along at the diagnosis. When I glared, and went around the other corner, I heard him switch to diagnosing me.

The incident left me thinking about all of the ways we find to avoid dealing with our insecurities, past traumas, and interpersonal faux pas. How easy it is to point to others and say “that’s you stuff” all the while denying our own. From the plank vs the sliver, to the Shadow vs. authenticity, it seems we find endless ways to both try and teach each other how to change and to avoid changing ourselves. As old as the game is, I find something completely insidious about using psychological concepts to tear down other people or to hide behind. If every opinion that differs from your own is reactive and everything someone does not like is their Shadow then it seems some folks use that as a license to oppress others, excuse violent fantasies and personal attacks. Ultimately, where is the line? Is a rapist just a woman’s Shadow? a klan member a black man’s Shadow? Sheriff Joe and Jan Brewer immigrants and people who “look like immigrants” Shadows? And if it is reactivity to tell you that standing in the hallway using someone’s personal pain to diagnose and mock them is wrong, then is it reactivity to stand up against the new push to drill of the Gulf Coast again in the face of all the dead dolphins, dead sea life, and environmental pollution related poverty? Is it reactive to open a shelter for women escaping violence or demand that Republicans and some Democrats not risk the livelihood of teachers, firemen, etc. to make a political point about spending?

Perhaps I’m missing something here. But it seems to me that if you are sacrificing the lives or safety (emotional or physical) of someone else in order to feel more secure in your own world the person telling you to stop is not dancing with their Shadow, they are being beaten down by yours. (And of course, some of you out there think I am being reactive.)

Comment Policy Update

charles Schulz

I hate to get all academic on you all, especially after 4+ years of being pretty open about comments here. It seems that both the influx of overzealous fans on some threads and the linking of this blog by several courses this term, has led to an influx of comment makers who do not read the posts before launching into commentary. I’ve always had to say to one or two people every season, “Please read the whole post before you comment” but I have never had to delete a whole stack of comments because they are both offensive (violating ToS because of name calling or engaging in oppression) but also complete OT. My favorites have been the ones that claim posts about multiple racial groups are “attacking white people” because they never bother to read a) the title of the post or b) the content beyond something quoted to them elsewhere or the first three lines (I’m not sure which it is, probably both) and those saying posts are invalid because “you did not mention [white character here]” in black history month posts. So here is the major change in the comment policy so we are clear:

In order for your comment to be approved on this blog you need to have (1) read the entire post and (2) write a comment that reflects that you have read it even if you are only referring to a single issue or portion.

These guidelines are added to the existing expectation that comments avoid the use of epithets, name calling, swarming, and oppression, as well as be expressed with no or limited use of superlatives and “profanity”. As always, the unspoken but oft held guideline here and in the offshoot conversations that occur on twitter is that while this is not an academic blog any discussion we engage in is meant to move our understanding forward and to encourage thought on the subject and the broadening of perspectives, as well as challenge ideologies or concepts either in the post or the world. If you want to attack or deride people or positions or shout out “I am a fan and nothing my fan universe does can ever be wrong!” you are in the wrong place, but it does not mean that there are not places where you can do that openly and freely. Making an argument means more than saying “I have watched 2 full episodes of this [or] I slept in Superman footie pjs therefore I am right and you are wrong.” Long term fandom means you bring something important to the table not that you are infallible or the thing you like untouchable. For those of you who are new or returning students assigned to read here, becoming a scholar means engaging ideas and discussion not just announcing an opinion based on your experience or preferences.

Most of you are probably scratching your heads and thinking, “Umm hasn’t that always been the way we discuss things here” and the answer is yes. So trust me when I tell you there is a reason I have to write this.

And as a side note, if you are an instructor or TA using this blog for your class and you have not already discussed with your students the meaning of learning communities, netiquette, and engaged discussion, you should. As we know, social media inundates most students’ lives in one way or another and in many of those mediums anything goes. If you do not outline the kind of intellectual work you want them to do when they are using popular media then they will use the default of social media interaction that has led to so much bullying, denigration of others, and utter lack of engagement beyond one’s 5 second quip. As we integrate media into our classrooms we have to be savvy about meaning making and critical thinking otherwise our students walk away with very little new information. Their lack of engagement also means that many of the producers of that media you want them to learn from and with are left to wipe up the mess they leave behind. I enjoy being linked to for academic purposes every term, but I think everyone would get more out of it if students were using the medium as text and not as an extension of Facebook.

Now What ?!?

gapingvoid.com

An interesting reaction to one of my posts about rape and police inaction solicited a comment on stumbleupon complaining “once again nowhere to donate.” The comment made me think of my students who often look extremely depressed midway through my social justice courses. When I ask them why they are pouting, they always say “well, this class is great but the world sucks and what are we supposed to do about it?!?” It’s about that time I give them my “soft drink” talk. I ask them to look at what they are drinking, knowing that most are drinking a particular product because it pays pov u a lot of money to feature its products on campus (shhhhh!!!!). Then I tell them about all of the violence against women, children, poor people, and people of color that the particular company is implicated in around the world (shhhhh!!!!). As they stare at their drinks horrified and dumbfounded as to how this information could possibly help their depression, I tell them where all the alternative drink machines are on campus and tell them just by buying a different product they make a statement to the company about their practices. I draw a connection between those choices and anti-apartheid movements on college campuses started by students that ultimately caused the universities with the most to lose to divest from Apartheid driven South Africa. Then I remind them that school is about learning to ask questions you might not otherwise ask or even know to ask. It is about learning to be critical thinkers and taking responsibility for what thinking critical reveals about our world. Everyone has choices and everyone can make a difference regardless of their politics. It is also at this point in the class, that I challenge them to do what other students have already been modeling, get involved in our communities and bring in opportunities to be involved locally and globally to class. In other words, I reframe that old comic book saying about great power and responsibility to remind them that they can and do have power to change the world. Think of it as the With Great Knowledge, Comes Great Responsibility, model.

Why am I telling you all of this?

It seems to me that the internet is both a reflection of the hopelessness under the weight of oppression that so many struggle with and an amplification of it. On the one hand, everyone has felt confused about where to start or how to start or even if doing anything would help when dealing with inequality. On the other hand, the internet spoon feeds information to users. You don’t have to look up material anymore because we link to everything. You don’t have to sit with any information you read because we have distilled everything into 144 words. And now you don’t even have to think about how to get involved because we link that too. And so people, in general, have become extremely lazy about owning the power they have to become informed, get involved, and work toward change.

Example One:

Remember when I put up a post on intersectional reading material with the full citations a year or more ago? I did not link the articles because most of them were not available online and I knew that linking to incomplete sources would have led people to read the few pages available and move on. People spent months demanding I link to the material, literally calling me lazy and stupid for not doing “basic things” like linking to articles; the irony of their own laziness in refusing to look up the material with a simple google search or trip to the library and their own ignorance in demanding links to full material that was not available on the internet was lost on them. Then someone actually wrote a post claiming I had intentionally withheld the links to force people to think resulting in a bunch of people coming to the blog to go off about how “condescending it was” for me to withhold information and how it “completely undermine[d] [my] efforts” because “no one was going to look up the information”, so I “might as well have not written [the] post”. Again, they did not bother to read my post or any of the comments reiterating it’s point about some sources not being digitized, they just demanded to be fed information as if was their right to sit back and depend on someone else.

Like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors, everyone commenting was capable of doing their own work or at the very least finding a way to get it. Unlike the plant in Little Shop, they were unwilling to work, to advocate for themselves, or even to consider how offensive it might be to demand that a woman of color provide every ounce of information on diversity readings to a mostly white, middle class, audience with more access to libraries, bookstores, good schools, and income needed to track down and/or buy the materials. In the midst of so many women of color and allies saying thank you for the resources, these readers collective opened their wide mouths and demanded “feed me” expecting blood if nothing else.

Example Two

While many of my posts do include links to organizations where you can volunteer, donate, or learn more information, my post on Antione Dodson did not. That post was about people’s reactions and inaction to issues of rape and sexual violence in poor communities, especially of color. It was not an activism post.

According to the 2007 National Crime Victim Survey, 500 people (.05% of them men or boys) were raped every day in the United States. That is roughly 20 people an hour. According to the US Department of Justice Bureau 2009 Justice Stats on Rape and Stalking, women between the ages of 19-24 make up the largest group of survivors. While my readers cross multiple identities, the largest group of people linking to my post based on an informal survey of links is female between 16 and 25; ie, they are roughly the same age group as the largest targeted population in the U.S. for rape.  1 in 3 women is a victim of domestic or sexual violence in their life time, since this post garnered 10,000s of hits per day for several weeks, that means that on average both the people linking or reading the post have some known relationship to rape survivors as friends, colleagues, or survivors themselves. Given this information, it seems to me that it isn’t too much to ask that people reading would be aware of rape, domestic and sexual violence, and either know the names of some of the organizations working on these issues in their area or how to look this information up with a simple google search. “Rape survivors + [city I live in]” yielded 5 helpful agencies, with addresses and phone numbers, and a law firm specializing in victim’s rights in the first 6 links on Google. “Women’s Crisis + [state I live in]” yielded a list of shelters, hospitals, and advocates in the top links. And so on. When you do the same thing using Dodson’s hometown, you find survivor support groups, AIDs hotlines, hospital advocates, and lawyers. It really is that simple.

The specific criticism of this post was that there was no “Donation” button or link to “do something about the issue.” Again, the ease with which we pass information on the internet seems to have stunted both people’s willingness to take charge of their own power to know and act, but also to engage in critical thinking about knowing and acting. Many people, especially in the radical woc, feminist, and dis/ability blogosphere have been deconstructing the idea of “donation culture” as social justice. In other words, we have been working within and expanding on existing critiques of who writes checks, who can write checks, whether check writing shifts thinking and commitment after the ink dries, and whether writing checks is a solution or a band aid. While I think most, if not all, of us understand that philanthropy is a critical part of keeping movements funded and operational, the idea is to do more than write a check through options ranging from educating yourself on the issues to organizing a group of people to get personally involved for the long term in the work of changing the system or aiding people. It is also about listening to communities and what they want, if they ask for money then money is the primary way to honor community need, if they ask for publicity and consciousness raising, then writing blog posts, writing editorials to your local paper, sending in emails to the national news about the issue, and talking about it with everyone you meet is the primary way to honor the community need, and so on. And no, honoring what the community says it needs does not preclude you from doing other things as well, it just makes their voices foremost and centered in your activism.

Getting back to the Dodson post, I specifically linked to a woc blogger who had listed all of the major players in the incident who had not acted on information about a serial rapist. She had phone numbers, websites, and action ideas in her post. Since my post was about perception, reception, and the failure of people who actually self-define as activist communities to act, linking to this information seemed more in keeping with the point of the post. So once again, no one bothered to follow through with the links I did provide because it wasn’t spelled out for them that they should click on the links. Have you noticed how we have gone from a digital culture that links to items to one that spells out explicitly why you should follow links with annotated bibliography type blurbs before or after the link? FEED ME SEYMORE.

(This is not a critique of the individual who said this but all of the people who thought it right a long with her and all of the ways that the internet encourages such thoughts.)

Conclusions

The way power works, is to convince you that power over people and things is normal and natural AND that you can do nothing about it. The people in power want you to believe that you are “just one person” and to constantly be asking “what could I possibly do to change things” so that you will give up. The practices of internet writing and activism are embedded in this system and potentially making it worse by making people passive consumers of information. According to recent research on brain development, the 144 word tweet culture is actually remapping pathways in the brain away from empathy and reflixivity. I want to encourage you to begin the decolonization of your mind by refusing to accept these easy constructions and expanding your information sources to a level that keeps your ability to connect and empathize with others intact. One person can and does change the world. One person can and has challenged the system:

Tiananmen Square/unattributed

You can start by being an active reader. When you see stats or other material cited or referred to, look it up. Ask who the source is, what is their theoretical and methodological training or usage, has the author of the post that linked to them accurately portrayed their content, etc. When you cannot find it online, go to the library or search around the topic, for instance in the Dodson case, look at information on the area, HUD and police stats vs. community reports, etc.  Once you’ve done that, consider how you can become involved in changing social inequality in your own communities as well as support those in other communities referenced in the article that got you fired up in the first place. Again, in the Dodson case that means looking up rape survivor advocacy programs and getting involved or making a donation (clothes, money, gas vouchers for volunteers to get to the hospital, etc.) in your own area and/or giving money to rape and domestic and sexual violence agencies in Dodson’s area, sending a letter to the police or HUD about your concerns over their seeming inaction about a serial rapist, or starting an online petition that would flood them with faxes or signatures saying we are all watching. And if you really can’t think of anything else to do but be depressed and hit the resend button (which is a start in and of itself) then talk to your peers, families, and educators about what they think you could do. Worst case, come back to the blog owner and ask, but if you ask me, I am going to suggest you do your own research first.

To end on cliche that just happens to be soooo true: Knowledge is power. What you do with that power is up to you.

(By the way, I have chosen these related articles for the ways that the critique, expand, or agree with the opinions I have expressed in this post rather than their take on the same specific topic.)

Telmary Diaz

I know music posts on this blog don’t generate a lot of traffic, but you know I am less interested in how many people stop by then the quality of what people take away when they do. So I put this beautiful love song on when I got home from a mini-conference on race, gender, and the law at the uni today (don’t ask) and felt celebratory joy about being alive, a woman, and a person of color seeping back into my bones. It’s isn’t a political song, it is is a love song (though of course, love is often political in this world).

Telmary Diaz is a Cubana Canadian based hip hop poet who comments on politics, social justice, women, and life in her music. One of my favorite lines from her songs is “everywhere the capitalists destroy, disguised as socialists” if that isn’t the legacy of Reagan and the war on socialism in Latin America, I don’t what is. (And yes, it is so much deeper than that but again I’m tired of a million qualifiers just to say something these days. Literalism will be death of intelligent, thoughtful discourse and that is the legacy of No Child Left a Mind)

So what amazing female artist are you listening to today?

PS. Telmary Diaz will be playing at the Tornto Women’s bookstore for FREE tonight. If you are there, you should check her out and buy a book, as well as her CD, while you are there.

Just This Morning

  1. some race supremacy website linked here and then 150 of their followers spammed the blog for a few hours
  2. I was confronted with an incident from the past that changed me, my relationships in the feminist and radical woc blogosphere, and the position of this blog in ways that an apology cannot fix (tho the apology was important to me and the person making it was being quite brave in doing so & it does represent moving forward in a good way)
  3. I looked at my stats for wordpress wednesday, about how they seldom highlight any authors of color, queer, elder, working class authors, trans, poc, or same sex specific posts, in the context of a discussion about wordpress I had yesterday in which the conclusion was “yeah, they suck but how are they any worse than any of the other options on the internet that are all cis-hetero-eurocentric”
  4. I was made acutely aware of how a marginalized person can levy one oppression as retaliation for or to avoid addressing another & to think about if I am capable of such a thing or have done such a thing myself because I just assumed that does not happen (yes I am naive like that)

My ironic brain called up this song

which of course contradicts the real meaning behind all of these events and yet speaks so plainly to why people in power act the way they do.

Yep, my students have been loving me sunny attitude this fine class day.

A Literary Meme! Oh Pick Me, Pick Me

I have not done a meme in a very long time. When I saw this one on Feminist Texican‘s twitter feed, I could not help myself. It is the end of summer/start of fall term after all and I’ve spent an entire summer with my nose in a book. Yes, I know this does not seem that different from any other time of year, do you have a point? … ahem … As I was saying, so what better time to do a 55 question ditty about literature? (By the way, I read a lot of fluff in the summer and looking over my answers, it shows & you thought I was nerdy all the time)

the meme

Current book cover art by Taeeun Yoo, showing ...

Image via Wikipedia

1. Favorite childhood book?

2. What are you reading right now?

3. What books do you have on request at the library?

  • On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers (this is course related)

4. Bad book habit?

  • folding over pages instead of using book mark
  • starting several books at same time

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?

  • this list is too long, mostly they are women’s health books for my course this term

6. Do you have an e-reader?

  • yes; if you count the apps on the ipad, I have several

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?

  • I should read one at a time to become fully absorbed, but I do read several at once

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

  • no

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)

  • It may end up being Club Dead pages 58-61 are particularly demeaning to women (both cis and trans women, both of whom are referenced) and the race & sexuality stuff in these books also makes me question the taste level

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?

  • The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfield – I read them for a series I am doing on female protagonists in Young Adult fiction & I couldn’t put them down; they even invaded my dreams at night, for real, I read the books well in to the night and then dreamt about the main characters all the way through it. When I got up in the morning, I would read them on the way to the bathroom to brush my teeth.
  • The Morganville Vampires Series by Rachel Caine – read these for the same reason and also found them extremely compelling until the 7th one; if you are reading insipid Twilight or been tempted to buy them for girls you know, STOP NOW!!! and go buy these books they have a strong female protagonist who is a math whiz, well rounded female and male characters, and never get sidetracked by love stories until near the very end of the first big story arc

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

  • regularly, how else do you learn?

12. What is your reading comfort zone?

  • scifi, horror, victorian,post-colonial, women’s, magical realism, feminist theory, cutlural studies, psychology, critical race theory, disability studies, queer theory, young adult, etc.

13. Can you read on the bus?

  • yes unless the ride is bumpy or the bus is packed

14. Favorite place to read?

  • bay window overlooking tops of trees in our backyard

15. What is your policy on book lending?

  • I used to lend books, now I just gift them or forward the library hold information

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?

  • regularly

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

  • academic books yes, regular books no

18.  Not even with text books?

  • see above

19. What is your favorite language to read in?

  • the original one it was written in; sometimes things are so poorly translated as to be completely inaccessible

20. What makes you love a book?

  • literature: well written, imaginative, compelling, preferably no or limited oppressions or hegemonic assumptions, unique or expansion of existing drama, characters that resonate
  • research or theory: well researched, documented, verifiable examples or experiences that are not meant to reify but to expand concepts, clear methods and articulation of theories and ideas, lends to/expands/or radically challenges existing work in ways that move us forward, self-reflexive and anti-hegemonic

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?

  • if I love it (see above) or I am fairly certain someone else will
  • I’ve recommended books I don’t particularly like to people I think will like them or as examples of why we need a publishing revolution

22. Favorite genre?

  • see question 12

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)

  • I need to read more early N. American history and re-read civil rights history both seem  really important right now

24. Favorite biography?

  • I don’t read a lot of biographies but I did find Rosanna Barr’s My Life as a Woman really informative and interesting. There is a lot going on in her life and her childhood that I think people could learn from and speaks to why she was the first modern woman to give us a working class family show that did not insult other people or hold back from some of the things people outside of the working class would judge as declasse. Say what you will about her general taste level and behavior, in that tv show she gave us strong women, working class lives, and a myriad of female characters and young men learning what it means to be decent human beings when execs wanted to shut her down.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?

  • outside of my early volunteer work, no.

26. Favorite cookbook?

  • I’m a big fan of the Moosewoods – I met someone who worked there for years recently, that was a treat
  • Cranks – it was a collection of recipes from my favorite crunchy-granola place in Piccadilly, housed in a cider press, with the nicest staff ever – though it seems to have she-shed up a bit since then; I ate there every chance I got; it’s hearty, vegan and veg, and just plain good; seriously the original cookbook (I just learned there are several now, but back then there was just this one and the owner signed mine when I bought it in the restaurant) can help you transition to healthy food or keep your diet lively and filling tho it does seem they are more on the veg side these days

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?

  • The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne – I started this a while ago and was cruising right along until it got to the whole sex/love part, Protestant fears about their bodies and desires don’t make sense to me as a Catholic so that part was a bit much, but the rest is quite amazing. I am also a little creeped out by the new website I linked to which seems a little too much about Shane and not so much about the G-d he has so eloquently written about yearning for …
  • everything else I’d put here, I didn’t read this year

28. Favorite reading snack?

  • I try not to eat and read at the same time because I read a lot; so coffee maybe some home made trail mix (pistachios, dried cherries, peanuts, kashi protein cereal, and cranberries)

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.

  • Steig Larson’s books – everybody was raving about them, including alternative bookstore and feminist folks. I found the language stilted because of the translation and because I was expecting greatness it was so disappointing I never got past the 3rd page whereas I would have likely read it otherwise.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?

  • It depends. These days, many mainstream sources of book reviews are actually paid reviewers with perks from the publishing company or they may even work for a company that also owns the publishing company. Have you ever noticed how all of a sudden book X is the thing to read and every site for miles is talking about it? That is part of the advertising not serious review work. I tend to disagree with most of those people. But I have bought books based on the reviews of certain book blogs or Feminist Review or reviews referenced in book catalogues so …

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

  • I do it all the time as a blogger and an academic. It is hardest when I know the author, they are well respected in their field (which I have only done once), or they come by the blog and tell me how hurt they are by my assessment. The latter is the worst. I don’t mean to harsh on anyone, but I do have a certain set of criteria when I write a review which includes issues of race, gender, and sexuality, marginalization and gaze, as well as literary and research quality. I can love your book or movie for its overarching narrative and ability to create new worlds or delve into important theories and still ding it for a colonial gaze. Some people hear that and make their peace with it, ie vow to think more intersectionally or admit they do not care, others are deeply hurt by it and engage in the normal, though annoying, struggle of trying to reconcile their view of themselves, what they’ve done/produced, and what I’ve said about diversity. The best is when they tell you things about the process you did not know. I’m always learning from the writers, artists, directors, and fans who engage in real conversation.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?

  • which language are we defining as foreign?

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?

  • Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko – it is a huge book with immense depth and I was writing my second book at the time so it was hard to juggle both; but it was so worth it. I don’t know anyone who has not read this book, but if you have not, you need to.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?

  • none

35. Favorite Poet?

  • Nikki Giovanni – it’s hard to pick just one, but I’ve met her, been delighted by every conversation or event where she is featured, and I buy her books regularly; more than that, when I take the books out to glance at, someone always stops and says how much they love her too and I almost always end up reading the poems out loud with someone in the middle of a coffee shop, bookstore, or park, that is magic.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?

  • Not many, I tend to buy my books because when I was a kid we could not afford alot so I would go to the library twice a week and fill up my backpack. I promised myself when I got older, I’d own my own books. That said, I think I have 10 or 15 out right now.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?

  • seldom. you know, you can always renew them.

38. Favorite fictional character?

  • really rosy

39. Favorite fictional villain?

  • Bram Stroker’s Dracula of course

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?

  • whatever I am reading at the time (see question 12)

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.

  • without reading a book would be 48 hours, without reading anything, 1-3 hours

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.

  • Siddhartha by Herman Hesse – I read it with a group of rich white youth who were just so enthralled by India so …
  • Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser – such whiny drivel masquerading as social commentary

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

  • the phone, the dogs

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?

  • I’m a purist so …

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?

  • “Bram Stroker’s Dracula” – umm, because it does not actually follow the book it claims in the title, including changing some of the characters completely ugh; seriously, if you are going to put the author’s name in the title of your film at least do them the courtesy of actually reproducing their work

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?

  • on personal reading: $850
  • when I was a student: $1,000 (I went to an undergrad where you read at least 8-12 books per class/ in grad school it was 11-13 per class)

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?

  • I usually skim things in the bookstore before deciding to buy

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?

  • death of a beloved character or similar traumatic events – I once stopped reading a book (The Last Blue Plate Special by Abigail Padgett) because the dog died and I put down Tipping the Velvet for months because of what Kitty did to Nan

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?

  • if you count one in every purse, the car, the basket in the front of my bike … sure
  • yes. Most of my books are in shelves in my home library or in the office and I know exactly where they are, it just when I run out of space that it is harder to keep organized

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?

  • I keep at least one copy of every book I love, but I give copies to others all the time if I love them

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?

  • like a book that is stalking me or just won’t stop calling already? no.

52. Name a book that made you angry.

  • It’s a Jungle Out There by Amanda Marcotte – I think the marketing, illustrations (especially the history that includes the racist images being approved after the first draft images were massively critiqued for racism while everyone involved pretended they didn’t know the images were racist a year later amidst a second round of racial critiques post-publication), the press which has its own recent history of exclusionary practices and denials, the author’s potential plagiarism or a woman of color and the flippant way she dismissed intellectuals and feminists of color when called on it, all come together for me as one of the biggest examples of mainstream feminism fail in the publishing industry and an example of how younger women continue to make the same myopic “mistakes” and excuses in the name of feminism that I really hoped my generation or the generations before me could have put to bed already. When feminists not only fail to address ALL women, but then respond to that failure with derision, evasion, or my favorite “I thought it was funny”, they do the entire movement an endless amount of disservice and damage and ensure that women will never truly gain equality. (Yes, boys and girls, I’m a historian, I have a very long memory and it is full of facts and figures, names and dates) On a personal note: it makes me extra sad to have to write this because Amanda was one of the first people to draw attention to my original blog and compliment my blogging and I really love Pandagon.
  • Sarah Palin wrote a book this year didn’t she?

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?

  • Happy Birthday or Whatever by Annie Choi – It wasn’t that I did not expect to like it as much as it was that I did not expect to like it as much as I did nor find my own reflection in many of its stories. I even read some of it to my mother.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?

  • There are two fan favorite vampire book authors on this list both for writing racist, homophobic, and/or transmisgyinistic material in their books that had nothing to do with the plot, the characters, or anything else in the book. When you can literally edit out the material without making a single other change to the book and read it without confusion or a blip in continuity, that means that ish is just there because the author is oppressive. If you don’t know who I mean, go back over your vampire book collections with an intersectional eye and see if you can find it. I’ll wait.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?

  • have I not mentioned the word vampire enough for you people yet? thhhppppttttt

WordPress Wednesday Aug 11

updated post

I know you are just chompin’ at the bit for today’s weekly installment of fascinating stats about wordpress fail with regards to race, sexuality, class, and often gender. Unfortunately, I got a late start this morning and the Wednesday count took longer than usual because we had to track down some of the authors identities and debate whether or not to include findings about another major criteria for wordpress posts: is it interesting, entertaining, or providing new information. We have been tracking this category all along but recognize that in many cases, this criteria is subjective. Today, after reading two very dry posts about nothing and one incredibly funny one about the same thing, the debate opened up again. So … all this to say stats will be late today because I have meetings all afternoon into mid-evening. Ahh the start of Fall how I hate love it.

So here are the stats:

Pictures

  • men of color: 40
  • women of color: 14
  • TOTAL PICS OF PEOPLE OF COLOR: 55
  • white men: 37
  • white women: 30
  • TOTAL PICS OF WHITE PEOPLE: 70

Men of color were overrepresented in this count because of a post set in India in which 20 photos were featured, 18 of which were Indian men. The number of white women is also overrepresented in this count because of a post featuring 19 photos, 17 of which were white women. Though the latter post was not racially-culturally specific, it was about a city in N. America, of the 19 photos only 2 were people of color and both were of the same family who owned a shop featured in the post. Another post this week had 16 photos of a city with an extremely diverse population but only featured 2 photos of people of color, one was a crowd shot and the other was an older sticker of the Supremes. There was also an omission of images this week based on the problematic decision not to count photos from a Latina’s post on her wedding as her family would be considered white in Latin America but by nature of being culturally Latin@, would be brown in the U.S. Despite all of these issues, you’ll note that white people still appeared 20% more often than people of color this week and white women were still twice as likely to be depicted as women of color.

Authors

  • men of color: 2
  • women of color: 3
  • TOTAL AUTHORS OF COLOR: 5
  • white men: 19
  • white women: 18
  • TOTAL WHITE AUTHORS: 37

Once again white authors dominate those who featured on Freshly Pressed despite the published response to one of my readers that wordpress’ Freshly Pressed page highlights the diversity of “all of its authors” and blogs. White people were featured at 6xs the rate of people of color as were white women over women of color. While white men and white women were 9xs more likely to be featured than men of color, white men and white women had near gender parity this week. There were also three authors this week whose race was unknown but whose gender information was available.

1 white male’s blog was highlighted twice this week and several online journals whose assumed audience is white were highlighted again over individual bloggers or bloggers of color. One multi-authored blog highlighted this week had 9 authors none of whom were people of color and only two of whom were women. Another featured multi-author blog had only 3 authors but again none were people of color, though 2 were women.

Gender and Sexuality

  • pictures of women: 44
  • pictures of men: 77
  • female authors: 23
  • male authors: 23
  • gender unknown: 1
  • articles about feminism: 1
  • articles about gay rights: 1
  • articles about, related to, or otherwise assuming heterosexuality: 10

Men out number women in pictures this week but are equal with women as authors. This week marked the first in three weeks of consistent collection of data that a gay author was featured! The author was white, male, and middle class and made no reference to diversity beyond sexuality in his post. This was also the first week that a black male blog author was featured who has his picture prominently displayed on the front page. Most of the men of color featured on freshly pressed do not have their images on the blog or have them on a separate page. Interestingly, most of the white women featured on freshly pressed have their photos prominently displayed on either their home page, attached to their author credit when they write a post, and/or on their about page. As per usual there were no mention of transgender identity or rights nor alternative feminisms; the fact feminism appeared at all this week was fairly important even though it was not the first time. Feminist posts are seldom highlighted.

Grammar & Copyright

  • grammatical errors: 8
  • copyright infringement: 27

This section of stats highlights things that wordpress claims will absolutely prevent you from being featured. As in all other weeks, posts written primarily, if not exclusively, by white cis heterosexual authors were featured that violated copyright and grammar rules over diverse authors who had not.

Other Issues

This week saw the return of both white identified posts, posts that assume whiteness as the shared and normative experience, and racist or racialized posts. The biggest offense included a post that was exclusively about making fun of the way Middle Eastern people use the English language to sell product. The post included the image below which combined ablism and racism to form the crux of the post, including a caption that stressed the use of the word “retard” as ablist insult that was also the featured image on the Freshly Pressed page that day.

JeremyFugelberg.wordpress.com

Of the posts about racism highlighted, of which there were 2, both were written by white people about race issues in communities of color. The purpose of these posts was to highlight internalized racism, spoke only of as racism, ie putting the onus on communities of color rather than on the global system of racist inequality that ultimate is internalized by some targeted people. No people of color discussing racism have ever been highlighted on the freshly pressed page in three weeks this project has gone on even though they write about it every day on wordpress blogs. The week prior to the official start of this project, a person of color excusing away racism was featured, she was the first person of color discussing racism I had seen featured in some time.