Category Archives: Essays

Getting in the Way: On White Female Comedians Speaking Out

By Hilarie Ashton

Straight white women, including me, have a lot of unearned privilege to atone for, and we do not always atone usefully. In an America that was problematic on levels of race, class, and gender far before openly racist, faux-wealthy, women-hating men slithered into the White House last November, there are a plethora of examples of this kind of ineffective, often ignorant action purporting to be against white supremacy. Since the election especially, on the internet and in daily life, I have seen far too many white women uncritically extolling the feminist virtues of suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, both of whom are lauded for including Black women in their suffrage work without much acknowledgement of their respective racism. (It was Anthony who told Frederick Douglass, “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.”) Facebook profile photos and Twitter avatars perpetuate the ubiquity of the transphobic, white-centric “pussy hats” that originated as a grassroots art project for January’s Women’s March (and that were still around in my part of New York even in early summer, even though trans folx and Black women have spoken out against how the symbol at least partially excluded them, among them Katelyn Burns at The Establishment and Juniperangelica Xiomara at Wear Your Voice Mag. The pussy hats were a problem where police were concerned, too, another framework that cis white women too often ignore; Alison Reed’s incisive look at whiteness and carceral psychology in Abolition Journal gets at this all-too common phenomenon really smartly. Why, many before me have asked, would a symbol that centers cis women and white women, the Venn diagram of which is the group most responsible for getting Trump into office, seem appropriate for fighting for the rights of women who are marginalized? Continue reading

What We Talk About When We Talk About Rock and Roll

By Erin Coulehan 

People loved rock and roll long before Joan Jett made an anthem about it in 1982. The genre was born through traditionally African American musical styles and adapted to suit a different audience — a whiter audience. Rock and roll as we know (and love) it drew influence from jazz, gospel, country, and R&B to popularize in the late 1940s and 1950s, and was set on fire by bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. According to Yale-educated music historian Lorenzo Candelaria at the University of Texas at El Paso, audience is what initially distinguished rock and roll from rhythm and blues. Simply put, “rhythm and blues refers to music that was marketed to a black audience; rock and roll refers to music directed at a white audience.” Continue reading

I Was Asking for It: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Ageism in Show Business

By Annabelle Gurwitch

Like Harvey Weinstein, I, too, came of age in a different era. Ten years his junior, the air was charged with an intoxicating mixture of sexual energy and drug fueled adrenaline in the winter of 1980 as Harvey Weinstein began his ascension as a film producer and sexual predator and I landed in New York to study experimental theater at NYU. Continue reading

Art Inside: Facilitator Training

By Annie Buckley, for the “Art Inside” series

It is 120 degrees outside, and yet the locals continue to tell us that this is a cool July. I stopped noticing the constant sheen of sweat shortly after we arrived for the second time here in Blythe, CA, near the Arizona border, over a week ago. I have come with a team to lead a class on the fundamentals of teaching art. In this case, the students — and future teachers — are men that are incarcerated in two prisons just outside the town. They will eventually teach their peers in the prisons. We are midway through the second 10-day session of a training that is designed to empower them to create community through the arts by sharing what they have learned, many while locked up, about painting, drawing, music, poetry, and more. The project is something I received a grant for from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to implement here, but months ago, as I wrote the grant application, bent over the computer in my cool office, I could never have imagined the depths to which our participants would go in engaging with this content and striving to understand, grow, and be successful. They are going to be incredible teachers. Continue reading

The Event is Always Political

By James Rushing Daniel

Just after 10 p.m. on Sunday, October 1st, Stephen Paddock opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest Festival from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. At least 59 people were killed and over 500 were injured in what has been called the deadliest mass shooting in United States history committed by a single individual. Surprising no one, a rancorous debate immediately ensued with many on the left calling for gun control legislation and a unified right feigning moral outrage. Continue reading

Jewess in Wool Clothing

By Susan Golomb 

When I was married and my then-husband and I visited Ireland, where half of his ancestors are from, everyone we met thought that I was the one who was looking for her roots. This thrilled me for reasons I’m not sure of. Was the actress in me proud of how well I could lose myself in another identity? Was it that I believed the Irish are the lost tribe of Israel — Leopold Bloom, Abie’s Irish Rose? Was it some latent Jewish self-hatred? Or was it simply the relief of knowing I could pass as Gentile? Continue reading

Comic Relief? The Puzzling Function of Political Humor Online

By Marta Zarzycka

The most terrifying movie I have ever seen, no doubt, was Funny Games, written and directed by Michael Haneke. In the movie, a sheltered bourgeois family’s reality transforms into a nightmare at the hands of two sadistic captors in immaculate golf whites and gloves. There is nothing “funny” about the situation, which, in hindsight, renders the title misleading and cruel.

A similarly ominous congruity between the “funny” and the violent is glaringly present in the right-wing register of the internet. The mix of satire and political ideology drives platforms such as Breitbart, AltRight, or Daily Stormer (which recently resurfaced on the dark web). Continue reading

Remembering Lynn Moe Swe (1976-2017)

By Ko Ko Thett 

“Until the end of the wake” by Lynn Moe Swe (1976-2017):

The funeral I wrote down happens today. 
Or, does it?

The opening lines of “Until the end of the wake” by Lynn Moe Swe anticipate afterlife. Lynn Moe Swe, who died of Dylan-Thomas Syndrome aka alcohol poisoning in the wee hours of Monday, September 18, in his hometown Monywa, was one of Myanmar’s most outstanding poets of his generation. He was 41. Continue reading

Weil Waiting: On the 75th Anniversary of Simone Weil’s Visit to New York

By Robert Zaretsky

Seventy-five years ago, the French philosopher and religious mystic Simone Weil was a prisoner of New York. As she wrote (in English) to an American officer whose radio address she had heard (but had never met), her parents forced her to leave Vichy France: they “had wanted to escape anti-Semitism [and] put great pressure upon me to make me go with them.” Ever since her arrival in early July, though, an implacable sense of suffering overpowered her: France’s suffering under German occupation, but her own suffering as well. If her separation from France “was to last a long time, it seems to me that it would break my heart.” Continue reading