I was watching a robin fly after a finch — the smaller chirping with excitement, the bigger, its breast blazing, silent in light-winged earnest chase — when, out of nowhere over the chimneys and the shivering front gardens, flashes a sparrowhawk headlong, a light brown burn scorching the air from which it simply plucks like a ripe fruit the stopped robin, whose two or three cheeps of terminal surprise twinkle in the silence closing over the empty street when the birds have gone about their business, and I began to understand how a poem can happen: you have your eye on a small elusive detail, pursuing its music, when a terrible truth strikes and your heart cries out, being carried off.
“People want the rugged authenticity of being different without actually being punished for it — and I understand why they do it. I recognize the insecurity. Just a decade ago, my peers were flinging words like “terrorist” and “faggot” to me in the halls of our high school. Now I’m “trendy” and “fierce.” Either assessment rings lonely and desperate. How they are tremendously afraid of being insignificant. How the fantasy of race that they have projected on my body makes me have some mystic power they are jealous of. They are afraid of boring. They are afraid of being nothing. They are in a constant state of falling — grasping for all of the bindis, beards, dashikis, gauges that they hold on to to feel relevant. And what hurts the most is that when they do it, it magically becomes beautiful. It becomes a beard worth $8,500 and not a beard worth five bullets. When the white body wears our scars, they finally become beautiful.”—
When we talk about teenagers, we adults often talk with an air of scorn, of expectation for disappointment. And this can make people who are presently teenagers feel very defensive. But what everyone should understand is that none of us are talking to the teenagers that exist now, but talking back to the teenager we ourselves once were – all stupid mistakes and lack of fear, and bodies that hadn’t yet begun to slump into a lasting nothing. Any teenager who exists now is incidental to the potent mix of nostalgia and shame with which we speak to our younger selves.
May we all remember what it was like to be so young. May we remember it factually, and not remember anything that is false, or incorrect. May we all be human – beautiful, stupid, temporal, endless. And as the sun sets, I place my hand upon my heart, feel that it is still beating, and remind myself: Past performance is not a predictor of future results. Stay tuned now for whatever happens next in your life. Goodnight, Night Vale. Goodnight.
”—Cecil’s closing narration in Episode 12 (via vaginawoolf)
Most girls are relentlessly told that we will be treated how we demand to be treated. If we want respect, we must respect ourselves.
This does three things. Firstly, it gets men off the hook for being held accountable for how they treat women. And secondly, it makes women feel that the mistreatment and sometimes outright violence they face due to their gender is primarily their fault. And thirdly, it positions women to be unable to speak out against sexism because we are made to believe any sexism we experience would not have happened if we had done something differently.
I cannot demand a man to respect me. No more than I can demand that anybody do anything. I can ask men to be nice to me. But chances are if I even have to ask he does not care to be nice. I can express displeasure when I’m not being respected. But that doesn’t solve the issue that I was disrespected in the first place.
I can choose to not deal with a man once he proves to be disrespectful and/or sexist. But even that does not solve the initial problem of the fact that I had to experience being disrespected in the first place.
As a young girl, I wish that instead of being told that I needed to demand respect from men that I had been told that when I am not respected by men that it’s his fault and not mine. But that would require that we quit having numerous arbitrary standards for what it means to be a “respectable” woman. It would mean that I am not judged as deserving violence based on how I speak, what I wear, what I do, and who I am.
Amanda Pickering, on the time her fellow students voted unanimously to burn her at the stake for being a witch.
My friend Amanda was on The Toast! I knew this story before, but not all the scary details. I think she needs the Order of Merlin, First Class, for that confession.
Incidentally, based on some things my mother turned up about one of her maternal ancestors while she was really into genealogical research, I may actually be a witch. My mother has successfully hexed at least one person, but I haven’t, as far as I know.
Q: I work as a secretary at an English department. Somewhat to my surprise, we have been besieged by fringe “academics” who are very adamant that we are part of a conspiracy to cover up the fact that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, was Shakespeare. The professors understandably do not wish to waste their time on this. I personally think the “authorship question” is an incredibly stupid and classist one, but as I am not credentialed, just the person handling incoming general mail, I am not sure what to say.
Miss Manners says: Have you thought of responding that you are all wild-eyed revolutionaries, determined to suppress an aristocratic genius in favor of a plebeian hack? No, Miss Manners supposes not. Conspiracy theorists are not known for their sense of humor, and inflaming them would only waste your own time. These letters are not academic challenges; they are accusations. What you need is not a response, but a crank file.
Your Head Bitch says: Oh, honey, you must be new. As the person handling incoming mail (or, worse, phone calls) you will get to spend the vast majority of your day answering stupid questions and responding to stupid opinions. It’s a really fun job. More often than not, these people don’t even want a response, they just want to yell at you about how they are right. So, thank your lucky stars when they choose to write your office rather than call it. And then do yourself and everyone else a favor and file these letters in your “very important letters” file — also known as the recycling bin behind your desk.
Yes, sir, I understand that you feel very strongly about this, but I’m telling you, you have the wrong number!
This makes me glad I only handle the mail that’s been deemed important enough to file for real. Even if all I have to do with it is file it.
Someone I’ve thought really highly of for a long time finally got to see me around my family and roommates last weekend, and today she told me I acted super fake the whole time, “but hey, no one’s perfect. I hope you’re not offended! Let’s Skype soon!”
Ha. Have you considered the possibility that there’s just nothing below the surface? The glasses don’t actually make me any smarter.
If all discussions about Frozen (and to a larger extent, Disney as a whole) were as mature and rational as this one I don’t think I would be nearly as annoyed by the entire thing.
That’s what I want, I don’t want emotional blindness on either side. I’d much rather have an objective, mature discussion on the topic about various cultural influences and race representation. This task seems to be absolutely above and beyond the majority of the internet. We can’t even GET to the point of “is this a problem or not?” because of all the blind emotional mudslinging and irrationality.
This was absolutely lovely and wonderfully informative, bravo!
Actually, you totally missed the point.
The entire point of the article I wrote is that people are framing the debate as if it must be argued on the grounds of “historical facts”, when actually, it has NOTHING to do with historical facts and everything to do with racism in modern society, and how it affects our media and discussions of media.
This makes you sound like someone who will refuse to look at or acknowledge a blatant injustice/inequality that exists unless it’s presented in a way that doesn’t make them feel accused or uncomfortable. Complimenting me for not making you uncomfortable is not a compliment I value.
You see, on the one hand, it seems as though you’re complimenting me, but on the other, what you’re really doing is insulting anyone who might be understandably upset by a really obvious form of systematic racism. Exclusion is a form of racism. You can SAY you don’t want “emotional blindness on either side”, but all this does is reinforce the notion that anger at being subjected to racism and emotional investment in white supremacy are morally equivalent, and they are NOT.
Framing anger at being subjected to racism as “irrational” is a form of racism.
In the OP, I talk about emotional investment in white supremacy, versus understandable rage by people who are disenfranchised by white supremacy.
It is NOT an excuse to bash people who are subjected to racism and angry about it.
This post isn’t a call for “maturity and objectivity”. It is literally the opposite of that: a call for the acknowledgement that this has more to do with human emotional attachment to stories and how we internalize messages in the media we see, that either does or does not represent us, and the quality of that representation.
I think you misunderstood? Or maybe I wasn’t clear enough?
I’m not saying “being mad about racism is irrational” that’s entirely justified.
I’m saying that we can’t even get to the question of “is Disney racist or not?” because whenever that question gets brought up all I get met with is trolling and insults from pretty much all sides of the equation. On one hand it seems to be “If you don’t think Disney is racist THEN YOU’RE A HORRIBLE PERSON” and the other hand of the debate is “if you think Disney is racist THEN YOU’RE A HORRIBLE PERSON!”
I can’t win. I’m talking about a non-objective emotional response where the general mood is pure anger and irrationality.
I understand people being angry about systematic racism, I hate that too. However channeling your anger into a well worded response is much more reasonable then just jumping down people’s throats YELLING CURSE WORDS IN ALL CAPS LIKE THIS which is pretty much 99% of what I’ve read about the entire Frozen debate. Except for your post which I appreciated because it was a drop of sanity in an ocean of insults and keyboard rage. (No seriously, it’s literally the first well-worded, rational post I’ve read on the subject.)
Maybe I should have said if the Frozen debate was as maturely worded as your response was?
For the record I am complementing you, I actually really love your blog and re-blog you almost every day. I completely agree with you that our media seriously under represents POC and that’s a huge problem.
And it’s when you think we agree that I feel like I’ve made an enormous mistake.
I’d also appreciate it if you stopped using disability as an insult. Racist people aren’t “blind” and angry people aren’t “insane”.
The only reason you elevate what I’m saying is because I’m using words and phrasing you’ve been conditioned to respect because learning to use them is expensive. My education was expensive, therefore, you respect the money I paid for it. Not me. Every single idea I’ve expressed above can also be just as accurately expressed with all caps and screaming.
You want the content and the value I provide, with a tone you find acceptable. You don’t want to feel uncomfortable. You’re complimenting me for making you feel comfortable with what I have to say, without making you feel accountable or examining yourself.
I don’t accept.
Medievalpoc is not a paper tiger for you to hide behind and accuse people who can’t afford a six figure education of being “irrational”.
This blog is about accessibility. For people with disabilities, people who can’t afford college or received a subpar public education, for people who don’t want to go to college, and for people who dropped out of high school. This blog is about puncturing the inflated importance of academic jargon, creating a relatively supportive or safe environment to discuss experiences, creativity, inspiration, and a love of history.
Denying access to knowledge that could significantly change perceptions of history that, in turn, shape our expectation of the media produced by the culture we belong to is a grave injustice.
Pretending that the history of Denmark is more relevant to Disney’s Frozen than children of color receiving the unspoken message that their stories are not worth telling is a grave injustice.
Pretending that me not using cusses and hurting your feelings makes what I say more “legitimate” or “respectable” is frankly, bullshit. People who consider themselves “moderates” and casually dismiss “both sides” do far more to perpetuate injustice, because they make themselves seem so reasonable. After all, they’re not hurting anyone, right?
They’re just allowing it to pass by unchecked, and leave their role in society unexamined, and continue to believe that their “default” position is neutral. I had hoped that followers of this blog might have guessed by now that neutrality isn’t really an option; “going with the flow” in a systemically racist society is to BE racist.
I’ve spoken at length about dominant narratives and creating COUNTERnarratives; the resistance and backlash to this blog’s mere existence should demonstrate that a counternarrative is, by its creation, an act of defiance and confrontation.
All your compliments on how reasonable and mature I supposedly am do nothing but undermine people who do not have the luxury of seeming dispassionate about these things, and don’t have a sack full of million-dollar words at their disposal. You’re trying to invalidate people’s voices, to ignore them until they seem more palatable to you. Until they make you feel comfortable.
If you are comfortable, I AM DOING SOMETHING WRONG.
Frequently, running this blog is uncomfortable for me, and I am always trying to analyze what I say from as many possible perspectives as I can. I try to think about how what I say can be used against other people, in exactly this way.
My hope is that everyone who reads my writing and follows this project will analyze how they are affected by this content, and how this content affects or does not affect them. We are ALL a part of this story. We are ALL shaped by our history.
Teaching what people would rather not learn is especially tough if you are a woman or a minority professor. Research shows that our customers rate Asian-American, Hispanic, black, and women professors lower than white male professors across all subjects. Most disturbingly, student evaluations of women of color are harshest when customers are told that the results will be “communicated to a third party for the purposes of evaluation.” Our customers are not only disinclined to like tough subjects; they’re also inclined to take their discomfort out on minority professors, who are the least likely to have the protection of tenure or support from university administration.
Learning is—should often be—uncomfortable for individuals.When universities have a mission to serve the public good, they balance the needs of individuals with benefits to society and the power of the majority against the humanity of the minority.
And that’s where this sentiment, that you only want to hear these things in a certain “tone”, becomes sinister.
Invoking stereotypes like “too angry”, “irrational” or “overly emotional”, does nothing but disenfranchise the same people it always does. Emotion and anger does not invalidate people’s voices, and pretending like one “side” of the debate is no better or worse than the other is a false equivalency that perpetuates injustice against the side that is already disenfranchised. Adding six pounds to each side of a scale that is already loaded on one side does not fix the imbalance.
I do not accept your compliment, nor do I take it as anything but the attempt to use your acceptance of my “tone” as anything but a tool of silencing against others.