Tag Archives: Heroines

#outwiththeoldinwiththenew #theyearofwordsbywomen #ohhey2015

Welp. I’m starting this year out in bed with a wicked hangover because I drank too much champagne in Brooklyn last night. Thank god the L train wasn’t a total disaster and thank god for my amazing friends that I danced and sang and counted down and took photo booth photos with. There is a vegan cheese and tofu hangover cure in my future (shout out to seamless.)

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Speaking of the future: lets talk about some goals for this year. I have one main goal, resolution, whatever, that I wanted to share with you guys. This year, I want to read more. And not just finish more books or up my word count. I want to make reading a priority in my life. I want to make space for it, remember how to delve into pages and get lost. I want to think about how words can fit in my day, take up some of the time I spend scrolling through feeds or watching TV.

Before you get all defensive, let me just say that I think that feeds and TV are just fine. I love TV, and sometimes TV is what I need to unwind. TV is also great when you are doing other things like writing a New Year’s blog post, or cooking, or other activities that inhibit your ability to hold a book and turn pages.

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But I want to take a step back and think about when it is possible for me to choose pages. I’ve started making it a habit to get up in time to read for 30 mins in the morning, before I do anything else. Before I get on the computer for work or check my email or the weather, I make my hot water with lemon and I get back into bed and read. Usually a half hour,  no more no less. It really has changed the whole vibe of my days. Starting with words on a page is much slower than screens, and it’s internal and it’s self centered and it’s quiet. It’s actually be quite transformative.

So not only am I going to make as much space for books as I can spare, but 2015 is going to be the year I read books by women. Only books by women. I want to explore beyond the big names, although of course that’s where I’m starting (Cheryl Strayed and Adrienne Rich, and let me tell you they are making my heart shine and my soul sing.) But I recently had this feeling in my gut, this feeling that was absolutely sick and tired of the way creative women are talked to and treated. It started when I read Heroines and it hasn’t abated. And I began searching for some of those ladies to sink my teeth into. I want to hear the stories that women live with, that they held inside of them and couldn’t live without sharing. I want to support the creativity of people whose creativity was not valued, was not allowed to flourish, was pathologized and stunted. I want to focus on the voices that were shushed and quieted. So far, it feels right. Great, actually.

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If you wanna make some exclamations at this point about reverse sexism or misandy, let me stop you right there. Take that somewhere else. I do not hate men, or male writers, nor do I think that female authors are better than their male counterparts. I grew up, like we all did, reading the wonderful works of the great men that make up the literary canon. Even though I had a pretty liberal education both in high school and college, it wasn’t until I got to grad school that my reading list became truly diverse. The work of women writer’s is still considered cursory, emotional, niche. It’s outside the canon. And I’m over that. I’m gonna make my own canon, and attempt to balance the scales of my life as a reader so far.

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As for reverse sexism, that doesn’t exist. Because like reverse racism, it’s impossible. Sexism and racism are not just about the personal feelings of people who judge, dislike, or outright hate another group of people. They are about systems of oppression that are enacted by entire groups in power, by the state, and by ideas and emotions that we are taught as part of our culture and world view. The largeness of these things combined cannot be overstated, and the people with the power cannot be truly discriminated against in the way the marginalized groups are. Now if we think intersectionally then we must think critically about the ways in which we all have some privilege, and the ways we don’t, and how that plays out in our lives. But what I really want to say is that my desire to read the words of women is not an attack on men and if you feel that way I urge you to consider the fact that men have never had to question if they can write, if they should write. Almost all the great works that are held up in the light are by men. The ancient, the classic and the contemporary, all by dudes. But what about little girls who have a story inside them they are dying to tell? Where can they find examples of other women who wrote and were great? How can they feel as though they have the right? How do they learn to trust their voices?

This is a fight that is, still, in 20 freakin’ 15, happening. I know for sure that to be a good writer I must be a good reader, and I know that I have neglected that. I want to make myself better, as a writer and as a human, and I want to support the voices of other women with a story to tell. I think reading books is a great way to learn about the world and to evoke empathy. And radical empathy, self love and compassion, are what I believe truly will save us all and remake the world into a safe space of social justice and community.

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Cheers to that, and cheers to your all. Be safe, stay fly, and spread love.

Happy to be alive, 20-1-5 ❤

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You Should Never Meet Your Heros (esp. if they’re famous men)

You know what’s exhausting? When you think you know someone, and then it turns out that they were kind of terrible. This is particularly exhausting if they were famous, and talented, and everyone considers them beloved and wonderful and then BOOM, something changes and you have to rethink your whole portrait of them.

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Recently it’s occurred to me that since patriarchy has been happening for centuries, I have been recalibrating my images of ‘great men’ a lot more often than great women. Because the rules for men, especially the most talented and famous, have always been ‘do whatever the fuck you want.’ As a matter of fact, we shower them with ego-inflating praise and also with things. And some of the things we shower them with are access to women, who are part of the whole package of things you get for being brilliant/pretty/famous whatever. Here now are some examples of men who, it turns out, are huge disappointments.

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Exhibit A: Breezy. He was so cute when he was young, he has the great dance moves. I used to groove rul hard to Run It. And now it’s ruined. And we didn’t even have to wait until he was old and almost forgotten for his bad behavior to come to light. It turns out he is an extremely violent young man, and a batterer to boot. And this guy has the nerve to release a song with the lyrics ‘these hoes ain’t loyal’ after publicly kicking the shit out of his also-famous girlfriend. He’s despicable.

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A more historical example: God Jack Kennedy was beautiful. I mean seriously. And I know we have a soft spot for icons that are taken too soon. And I do have a soft spot. But then I remember the extent to which this man was a womanizer, and the extent to which the people around him went to enable his behavior and keep it a secret and I think: how was it possible that he was the most powerful man in the world in a country that was still so vanilla and prudish and yet he managed to have almost continuous extramarital affairs? He managed to carry on with Marilyn for fuck’s sake! And now it’s a considered just an anecdote, a small part of who he was. It’s even considered charming, part of why he is so roguish and handsome and desirable. Sigh.

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A disruptive piece of breaking (sort of) news: It turns out silly old comedy icon Billy Cosby has been a sexual predator for decades. And this isn’t new news. Lawsuits have been filed, he’s settled out of court, and his victims are speaking out. And his MO, for the record, includes drugging his victims. Which just, I don’t know, is extra infuriating. Think about Dr Huxtable slipping a roofie is some young girls drink. I don’t want to have to feel this way about a man who elevated the image of black America with laughter, who was TV married to the indomitable Phylicia Rashād, who wore those great sweaters. God dammit God dammit!

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And, finally, my most personal of these struggles: F Scott Fitzgerald. I just finished a wonderful and searing book by Kate Zambreno, Heroines. It’s a retelling of the great men of literature in the early 20th century, and of the women who surrounded them. These women were merely plus ones to their men. They lived in service of their partner’s genius, never being allowed to flourish or explore their own talent. And the most interesting among them was Zelda. Zelda, who wanted to be a real writer. Zelda who wrote in diaries and letters, and whose words her husband generously borrowed. Zelda who also painted, and later threw herself into ballet. And her spunk, her desire to be creative, was remade as mental illness. And she has been posthumously diagnosed and written over as the crazy wife of the genius. And he helped in this. He discouraged her, he actively worked to stunt her writing career, he forbid her from using their own lives as subject matter because that was his material. And he drank and drank and shut her away, and she died in a fire in a mental hospital. She deserved more, at the very least the same encouragement and opportunity given to him. And I love Gatsby, I still love it and those words still inspire me. And I completely resent having to rethink the man who wrote some of my favorite sentences to ever have existed. I hate it.

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Why? Why do we make the world a playground for these talented men? We tell them to take whatever they want, especially if it will help their art or whatever. Like fucking Picasso who emotionally abused all the women in his life and then painted them as monsters, and we told him he was great and hung those pictures in museums. We enable these guys, all of us with our accolades and praise. And we provide countless pretty young things for them to play with. But women aren’t things. They aren’t prizes in the world wide talent competition that is pop/celebrity/literary/art culture. This won’t stop until we deal seriously with rape culture, and until we hold men accountable for their actions. All those guys up there that I mentioned, their stories are not defined by the women they hurt. Their careers aren’t suffering. C Brown fans are insane on Twitter and will defend him unendingly. A convicted violent criminal, and his fans will say they’d let him abuse them and insult anyone who dares speak against him. JKF’s habits are just a footnote, Cosby is getting a new show and Fitzgerald remains a Great American Writer while Zelda’s novel is no where to be found (actually I found it, so you can find it in my apartment, but I had to special order it cause it’s out of print.) These guys continue to demand respect and inspire awe. It’s only women who are defined by their sexuality or sexual partners (Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Monica Lewinsky.)

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I’m fucking over it. I’m sick of having to compartmentalize with these guys. I know that people are complicated and no one is perfect and I know that not all great talents are predators. But we should be demanding a world where talent is appreciated without being overly idolized, where women aren’t prizes to be won, where sex isn’t a weapon used against the female body. I have no more patience for this shit. We need to stop excusing this behavior, we need to stop devaluing the female body and dismissing this as adolescent/harmless shenanigans. Sexual violence is not shenanigans. We all need to grow up and get serious and make culture a place of accountability and inclusion. We need to have icons that don’t require excuses.