GOOD MORNING MIDNIGHT

not to be a bummer on christmas eve or anything

there’s this book, right, that my boss gives to me, this past summer. i’m leaving for a bit and she says, “do you need beach reading? here — this one’s really good.”  this book came out this summer. the reviews of it everywhere are enthusiastic - charming, touching, sparkling, coming-of-age-tale, emotional development, lovably flawed, funny, impressive, amazing. these are the words people are using.

the plot of this book is that a nerdy computer genius has always had some lady trouble and has recently become a bajillionaire due to selling some software or whatever. he meets a girl at a party - petite, “fine dark hair,” cat eye glasses. he becomes obsessed. he is “in love.”

he discovers that she was sexually abused by her father as a child - or she says she was, that she’s “recovered” the memories, that she went through harrowing years of therapy and now has finally dealt with it - and suddenly he has trouble sleeping with her, he can’t stop thinking about it, he begins to doubt her and he thinks she might just be making it up. this discovery is punctuated by chapters about his awkward high school life, his experience of being a social outcast, a nerd, a programmer, a computer guy. he tracks down the girl’s father to ask him if it is true. he tells the girl that he did this and she calls him an asshole (NO SHIT) and leaves him and he Feels Regret and the whole thing ends with the exact same ending scene as Chasing Amy. 

this is actually the plot of the book: finding out that his girlfriend says she has been abused and he doesn’t know if he believes her and he no longer can have enjoyable normal sex with her because of it and feels uncomfortable around her, so instead of talking to her or his shrink about it, he hunts down her abuser because he suspects he is a normal guy and she’s a liar, then he’s hurt when she breaks up with him for being a royal jerkface.

why are these stories plot devices for male development but when women are honest about them it’s too ‘dark?’ (even - actually, especially - for the male protagonists of books supposedly about these women’s stories?) i am just rereading that thing vanessa veselka wrote for the rumpus last year and, like, goddamn.

formula for narrative: sad boy meets pretty (requirement) girl. sad boy finds out about  trauma in pretty girl’s past; takes it personally; botches the relationship; Learns From It And Moves On.  

SOMEBODY BRING US A BOURBON ALREADY

Today I learned that in 1966 a group of British feminists formed the "British Society for the Preservation of the Mini Skirt" and staged a protest against Dior because of the New Look and the return to fuller, longer skirts
(Though does this quite make sense as I thought the New Look debuted in the 40’s and actually was quite racy and sexy at the time? WHATEVER this is still rad.)

Today I learned that in 1966 a group of British feminists formed the "British Society for the Preservation of the Mini Skirt" and staged a protest against Dior because of the New Look and the return to fuller, longer skirts

(Though does this quite make sense as I thought the New Look debuted in the 40’s and actually was quite racy and sexy at the time? WHATEVER this is still rad.)

Uh, Honey, That'€™s Not Your Line

She made me feel cool by proxy, like a human V.I.P. pass. Impulsive, erratic and electric, she was my opposite, and the juxtaposition thrilled me. I fell deeply in love.

When I said in my letter I knew my love couldn’t fix her depression, I was lying. I thought my love could fix everything, including her depression. 

Needing to be repaired is the No. 1 one rule of being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl — how could she ignore it?

She could ignore it because she wasn’t a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She wasn’t a character or plot device in my story, or some damaged creature with deep despair that I and only I could cure as part of my “hero’s journey.” She was simply someone who had fallen out of love with her boyfriend. Which happens. It’s really uncinematic, but it happens.

does this guy like want a cookie or something, congrats on figuring out that your college girlfriend was an actual human and being able to write about it for the nytimes

Lidia Yuknavtich | Explicit Violence

"To be honest, the first reason I understand the complexities of male violence against girls and women is that I went to college and read a shit ton of books—and even that wasn’t enough education—I went to graduate school, where finally, finally, the books that I read and the films that I watched and the art that I experienced and the teachers that I had showed me just how not normal male violence against girls and women—or boys and men—is. Ever. …..

The second reason I understand is that I am alive. Still. Differently.”

How To Not Accidentally Be An Asshole On The Internet

Hi friends! I have gotten mad a lot lately about people being assholes on the internet and I want to talk about being an asshole on the internet.

I am not talking about people who are deliberately assholes on the internet. If you are deliberately an asshole on the internet, it’s okay. Troll is a feeling. I know. I forgive you. I am talking about Accidentally Being An Asshole On The Internet, especially when it relates to that dreaded P-word. 

So let’s all take a second to look at what’s in our individual privilege cocktails (‘cause sometimes we get good stuff and sometimes we get bad stuff, and sometimes it’s an entirely different thing depending on where we’re drinking, much like cheap white wine, which is horrifying 351 days of the year but occasionally just what you wanted.)  In one context one might have been arbitrarily given the social upper hand (things like “being white” or “being able-bodied” fit here) and in one we might find ourselves royally screwed over by society (things like “being queer” and even just “being born with a vagina” fit here.) Sometimes the same thing will work in our favor in some situations, and against us in others. Some issues we hear about often and some we don’t. Some issues we value more for our personal identity than others. Intersectionality. We all has it.  

HOWEVER. There are times when context is a little more obvious, and when it’s generally understood that one particular party is getting the short end of the stick thanks to the Evil Overlords of Societal Norms And Stereotypes Et Cetera.  This doesn’t mean that those of us with the long end of the stick are always doing great! We might be feeling shitty because secretly we are dealing with an invisible but debilitating illness or because we are gay or because we stubbed our toe. And then sometimes we feel shitty as a result of the other conversation going on, the one about how the Original Speaker kind of feels crappy due to their lack of privilege in the topic at hand.

Here are some examples of these sorts of feelings:

  • "I have a lot of gay friends but I don’t like it when people think I’m gay by default!"
  • "Why are you all talking about trans people, it sucks that I am invisible as a femme/bisexual/whatever!"
  • "But I don’t think we can talk about race because my depression and lower-middle-class upbringing also prevents me from getting good job opportunities so I don’t think I am winning the privilege olympics so this isn’t fair!"

Sometimes we call these feelings things like “small violins” and sometimes we want to tell the speaker to shove it, and sometimes it turns out that we are the people with these unsavory feelings.

It’s okay if you have these feelings.  Feelings are totally valid. I have crappy feelings all the time where I feel resentful because I wanted to do my favorite thing in the universe, which is to Talk About Myself, and somebody had to rain on my parade.  I also frequently have feelings which make me want to walk up to screaming babies on the train and punch them in the face and scream at their parents to make their despicable little worm SHUT UP BECAUSE I AM TRYING TO READ.  

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Questions of Misbehavior: "Failures" of Gender and Sexuality

Y’all, my (internet) friend Jenny who I’ve e-known since, like, the days of Livejournal is seriously one of the most amazing people I know (I mean, read this and poke around her blog/tumblr and all then tell me she isn’t fucking incredible as a queer feminist lady and survivor and organizer of awesome things and all around badass gorgeous babe.)  So I was crazy honored to have that rambly-ass essay I wrote about lady antiheroes a while back included in the zine she made for her thesis at UCSC, which she just finished, especially considering the awesomeness of so many of the other contributors and the variety of their experiences and my comparative ho-hum privileged little existence.  You can read a scan of the whole zine on her Tumblr or just download the whole thing here. Jenny, I’m so proud of you and so flattered that you let me be a part of this!

We Need To Talk About Planned Parenthood Again

This whole Planned Parenthood/Komen thing keeps irritating me again at random points throughout my day, which is pretty crappy because it’s seriously ruined basically the past seventy two hours of my life in a pretty major way.  Right when I think I’ve forgotten it or managed to distract myself, some little part of me flares up in rage again (“But what the FUCK! It’s like they’re TRYING to PROVE that Planned Parenthood is only a baby-killing machine by taking away some of its other super valuable services! And like they only care about curing breast cancer in rich white ladies who will give them more money! What the fuck is humanity COMING TO? This is HORRIBLE!”) I think I physicallycannotstop being pissed off about it, and so instead of writing nine thousand more words on how utterly infuriating this entire situation is, here, instead, are some links!

• Lest we forget, a year ago when that whole defunding debacle happened I wrote a thing about how much and why I love Planned Parenthood, and none of my feelings have changed.

Salon has a great piece with a good analysis of the Komen Foundation and how it’s actually symptomatic of wider problems with the org:

It’s worth noting that while breast cancer rates are dipping, an October report from the American Cancer Society warned that they are declining more slowly among low-income women, and that “Poor women are now at greater risk for breast cancer death because of less access to screening and better treatments. This continued disparity is impeding real progress against breast cancer.” You know who loses when Komen backs away from Planned Parenthood? Probably not those nice, pink-clad ladies who attend Susan Komen wine-tasting events.

This post does a great job of explaining the insidious ways in which pro-lifers are not so much anti-abortion as anti women’s freedom and anti-sex in general, which is an excellent point

If pro-life activists really cared about public health and stopping abortion and saving the precious widdle babies, if they were truly pro-life, then they would support policies and scientific advancements that prevent abortion and, you know, actually save lives.  They would promote the use of contraceptives, and fight to make them as cheap and accessible as possible…………. They would support financial assistance for women who cannot afford pre and postnatal care.  They would support organizations like Planned Parenthood.  But they don’t.  They virulently oppose all of these things with a vicious, fiery passion because it’s not about the babies and it’s not about health - it’s about the sex and the women who have it.

• The Planned Parenthood Saved My Life tumblr is full of stories from women who received excellent and often life-saving care at their local PP, which is nothing knew but really serves to drive home the point that, you know, it rules?

• Here’s a link where you can donate to PP, or if you aren’t able to donate, you can always actually support them by, you know, utilizing their services — go ahead and book yourself a pap smear or whatevz like, right now, since you’ve probably been putting it off anyhow. You can also add your name to the letter declaring that you still stand with PP, or you can check out the PPAction site for more news and updates and calls to action.

IN DEFENSE OF THE HOT MESS / A CALL FOR LADY ANTIHEROES

Lately I’ve been really into weird concepts of something like failed, desperate, self-conscious deliberate performative femininity? Part of this is evidenced by the fact that I’ve been doing my hair in big curls with my kinda-crappy-blonde-dye-job and wearing a ridiculous faux-leopard coat with ripped tights and messy eyeliner, and part of it comes together more in at least 47 different e-mail conversations about books and movies with “unrepentantly fucked up” lady characters that I’ve been having with at least 5 different people of late.  Some of these ideas have been written very eloquently by other folks already, and some of it is obvious and some of it is still vague, and all of it is definitely not “complete,” so, like, go at it in the comments, y’all, I wanna know what you’re thinking.

It begins, I think, with my ongoing frustration that when we are presented with male characters (or personas, or even real persons) who are basically bad people with one redeeming quality (still sleeps with a teddy bear, is a brilliant filmmaker) we let that one redeeming quality, you know, redeem them, and are collectively charmed by their fucked-up-ness.  But I have a really hard time coming up with similar female examples: all of the ones I can think of we have opted to either lambast or concern-troll instead.  And we always need to redeem them. They always need to learn something or be rescued, which we all know is basically the opposite of how the world really works.  Kids, I am a hot mess, and almost all of the women I admire and love and am fascinated by are also hot fucking messes, and I so rarely see that represented in a real, nuanced, and fascinating way.  To simplify: I am eternally tearing my hair out over the fact that I desperately want more female antiheroes. In books, film, pop culture personas, whatever.  And I’ve been seeing this idea come up again and again lately.

As a brief list of some of what I’m referencing: There’s this Lana Del Rey album review, which is kind of the most astute thing I’ve read on her yet, and which hit the nail on the head of my bizarre, obsessive preoccupation with her and her aesthetic — though it condemned her where I obviously am fascinated instead.  There was that Marie Calloway brouhaha, and the fantastic response to it all from Kate Zambreno, which also lead to The Rejectionist’s interview with her here.  There were a bunch of folks over at Emily Books who managed to somehow misread a lot of lesbian moralism into Eileen Myles’ Inferno, when I thought it was just a book about, like, someone very funny and intelligent and unapologetic, who also lived a life that reminds me an awful lot of my life now. There was Charlize Theron in Young Adult, who would have been way fascinating if not for Diablo Cody’s frustrating insistence on de-nuancing her characters in favor of twee trope-tastic banter.  There’s Cat Marnell at XOJane and the no-nonsense-it’s-okay-to-be-human writing at Rookie.   Sarah’s and my Rayanne Project (which sort of fizzled out probably partially because I am a little bit too much of a whacked-out womanchild to coordinate and motivate folks to write me things like that, but the stuff that’s up there is still amazeballs!)  The Amy-Winehouse-inspired couture collection that Gaultier showed yesterday.  Courtney Love, like, in general.

I am really into this, you guys.

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NINA LEEN

Russian-born Nina Leen was one of the first female photographers to shoot for LIFE magazine, which, fortunately for us, means there’s a ton of her work available on the Google LIFE photo archives. While mostly known for her work with animals (including a dog named Lucky that she adopted and apparently put hats on), it’s Leen’s photographs of women that I find most fascinating.  Admittedly, to some extent the period of time in which she was working for LIFE — the late 40s through the 1950s — dictated that bizarre style of “it’s totally not posed, I swear, I just stand this awkwardly and grin with a box of kitchen supplies all the time, not to mention we are all white and very happy all the time” photography. (The original “woman laughing alone with salad?”)

But when juxtaposed with her more candid shots (a girl falling down at a skating rink, a woman on the phone in an office, women trying on shoes, cleaning their living rooms, browsing stores) they provide a surprising amount of insight into the expectations versus reality of being a young woman in that era.  Exposé photoessays on the work of housewives or of young working girls (like we know from Mad Men, most of them are either secretaries or models) ran in contrast to Upper East Side socialites walking their dogs or glamorous women in evening gowns posed like mannequins.  Intentionally or otherwise, her work as a whole provides an interesting study on idealized femininity and the public versus private lives of women and the world, separate from that of men, in which they were forced to exist.

More photos after the jump.

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THE RAYANNE PROJECT: WE NEED YOU

So a few weeks ago The Rejectionist and I were having one of our weird long gmail conversations about, like, this thing pissed us off and should we buy these pants and have you seen this cool thing on the internet and OMG the 90s, which naturally progressed into lengthy discussions about My So Called Life, because I mean, what else is there worth talking about?  And we realized that the same thing kept coming up — we get it, Jordan Catalano leans really well and like everyone ever thinks they’re Angela, but what about Rayanne?  While Angela’s the central character and the “most relatable” because of her “most normal” life, why don’t we ever take Rayanne seriously?  Why is it that she’s relegated to the secondary character of “the one with quirky style and attitude but like kind of an unhinged drunk slutty bad girl?”

And then we started thinking about all the other things related to that, like how maybe all of Rayanne’s sex and “slut potential” wasn’t totally consensual and why do we sort of ignore how rich her character is when the show does a pretty good job of it really?  Why do we just want to talk about how COOL she looked even though, you know, shit wasn’t exactly coming up daisies for her and her life was impressively complicated for a show airing at that time, and maybe we should talk about that? Why is every analysis of Rayanne and Angela’s friendship that we can find anywhere way too idealized and, frankly, kind of stupid?  Could we also see Rayanne some kind of accessible whitewashed pathway into talking about those “othered” (through race, class, gender, body, whatever) teen girl experiences that don’t get talked about as much? What about Ricky, what if we relate to Rayanne and Ricky more as well?  Basically — can we make Rayanne more than the quirky, slutty, sassy sidekick drunk with amazing hair? 

And how does that relate to other things we’ve been thinking about, like the devaluing of teen female experiences or how we’re both sort of grossed out by the fetishization and flattening of what could be loosely defined as “punk female identities,” and how a tattooed bisexual asskicking brunette does not a feminist storyline make? Or how it bums us out that nobody ever writes good fiction about what it’s like being sixteen and a girl who dresses funny or maybe was a little nuts but doesn’t need to be saved or married off or isn’t going to die or anything from making some bad decisions? Or how we totally can’t fucking stand that manic pixie dreamgirl trope and aforementioned asskicking bisexual tattooed brunette character?  Can’t we talk about teenage girls without it turning into a Choose Your Own Adventure of Pick One: crazy-pregnant-addict-anorexic-kooky-overemotional-shallow-lonely-doomed-virgin-whore?  And how does all that fun stuff like race and class and gender and sexuality and bodies and ability and everything intersect with those experiences? 

And then we realized that there was a lot to say here, and that it might as well not be said only to our own Gmail archives, and that we had an entire internet of people with Very Smart Opinions who we also wanted to talk about this. So: we want to know what you have to say.  Do you want to blog about this as part of a big ole internetwide Let’s Please Talk About Rayanne or Girls Like Rayanne Seriously kind of thing, our Rayanne Project, as we’re calling it? Do you not have a blog but want to guest-post on one of ours, or interview someone, or be interviewed? Are you overwhelmed with some other related creative impulse that we could also somehow e-share and show off your fabulousness? Awesome, because we want it all.

Ideally, since it was the basis of the conversation (and we basically really want to talk about Rayanne without being like OMG THOSE BRAIDS!! THOSE PATCHWORK PANTS! again, because we have that conversation twice a week) — we’d love for you to use My So Called Life as the basis of whatever you want to contribute.  But if you want to branch off into that multitude of related topics above, or have other really awesome ideas that relate, we certainly aren’t going to stop you, since we pretty much think enough can’t be said about this. 

We’re planning mostly on a blog conversation for starters which we may then later curate into another website — but if this goes as well as we’re hoping it will, there will be a zine coming out of it (!!!!), and some kind of event for those of us based in NYC.   

So!  If you’d be interested in contributing in some way, please email megpclark[at]gmail and rejectionistandyourmom[at]gmail by Thursday, May 12th just to say that you’d be down, and let us know some of your ideas, or how or what you’d like to contribute.  We’ll get back to you soon with more concrete details, posting schedules, and more guidelines later next week — because duh, we can’t wait to hear what you have to say.  

ANNA GASKELL

Continuing my apparent ongoing obsession with photographers who call excess attention to just how creepy mandated performativity of the feminine can be (see: Alex Prager, that Kourtney Roy editorial) — some of Anna Gaskell's photographs, largely from the 90's.

Similar to Prager (and nodding of course, as always, to Cindy Sherman, who we have to mention again that I can never for the life of me care about as much as I know I ought to, considering her obvious influence on so much that I do like) Gaskell stages elaborate, cinematically lit photographs, but of costumed young girls in inexplicably macabre, somehow sadistic poses.  The Hitchcock light and angles, extreme cropping, and cartoonish saturation of colour creates and re-enforces the discomfort we feel with the girls’ cruel and bizarre actions, the apparent fetishization and sexualization of their isolated legs and feet, and the idealized, stylized doll-like way in which they are presented.  Vague parallels emerge between classic cultural references of young girls (Alice in Wonderland), a forced and limiting uniform (the blue dresses, white tights), and a discomfort regarding feminine agency and sexuality, and the taboo of corrupted innocence; the overall effect is troubling in ways we can’t quite comprehend at first. 

More after the jump!

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CAN WE TALK ABOUT HOW THIS IS MY NEW FAVOURITE TUMBLR LIKE BASICALLY EVER NO REALLY LIKE EVERYTHING I LIKE EVER JUST EXPLODED INTO A BUNCH OF CRAPPY MACROS OF BIKINI KILL LYRICS OVER PRERAPHAELITE PAINTINGS, DYING RIGHT NOW IN SO MANY WAYS THAT I REALLY NEED TO BLOG ABOUT IT IN ALL CAPS AT ONE IN THE MORNING (also like, I’m sorry, beyond the side splitting hilarity it’s AWESOME considering everything about all this art, if anyone ever needed some Kathleen Hanna it’s THESE ladies.)
I also want to sort of talk about this professor I had in college, Wendy Graham, who taught this wacky class on — I don’t even know what it was about, I feel like “deviant sexuality” was in the title of it and the ending half of it was “decadence in the fin de siecle” (which judging from my tumblr name kicked off a lengthy ongoing obsession) — other than that we read Bataille and Sacher Masoch and Deleuze and whatever and talked about the preraphaelites and listened to the Velvet Underground and at least once a week she wore this absurd yellow plaid kilt suit THING, I think there was actually a Facebook group about it — ANYWAY. Good god, that yellow plaid kilt suit thing.  But I wish I could have just thought to do this instead of writing whatever lengthy half-formed terrible sophomore-in-college-brained-papers I cranked out for her class.

CAN WE TALK ABOUT HOW THIS IS MY NEW FAVOURITE TUMBLR LIKE BASICALLY EVER NO REALLY LIKE EVERYTHING I LIKE EVER JUST EXPLODED INTO A BUNCH OF CRAPPY MACROS OF BIKINI KILL LYRICS OVER PRERAPHAELITE PAINTINGS, DYING RIGHT NOW IN SO MANY WAYS THAT I REALLY NEED TO BLOG ABOUT IT IN ALL CAPS AT ONE IN THE MORNING (also like, I’m sorry, beyond the side splitting hilarity it’s AWESOME considering everything about all this art, if anyone ever needed some Kathleen Hanna it’s THESE ladies.)

I also want to sort of talk about this professor I had in college, Wendy Graham, who taught this wacky class on — I don’t even know what it was about, I feel like “deviant sexuality” was in the title of it and the ending half of it was “decadence in the fin de siecle” (which judging from my tumblr name kicked off a lengthy ongoing obsession) — other than that we read Bataille and Sacher Masoch and Deleuze and whatever and talked about the preraphaelites and listened to the Velvet Underground and at least once a week she wore this absurd yellow plaid kilt suit THING, I think there was actually a Facebook group about it — ANYWAY. Good god, that yellow plaid kilt suit thing.  But I wish I could have just thought to do this instead of writing whatever lengthy half-formed terrible sophomore-in-college-brained-papers I cranked out for her class.