This view of the Metro North derailment gives you a better idea of the scene: seven cars, with four of them off the tracks and the front car literally inches from the Hudson River. The train locomotive is in the rear. Multiple passengers and witnesses say the train took the curve too fast. (Photo: Edwin Valero / AP via The New York Times)
This is huge. If you didn’t know, it’s on one of the largest and busiest train lines in the United States - that isn’t Amtrak - and includes numerous stops along lines in populous New York City suburbs in New York and Connecticut. And today is a big travel day after the Thanksgiving holiday. This only gets messy from here.
This is a problem.
In a column at Politico last week entitled ‘Leaning Out: How Michelle Obama Became a Feminist Nightmare,’ Michelle Cottle cast First Lady Obama as a feminist failure, declaring that though ‘somebody will shatter the conventional first lady mold,’ it ‘won’t be Michelle Obama.’
My message to white feminists is simple: Lean back. Way back. And take your paws off Michelle Obama. Black women have never been the model for mainstream American womanhood, and to act as though she takes something away from the (white) feminist movement is intellectually disingenuous and historically dishonest. Your molds were never designed to contain the likes of a Michelle Obama in the first place. And feminism’s biggest nightmare isn’t Michelle Obama; it is white feminists’ consistent inability to not be racist.
- 5% That’s the percentage of working scientists and engineers who are black men and women, according to a recent study by the NSF. This week, educators and scientists are meeting at Stanford to talk about African-Americans in the tech world.
Yikes. Super-low percentage.
Last week, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed legislation that will make the city one of the most trans-friendly places in the country and even in the world.
The law passed the City Council last month and extends a host of rights to trans and gender nonconforming individuals. The most prominent aspect of the law mandates that city-owned buildings have all-gender bathrooms in addition to gendered ones, but there are other changes, too. For example:
There is more to the bill than just a neutral place to relieve oneself. Nutter, city and state lawmakers and gay rights advocates said the legislation makes Philadelphia the first city in the U.S. to offer tax credits to companies that extend the same health care coverage to LGBT employees’ domestic partners and their children as they provide to heterosexual spouses and their children.
Officials said the legislation also makes Philadelphia the first city to offer businesses tax credits as a way to encourage providing transgender-specific health benefits. …
In addition to the business tax incentives, which were backed by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce as well as LGBT advocacy groups, and the gender-neutral restrooms, the legislation revises Philadelphia’s anti-discrimination law to include transgender people, extends decision-making rights to life partners on medical and other issues, and changes city forms and websites to offer options for same-sex couples and transgender people.
This is really just incredible. Let’s make this the standard.
It’s a rather common point of complaint within LGBT rights conversations that the “T” gets dropped sometimes — policy actions to the benefit of trans persons are, simply put, far more propagandized and dismissed, by politicians and ideological media alike, than recent gay rights campaigns have been. It’s great to see that Mayor Nutter is trying to lead a shift on the visibility and import of these issues.
This should be normal!
It’s been a tough media week for bloggers. Thursday President Obama said members of this profession were among those who “profit from conflict” in Washington, D.C., (which he also called “this town”, h/t @MarkLeibovich).
“How business is done in this town has to change,” Obama said during a press conference. He later added: “All of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists and the bloggers and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict.
It gets worse: On Tuesday Martha Stewart railed against bloggers. “Who are these bloggers? They’re not trained editors at Vogue magazine,” she told Stephanie Ruhle. “Bloggers create kind of a popularity, but they are not the experts and we have to understand that.”
Obama’s criticism has some validity—the people that Obama is talking about are the bloggers who don’t hold the ethical standards of journalists and are willing to take a buck off their influence. The context of that line is important. He’s talking Rush and Hannity and Gateway Pundit. Journalism has shifted ideological, which is fine, except there’s nothing separating a pure political voice and a journalist in the eyes of many.
Stewart’s criticism, on the other hand, makes no sense and looks silly. It feels like a bit of self-preservation on her part, because she’s a media icon and crafty bloggers eat into her business empire.
If you’re a boy writer, it’s a simple rule: you’ve gotta get used to the fact that you suck at writing women and that the worst women writer can write a better man than the best male writer can write a good woman. And it’s just the minimum. Because the thing about the sort of heteronormative masculine privilege, whether it’s in Santo Domingo, or the United States, is you grow up your entire life being told that women aren’t human beings, and that women have no independent subjectivity. And because you grow up with this, it’s this huge surprise when you go to college and realize that, “Oh, women aren’t people who does my shit and fucks me.”
And I think that this a huge challenge for boys, because they want to pretend they can write girls. Every time I’m teaching boys to write, I read their women to them, and I’m like, “Yo, you think this is good writing?” These motherfuckers attack each other over cliche lines but they won’t attack each other over these toxic representations of women that they have inherited… their sexist shorthand, they think that is observation. They think that their sexist distortions are insight. And if you’re in a writing program and you say to a guy that their characters are sexist, this guy, it’s like you said they fucking love Hitler. They will fight tooth and nail because they want to preserve this really vicious sexism in the art because that is what they have been taught.
And I think the first step is to admit that you, because of your privilege, have a very distorted sense of women’s subjectivity. And without an enormous amount of assistance, you’re not even going to get a D. I think with male writers the most that you can hope for is a D with an occasional C thrown in. Where the average women writer, when she writes men, she gets a B right off the bat, because they spent their whole life being taught that men have a subjectivity. In fact, part of the whole feminism revolution was saying, “Me too, motherfuckers.” So women come with it built in because of the society.
It’s the same way when people write about race. If you didn’t grow up being a subaltern person in the United States, you might need help writing about race. Motherfuckers are like ‘I got a black boy friend,’ and their shit sounds like Klan Fiction 101.
The most toxic formulas in our cultures are not pass down in political practice, they’re pass down in mundane narratives. It’s our fiction where the toxic virus of sexism, racism, homophobia, where it passes from one generation to the next, and the average artist will kill you before they remove those poisons. And if you want to be a good artist, it means writing, really, about the world. And when you write cliches, whether they are sexist, racist, homophobic, classist, that is a fucking cliche. And motherfuckers will kill you for their cliches about x, but they want their cliches about their race, class, queerness. They want it in there because they feel lost without it. So for me, this has always been the great challenge.
As a writer, if you’re really trying to write something new, you must figure out, with the help of a community, how can you shed these fucking received formulas. They are received. You didn’t come up with them. And why we need fellow artists is because they help us stay on track. They tell you, “You know what? You’re a bit of a fucking homophobe.” You can’t write about the world with these simplistic distortions. They are cliches. People know art, always, because they are uncomfortable. Art discomforts. The trangressiveness of art has to deal with confronting people with the real. And sexism is a way to avoid the real, avoiding the reality of women. Homophobia is to avoid the real, the reality of queerness. All these things are the way we hide from encountering the real. But art, art is just about that."