Things I Read That I Love #103: I Had No Idea What Was True

dailyHELLO and welcome to the 103rd installment of Things I Read That I Love, wherein I share with you some of the longer-form journalism/essays I’ve read recently so that you can read them too and we can all know more about abortion! This “column” is less feminist/queer focused than the rest of the site because when something is feminist/queer focused, I put it on the rest of the site. Here is where the other things are.

The title of this feature is inspired by the title of Emily Gould’s tumblr, Things I Ate That I Love.

The Gulf: Meditations on the Mississippi Coast After Katrina (Summer 2008), by Natasha Trethewey for the Virginia Quarterly Review - Long but important and beautiful and worth it — the author traces her own family’s history in the region back three generations, offering a narrative rarely taught in white-centric history books.  “Now, a half century later, the Gulf South struggles in the wake of another storm, Hurricane Katrina, and faces a rebuilding effort not unlike the effort to rebuild the culture of the South after the legal walls of segregation had been struck down. The plight of the people, post-Katrina, is still mediated not only by class but also by color, the future is uncertain, and the ongoing identity of the Gulf South will be determined not only by how it will be rebuilt but also by how its past will be remembered. The region stands as a test for the whole nation. Are we hopelessly divided? Or can we still bridge …”

*My Abortion (November 2013), by Meaghan Winter for New York Magazine - This is really great and well-done. 26 individual stories from women who’ve had abortions.

No Animals Were Harmed (November 2013), by Gary Baum for The Hollywood Reporter – An expose on what really happens to animals on sets of movies the Humane Society claims didn’t harm any animals, and the intimate relationship between the American Humane Society and Hollywood.

Marketpiece Theater (September 2013), by Anne Elizabeth Moore for The Baffler - On two shows — 1980’s Free to Choose and 2012’s Half the Sky — that promote really awful economic policy… on PBS. “Impervious to both logic and fact, and viral before viral media existed, Free to Choose forged a new cultural accord on the uncontested reign of the market that not had yet existed in quite this way before.”

Silicon Chasm (November 2013), by Charlotte Adam for The Weekly Standard – On one side of the tracks are all the nice houses where the tech executives live in big mansions with underground movie theaters and on the other side are the people who manicure their lawns and watch their children. America!

Has Madalyn Murray O’Hair Met Her Maker? (1999), by Michael Hall for The Texas Monthly - I always find it fascinating to read about people who apparently were huge cultural influencers at one time but who I have somehow never heard of. O’Hair was a huge figure in the Atheism movement, and also apparently a huge bitch, and then she disappeared and nobody  ever found her.

How Catching Fire Ups All The Antes for The Hunger Games Franchise (November 2013), by Genevive Koski, Tasha Robinson and Scott Tobias for The Dissolve- I really wanted somebody to mention how they dropped the pregnancy thing and never picked it back up again (it remained a situation in the book, but in the movie it wasn’t mentioned after that first time), but aside from that, this was the most interesting thing I’ve read about the film. They’re really smart over there at the Dissolve. Very smart film people over there.

Porn Star John Slavely Murders Millionaire  (November 2013), by Michael Miller for The Miami New-Times- This is like, the TIRTL equivalent of one of those terrible one-hour crime shows with a repetitive and menacing narration they show on Crime TV or A&E at 2 A.M.

Three shorter pieces I loved, that I think together equal one entire piece:

Bloodletting Season (October 2013), by Vanessa Willoughby for Cold Drank - “In order to survive adolescence, you must force yourself to sell-out. Bite down on your tongue, harden your jaw, clench your teeth, and learn to join the league of the invisible minority. Trick your white classmates; they must not realize that you’ve infiltrated their tight-knit ranks.”

The Fake Male Feminist Chicanery (October 2013), by Minh Nguyen for Cold Drank - ” I worry that the appraisal of men who can articulate a feminist critique begets scheming imitators, men who file “feminist” in their rolodex of pick-up artistry because they’ve seen it result positively.  Lack game?  Try this formula:  mention x feminist theorist, y lamentation about political issue that attacks women’s rights, z assertion about sexual consent.  That tactic alone may work on someone, and that’s utterly scary.”

Riots Observed in Fiery Fragments (April 1992), by David L. Ulin for The Los Angeles Times – “Depending on where you lived or the part of town in which you found yourself, the atmosphere was static or chaotic, suspended or engaged. I remember, on the second afternoon of the conflagration, watching as a Fairfax district neighbor sunned herself on her small front lawn, while in the distance, sirens screamed. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, perhaps in the way it reflects Sampogna’s sense of the city as disoriented, in which we connect (or don’t) “to the other LA with the flip of a switch.”

Profile photo of Riese

Riese is the 33-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1762 articles for us.

19 Comments

  1. Thumb up 1

    Please log in to vote

    I have vivid memories of seeing Madalyn Murray O’Hair on tv—she was one of my heroines. She might have been a bitch, but she told it like it is, was one tough woman, and put up with a huge amount of backlash (try being an out atheist activist in 1950s-60s Texas). And she died for her beliefs. It’s a shame that she isn’t better know by younger people because she was really an American Original and a huge inspiration for so many people.

    • Thumb up 1

      Please log in to vote

      O’Hair wrote that “An atheist accepts that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said.” I can see now why my family always found her terrifying. There was a directness and an immediacy to her beliefs that would frighten any sedentary couch-Christian.

    • Thumb up 1

      Please log in to vote

      It would no doubt take nerves of steel to be an atheist activist in Texas during the 50s and 60s, and that alone is plenty to admire.

      She didn’t die for her beliefs, though. She and her family were killed by a former employee who’d been fired and publicly shamed for stealing from them. He and his accomplices kidnapped them, forced them to withdraw money, and then murdered them. He later confessed and led police to their remains, which were identified using dental records, DNA, and the serial number on Madalyn’s prosthetic hip.

      • Thumb up 1

        Please log in to vote

        Raksha, correct me if I’m wrong about the details or chronology, but it’s my understanding her estranged evangelical Christian son didn’t officially report the disappearance to the cops for a year and pretty much stonewalled the information getting out. And that police made virtually no effort to investigate the highly suspicious disappearance (her entire life savings were withdrawn from a bank, they disappeared leaving a single note taped to a door and she had important medication left at her home, making it unlikely it was a voluntary disappearance). The cops did nothing, largely at the urging of O’Hair’s son (who was being ‘advised’ by many religious organizations who despised her). The police also didn’t look for her based on the testimony of one of her employees who was a convicted violent felon and embezzler (and ended up planning the murder) who claimed she was in New Zealand. This was a very famous, recognizable woman, who had frequently been on tv and wasn’t someone who could have gone incognito for long (nor left the country without being noticed). They blankly accepted all that information and it was only when the FBI got involved (and Vanity Fair magazine) was there any effort made. Her son and religious groups continue to spread a lot of pretty nasty rumors about her. I’m not saying she was an easy person to get along with, but this was certainly the most hated person in the country for several decades and she paid the price for that.

  2. Thumb up 3

    Please log in to vote

    The abortion thing was amazing, although that word doesn’t seem quite right. Maybe affecting is more accurate. I know stories like those are unlikely to change anyone’s hardline opinions on the matter, but as pure exposition of human experience, it was fantastic.

    In other news, I can report that because of last week’s TIRTL I got a whole book of feminist responses the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan saga. I am wondering if this practice should be called TIRBOTIRTIL (Things I Read Because of Things I Read That I Love)?

      • Thumb up 1

        Please log in to vote

        Ooh, I forgot there is a TIRTL “gift” guide (patently everyone will just buy all the stuff for themselves)!

        I can’t vouch for the quality of the Harding/Kerrigan book yet, it’s currently in my non-fic pile, queued behind “Golden Girl – The Autobiography of the Greatest Ever Ladies’ Darts Player.” It’s about Trina Sullivan, 7-times ladies world darts champ, who I discovered while trawling the LGBT sportspeople categories on wikipedia (a very worthwhile activity). It’s kind of written in the style of your-aunty-who-just-discovered-facebook, which I am finding entertaining.

        I think if there was ever a TIRTL: Niche Sports Edition, I would probably expire of happiness.

  3. Thumb up 2

    Please log in to vote

    Oh Gods, that Humane Society article! I can’t read it. Cruelty to animals fucks me up so badly, the thought that the agencies supposedly in charge of preventing it aren’t doing their job just makes me want to throw myself on the ground in despair.

  4. Thumb up 1

    Please log in to vote

    I loved Catching Fire and the piece about it in The Dissolve, and I wish there were more scenes of rioting in the districts during the Games. In the first Hunger Games movie we got to see the people at home watch the Games, but in Catching Fire the characters talk about the riots but we don’t really get to see them. It would have been interesting to see the differences among the spectators in the 74th and 75th Games.
    Jenna Malone is flawless!

  5. Thumb up 2

    Please log in to vote

    I’m glad certain publications stopped to at least ponder that Los Angeles rioted over race just 21 years ago, but this article stirs weird, annoyed feelings in me; any article that tries to write about the issue of race in Los Angeles usually does.

    First, there’s the lament over the African-American condition in the city, usually with no details, because every single lazy parachute journalist who’s ever written on the topic counts on the reader to fill in the blanks with “inner city stories” that haven’t been updated (with the exception of drugs or gangs) since the Watts riots of 1965. There’s typically never a reference to African-American history in Los Angeles, which is richer and reaches back hundreds of years further than a riot or the navel gazing lamentations in this kind of article. Sadly revealing that one of the better accessible African-American “histories” in this city are novels by Walter Moseley.

    Additionally, it reinforces a “black and white” race paradigm that is absurdly untrue of the city of Los Angeles. City of the Angels…translated from, oh yes, that’s right, Spanish. The way that California was founded in the 18th century by missionaries and used to be part of Mexico. (Fun fact: the missions, which now fly the American, Spanish, and Mexican flags, had to be forced to include the latter, 10-15 years ago.) There was overt institutionalized prejudice and segregation against Mexican-Americans through the 40’s and 50’s, and more sneakily after that (other fun fact: there used to be a fence separating my late grandmother’s East LA neighborhood from South Pasadena, which abutted it. The cops used to hang out around it and they pulled people crossing over it on a regular basis at night. Eventually it was removed by court order in the late 1980’s early 90’s). In our case, there were similar practices, except that the erasure has been worse, because if you turn on the news or open a paper (in a country like the USA which weighs status according to how long someone has been here) we’ve just arrived in the country.

    (And obviously that scratches the surface. There are and have been more groups than this, present for a very long time, subject to similar treatment.)

    Then it sandwiches in…Didion? Nathaniel West? Are they even germane to the 1992 riots? If you went into those areas of the burning city in April 2012 and read their work aloud, would anyone have stopped or cared? I doubt it. That’s another genre, the story of the transplanted white Caucasian, which is still canon so far as accounts of this city go. It grew and was reinforced over generations, resulting from a cheap train ticket or booster ads in the paper or a reading of Ramona or the Dust Bowl or aeronautics jobs or the decision that New York was too cold and dirty, but ended with the same unhappy transplant, expecting eternal happiness and streets paved with gold, but, when this was not so, who vengefully envisioned the city consumed by fire. That’s not profound, that’s a revenge fantasy and has nothing to do with African-Americans angered by injustice or an inability to get jobs.

    Sorry this was so long, but the L.A. riots are a severely exaggerated and yet misunderstood episode. People pay lip service to it, but in the wrong way. This seemed more about the “majority” confirming its projections or prejudices.

  6. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    I haven’t seen the Half the Sky piece, though I did read the book, and while I think that it’s super fair to talk about Kristof’s whole neoliberal philosophy, I think he and his wife have still done some really good work outside of that whole paradigm, including finding funding for fistula clinics, and endorsing local and grassroots education methods. They also talk really earnestly, and I think, fairly, about the issues in terms of finding stories and people to represent in the media, and how that affects those people and also how they can be wrong sometimes, when they are told a story that ends up being false, and how it’s just really complicated, and how it’s hard to negotiate the space between believing everyone’s story and presenting the truth. So, I don’t want to be a huge jerk to them, I guess I should watch the show though.

  7. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    Omg Riese, this is so timely (at least in my world it is)! I’m in the final sections of reading Dave Eggers’ “Zeitoun” and am now wanting to learn a lot more about what happend during and since Katrina, so Trethewey’s book looks like it’s going to be my next must-read. Thank you!

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.