Things I Read That I Love #15: Better Late Than Never

HELLO and welcome to the fifteenth 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 brainstorming, sorority girls and Southwest airlines!

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.

For the record, the idea is that I publish a new TIRTL (or “turtle” as my girlfriend pronounces it when asking me WHERE IS THE TURTLE?) every Friday, but because on Thursday and Friday I spent 17 hours in transit to/from San Francisco to Chicago and 22 hours in Chicago, I wasn’t able to get to it. But boy did I have time to read some shit and love it!

Luv and War at 30,000 Feet (March 2012), Texas Monthly – This is about why Southwest Airlines has survived while everyone else fails! Let me just say that the free bag-check thing and the fact that there are no penalties for changing your reservation are like the most magical things an airline has ever done since Virgin America put power outlets in their seats for your laptop.

Brainstorming Doesn’t Really Work (January 2012), The New Yorker – Actually the most interesting part of this wasn’t the first few bits about brainstorming not working but the stuff about how the success of group collaborations varies based on factors like building architecture and how well the collaborators know each other.

Suburban Madness (November 2002), Texas Monthly – There was a woman who ran her husband over four times.

The Decline and Fall of Parental Authority (February 2012), Alternet“In a tightening economy, with overcrowded feeder-schools and an uncertain future ahead, it’s easy to understand why kids aren’t enthusiastic about school. College is so exorbitantly expensive that students frequently drop out, unable to pay the tab. And if they do manage to graduate, young adults still face high unemployment and skyrocketing living expenses, which often drive them back home, still owing thousands of dollars in student loans…when I inquire about their hopes for the future, I often hear them earnestly voice expectations that a single YouTube gone viral or a cell-phone app or a reality TV part will instantly “explode” them into a life of bling.”

America’s Confessor (January 2012), The Prospect – About the guy who made PostSecret.

I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave (February 2012), Mother Jones – I kept thinking about Foxconn while reading this, and I felt troubled by this article on a few unexpected levels that might take many paragraphs to explain. I think ultimately capitalism is just fucked and unfair, and we keep wanting to make it fair but we can’t, because it’s unfair by design.

Brain Gain: The Underground World of Neuroenhancing Drugs (April 2009), The New Yorker – “Chatterjee worries about cosmetic neurology, but he thinks that it will eventually become as acceptable as cosmetic surgery has; in fact, with neuroenhancement it’s harder to argue that it’s frivolous.”

Same-as-That (March 2012), Harper’s – This is such a lovely story, about things like love, and Andy Warhol, and love in a time of AIDS, and coming out, and opera, and letters, and time and fate and signs and sex.

Sister Act: Deep Inside The Secret Lives of Sorority Girls at Ohio State University (October 1999), Rolling Stone – Oh, the memories.

Riese is a Jewish lesbian and the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. 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 Nylon, Queerty, 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! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2596 articles for us.

25 Comments

  1. The brainstorming at work article reminds me of this article … http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/opinion/sunday/the-rise-of-the-new-groupthink.html?pagewanted=all

    the author, susan cain, just wrote a book called ‘quiet’ (it’s been getting good reviews) about the societal/workplace prejudice against introverts or people who prefer working alone, the biological components of introversion, our ‘culture of charisma’, etc. i mostly really liked the book, if you are an introverted you probably would too!

  2. I was totally enthralled by the Suburban Madness article and their very dramatic descriptions of all the varieties of blouses and pantsuits worn by everyone. Also the use of the term slacks, I am going to start using that.

  3. The warehouse article makes me really glad I don’t live in the US and that I never plan to.

    I have an issue with the parental authority article though when the author describes how various woo treatments were used on Serena. As much as current advice on parenting looks like it needs an update, using treatments that have either been not been proved to work or proved not to work is not particularly helpful. Working out new approaches will require more science and study and research, not less.

  4. The wage worker article also makes me think about Foxconn. I am specifically reminded of a This American Life episode, Mr. Daisey and the Apple factory. I was aware of these terrible factory conditions in Asia, but I was not as aware of them in United States before reading this article. It’s really startling that conditions in factories in both places are so similar.
    Here is a link to the episode: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/454/mr-daisey-and-the-apple-factory

  5. this has been a busy week for me, so i haven’t had a chance to read all the awesome articles from last week (or the week before…) but i’m still excited to add new things to my instapaper!

    TIRTL has become my favorite source of reading material. Thanks!

  6. I can’t support Southwest Airlines after the fiasco with Kevin Smith and then the lesbian couple being kicked off their flight. They may be convenient, but their people skills suck.

  7. The sorority article reminded me of the book Pledged by Alexandra Robbins.

    I’m so glad frats and sororities aren’t big at my campus and the only people who go to their parties are freshman who haven’t met upperclassmen to buy them booze yet.

  8. As a minor part of the Greek system here (I rushed last year, but my chapter closed just after initiation due to low membership), what I found funniest about that was the differences in attire between then and now. It’s all about the pearls and Lilly Pulitzer, the most-expensive designer labels you can get, the better. Pearl earring size is one of the most blatant ways to show wealth. No sorority woman would be caught dead in Abercrombie and Fitch.

    Though each sorority has their own distinct personality (mine was the nerdy one with lots of engineers and lesbians, hence the closing down), the conformism is absolutely appalling. At some houses during rush, when you’re not allowed to talk about booze or boys, it was absurdly difficult to find topics of conversation besides age/major/etc. that didn’t leave me feeling like I was losing IQ points. Rush is insane. You have to change every element of your outfit/shoes/hair/makeup/personality to fit in, or risk being relegated to the “fat sorority”.

    Dating or being engaged to a “fratstar” is huge. I’ve met way too many girls who just want to spend their days wedding planning and baking. It freaks me out.

    Of note: I’m at a state school in the South. I feel like that’s relevant.

    That said, I’ve met some very nice women in the Greek system.

    • I think I’ve read that article about sorority life… and the hundreds exactly like it. It isn’t exactly original to bash Greek life.

      Like you, I’m a sorority girl and agree that the article is hopelessly outdated– not only with the Lilly and the Vineyard Vines replacing Abercrombie and the Gap (I actually laughed out loud at the idea of any of my sisters voluntarily wearing Gap), but also with regards to the attitudes of the sorority and fraternity members interviewed. I’m sorry your chapter lost your charter, sounds like you campus just couldn’t handle the fabulousness of sorority women nerds.

      I also belong to the nerdy sorority, and loved it… when it was still nerdy. Newer pledge classes are taking our chapter in a different direction, though– one I’m not pleased with. We’ve started rushing the rich girls who want a “typical” sorority experience, and these girls in Lilly and pearls, have set out to make our chapter into whatever they want it to be.

      Yet, our GPA has improved with the introduction of the Lilly clones. Do the math on that one. Anyone who looks honestly at the Greek system would do well not to trade in cliches, which is the pitfall of the above-mentioned article.

      Look, I joined the Greek system because at the beginning of freshman year I was trapped with a group of people who were vehemently anti-Greek, anti-classist, anti-discrimination, anti-conservatism, anti-… well, anti-everything, it seemed like… and around them I felt lonelier than ever before in my life, because I felt like I had to hate everything. It was miserable.

      When I went Greek, I was allowed to like things again. To have fun, even. It became okay to go to football games in sundresses (I live in the South, y’all) and go to date parties and bicker about T-shirt designs without questioning the deeper meaning of it all.

      There is no deeper meaning to these sorts of rituals, and I know that. I actually just got back from our weekly chapter meaning, which we open and close with sorority ritual. I’m in my senior year as a sister, and I’ve put up with all the bullshit associated with the Greek system. And I still love that ritual. Hearing it and knowing it by heart and watching everyone know it too, because all of us made everything in that room happen, is just the sweetest reward for the past three years. Yeah, a lot of ritual (and sorority life) is meaningless too. But a lot of what goes on and is presented in ritual is just damn good advice for living, if you can follow it.

      Rush is insane and you do get to the point where you feel like you’re going to tear your eyeballs out of their sockets, and I do wish the Lilly clones would develop some substance or personality or stop making bad decisions with their frat-boy hook-ups. But you know? Who are we to judge. Last night at the local gay bar I saw some pretty bad decisions going on too, and I heard a lot of thoughtless, vapid remarks like the ones the author of “Sister Act” curated for the article.

      I’m friends with my sorority sisters in their pearl earrings drinking 40s, and I’m also getting to know the hard-partying vegan queers who attend every indie-rock concert within a 40-mile radius, and the more I know them all, the more I feel honestly like these groups have a lot to learn from each other.

      Sometimes I feel like I’m going to go insane, stretched between two extremes, but someone has to be the first to walk over to another’s camp and say, “Hey, I have some life experience in common with you even though we’d both never, ever admit it.” Listening to other people, even those very different from you, is important, and I feel like those of us who see ourselves as liberal don’t always check our tendency to look down on other people– especially those deemed “backward” or “conservative.”

      There is the rage at a system that trivializes, sexualizes, and degrades women. I’ve felt angry sometimes, too, especially when my existence as a queer person is steam-rollered by the heterosexist language of the invite to our latest date party. But the women in the sorority system are still free agents, with the power to choose which parts of the sorority experience to emphasize, and which to simply endure. If you want to use being in a sorority to drink your life away and marry a “rich man” at the end of it, be my guest. I’ll be over here, getting to know the women who will hold me as I cry after a bad job interview, or watch the Harry Potter marathon with me when it comes on ABC around Christmas every year, or who will give me a ride to class when my car runs out of gas and I’m one paycheck away from being able to fill my tank.

      So, the people who reduce the complexity of the emotional and personal lives of women– any kind of women, sorority women included– can go away now. That is my categorical response to “Sister Act” and the 1001 critics of the Greek system who dismiss it out of hand rather than do the work of questioning and finally dismantling their own assumptions. In this article we get a glimmer of hope in the form of that one girl who is both a feminist and a sorority girl, but she’s portrayed more or less as an anomaly when she may, increasingly, be the norm.

      • I actually really appreciate the reply. This comment probably won’t be read considering how far back it is, but whatever.

        I will admit, I am very quick to judge when it comes to the Greek system. Honestly, I never got the full experience, and frankly, I’m still bitter about that.

        My experience has been solely through rush and one semester, and while I do see the wonderful friendships that formed within my sorority, I never made it past the “oh hey you’re my sister I’m supposed to like you, right?” My grandbig is AWESOME and I love her, but my big is a melodramatic bitch. Most of the girls I met were nice, but maybe I’m just not their type. We had some really smart engineering types, but we also had girls solely in it for their MRS degree. And maybe I’m just getting old, but I’ve really tried to leave the “woohoo partying!!” behind, and I haven’t met many (if any) girls there with the same outlook.

        I’m really really glad you’ve found such a good home amongst good girls. Also, congrats and good luck with senior year.

  9. The warehouse article gave me flashbacks to The Jungle. Work ’em till they drop because there’s a line of people out the door to take their place. That’s the sort of free reign capitalism conservatives are fighting to protect, how American!

  10. Brilliant, I loved this weeks picks, particulary the southwest luv and the building architecture/brainstorming. You may have just helped me pick one of my dissertation topics… Yay and thank you.

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