Things I Read That I Love #198: I Wondered Why Female Violence Was Always So Quick To Turn On Itself.

HELLO and welcome to the 198th 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 Netflix! 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.

Blood-Red Bougainvillea, by Ariel Gore For The Rumpus, March 2016

This is violent and intense and beautiful.

Our squat outside Valencia seemed very far away now, like a book we’d once read—its images bathed in the candle-lit romance that illuminates the memory of hunger but never the hunger itself.

Blackflix, by April Joyner for Marie Claire, February 2016

How Netflix’s recommendation engine exposes the algorithm’s racial bias.

Straight-Up Passing, by John Birdsall for Medium, September 2015

He wanted to profile every gay or lesbian chef in San Francisco, and was surprised that so many of them turned him down, not wanting to be characterized as “gay or lesbian chefs,” just chefs — which sends the author on a journey into his own past working restaurants in Chicago, and the homophobia that ripened and flourished there, and then this goes into other chefs with their stories of homophobia in the restaurants they worked in and it’s really interesting!

Is Prostitution Just Another Job?, by Mac McClelland for The Cut, March 2016

As a former sex worker, I both have lots of feelings about this and zero feelings about this I can share publicly on the internet. But I will say that the argument that decriminalizing prostitution will make sex trafficking harder to prosecute is confusing to me — sex trafficking involves kidnapping, rape and assault, which are all things that are already illegal? As is sex trafficking itself? Anyhow! This was a big story this week so maybe you’ll want to read it and hopefully not start a fight in the comments.

Colonels of Truth, by Alan Bellows for Damn Interesting, March 2016

The true story of Colonel Sanders, the inventor of Kentucky Fried Chicken. I’d never been to Damn Interesting before but it’s a cool site! “Damn Interesting is a small, independent project dedicated to the dissemination of legitimately fascinating but obscure true stories from science, history, and psychology since 2005.”

Death by Gentrification, by Rebecca Solnit for The Guardian, March 2016

The murder of Alejandro Nieto, who was gunned down by cops while eating chips on his way home from work, encapsulates so much of the current conflict playing itself out in San Francisco as longtime residents and communities are displaced and replaced by white tech workers.

“Disruptive” has been a favourite word of the new tech economy, but old-timers saw communities, traditions, and relationships being disrupted. Many of the people being evicted and priced out were the people who held us all together: teachers, nurses, counsellors, social workers, carpenters and mechanics, volunteers and activists. When, for example, someone who worked with gang kids got driven out, those kids were abandoned. How many threads could you pull out before the social fabric disintegrated?

What I Learned From Tindering My Way Across Europe, by Allison P. Davis for Travel & Leisure, March 2016

She spent a week “swiping across London, Berlin, and Stockholm in search of new sights and city secrets known only to locals. But I ended up discovering a kind of romance I couldn’t find at home.”

Up Against The Centerfold, by Susan Braudy for Jezebel, March 2016

In 1969, Playboy assigned her to write a story about the new feminism for their magazine, which awakened her to aspects of her life she’d never questioned. But when it came time to move the piece towards publication, the men she was writing for threw quite the fit.

Two College Degrees Later, I Was Still Picking Kale for Rich People, by Niela Orr for Buzzfeed, March 2016

Shopping is such a personal, intimate experience that takes place in the public sphere. It’s an odd ritual for its mix of the private and social coexisting all at once. It is here that my actual foremothers and my literary ones converge. It occurs to me now that the reason I thought so often of fiction while working is not only because these books provided a convenient distraction from my circumstances and reminded me of my goals. It’s also because in these novels, black people who are employed as farmhands, models, and domestic workers are all conveyed with nuance and emotional depth.

The Longform Podcast: Jia Tolentino

I know what you’re thinking: this is a podcast, not a work of longform writing! That’s a good point, and a true point as well. BUT! It’s still related, I think. I’ve really loved Jia’s work for Jezebel, especially this and this, and found this intereview really great too.

How Well Online Dating Works, by Roberto Ferdman for The Washington Post, March 2016

The worry is that it’s going to make people more superficial. If you look at apps like Tinder and Grinder, they mostly function by allowing people to look at others’ pictures. The profiles, as many know, are very brief. It’s kind of superficial. But it’s superficial because we’re kind of superficial; it’s like that because humans are like that. Judging what someone else looks like first is not an attribute of technology, it’s an attribute of how we look at people. Dating, both modern and not, is a fairly superficial endeavor.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, 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. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3201 articles for us.


    • eventually i will, but either in a book or on a+. (i also read a piece about it at a-camp once.) (well, definitely in a book, but maybe on a+. whenever i retire and have time to write my books!) i don’t think my extended family reads TIRTL so i feel safe mentioning it here, but if i wrote an essay that got a lot of traction on social media, they could read it and things could get really awkward and i think they would be disappointed in me… not to mention like, the family of my current and former partners, etc.

      • Whoa! Didn’t foresee any backlash from my comment. Yes, I might be entitled. But I’m still interested.

        • To be fair, she did say she had a lot of feelings that she couldn’t really share here. =)

  1. I have the same internal debate that Mac McClelland points out:

    “The debate has highlighted a rift among feminists, pitting two deeply held beliefs against each other. One side argues that women should be free economic agents, capable of making choices in their own self-interest, empowered to own their sexuality and use their bodies however they choose. If Chelsea Lane wants to become a sex worker, why shouldn’t she be allowed to do it legally? Those on the other side believe that the Chelsea Lanes of the world are a tiny fraction of sex workers and that many who “choose” this life are not choosing freely or choosing at all. And, even for someone like Lane, how can that choice ever be untangled from society’s persistent cultural misogyny and inequality?”

    For the most part my mind always goes for the decriminalization and legalization of prostitution, and this doesn’t mean that the fight against misogyny, inequality and patriarchy is over, but we all know that it’s gonna be a long fight. In the meantime, I want sex workers to have the same rights and protections we give any other workers around the world: human, health, and labor rights, protection against violence, etc.

    PD: Honestly hoping not to start a fight with my opinion, because it’s just that, my opinion.

    • *This comment might be a bit triggering for some people*

      I agree with you that the legalization of sex work would probably do more to help some of the issues that you mentioned. When I was in college, I did sex work through a website; I was broke, needed money, and this was seemingly an easy and quick way for me to make some for a while. I had two very scary experiences. One guy told me he wanted to leave his wife and marry me (I was 19 and younger than this guy’s own kids). When I made it clear to him that I wasn’t going to do that, he became very angry, threatened me, and left me a string of nasty, harassing messages on my phone (at least it was a prepaid, disposable phone). Another guy basically assaulted me, hit me, and choked me (though, thankfully, something like that happened to me only once). As bad as that was, the first guy I described scared me more, because he said he was going to turn me in to the police (he didn’t even have my real name, but still, scary), so I really understand the bit Reagan (the woman in the article) said about that. I would have been way too wary to report either of those incidents, because, well, yeah.

      To circle back around to what you originally said, legalization would probably helped there, for those sorts of violent incidents. I’m not trying to start a fight or argument either, that’s just my opinion, having been there like others have.

    • I like that you pulled out that quote because it highlights something I didn’t like about the article. The more I’ve read from sex workers themselves, the more I see this as a false framing of the debate. Decriminalization benefits both upper-class sex workers who choose it from among a variety of options and also people who are forced into it through economic coercion. Put another way, how does arresting sex workers or their clients help someone who’s doing it to survive? If people really want to reduce survival sex work, focus on providing realistic other options to the poor and desperate. And on not leaving people with arrest records!

      • For me inequality, in this subject, always translates as economic coercion and is what actually inspires that internal debate in my head, because economic coercion it’s a gigantic impediment to “choosing freely”.

        The most horrific and extraordinary example of this is what happens with a great number of trans-women. The level of discrimination and disfranchisement to which they’re subjected translates to pure economic coercion.

        • But how does it help people who are being economically coerced to make their last ditch efforts to survive illegal? To arrest them, to prevent their attempts to screen their clients by threatening clients with arrest, to make them subject to assault by police officers who can threaten to arrest them? I think decriminalization is the right thing to do whether or not sex work is freely chosen.

          Picking strawberries is miserable work, poorly paid, it takes a toll on the body, I doubt anyone would do it for long hours every day if they didn’t need to in order to survive. But no one thinks that means we need to make it illegal to pay someone to pick strawberries.

    • yes totally! i’d also argue that “how can that choice ever be untangled from society’s persistent cultural misogyny and inequality?” is a really limited view… most of my working life i have been sexually harassed and subject to misogyny and sexism from bosses, co-workers and customers. i was expected to grin and bear it. i was expected, even, to encourage it and participate in it, if i wanted a good tip! if i wanted a good shift! if i wanted to get ahead in the workplace! at least in sex work, everybody’s cards were on the table — the misogyny and the being objectified and the lying and the games were what i was being paid for, and i was being paid a lot more than i was to grind pepper on some douchebag’s pasta.

      and also like casey said… assault and sexual assault is widespread and there’s nothing you can do about it besides try to not see that client again… and the fact that they know there’s no legal recourse can be a bit terrifying.

      • “But I will say that the argument that decriminalizing prostitution will make sex trafficking harder to prosecute is confusing to me…”

        Confusing as those arguments from the “Bathrooms Avengers” (AKA Republicans).

  2. Thanks for sharing the ‘Straight-Up Passing’ essay – its fascinating and important.

    • Oh my god, the nasty, paranoid posts on Nextdoor in Seattle absolutely disgust me. (I live in Ballard, which I have a feeling is among the worst neighborhoods for racial profiling and NIMBYism.) Have you read Erica C Barnett’s ( coverage of issues on Nextdoor here in Seattle? She’s not perfect but I think she’s shedding light on some really gross behavior that happens on ND.

    • I just finished reading that East Bay Express article which was intensely insane! Sadly, I’m unsurprised it happens in the US but I’m still surprised it does so intensely in Oakland. Thanks for sharing that article, Jaye.

  3. I read the Solnit piece earlier this week and was SO ANGRY.

    The long, long string of assumptions all undergirded by the central assumption that Black/Brown = threat is so fucked. AND ALSO what the hell with the dude and his dog – it just makes so clear how rhetorics of danger/safety only flow one way.

  4. Allison P. Davis’ article was a great read: interesting and meaningful story, written very well. Thanks for the links Riese!

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