Roxane Gay wrote about the new “Roseanne” for the New York Times with typical brilliance, including this paragraph:
As I watched the first two episodes of the “Roseanne” reboot, I thought again about accountability. I laughed, yes, and enjoyed seeing the Conner family back on my screen. My first reaction was that the show was excellent. But I could not set aside what I know of Roseanne Barr and how toxic and dangerous her current public persona is. I could not overlook how the Conner family came together to support Mark as he was bullied at school for his gender presentation, after voting for a president who actively works against the transgender community. They voted for a president who doesn’t think the black life of their granddaughter matters. They act as if love can protect the most vulnerable members of their family from the repercussions of their political choices. It cannot.
I think about this a lot in the context of people in my extended family and friend network who, in particular, care about my son. They know him. They love him. They recognize that he has a discrete set of needs and that meeting those needs requires complex systems aligned just right (to be clear: my son’s needs and vulnerabilities are not as intense as the fictional characters in the sitcom or the real people from those communities; pretty intense though).
But they voted for Trump, who has vowed to strip away the systems that support my son’s needs.
Their love is not enough.
I’m writing a piece right now on sexual harassment and history departments (and Title IX offices). This piece from Catherine Clinton came through my feed. Ample warnings for descriptions of rape and harassment. A sample:
Finding myself on the job market several years later in 1987 in New Orleans, out of nowhere, apropos of nothing, a rival male scholar (also on the job market) suggested, while standing in a circle of male historians at the book exhibit, that I should just go with him up to his hotel room and “get it over with,” as it was inevitable that “he would have his way with me.” I was dumbfounded, and upbraided him, but what alarmed me most was none of the other men called him on this behavior. When I phoned a male mentor who knew this character, he tried to smooth over the incident, remarking my rival might have been joking, or might have been drunk (at eleven o’clock in the morning!), and suggested I ignore him. But later that day I was told by a “friend” that this historian had told a luncheon table full of the most eminent southern historians of the Civil War that I was unable to secure a job because I had a reputation for sleeping with married historians, and departments were afraid to hire me. Setting aside that such trash talk was totally false, I was aghast. But again, I felt there was nothing I could do to derail such sexist slander.
The question is … has anything changed?
I went on Fox Business and got yelled at a bunch, as expected. It was an interesting experience to be shouted at about demonizing “objects” by folks who treat those objects as if they were the golden calf. I’m not sure the conversation in such a format is useful. I’m also such a visual person that it’s hard to fake eye contact when I’m actually in a tiny room in Minneapolis staring at a camera lens (and a clock ticking to the right of the lens).
I wrote this, in February, on guns:
I am not saying that we should criminalize all private ownership of firearms. The burden of such mass criminalization would mostly fall on non-white and poor people anyway. But we must dethrone firearms as a specially protected class of objects in our most important political documents. They should be treated like all other tools: assessed, regulated, studied, insured, and subject to legal remedy when we need to hold both owners and manufacturers responsible for their use. In fact, these moves to keep better track of firearms and hold appropriate parties liable ought to be a nice incremental consensus position. It isn’t, thanks to the Second Amendment.
No one read it much, but I needed to put the thoughts down. Essay writing is iterative and often prospective
Then Justice Stephens wrote a call to repeal the amendment for the New York Times and suddenly I got invites onto Tucker Carlson and this show “Kennedy,” which I hadn’t seen. I hadn’t done this type of “people shouting at me” TV, so I thought I’d try it. A couple dozen more reps and I think I’d get pretty good at it, but I’m not sure that will happen.
You can watch the video here. I’d embed it but their video player’s code is buggy.
P.S. John Paul Stephens was appointed by a Republican and identified as a moderate Republican. If he’s not a Republican today, it’s worth asking why. But laughing and mocking me also works.
My latest for Pacific Standard. And there are hundreds more incidents.
One good response has been to point out that instead of calling these men terrorists, we should disregard “terrorist” as a category. This is wholly correct, but I don’t know how to effect the cultural changes to make that possible. Expanding the category seems more feasible.
I wrote for Pacific Standard on not accepting apologies as apologies just because the famous guy says the word “apology.” In the case of Sherman Alexie, he used his apology to smear.
I know that it’s a complicated moment to hire right-wing writers. The right-wing itself has become so radicalized, regressive, and violent, that no writer emerges to prominence without promoting terrible things. I don’t have a solution other than to change our culture, change our politics, change our discourse, change.
But how do we do that without drawing a line of some sorts? Without saying that if you advocate for horrible, violent, bigoted, positions, you’re not welcome?
This can’t be just glossed over. I don’t know what else to say.
Maxfield Sparrow read the latest violent autism-parent memoir. It’s not good.
And over at The Establishment, Aaron Kappel writes about the whole memoir genre.
I am continuing to follow these laws. PA is next.
No one explains how they will actually solve the problem they are allegedly intended to solve. The rhetoric is: “Down syndrome is good, abortions after pretnatal testing are bad, so we’ll make them illegal!” And too much of even the left-wing DS community applauds wildly, ignoring the way that Down syndrome is being used to undermine reproductive justice without, again, helping anyone with Down syndrome.
I often think that getting overturned by courts is exactly the desired result. The goal is to divide people. The goal is to get people who are nominally pro-choice to agree conceptually to exceptions.
Meanwhile, we’re not actually having the tough conversations around the future of human procreation in the age of CRISPR.
I wrote for NBC about the death of Stephen Hawking, arguing:
A life like Hawking’s might easily fall into one of two ableist (discrimination or stigma based on prejudice and misconceptions about disability) tropes: The “supercrip” and the body/mind split. In the former, his accomplishments might suggest he “overcame” his disability. In the latter, his disability vanishes from the story as we emphasize the beauty of his mind.
Not only would either be untrue to Hawking’s own words about disability, it sends the wrong message to others. We need to see the scientist as a whole person with a complicated life story. He was a genius, he worked incredibly hard, he had access to great health care and social support, he had plenty of privilege and received help from countless people behind the scenes.
My editor, widely, advised me to cut a bunch on bad journalism as it becomes seriously naval-gazing for a general readership. But here’s on my blog I can kvetch and overthink stuff all I want. So here are two cut paragraphs:
In 1988, a lush profile of the scientist in Time opened with, “Hawking is confined to a wheelchair, a virtual prisoner in his own body, but his intellect carries him to the far reaches of the universe.” Thirty years later, nothing has changed. . The New York Times, USA Today, Ars Technica, The Telegraph, and Science all described Hawking as “confined” to his chair. CNN used the much-loathed phrase, “wheelchair-bound.” For the Los Angeles Times, Hawking was “was chained to a wheelchair… but whose mind soared [beyond] the boundaries of the universe.” The Guardian called him a “Delphic oracle” whose “physical impairment seemed compensated by almost supernatural gifts, which allowed his mind to roam the universe freely.” Obituary writing is a tricky art, but these cliched structures reveal a desire to split the disabled body from the brilliant mind, rather than seek an integral whole person.
Then there were the cartoons. An image of him walking away from his chair into the cosmos went viral. Another cartoon showed him standing at the Pearly Gates, chair nowhere in sight. Hawking, of course, was an atheist. Obituary writing is a tricky art, but these cliched tropes reveal a desire to split the disabled body from the brilliant mind, rather than seek an integral whole person.
Obituaries for famous people are often written long in advance. I wonder how long ago these obituaries were drafted. I hope that when the next famous disabled people die, obituary writers do a little more editing.
There’s a better way:
Here’s two great pieces to read on Hawking:
Here’s some coverage of the bad coverage.