Monthly Reading, Sunday, 29/03/15

Escape Velocity, or, There Must be 50 Ways to Queer ‘The Family’ I struggle with ways of addressing these questions, this frustration. Dissident gender and sexual practices and modes of living emerge in specific contexts, there is no way to generalize, to abstract any “cause” beyond local conditions and meanings. For myself, I have come to understand my own “difference” as an exit strategy, more about making an alternative world than about abstract sexual desire or gender identity.

We Are Not “Just Like Everyone Else.” I do not want equality, with its demand that those of us on the margins must assimilate to norms that remain unquestioned, rather than transforming those norms altogether. I do not want to achieve social recognition for my family if that recognition hinges on my willingness to restructure my relationships according to the narratives and norms presented to me through conventional legal marriage. I do not support the further fracturing of queer communities such that only two-person monogamous relationships are granted validation (because those relationships are familiar enough to a dominant norm that the oddity of their same-sex-ness can be excused). I certainly do not want the pressing concerns of the most vulnerable members of my community (employment, housing, access to physical and mental health care, immigration protections, and so much more) to be sidelined in pursuit of the much more luxurious interests of people like me. Equity? I’m on board. But equality, and specifically equality signaled by access to marriage? Not so fast.

The White-Savior Industrial Complex But there’s a place in the political sphere for direct speech and, in the past few years in the U.S., there has been a chilling effect on a certain kind of direct speech pertaining to rights. The president is wary of being seen as the “angry black man.” People of color, women, and gays — who now have greater access to the centers of influence that ever before — are under pressure to be well-behaved when talking about their struggles. There is an expectation that we can talk about sins but no one must be identified as a sinner: newspapers love to describe words or deeds as “racially charged” even in those cases when it would be more honest to say “racist”; we agree that there is rampant misogyny, but misogynists are nowhere to be found; homophobia is a problem but no one is homophobic. One cumulative effect of this policed language is that when someone dares to point out something as obvious as white privilege, it is seen as unduly provocative. Marginalized voices in America have fewer and fewer avenues to speak plainly about what they suffer; the effect of this enforced civility is that those voices are falsified or blocked entirely from the discourse.
Anti-homeless spikes: ‘Sleeping rough opened my eyes to the city’s barbed cruelty’ From ubiquitous protrusions on window ledges to bus-shelter seats that pivot forward, from water sprinklers and loud muzak to hard tubular rests, from metal park benches with solid dividers to forests of pointed cement bollards under bridges, urban spaces are aggressively rejecting soft, human bodies.

Vancouver shelter-benches show up London’s ‘anti-homeless’ spikes as how not to deal with rough sleepers Mr Briscall told The Telegraph: “We don’t know if they have been used by homeless folks, but probably. In a park one block from my house I see people sleeping overnight almost every month throughout the year.” The scandal over the “anti-homeless” spikes in London earlier this month saw a branch of Tesco Metro remove a number of studded slabs which it said were to prevent anti-social behaviour like smoking and drinking outside the store.

Anti-homeless spikes are just the latest in ‘defensive urban architecture’ Skateboarders are another group perceived by some as undesirable. Raised metal lumps known as “pig ears” are bolted on to an array of surfaces in cities. Ocean Howell, a former skateboarder and assistant professor of architectural history at the University of Oregon, who studies such anti-skating design, says it reveals wider processes of power. “Architectural deterrents to skateboarding and sleeping are interesting because – when noticed – they draw attention to the way that managers of spaces are always designing for specific subjects of the population, consciously or otherwise,” he says. “When we talk about the ‘public’, we’re never actually talking about ‘everyone’.” See also: Defensive Architecture Not a Click Away

Joseph Kony in the Real World I’ve spent my career writing, researching and traveling through Africa, and what I am always astounded by is how little I know.  I couldn’t explain to my son, much less offer a solution to, any of the conflicts I’ve worked on, anymore than I could explain to him why so many people are poor or homeless in America, why our public schools are failing, or why we don’t have better healthcare. I can’t explain the world I have focused on daily for most of my life, and yet this film would have you think that in thirty minutes of child-talk, we can somehow understand, and then resolve, a conflict in a distant part of the world.

Something Really, Really Terrible Is About to Happen to Our Coral Before the 1980s, large-scale coral bleaching had never been observed before, Eakin says. After that, regionally isolated bleaching began to crop up, drawing the attention of marine scientists. Then, in 1998, an unusually strong El Niño warming phase caused ocean temperatures to rise, triggering the first known global bleaching event in Earth’s history. It whitened coral off the coasts of 60 countries and island nations, spanning the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Mediterranean, and the Caribbean. We functionally “lost between 15 percent and 20 percent of the world’s coral reefs” in ’98, Eakin said. Only some have recovered.

Laugh at the crying Indian all you want — the joke’s on us Sure, somewhere, an Indian is crying, and somewhere else, like in the non-Indian, first-world mind, we are applying humor to further anesthetize the little sleepy zone in our brain where serious and sustained thought about native people might dwell — the part of our collective post-colonial consciousness that, if it awoke, might convince us to give it all back and move back to Krakow or Athens or Liverpool — and who wants to live there?

Beyond frackingThe next energy revolution could be fired by coal – literally. Can we afford the risks, asks Fred Pearce If you thought shale gas was a nightmare, you ain’t seen nothing yet. A subterranean world of previously ignored reserves is about to be opened up. These are the vast coal deposits that have proved unreachable by conventional mining, along with gas deposits around them. To the horror of anyone concerned about climate change, modern miners want to set fire to these deep coal seams and capture the gases this creates for industry and power generation. Some say this will provide energy security for generations to come. Others warn that it is a whole new way to fry the planet.

Humanity is in the existential danger zone, study confirms The original planetary boundaries were conceived in 2009 by a team lead by Johan Rockstrom, also of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Together with his co-authors, Rockstrom produced a list of nine human-driven changes to the Earth’s system: climate change, ocean acidification, stratospheric ozone depletion, alteration of nitrogen and phosphorus cycling, freshwater consumption, land use change, biodiversity loss, aerosol and chemical pollution. Each of these nine, if driven hard enough, could alter the planet to the point where it becomes a much less hospitable place on which to live.

Don’t Let Sean Penn’s Joke Distract You From All That Other White People Stuff At the Oscars Then there was Patricia Arquette, who literally leaned forward and delivered what is now being widely praised as an “impassioned” speech about equal pay for women. In it, she said, ““To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation: we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and to fight for equal rights for women in America.” Really, now, Patricia Arquette? Only women who have embarked upon childbirth and people who pay taxes deserve rights of any sort? Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig has a piece on why her speech was really not all that and provides a sound economic analysis of the problems with it, and you can read, well, this piece about my breasts on why I think child-bearing is highly over-rated as a marker of, really, anything, leave alone as the right to have rights.

Judith Butler speaks about Vulnerability and Resistance Butler argues in her discussion that resistance necessitates that we be vulnerable, and that one of the truest forms of resistance is one in which vulnerable bodies are exposed in solidarity. To protest one must necessarily be vulnerable, as public assemblies are haunted by the police and the prospect of prison. In vulnerability one may then find strength and a way of resisting against paternalistic institutions. The growth of the prison industrial complex makes those who resist more and more vulnerable to police brutality. Citing examples of violent government responses to peaceful action in Gezi Park, we are also reminded of other more recent acts of brutality, such as the killing of Eric Garner, in which disproportionate force is used against the vulnerable.

HI BBC, THIS IS THE HISTORY OF PROTEST. I DON’T THINK YOU’VE MET… there are literally squillions of historians who would have done a better job. People who know about their subject, care about it, and – unlike Jones – have read more books than they have written.

Myth of the Real Deal

The title of Boudinot’s essay suggests that he will reveal unspoken truths, and yet his essay does little more than reflect an elitist mythology that is far more toxic to our writing programs than students who don’t care to read all 1,079 pages of Infinite Jest. While it is certainly true that “writers are not all born equal,” it is odious to assert that

a) a select few students are talented enough to write

and

b) Ryan Boudinot himself or any other writing teacher is capable of identifying who those students are.

It’s Time To Talk About Why Our Young People Turn Against Their Country

The hostility with which Dent, Barnett and Dejevsky write about these girls is deep-rooted in the particular misogyny directed towards Muslim women. Whether it is a desire to “liberate” from the hijab (which erases their free will), or verbal and physical aggression, it is Muslim women who are receiving the brunt of Islamophobic attacks. Still, each writer is certain of who these girls and their families are: “This differed from the cool-headed, elegantly pulled together, determined young women I’d watched the footage of on CCTV. Not silly kids wagging off school, but calm, considered.” Dent said. All this from CCTV footage. But this kind of projection should come as no surprise when Muslims have been thrust like TV’s bad guys into every European and American home, with it the assumptions of certainty over who Muslims are.

Girls Who Steal

It was this pattern of behaviour I found fascinating: the “always making me feel bad.” What the sad girl was describing was consistent, low-scale, looting of happiness. Contrary to what Eleanor Roosevelt said, it’s very, very easy to make somebody feel inferior without their consent. It’s easy, and it’s addictive. It’s so bold of you to wear that! It’s great that you’re not worried about your grades! Where do you get your confidence? None of these comments seem devastating on paper, but in person they’re a one-two punch to your heart. They make you worry that you don’t look as good as you thought you did, that you’re not as intelligent as you thought. You go over subtext more than you did for any college English class. You lie awake at night wondering What did she mean? Did she mean that? Am I crazy for thinking that she meant that?

Women’s Prison History: The Undiscovered Country

Sex redefined

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