Monday, October 17, 2011


I don't know if it is the change in the seasons, allergies, or my inconsistent mood weather, but I have been a horrible bitch lately. I don't think other people notice this--I am too self-conscious and aware of the terrible job market to let too many people. But I know it. I feel it in my soul, dark and twisted and miserable.

I recently moved back to an old apartment. I lived here when I was in college through the very beginning of my adult career and the beginning of what I thought was the love of my life. Now I'm back. I remember how miserable I was here (I was happy here too, but I can only remember the misery). People on the street are nasty and I have to deal with tourists constantly. I am stuck in my mother's dream for me--pre-sexual, middle-class, comfortable.

UGH, COMFORTABLE. Is there anything worse in life? I feel a fog of uncomfortable comfort. The black dog curling up in my lap. My life passing before me like a dull movie.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Internet and Anger

I love social media. I'm on Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Google+, the whole shebang. I love getting news in almost real time, getting different perspectives, learning new names and ideas. But what I do not love are the knee-jerk assumptions and trolls.

I recently came out on Twitter as a rape survivor. Obviously, I do not talk about my rape frequently on social media. It happened long enough ago, that I don't talk about it much in person. No doubt, there were a few followers who knew me in real life who found out that I was assaulted on the internet. And maybe they were shocked. Or, they know the statistics and were not shocked.

Now, I had a reason for sharing this information on the internet. I wanted to share my story of abuse, shame, and recover in 140 characters or less to explain my participation in Slutwalk NYC, which has a politically complicated relationship with a number of women I admire very much. I got a call about this tweet from a friend (probably notified by another friend) and we had a very emotional discussion about the walk and my experience with sexual abuse.

But I also got a spammer who replied to that post. I saw it immediately after the walk, when I was extremely rattled by the day's events. At first, I just wanted to ignore it. It was what my mother taught me to do on the playground "Just ignore them. They only want attention." But then, that attitude got me raped in the first place, delayed me even calling it rape, and the asshole is walking around a free, married man. So I cussed the spammer out.

This wasn't necessarily what I would call a proud moment, but you know what? The fucker deleted her comment.

So today, after a full week of work, I go to a conference marking the 20th anniversary of Anita Hill's testimony. It was another brutal day--in large part because I was operating on a small coffee, conferences bring out weirdo cranks, and then I was thinking back to my rape again (my rapist was also a coworker). I had originally thought of making it a full day of activism, moving on to Occupy Times Square tonight. But I just couldn't. I'm exhausted, I have laundry to do, I want to spend time with the cat, you know? Sometimes you have to pick your battles, and what can I say, I picked mine.

So I tweeted this, because this is what I do. And this bitch writes back, "well why don't you just roll over and continue to sleep. and you will wake up to a nightmare. cause you didn't participate." 

And again, I thought, "I'll just ignore her. I don't know her, she can fuck herself." But again, I said no to my good girl instincts and instead let loose on her:

  • Why don't you go fuck yourself for judging a fellow activist who spent her day fighting a related fight?
  • By the way, my day job is fighting for economic justice, not playing with dolls [as she stated in her profile. Yes, I went to her profile looking for things to hate.]

And then, to the general public, these:

  • Folks, just because we're on the internet doesn't mean you can ignore context. Pay attention to links, times, etc before you run your mouth.
  • Political arena needs thoughtful discussion, not more asshole remarks. I'm not going to be quiet & take it online anymore than in person.
So I can't say that I lived up to my own words here (although I am not linking to her profile, to protect her anonymity), but I do think that this is useful. I refuse to be bullied on the internet, even by people who clearly have no idea who I am. I know a lot of women, transpeople, queers get much worse harassment, but that still doesn't mean that I have to put up with what is thrown at me. I like that the internet allows me to publicly experience my anger, and also think for a few minutes before responding (unlike in a conversation). Women still aren't allowed to experience anger in many public forums, and it makes me feel stronger knowing that I am not backing down and playing nice.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Information Age TV, Industrial Revolution Concerns

For those of you with a healthy appreciation of trash TV, you may have noticed that this fall's line-up is loaded with characters who are pretending to be someone they are not. Hidden identities are nothing new to night-time soaps, but the introduction of Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke from Revenge, Siobhan/Bridget from Ringer, and the unfortunate reintroduction of Gossip Girl's Charlie/Ivy, we are reminded that in the information age, it is easy to recreate yourself in ways unthinkable even a few years ago.

However, like all soaps, these story lines have been recycled multiple times. Reaching back as far as Samuel Richardson and his unfortunate heroines, anxiety over the destabalization of identity has fueled compelling tales. While Richardson, Dickens, and Hardy faced a world that was becoming urbanized and anonymous, we are faced with a global community where we expect everyone to have a published (and accessible!) identity. This, paradoxically, allows us to create an identity without there being a physical body to match (see also: North by Northwest). The best and easiest way to hide is to hide behind another Facebook profile.

That said, these recent TV plots do fail the credibility test. Charlie is only able to "pass" because she is surrounded by idiots in a sex-drugs-money fog who reduce the greatest city in the world to a few similarly limited sexual partners. Bridget passes as her twin without knowing anything of her life or fashion sense. I actually believe that Amanda can get away with being Emily, but she also has a Mark Zuckerberg-like sidekick who is a master of manipulating information (and has the money to act as a smokescreen).

Of course, everyone passes as a fancy, rich New York lady. Because that's the fear and the dream. We all know that rich people are moral degenerates. We can only wish that People Who Have Suffered will be rewarded with material wealth--and if it doesn't come naturally, maybe they stop "playing by rules [they] had nothing to say about setting up." But we still do have that sense that the rich are somehow better than the rest of us. Whether that's the Protestant work ethic instinct still embedded in multicultural America or the vestiges of feudalism, I don't know.

Let's not overlook the fact that all of these characters are women. Women's identities have always been malleable--we shift from daughters to wives to mothers to crones. Women can upgrade (or downgrade) their lives based on their male partners. Since women's wealth (or lack of) hasn't historically made as much difference to their male partners, men don't experience this potential flush of fortune. In these shows, the class-passeer's relationship to men is paramount. Emily's identity is questioned because she starts dating Daniel, the foxy son of mean witch Victoria Grayson (and Amanda's childhood relationship with the foxier Jack Porter threatens to undo her plans of revenge). Bridget gets to pretend to be Siobhan because her husband Andrew is too much of a doofus to realize that he is in bed with a different woman. Charlie passed last season because she distracted Dan Humphrey for awhile, and everyone was just so relieved that they let a lot of stuff slide.

We want to think that identity is stable, that we have souls that determine Who We Are, but this stability has been becoming less necessary or desirable since we started moving away from the family farm. These TV shows explore the anxiety we feel about the split between our public and private lives, about the decreasing importance of our physical bodies, and about the class struggles of our every day lives.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Alphabet According to My Browser

Inspired by Not Martha, I thought that I too would share what my browser assumes that I want when I type in each letter from the alphabet. The list:

A: Astrology Zone, ugh. Embarrassing but true. Since my life has gone haywire, I am putting my faith in the stars.

B: Boomset, from my past job. A very cool tool for those of you who put on events for a living. The customer service was amazing and everything actually worked on the night of. Those of you who put on events for a living know that this is rare.

C: Craigslist, duh. From jobs to sex to general distraction, this has it all.

D: Department of the Interior, for gorgeous homes and inspiration.

E: Evite, which I just used to set up a site for our family reunion.

F: Facebook, aka life.

G: Groupon, I'm obsessed.

H: Hopstop (NYC), mostly for timing out trips or figuring out how to get the hell out of the neighborhood.

I: Internet Movie Database

J: Jezebel, which actually surprises me. I haven't visited for awhile, which is SHOCKING considering how often I checked it when I had a day job.

K: nuffin

L: LinkedIn, because I'm in a job search.

M: Meetup group for Younger Women's Task Force (NYC Metro Chapter). I am Chapter Director and am constantly checking in to see who has joined and who RSVPed for our next event.

N: The New York Times, even though I haven't paid for it yet. When I get income--and will be too busy to read it--then I'll pay.

O: OkCupid. What? I'm single. No judging.

P: Pingg, for family reunion site options. I liked their designs better, but nothing fit a Polish-American family party for which I have no real details.

Q: Queers for Economic Justice. Think gay marriage was the apotheosis of sexual equality? Think again, friend.

R: RueLaLa, another former obsession.

S: Smitten Kitchen, for beautiful food photography, amazing recipes, and the cutest effing toddler on the internets.

T: Twitter, aka life

U: NYS Unemployment, cuz I gotta click every week.

V: Vertical Response, another remnant of the old job. Cheap-to-free email blasts with pretty good templates. Obviously if you want to completely customize, you need to know code, but perfect for the dummies among us.

W: Wikipedia

X: nuffin

Y: Yahoo News, see "N"

Z: Zappos. I don't buy shoes that often, but I do spend a good deal of time researching them.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The New Age of Storytelling

For several weeks the news has been crazy with news about Greg Mortenson and his alleged truthiness in his memoirs and reports from his non-profit, Central Asia Institute. This is part of a larger trend of Americans' general distrust of both memoirs and non-profits. I never really cared too much about the memoir issue. And despite the fervor over A Million Little Pieces, at the end of the day, readers didn't care. They read for a good story, just like they watch reality TV for a good story. Evidently there's some attraction to a "real" story, but that's a fuzzy definition. After all, we all know the editing that goes into reality TV and are not surprised--or deterred--by the similar story arcs in every dating show/addiction memoir/brave truth-telling.

The issue of non-profits, however, hits closer to home. I work for non-profits and constantly struggle to tell the specific story of the organization and our clients/audience in a way that will raise money from foundations, corporations, governments, and individuals. I explain long-term change, I limit how I use numbers, but funders--who complain about how non-profits represent their work--want to hear that I am changing millions of kids' lives on a dollar day and am instantly able to change them from slum-dwellers to university graduates. I do my best to balance these conflicting sides, and it is possible to do without lying. But it's not easy.

Non-profits are under scrutiny in part because we are exempt from taxes. We get audited every year to prove that we are working for the greater good. Our tax returns are public records (remember this, journalists, it's super easy to see what Planned Parenthood does with their money). But think of the corporations who get out of paying taxes without having to be transparent about there that money goes. Corporations that employ more people--and screw more of them over when they fail.

The bigger question, as it alway is, is "what is truth?" An annoying college student question, yes, but there we are. When we tell a story, we truncate the timeline, we make everyone wittier or stupider or prettier or uglier, but none of this actually changes the story. It makes the story more interesting to hear. This is not lying. This is not saying that 50,000 girls are going to school rather than being prostituted or beaten. In a crowded media environment, how do we cut through the clutter and get people to really listen to our stories? It is not by describing three separate trips or the 501c3 paperwork. So what are we left to do?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Loneliness and the Virtual World

So six months ago, I ended a relationship. We had been living together for several years, and it was very sad when it ended. When I moved out, I knew that I needed a place of my own, no roommates. In order to afford such an apartment, I had to move to a particularly inconvenient part of Brooklyn. It is 20 minutes away from hip bars or fancy grocery stores, and although that may not seem so inconvenient to those of you living in AMERICA, in NYC that is a social death sentence.

I chose my apartment in order to nest, but I am finding that I spend more and more time away from the nest, and that when I am home, I am suddenly lonely. I have always been a fairly solitary figure, and lately I have found a deeper appreciation for my own company. But then there are those times that I feel desperate. At my old place, I could just walk out the door and go to at least 15 different places in a five-minute walk radius. Here, that's not going to happen, and even if it did, I would still have to walk through the projects.

So I have been spending a lot of time online. On Facebook, Twitter, even LinkedIn when I'm desperate. And, of course, online dating. Now a few of these online dating connections have become real world connections, and that is very nice (and clearly necessary). What disturbs me is how often I feel the need to check my profile, see who "visited" "me," and generally take the whole thing waaaay too seriously. Because although there are some very nice gentlemen callers I have met, there are also a lot of assholes. And malcontents. And penis pictures.

I am also disturbed that when this desperation/loneliness seizes me, I need to fill up the space not just with online flirting, online status updates, etc., but it is also necessary to read The New York Times, watch TV, and scan YouTube. I am something out of Existenz. And I hate Cronenberg.

But the rub is, that if I disconnect, I do lose this community. Maybe I gain something, like self-reliance or mental clarity, but what is the point of all of that alone in a Brooklyn apartment?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Just Kids" by Patti Smith

Every girl should be introduced to Patti Smith at the age of 15. Overly literate, annoyingly "poetic," dirty, smelly, and tough and sexy as hell, she is neither the precociously perfect nor the pneumatic jailbait currently offered up as models of femininity. She's refreshing--and terrifying--because she is so imperfect.

Her unevenness and imperfections are part of what make "Just Kids" so enjoyable, not just from a fangirl POV, but also as a literary experience. There are maddening gaps in the story (what do you MEAN you didn't talk to Robert for all that time???), Patti's narration is completely unreliable, and there are times when you don't know who she's trying to convince--the reader or herself.

The book focuses on her young relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, a portrait of the artists as a young man and woman. Mapplethorpe is crucial to the Patti Smith-mythos, and her deep love and respect for him is evident and extremely moving. And yet. And yet, he can be a total ass to her and she just accepts it. Accepts that he blocked her from going to Ethiopia to search for Rimbaud--not because it is a ridiculously pretentious project (it is, but that's Patti), but because he's scared that she'll get eaten by hyenas (he's PROTECTING her get it? because she's an idiot.). Her fear for him while he's out hustling, skating the edges of a sexual underground (while still sleeping with her, FYI) doesn't stop him from doing shit.

Mapplethorpe isn't the only incredibly hot artistic genius who screws/over our affable Patti. Jim Carroll would rather shoot up. Sam Shepherd forgot to tell her she was married. Allen Lanier left her for long stretches to tour and fuck groupies. Her benign responses to such bad behavior speak to either extremely low expectations...or the unspoken crimes that she committed against them.

Ann Friedman has already written about Patti and creative ambition, and the evolution of her putting herself first is fascinating. For instance, when she decides to first smoke pot. No more good girl Patti waiting for Robert to get his shit together to go to Max's--she learns how to roll a joint so she can work, like an adult. She takes hash and goes to the piers with Mapplethorpe and ends up with "Horses." This is a long way from the woman who wrote, upon seeing Stieglitz's portraits of O'Keefe: "Robert was concerned with how to make the photograph, and I with how to be the photograph."

It's shocking to me that Patti Smith, PATTI SMITH, didn't immediately see herself as THE poet, rock star, artist, and adventurer. And maybe the dirty secret is that she actually did, but the most bad-ass woman on the planet is still worried that you'll think she's stuck up or that she isn't good enough to just be herself.