There were some interesting articles published this week, but I honestly wasn’t that into being online. Highlights: Queering Barbie, when whiteness is the thing, observing the 400th anniversary of slavery in America, the truth of French cuisine, the history of crab rangoon, the destructive force of rats, a year without a name, how social media prevents us from editing our past, peak tomato season, and Jeffrey Epstein.
1. BuzzFeed: Queering Barbie
I don’t ~fully~ remember how I felt about Barbies growing up, but I suspect I liked them more than I would care to admit. I haven’t spent too much time as an adult thinking about my relationship to Barbie, but this exceptional essay by Kristen Arnett gave me something to chew on.
Barbies are meant to be perfect: “their waists are slim enough to fit the smallest imaginable skirt. Their feet are formed to slip inside Cinderella’s slipper. No one else will ever have feet so small.” For Arnett, “Barbie makes me feel good about myself when I’m alone. Barbie makes me feel bad about myself when we’re with other people.” But Barbie, with her structured, unyielding body, is passive, and “there is pain in the rictus of her smile.” As an adult, Arnett has come to understand that Barbie is “all the things I never allow myself to say. She’s the me who hands out a punctuated laugh and a big grin instead of telling people when things hurt, or joking about the fact that, much like Barbie, I can’t cry. I have emulated Barbie and wanted to be her, and now, grown and filled out, I am Barbie with women who want me to open up and enfold them.”
2. Longreads: Whiteness on the Couch
Therapy is often seen as a white person’s thing—although it shouldn’t be. White people go to therapy to talk about all sorts of things, yet according to therapist Natasha Stovall, whiteness is rarely one of them. A lot of times the thing you don’t talk about in therapy is the thing and Stovall asks, “What if whiteness is the thing?”
After all, “under the microscope, racism and white peoples’ ancient dance with it looks an awful lot like what in other contexts—an inpatient ward, a group therapy session—would be classified as psychopathology. Whiteness is self-perpetuating yet self-defeating yet self-reinforcing, inseparable from power yet quick to decompensate.” The only way to work through whiteness is by talking about it and excavating it from the unconscious: “the healing of whiteness involves significant ‘discomfort,’—mental health’s favorite euphemism for emotional agony.” Please, please, please, please read this!
3. New York Times Magazine: The 1619 Project
This summer marks the 400th anniversary of the start of American slavery. The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project “aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.” The project, conceived of by Nikole Hannah-Jones, is filled with essays, reporting, poetry, and photographs by Clint Smith, Wesley Morris, Jesmyn Ward, and numerous others. More will be published in the following weeks.
4. Eater: Super Sad True Chef Story
If I ever go out to eat, I almost never choose French food. I like the cuisine, but generally don’t love it. And I don’t like fine dining, which I feel like even “casual” French restaurants in the US try to emulate. Even when I visit my sister, who is living in France, I don’t feel like we eat a lot of French food.
For centuries French food has been seen, or at least branded, as the best cuisine in the world. Beginning in the mid-1900s, “French food came to be seen as chauvinistic, snobbish, and prohibitively expensive. More recently, it’s been seen as atavistic,” writes Samuel Ashworth. The thing that the French created, however, wasn’t amazing food, it was Auguste Escoffier’s “brigade de cuisine, a system in which each cook is assigned a specific station within a hierarchy, with the head chef at the top and the lowly stagiaire at the bottom.” This system “depends on cultivating numbness” and that numbness is becoming less and less alluring to younger generations, and it could lead to French cuisine losing its coveted Michelin stars.
5. Atlas Obscura: What the Heck Is Crab Rangoon Anyway?
One of my friends is mildly obsessed with crab rangoon. I say mildly because it will take a while for the obsession to present itself. Then, all of a sudden, you’ll be at a restaurant with crab rangoon on the menu, she’ll order some “to share” and she will CUT YOU to eat them when they are brought to the table.
While they taste delicious, crab rangoon is “a preposterous dish.” It is the result of colonialism and racist immigration laws, the product of mixing Chinese American and Tiki cuisine, and yet is “strangely, psychotically perfect, designed to appeal to our base instincts: creamy and fatty and crispy and sweet and sour and savory, all at once.”
6. Hakai Magazine: The Rat Spill
I love learning about rats. This sometimes confuses me since I don’t like them, but I think it is because they are extreme survivalists. Rats live on more than 80 percent of the islands on this Earth, and “between 40 and 60 percent of all recorded bird and reptile extinctions since 1600 have been attributed to rats, with Norway, black, and Pacific rats the most destructive species.” Their destruction is devastating to local ecosystems, but also, like, DAMN is that impressive. Rats have just begun showing up in Saint Paul, Alaska, and now the island’s 500 residents are fighting to keep them away.
7. The New Yorker: A Year Without a Name
For a year, Cyrus Grace Dunham existed between names, telling “one person I was Cyrus, then [turning] to another and say I was Grace.” For Dunham, “the idea of ‘transitioning’—changing my name, starting hormones, getting surgery—sucked me into a thought circuit with no end and no exit.” The name Cyrus is “also tentative,” for Dunham, “a liberating gesture that I always fear will be taken from me when I’m yanked back to reality by the ‘truth.’ That I’m a girl, and a daughter, and that to claim anything else is to lie. That I’m consigned to being a liar forever.”
8. The New Yorker: How Social Media Shapes Our Identity
Firstly, I really want to read The End of Forgetting: Growing Up with Social Media, by Kate Eichhorn, which this article reviews. In her new book, Eichhorn, a media historian, explores how social media offers autonomy for today’s youth, while on the other hand, writes Nausicaa Renner, “such media can prevent those who wish to break with their past from doing so cleanly. We’re not the only ones posting; our friends and family chronicle our lives, usually without our consent.” This can be traumatic, in some cases, especially if our adolescent experimentations are documented and go viral online. This experimental period, referred to as a psychosocial “moratorium” by psychologist Erik Erikson, is “between the morality learned by the child and the ethics to be developed by the adult.”
Social media images also affect the way we literally see. Now, teens “are cyborgs, and their phones are mechanical eyes that help them interpret their experience.” A constant archive of the data of individuals that companies and prospective employers constantly mine means that “forgetting—that once taken-for-granted built-in resource that all humans possessed—is now being pitted against the interests of technology companies.”
I wonder what will happen when people who are younger, people my age, are in positions of power and hire people that also grew up on social media. Will we be more forgiving of the mishaps of adolescence? I wonder what life will be like when everyone’s childhood is documented on the internet, when our experiences are more digital and less material. Will we still always remember or will we collectively choose to forget?
9. The Atlantic: America Has Never Been So Desperate for Tomato Season
I have been wanting to make a particular tomato salad all week but have yet to make it to a farmer’s market. It is currently peak tomato season; pictures of them abound. Amongst the news of Jeffrey Epstein’s death, Donald Trump, climate change, and ICE raids, “tomatoes—wholesome, unextravagant, and endlessly photogenic—exist somewhere in the comforting middle, a mundane joy in an absurd world,” observes Amanda Mull. Tomatoes “are proof that the world still works in some capacity, at least for now. They still grow. Markets sell them. A tomato with a slick of mayonnaise on soft white bread won’t solve anything, but for the next few weeks, it will taste great.”
As you have surely already heard, Jeffrey Epstein died by apparent suicide last Saturday. Epstein was arrested in July for “allegedly running a sex trafficking operation by luring underage girls as young as 14 years old to his mansion in Manhattan.” Prosecution for criminal charges against him may stop, but many of his victims are pursuing civil claims against his estate. Prosecutors can also still pursue criminal charges against Epstein’s accomplices. The conspiracy theories around this death are wild; Twitter went absolutely bonkers. And Epstein had a painting of Bill Clinton in a blue dress in his house. The whole thing is A LOT.
*All images taken from reference articles*
Have a suggestion for next week? Email [email protected] with the subject line “The Internet is Exploding.”