The internet was kinda weird this week. There was a lot of interesting stuff. But also some real bullshit.
Highlights: The fight for the Amazon, T.I. proves himself to be increasingly misogynistic and ignorant, “virginity tests” aren’t real, Saeed Jones will not accept “America’s ‘no'” for being Black and gay, Carmen Maria Machado explores the gray area of abuse, Robyn Crawford breaks her silence on Whitney Houston, Taylor Renee Aldrige will not be erased, Lizzo just wants to “sell you you,” the things we can learn from stutterers, and Marvel movies aren’t cinema.
1. The New Yorker: Blood Gold in the Brazilian Rain Forest
Indigenous people around the world have long been on the front lines of environmental activism. The preservation of the Amazon rainforest is at a tipping point, and “in the past few years, according to environmentalists, several hundred thousand acres of the reserve have been destroyed or degraded by illegal mining and logging.” The 26-million-acre Kayapo reserve belongs to indigenous people, and gold miners are increasingly—and illegally—mining on the reserve. In the past “funai, the country’s indigenous-affairs agency, has delineated reserves and helped guard them from developers. But Brazil’s leaders have been lax about enforcing the strictures, and in the Amazon conservationists and indigenous-rights activists have struggled to contain a scramble for land and fortune.”
The Amazon is the world’s largest “green lung” and “if the system is pushed too far out of balance, the forest will cease to be able to regenerate itself and turn into a savanna; a carbon sink nearly the size of the continental United States will become a carbon producer.”
Not that T.I. needs any more airtime, but he and his disgusting misogynistic self were taking over Twitter this week after saying that he goes to the gynecologist every year with his 18-year-old daughter Deyjah to make sure her hymen is “intact,” thus “proving” that she is a virgin. Twitter quickly came for T.I. arguing that not only do virginity tests have no scientific grounds, but his behavior is also possessive, coercive, and abusive.
3. Marie Claire: A Test With No Answer
The myth of virginity tests is absolutely globally pervasive. In the US, “emergency-room physicians, gynecologists, sexual-assault nurses, and family doctors report being asked to perform, or performing, ‘virginity tests’—sham exams in which two fingers or a speculum are inserted into the vagina in search of the hymen or to measure the elasticity of the vaginal walls, neither of which can demonstrate whether or not someone has had intercourse.”
The history of the test as we know it dates back to 1536 when Andreas Vesalius first researched the hymen, where he later wrote in an anatomy book that an “intact” hymen was “proof of praiseworthy virginity.”
Girls and women around the world are subject to these dubious tests even though a year ago “the World Health Organization called on governments worldwide to ban virginity testing, arguing that the procedure ‘violates several human rights and ethical standards, including the fundamental principle in medicine to do no harm.’
4. NPR: ‘We’re All Struggling’: Writer Saeed Jones Reflects On Identity And Acceptance
Saeed Jones is having a much deserved moment right now. In his new book, How We Fight for Our Lives, Jones explores coming of age as gay and Black in Texas in the 1990s. Here, he talks to Terry Gross on Fresh Air about the book and not taking “America’s ‘no’ to my identity for an answer.”
5. The Paris Review: Fantasy Is the Ultimate Queer Cliché: An Interview with Carmen Maria Machado
Carmen Maria Machado’s new book, In the Dream House, came out this week. But excitement and conversations about the book have been a buzz on the literary internet for a few weeks. The memoir is “centered around the narrative of an abusive relationship, and each chapter offers a new, illuminating metaphor: ‘Dream House as Omen,’ ‘Dream House as Lost in Translation,’ ‘Dream House as Exercise in Style.’ These riveting fragments weave together folklore, fiction, and scholarship on queer domestic abuse.” Machado writes in the gray area of abuse, that as a society we “often confuse right and legal. We think that if something is legal, then it must be okay. But a thing can be legal and also be fucked up. Those things are not the same.”
6. People: Whitney Houston’s Best Friend Robyn Crawford Breaks Her Silence on Their Love Affair in New Memoir
Whitney Houston’s best friend, Robyn Crawford, who has historically been extremely tightlipped about the nature of their relationship, confirmed that at times they were romantic. Crawford writes about this in her new memoir, breaking her silence because “I’d come to the point where I felt the need to stand up for our friendship. And I felt an urgency to stand up and share the woman behind the incredible talent.” In the memoir, Crawford writes that the physical part of their relationship ended early when Houston gave her a bible, reasoning that being together “would make our journey even more difficult… she said if people find out about us, they would use this against us… and back in the ’80s that’s how it felt.”
7. W Magazine: Detroit’s Artistic Renaissance: Meet the Creatives Leading the Way
This article, to me, isn’t nearly as interesting as the controversy around it. In the original version, Detroit-based curator and writer Taylor Renee Aldridge’s name was omitted due to an “oversight” by its author, Siddhartha Mitter, as Aldridge wrote in a Twitter thread. Aldridge curated two projects mentioned in the article in addition to actually touring Mitter around Detroit, and being a pillar of the city’s arts community. Aldridge, who worked as a researcher for the Cranbrook Art Museum’s Landlord Colors exhibition, was also photographed with the exhibition’s curator, Laura Mott. Those photos have been left out of the article as well. “This isn’t the first time I’ve been erased, or forgotten,” Aldridge tweeted, “as a Black woman working in the artworld it happens often.” Her name was added in as a correction online (the article is also in print) after she spoke up social media.
As someone who is currently studying at Cranbrook, I can say that everyone was talking about the article and the “oversight.”
8. Vogue: Lizzo: “I’m Not Trying To Sell You Me. I’m Trying To Sell You, You”
Lizzo is very interesting to me. All of my friends this summer were constantly blasting her music. They liked her music, but more importantly they listened to her because they liked her message. Lizzo is very open about her quest for self-love—for herself and for everyone. Here, she clarifies her defining message: “we were just selling ourselves and selling ourselves on the idea – selling ourselves on ourselves, you know?… I’m not trying to sell you me… I’m trying to sell you, you.”
9. Baffler: Stammer Time
My best friend stutters. The first time I found out she stuttered, I didn’t notice it. We were in high school walking across campus. It was fall, and I was looking at leaves on the ground. She paused when we were talking and, since I wasn’t looking at her, I didn’t see what I have come to know as her secondary responses—closed eyes and an open mouth. At the time I just assumed she was searching for words. After the pause, she finished her sentence before telling me that she stutters. It was only then that I looked up. I don’t remember my reaction, but we quickly resumed our conversation.
I’ve learned a lot about stuttering since meeting my friend. Stuttering is a disability that often reaches beyond the medical model and its exact causes are unknown, but “scientists associate it with differences in brain chemistry, including high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. There’s evidence for a genetic contribution, too.” Stuttering is often framed as “an obstacle to a successful life… a ‘despite’ condition: we can be happy and productive despite how we talk.” Increasingly, the framework is shifting, adopting language from deaf and neurodiverse communities, as “stutter gain” where “the idea that we stutterers, along with our smooth-talking neighbors, are better off for our dysfluencies,” writes Barry Yeoman. Professor Joshua St. Pierre describes that “there’s something interesting about stuttering in a world that moves at increasingly breakneck speed,” where time is “standardized and designed for industrial production.” In our world, “stuttering highlights that fact: that clock time runs roughshod over all these other ways of creating time, but that they still persist and are still important… Stuttering interrupts this hegemonic order of time.”
My friend’s secondary responses have largely subsided—or at least shifted—since high school. There are times when I see her that she doesn’t stutter at all. But every time we talk, ever since our first conversation, I practice being patient and attentive. I try not to be on my phone or to multitask. I watch her as she speaks. I’m careful not to interrupt, and even though I can often finish some of her sentences, I try to resist. What St. Pierre describes is true in my experience: my friend has made me a better listener and communicator.
10. The New York Times: Martin Scorsese: I Said Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema. Let Me Explain.
I love Marvel movies, and I’ve watched all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies at least twice—some upwards of 10 times. I love the movies because they are fun and entertaining and not too difficult to watch. They are the movies I put on when I’m tired and I don’t want to think, and need something in play in the background while I cook, or paint, or do any mindless activity.
In October, Martin Scorsese said that Marvel movies are “closer to theme parks than they are to movies as I’ve known and loved them throughout my life, and that in the end, I don’t think they’re cinema.” Scorsese was clear in acknowledging the talent and hard work that goes into making the movies, but that they fall short because “what’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk. The pictures are made to satisfy a specific set of demands, and they are designed as variations on a finite number of themes.”
While Scorsese doesn’t mind the movies being what they are, “in many places around this country and around the world, franchise films are now your primary choice if you want to see something on the big screen. It’s a perilous time in film exhibition, and there are fewer independent theaters than ever.” Marvel movies are pushing other films out of theaters, and streaming has taken over how we watch movies, though most filmmakers want to make films for such wide audiences in theaters. Today “there’s worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there’s cinema. They still overlap from time to time, but that’s becoming increasingly rare,” Scorsese writes. He is afraid “that the financial dominance of one is being used to marginalize and even belittle the existence of the other.”
*All images taken from reference articles*
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