Jun 5, 2014

Stuff I’ve Been Thinking About (the links edition)

  • This Vlogbrothers video on the idea of deserving success moved me. It’s the kind of thing I appreciate seeing someone with a gigantic megaphone say.

  • Whenever I come across Sara Zarr’s words online I’m reminded that I really should be making time to binge-read all of her books. She’s so thoughtful and smart and nuanced. I like what she says here about “purity” becoming a major value and also about “outrage-fatigue”, which I’ve been experiencing a lot lately. I worry this will sound like an expression of discomfort with, or a blanket condemnation of, other people’s anger, but that’s really not how I mean it. There’s plenty in the world to be angry about, and goodness knows that finding spaces where you can express it without qualifiers is useful and valuable. But my own anger is almost always more exhausting than productive, and when I reach a point where it becomes my primary reaction to the world I often feel like I need to take a step back and disengage. Unfortunately that’s not always an option.

  • I really liked Laurie Penny’s “Let’s call the Isla Vista killings what they were: misogynist extremism”, but seeing these responses on Twitter made me want to hide under my bed for a week (apparently I’m turning to my cat for inspiration on how to cope). Roxane Gay’s “In Relief of Silence and Burden” is also very much worth reading.

  • And now for something I’m thinking about pretty much constantly — Gender and Reading and Gendered Reading:
    It’s really up to the adults in the room to set the tone and fight against the pink and blue tide. Create a reading culture, make sure you are not perpetuating the stereotype by handing boys sports books and girls friendship books. Highlight books that get outside of the gender box. Remember, there are no such thing as boy books and girl books, no matter what some marketing departments might say.

  • Related: The History of Gendered Children’s Books and Their Segregating Present:
    The hypergendering of both children’s books and toys looks more like part of an ongoing backlash against feminism in which limiting stereotypes (both old and new inventions like the sparkly, tulle fairy princess) for both boys and girls serve to restore a neat, predictable gendered order. As families negotiate the difficulties of raising children with two parents at work and situations in which women might out-earn their male partners, a return to clear-cut gender divides is something that seems culturally reassuring and comfortable.
  • Remember that Tori Amos and Neil Gaiman talk at the British Library I was unable to tell you about coherently? Turns out you can watch it online.

  • Andi on Relevance in Blogging. I kind of needed to read something like this.

  • Lastly, one of my song obsessions of the year.

That’s all for today. I do have plenty of posts I keep meaning to write, but lately it’s been hard to find both the time and the headspace (today’s post is courtesy a bout of anxiety induced insomnia). Hopefully I’ll be back soon with more words of uncertain quality.


  1. If I say "Yes, yes, to everything you said' I hope you won't think I'm a spammer! :--) But oh yes, the election results in Europe - very scary!

  2. Thanks for alerting me to Michael Rosen's blog. I've been following him on Twitter for ages, but completely missed his blog. You're right it's great.....and election results are seriously scary.

  3. Okay, so this entire post is made of awesome, but this, your words here:
    "There’s plenty in the world to be angry about, and goodness knows that finding spaces where you can express it without qualifiers is useful and valuable. But my own anger is almost always more exhausting than productive, and when I reach a point where it becomes my primary reaction to the world I often feel like I need to take a step back and disengage."
    Oh how I needed to read this. Oh how I needed to know that I'm not alone. I admit it, I so often feel like such a failure because I don't know how to be productive with my anger. But I don't. Instead, it makes me feel like I'm suffocating. I've had to accept that using my anger to guide my personal choices in how I live my life may be the best I can do most of the time. But sometimes I still feel so guilty.

  4. Thank you for what you said about outrage fatigue. Yes. It's so hard to find that balance between not turning away and what's necessary for your own healthy relation to the world. And how to express the latter with care, without silencing.

  5. Jill, like I could ever think you're a spammer! <3

    Book-hound: Sigh. I keep trying to remember that it's not really 20% of the population in some countries - just 20% of an unfortunately small percentage of voters.

    Debi: I totally get the guilt, I do. I guess we just need to keep it in mind that there are other ways to care, to express that we care, and to be an engaged person in this world; ways we don't have to pay such a high personal price for.

    Maureen E: I worry a lot about silencing too. And I worry because I know disengaging is a privilege not everyone has (and that not even I have had in certain contexts or at certain times in m life). I don't know - I guess we all do what we can. I'm grateful that there are people out there who speak up and use all these feelings productively, even if I can't always take part and add my voice to theirs. And I'll keep repeating in my head that there's more than one way to help create a better world.

  6. Ohmigosh, UKIP sounds horrible! I just read about them on Wikipedia. Ugh. I think all of the "western" world is going too extreme with its isolationist policies now. I comfort myself with the fact that Europe and the US are in the sunset stage and the 21st century will be dominated by Asia.

  7. Did you see the Cheryl Morgan post about the election results: http://www.cheryl-morgan.com/?p=19048 It still didn't convince me not to worry but just wondering what you thought?

  8. Aarti: The link Jodie posted below makes a point about how this is happening primarily in countries with relatively recent imperialist pasts, which I do think is relevant to what's happening. There will probably be a lot of adjusting to the tipping of the balance of power in the world within our lifetimes. I just hope Europe will get over the super special snowflake historical narratives it's used to without resorting to any more awful policies.

    Jodie: Thanks again so much for that link, it was useful and really interesting to read. I do still worry, but perspective helps. Also, I like this:

    "Secondly, in many European countries the media have been busily stoking up resentment against “foreigners”, which could mean immigrants, or could mean other parts of Europe that are portrayed as getting an unfair share of EU benefits. Where this has happened (and where people do not have a healthy suspicion of extreme right-wing parties having been governed by them in living memory), a far right protest vote has done well."

    I think it's why the far right hasn't been as big a problem in my country - because my parents helped overthrow a fascist dictatorship, and that's not something their generation (or mine, because we grew up with their stories) can forget. It's distressing to think that as soon as things pass out of living memory we go back to the same mistakes, though.

  9. I feel like I've been having something akin to "outrage fatigue" - I'm rarely a participant in expressing outrage on the internet, but I get exhausted just reading the outrage / the backlash cycle on the internet. So, I'm hoping I can step away from it more often, which means stepping away from most of the internet.

  10. Thanks for all the links.

    I wonder why Dutch results were not included in that twitter overview? It is true that Wilders' "freedom party" didn't win as many of the votes as expected, but still a significant amount. He also plays upon the same narratives as Le Pen does with the islam/eastern Europe/big bad EU things. The difference being perhaps that Wilders is heavily funded by some pro-Israel (I think mainly US based?) organisations, and so is less likely to be deemed "fascist" because he never includes Jews in his discourse on "others".

  11. Christy: It's hard to explain how it's been with me. It's not exactly seeing other people's expressions of outrage that I struggle with; it's more knowing I won't always have the emotional energy to join in (in cases where I agree, that is) and trying to figure out how to do something and be something and address injustice in whatever small ways I can when a lot of of the time I need to step back and regroup (read: hide under the bed). This doesn't sound like the stuff of existential crises, I know, but it's been a major struggle for me. And yeah, stepping away from the Internet has been the main solution I've found. But then I miss my friends.

    Iris: I've come across criticism of the graph since I linked to it, and I guess incompleteness is just another shortcoming. I'm sorry things are worrying over there as well :(


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.