The Internet was ~really~ good this week. Highlights: parents are financially helping their adult children for longer than ever, water bottles are BOUGIE AF, feelings are material, I’m not so low-key in love with H.E.R., Betty Who’s Betty is unadulterated bliss, we must honor our mothers and daughters, women were the real badasses of early computer programming, lust and desire are powerful forces, there are certain places we were never meant to go, and photography has never been objective.
1. Harper’s Bazaar: Why Does It Feel Like Everyone Has More Money Than You?
I don’t think that I have any close friends that aren’t getting some kind of financial assistance from their parents. This varies from paying for cell phones or covering family trips to paying all or part of their rent. A couple of my friends’ parents straight up bankrolled their whole lives in New York for a couple of years. My sister and I also receive help from our parents. It is something that I am thankful for, but I’m also privileged enough to think that this is normal. After all, privilege is not fixed, and “is in part defined by where each of us stands; how we look at other people—whether it’s through their Instagram feed or the windows of their brownstone—involves our own psychology, experience, and situation in life.”
Today, parents give their adult children nearly $500 billion annually according to “a recent study from Merrill Lynch and Age Wave” which also “reported that 79 percent of the parents surveyed are providing financial support to their adult children, at an average $7,000 a year.” This financial support can also be the difference in starting a business, having a stable career (especially in creative fields) and building equity, but that doesn’t mean any of this doesn’t also require hard work.
2. The Atlantic: How Fancy Water Bottles Became a 21st-Century Status Symbol
Water bottles, particularly reusable ones, seem to be particularly American. My sister was living in Marseille for a year, and said that she could tell if people weren’t French based on their water bottles.
S’well was the first brand to have major success as a designer water bottle, but now “has a host of competitors nipping at its heels in what has become an enormous market for high-end, reusable beverage containers. If nothing in S’well’s inventory calls out to you, maybe you’ll like a Yeti, Sigg, Hydro Flask, Contigo, or bkr.” Sarah Kauss, founder and CEO of S’well, said she got the idea because “as I moved up in my career, I was upgrading my wardrobe, and the bottle that looked like a camping accessory really didn’t serve my purpose anymore.” Further, water bottles are now a life, health, and fitness accessory, “lurking around the edges of stylized gym photos posted by exercisers and fitness instructors,” and not everyone has the resources or leisure time to spend on personal trainers and way too much athleisure.
Every form of contemporary consumerism is an active form of self-design, and that really shouldn’t surprise anyone.
3. Autostraddle: Feelings, Rendered Material
My favorite article I posted about last year was also published on Valentine’s Day, although I didn’t realize this fact until a couple of months later. It was a story from the Virginia Quarterly Review on the Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia, which feels particularly appropriate for the commercial non-holiday.
Although this wasn’t published on Valentine’s Day, I read it on Thursday, and it offers the same dedication to the physical materials the characterize relationships. Growing up, Lisa Franklin loved birthdays as it was a legitimate reason to shower her “First Gay Crush™” with affection. She also did the same with her second, and so on. Now, “Sometimes I wonder if there is a limit to how much I ought to romanticize my own experience of being sad when I was younger,” writes Franklin. “Was birthday-gift-giving my queer love language, or did I just develop a habit when I was lonely and repressed? The answer is probably both. I had friends whose queer rituals in high school involved making out with girls in secret, dating girls in secret and watching The L Word in secret.”
DAMN! I cannot stop listening to this on repeat! Seriously!!! This was the best part of the Grammys and a possible rival to Rihanna’s performance of Love on the Brain at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards for favorite recent award show performance in my heart.
The first met I saw Betty Who, she wasn’t Betty Who. I don’t remember the exact year, but she still went by Jess back then. I was a camper at Interlochen Arts Camp, and she was an admissions intern giving a presentation on the boarding school associated with the camp, which she went to. I remember seeing Who walking around campus at various other times throughout the rest of that summer—apart from being tall and blonde, she often had a cello case, making it easy to spot her. I ended up attending the boarding school, although at a different time than Who, and her presentation marked the first time I actually thought about attending myself.
The first time I saw Who perform was also at Interlochen, in the summer of 2014. The concert was filled with faces probably familiar to both of us: old English and math teachers, the dean of students. Who’s performance was amazing. Everyone was beaming and filled with an overwhelming sense of pride.
Betty, Betty Who’s third studio album—and first independent—is unadulterated and absolutely stunning. It is filled with so much amazing pop. Every song stands on its own while seamlessly fitting into the whole album. Listening to it feels like summer. Maybe that is in part because it is summer in Australia, Who’s home country.
I saw her riding a bike around campus while she was at Interlochen for the concert, excitedly showing her bandmates all of the places she used to get into shenanigans. She was proud to be back. I’m glad she has found her old self again with Betty.
6. Out: Our March Cover Stars: The Mothers and Daughters of the Movement
For the first time, ever Out’s “entire magazine only features and is photographed by, styled by, and written by women and nonbinary femmes” in dedication to Women’s History Month. The issue was guest edited by Janet Mock, and features Mothers and Daughters of the Movement.
“Mock selected our “Mothers,” Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, who rose up at Stonewall and is still fighting, and Barbara Smith, legendary Black lesbian feminist from the ‘60s to the present. Joining them are our Daughters — Tourmaline, the artist best known for immortalizing and honoring the icon Marsha P. Johnson; Alicia Garza, the queer woman who coined the term Black Lives Matter; and Charlene Carruthers, who’s literally writing the book on modern, intersectional queer feminism.” This story, the cover story, also feature’s Mickalene Thomas’ photographs of the Mothers and Daughters.
7. The New York Times Magazine: The Secret History of Women in Coding
My grandmother worked as a programmer at the University of Iowa in the 1960s. She went on the get her PhD in math education with an emphasis on computer-assisted learning. My grandmother always loved Macs, and accordingly got the first one when it came out in 1984.
Historically women were some of the first computer programmers, and “during World War II, women operated some of the first computational machines used for code-breaking at Bletchley Park in Britain. In the United States, by 1960, according to government statistics, more than one in four programmers were women. At M.I.T.’s Lincoln Labs in the 1960s.” In fact, Ada Lovelace wrote an algorithm in 1833 that is “ is often regarded as the first computer program in history.” When computers where invented women did much of the programming because it was seen as “menial, even secretarial,” compared to getting the behemoth machines to properly function, and “women had long been employed in the scut work of doing calculations.” Somewhere along the line, the devaluing of programming shifted, and so too did the gender of the people doing it.
8. Vol. 1 Brooklyn: “What do you see in her?”
This is the weirdest story! I don’t know how to describe it without some spoilers, so YOLO.
The story follows the narrator as she gets jealous of a painting of a nude woman her boyfriend hung in his bedroom in a spot usually “reserved for a picture of Jesus.” The narrator freaks out throughout the story, before basically breaking up with her boyfriend. As she is grabbing her clothes to leave she looks at the painting and “noticed that, actually, her skin was built up out of tiny brushstrokes of pinks and blues. The shadows at her jawline were not grey like I had assumed, but shades of purple.”
Lust and desire are powerful forces, especially when they are directed at an idea and not an object.
9. The Walrus: Where Not to Travel in 2019, or Ever
I feel like most of Europe (and later, the United States) should have read this before it went crazy with imperialism. In the West, “we tend to admire people who take risks and pursue dreams, but context puts a crucial warp on these platitudes” when what we should be asking is “what are your adventurousness and dreaming and determination in service of?” As in the recent example of John Allen Chau, the American missionary killed by the Sentinelese, he seemed more interested in pleasing the “god of self-gratification” than anything else.
In the past few years, the rise in “human safaris,” where “tourists seek out fleeting, zoo-like glimpses of uncontacted Indigenous peoples,” without consent, or any care for the biological threat encounters would cause, should be concerning. “There are things we cannot and should not know and places we have no right to go, not without invitation,” and wanderlust is not a justification.
It’s too late for Queen Victoria and Christopher Columbus, but we can still learn from this article.
10. The New York Times: When the Camera Was a Weapon of Imperialism. (And When It Still Is.)
Photography has never been objective, although it is often touted as such. Many of the most famous historic war photos were staged, and photography has been a useful tool in colonization. “Photography during colonial rule imaged the world in order to study, profit from and own it.” Taking pictures is something that we all do on a daily basis thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones, but most people are not aware of the history that they are engaging with. Today, “when we speak of ‘shooting’ with a camera, we are acknowledging the kinship of photography and violence. The anthropological photographs made in the 19th century under the aegis of colonial powers are related to the images created by contemporary photojournalists, including those who embed with military forces.”
Now more than ever, with crisis after crisis, it is easy to go online and find countless images of people in pain. Some are refugees, some are mass shooting victims, some are victims of racism and police brutality. It can be easy to become desensitized, but “every picture of suffering should elicit a question stronger than ‘Why is this happening?’ The question should be, ‘Why have I allowed this to happen?’”
We need to read more Susan Sontag.
*All images taken from reference articles*
Have a suggestion for next week? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “The Internet is Exploding.”