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The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week

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The internet was kinda alright this week. Highlights: Having a hobby, academy jerks, Meghan McCain’s tears, the pain of Oprah, the first drag queen was a former slave, Tressie McMillan Cottom, J.Lo and Shakira’s Super Bowl, Christine Sun Kim’s patriotic act, how we make homes, and Erykah Badu’s pussy. 

1. The Collected AHP: what a hobby feels like

I swim obsessively. I grew up swimming and playing water polo but stopped consistently doing either when I transferred during junior year to a high school that didn’t offer any sports. I didn’t start swimming regularly again until last fall, when I began graduate school—it is the first place I’ve been since I was 15 that has an easily accessible pool. 

The pool is only open for lap swim three days a week, and my entire schedule for six days every week revolves around swimming, and the pool’s peculiar hours. Swimming governs everything: when I sleep, when I eat, what I eat, and when I work. I swim for many of the same reasons Ann Helen Peterson declares for running in this essay: “because I like schedules and routine, but I find I am unexpectedly nourished by the vast nothingness of a long run. You’re forced to hang out with your own mind — even if you’re doing it with someone else, you’re still hanging out with your own mind a whole lot. Some people call it meditative, and I guess that’s what I mean when I say that it forces present-ness: you can think about work things, or relationship things, or plan your outfit for the next day, but you’re still right there in your body, doing the thing for the foreseeable future.”

I like swimming the easy sets, long, smooth, and relaxed. Where you can almost fall asleep—the ones where your mind loses count of how far you’ve gone, but your body remembers. I also love the hard ones. The sets where the only thing you can think of is how surprised you are that your lungs haven’t exploded. 

2. The Chronicle Review: The Jerks of Academe

This shit is TOO REAL! If you have ever spent any time in academia, specifically doing any sort of post-graduate work, you will definitely recognize some of the stereotypes listed here. Shit, you might even know someone that is a combination of a few. I know there are a couple of hybrids walking around my grad school.

3. BuzzFeed: Meghan McCain On “The View” Is The Epitome Of White Women Tears

I don’t watch The View, but have been very interested in white women’s tears recently and found myself reading this article. As The View’s conservative Republican perspective, Meghan McCain takes every opportunity to remind people of it, and her “television shtick is prototypical entitled white woman behavior. She’s happy to start an argument but cries if she doesn’t get what she wants.” McCain “wants Democrats, liberals, progressives, and anyone to the left of her to respect her, even if they disagree with her.” On The View she “is routinely trying to weaponize her white tears, her father’s legacy, her plea for civility — and it never works…. She has become the worst kind of television pundit: a person who cries on television when the argument doesn’t go her way and then suggests her critics are being sexist if they cross her.”

After reading this article, I’ve found myself in a Meghan McCain rabbit hole. All of the embedded links are well worth the extra added hours it takes to read this. 

4. Longreads: Regarding the Pain of Oprah 

The American Dirt saga continues. As I wrote two weeks ago, “Jeanine Cummins’ new novel is causing A LOT of controversy across all of the internet. Cummins has taken it upon herself to write a story that she has never lived, but that many people have. The book, which follows a mother and her 8-year-old son as they journey from Mexico to the US border, is what one would expect from a person engaged in white saviorism, painting her characters as pitiful, naive stereotypes deserving of white sympathy.” The book is already a best-seller, and has led to many critiques of gatekeeping in the writing industry, which I wrote about last week. American Dirt was included in Oprah’s Book Club, helping to propel the sale and popularity of the book.

Oprah’s endorsement of the book is resurfacing and popularizing a long-held criticism about the “high priestess of compassion,” that she is one of the most salient testaments to capitalism.”

Viewed through the framework of Susan Sontag’s 2003 book Regarding the Pain of Others, Oprah represents “the almost superhuman transcendence of misfortune, this ability to raise yourself out of your primordial pain toward the heavens, […] the prototype for the American Dream,” writes Soraya Roberts. Oprah was “once among America’s most oppressed populations, her triumph is not only immune to interrogation, so is American plutocracy for having anointed her as its apostle. Oprah gamed the system that once neglected her, and her success lends it a veneer of progress and perpetuates it into the future… It is not enough anymore to ask people to lift themselves by their bootstraps now that people are aware that those straps are all rigged to snap.” Oprah’s approach to pain and suffering is transformative, and in the words of Sontag: “a view that could not be more alien to a modern sensibility, which regards suffering as something that is a mistake or an accident or a crime. Something to be fixed.” Today, the way to “fix” suffering often requires more suffering. “Oprah serves up war stories to the system that is responsible for them — her response is to meet suffering with suffering.”

5. The Nation: The First Drag Queen Was a Former Slave

In 1896, William Dorsey Swann was falsely convicted of “keeping a disorderly house,” or running a brothel. Actually, Swann was hosting a ball. A drag ball. Swann was born around 1858 in Maryland and “endured slavery, the Civil War, racism, police surveillance, torture behind bars, and many other injustices. But beginning in the 1880s, he not only became the first American activist to lead a queer resistance group; he also became, in the same decade, the first known person to dub himself a ‘queen of drag’—or, more familiarly, a drag queen.” After his 1896 conviction, Swann demanded a pardon from Grover Cleveland, also making him “the earliest recorded American to take specific legal and political steps to defend the queer community’s right to gather without the threat of criminalization, suppression, or police violence.”

6. The Sun Review: We Will Be Seen

Sociologist and writer Tressie McMillan Cottom is a badass doing very interesting work on a variety of subjects that address intersectional identities. Cottom is perhaps best known for her book Thick, which “describes how black women are routinely treated as inferior, no matter how competent, educated, smart, or charming they might be.” This interview with Mark Leviton is long and beautiful, a “back and forth between precise academic diction and a Southern dialect full of colloquial expressions.”

It is Black History Month. Read the whole damn thing.

7. NPR: Shakira And Jennifer Lopez’s Halftime Show Unpacked

Last Sunday, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez performed at the Super Bowl’s halftime show. The performance has been divisive, with people commenting on Shakira and J.Lo’s ages, as well as the show being “inappropriate” and vulgar. Other people, however, are in awe of the physicality of the performance and what it means for Latinx representation. Here, Felix Contreras discusses the performance with Suzy Exposito, Latin music editor for Rolling Stone; Maria Elena Cepeda, professor and co-chair of the Latino and Latina studies program at Williams College; Petra Rivera-Rideau, assistant professor of American Studies at Wellesley College; and Stefanie Fernández, Alt.Latino contributor and producer for AtlanticLive.

8. New York Times: I Performed at the Super Bowl. You Might Have Missed Me.

This important op-ed has been everywhere on my internet this week. Artist Christine Sun Kim signed “America the Beautiful” and the National Anthem at the Super Bowl last week, but “those watching on their televisions, computers and phones got a seriously truncated version.” Fox was to stream the performance online in a “‘bonus feed’ dedicated to my full performance,” writes Kim, but “the cameras cut away to show close-ups of the players roughly midway through each song.” In this piece, Kim beautifully articulates her relationship to patriotism and being American, her decision to perform at the Super Bowl, and the history and necessity of accessibility. 

9. Gay Mag: We Make Homes

I’ve read a lot of essays about politics and race and police violence and gender violence—we all have. This essay by Megan Stielstra discusses all of those things, but through the lens of home and community, rendering all of those issues and how they intersect more real. Violence here is desensationalized, countering narratives of national mass media. Stielstra addresses readers and asks them to repeat the words “We the jury find the defendant, Jason Van Dyke, guilty of aggravated battery with a firearm — first shot,” counting to 16 shots as the jury forewoman did in Chicago police officer Van Dyke’s trial for murdering Laquan McDonald, a teenaged boy. Readers are actively included in the systems critiqued here. Did you stop to read? Did you stop to count?

10. BET: Erykah Badu Is Releasing A Fragrance That Smells Like Her Vagina, And The Internet Is Losing It

For her new store, Badu World Market (launching February 20), Erykah Badu is releasing a perfume that smells like her vagina. Gwyneth Paltrow released a candle earlier this year that also was supposed to smelled like her vagina, but this is different as Badu has included burned remnants of her underwear. The scent came about because “There’s an urban legend that my p**sy changes men,” said Badu. “The men that I fall in love with, and fall in love with me, change jobs and lives.” I’m lowkey down for this.  

All images taken from reference articles. Have a suggestion for next week? Email afoehmke@bmoreart.com with the subject line “The Internet is Exploding.”

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