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The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 10/25

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Political tensions rise around the world and produce more and more resistance. Nigerians are protesting SARS and the US presidential election is only eight days away. Highlights: Centering friendship, controversy over the BMA selling art, white women love fall, niche sports, southern hip-hop, the white gays, the Godzilla in all of us, HBCUs and Kamala Harris and mass incarceration, and the second presidential debate.

1. The Atlantic: What If Friendship, Not Marriage, Was at the Center of Life?

As a country, while we’ve shifted over the past few decades what constitutes marriage and who has the right to marry, “what hasn’t shifted much is the expectation that a monogamous romantic relationship is the planet around which all other relationships should orbit.” I’ve heard and made the case for centering friendships for years. Mostly, I’ve heard these conversations in queer spaces and amongst Black, Indigenous, and people of color—but women more specifically. Over the past year or so, however, I feel like I’ve seen more and more white people who don’t identify as queer centering friendship—and not marriage—in their lives. There has been a resurgence of friends that “live in houses they purchased together, raise each other’s children, use joint credit cards, and hold medical and legal powers of attorney for each other. These friendships have many of the trappings of romantic relationships, minus the sex.” This type of relationship was more common in the 19th century, but became less accepted as “men and women’s divergent social spheres began to look more like a Venn diagram, enabling emotional intimacy between the genders.”

While a shift back toward intimate friendships might have been growing for decades, the pandemic has highlighted the need for diversity in one’s relationships and not expecting to receive “emotional support, sexual satisfaction, shared hobbies, intellectual stimulation, and harmonious co-parenting” all from one person. “Such totalizing expectations for romantic relationships leave us with no shock absorber if a partner falls short in even one area. These expectations also stifle our imagination for how other people might fill essential roles such as cohabitant, caregiver, or confidant.”

 

2. LA Times: Baltimore Museum of Art uses COVID as cover to sell a Warhol. Floodgates open

Shots have been fired! The BMA recently announced the sale of three paintings, whose collective estimated value is upwards of $73 million, to raise funds for diversity and inclusion initiatives at the museum. The sale of the three works by Andy Warhol, Brice Marden, and Clyfford Still has set the art world ablaze as deaccessioning works to pay for museum operations is generally seen as unethical. As Christopher Knight writes, “art is not considered a monetary asset for IRS purposes, and few institutions carry their collections as assets on their accounting books.” The American Alliance of Museum Directors’ temporary relaxation of its guidelines for deaccessioning work, in order to help museums that were financially struggling during the pandemic, has allowed the BMA to sell these paintings to cover operating expenses. The funds from these sales are to fill two endowments, one for “direct care of the museum’s collection” and the other for future art acquisitions. 

Critics have pointed out that the BMA has admitted that its finances are stable, however, and that its use of those funds goes against the AAMD’s previous guidelines that deaccessioning decisions should be “separate from the process of deciding how to use the proceeds.” The discourse around the sale has revealed division on the museum’s board, too. A Washington Post article published Friday afternoon notes that artists Adam Pendleton and Amy Sherald have both resigned from the board because “they could not devote the time required to participate fully” and “neither stated outright that they objected to the sale.” Former board members Charles Newhall III and Stiles Colwill have “publicly rescinded” promised gifts of $50 million because of the deaccession. Current board chair Clair Zamoiski Segal told the Post that “The majority of donors would rather give to more high-profile projects or initiatives and the board itself is not an endless fount… If fundraising for salaries was easy, more museums would be paying better wages.”

I’ve not read any criticism, including BmoreArt’s own coverage, that takes any issue with the museum’s desire to pay workers equitable wages and to be more diverse and inclusive. The concern is over the ethics and precedent that this could set for museum collections, as this sale feels more like a money grab to me than anything else. 

 

3. Jezebel: How America Invented the White Woman Who Just Loves Fall

Although I’ve spent a lot of time learning the history of Thanksgiving (or Thankstaking as some Indigenous folks have renamed it) that was erased, I never considered exactly how the holiday became “a time to celebrate domesticity and white, all-American nationalism.” In this essay, Hazel Cills examines the highly meme’d “basic” white woman who just loves fall, her “long hair tucked underneath a premature beanie, swimming in an oversized, off-the-shoulder cozy sweater, knee-high brown suede boots she’s been dying to break in all summer.” This ubiquitous woman has “roots in American pop culture that extend far deeper than Starbucks orders, formed by decades of magazines, influencers, and entertainment that has connected traditional markers of the Northeastern fall experience with white femininity, bound by nostalgia for simpler times.” 

 

4. The Atlantic: The Mad, Mad World of Niche Sports Among Ivy League–Obsessed Parents

Whenever I tell someone that I played water polo growing up they always seem amazed. Now, a lot of people have some context for what the sport is, but a few years ago that was not the case.

Water polo, like fencing, squash, crew, and lacrosse, has increased in competitiveness over the past few years as parents and students attempt to use athletics as a conduit for getting into elite schools, and “more and more entrants are chasing an unchanging number of prizes.” Many of these sports have hubs in some of the country’s most affluent suburbs, and parents are “using athletics to escape ‘the penalty that comes from being from an advantaged zip code’” as one parent from Darien, Connecticut articulated. “Being who you are is not enough. It might be enough in Kansas. But not here.”

This article is filled with so much entitlement it is enraging. But, at times, these parents’ obsession with “status maintenance, by any means necessary” is so pitiful you have to empathize with them—although the empathy doesn’t last. 

(Ed. note 10/31: It should also be noted that this article was written by Ruth Shalit, a journalist and editor who became known for plagiarism and inaccurate reporting in the 1990s. At the Washington Post, media critic Erik Wemple questioned The Atlantic’s transparency for its decision to publish Shalit’s piece under the byline Ruth S. Barrett. The online version of The Atlantic article has been updated with a lengthy editor’s note highlighting and explaining some of the flaws of this editorial decision and within the piece itself. Wild.)

 

5. Bitter Southerner: I Feel Most Southern in the Hip-Hop of My Adolescence 

In this excerpt from A Measure of Belonging: Twenty-One Writers of Color on the New American South, author Joy Priest “creates a Southern rap soundtrack of the cars, songs, and forces that sculpted her sense of freedom and confinement coming of age in Louisville, Kentucky, in the early 2000s.” The piece flickers between space, place, and time, while giving a sort of hip-hop history lesson at the same time—centered on music and cars. 

 

6. CBC: White gay culture gets the scathing, inventive and, somehow, live reckoning it needs in Circle Jerk

I had no clue what Circle Jerk was when I saw it trending on Twitter. A cursory search of the hashtag didn’t bring much information, and I didn’t dig too deeply for fear of what I might find. A day or so later, I found this article, discovering that Circle Jerk is, in fact, a play written by and starring Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley. 

Generally, I don’t engage with white gay culture as it “has grown toxic with unchecked privilege, with issues like racism, body shaming and transphobia infiltrating a community that has historically billed itself as inclusive,” as Peter Knegt writes. Shot on multiple cameras, Circle Jerk interrogates this by “weaponiz[ing] so much of white gay culture,” Knegt continues. “[T]he more aware you are of what’s on screen, the more implicated you might feel about what’s ultimately being said. But maybe that’s a good thing, especially considering how so much recent content made by and about white gay men fails to significantly hold up an unglamourized mirror.” 

The last live performance of Circle Jerk is October 23 at 7:30 p.m. Previous recordings will be available for streaming October 26 through November 7.

 

7. Electric Lit: There’s a Little Godzilla in All of Us

I love sci-fi action movies. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched Transformers, the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Trek, Pacific Rim, and the most recent iteration of the Godzilla franchise. Generally, I like these movies for their escapism, and because I’ve watched them so many times I need not worry about the ending. Because of this, I actively avoid thinking too much about the films and their politics (there has to be something that I don’t write about in my life!). 

Although I know politics are present in every movie, I hadn’t given much thought to Godzilla until reading this article. I had never thought about how “Japan was the problem” in this story because, “instead of accepting Godzilla for what he was — a confused and exhausted beast, born once more in a world not built to accommodate him — they brought the fist of the military industrial complex to his big rubber chin.” Harmony Cox recognized this as a child, and found solace in Godzilla and other monsters “because I felt I could find a greater sense of acceptance among them. I was a fat, anxious kid that grew into a fat troubled adolescent that grew into a fat clinically depressed adult.” For Cox, Godzilla represented “our ugly sides, our secrets, the things we fear will draw the mobs of villagers and their pitchforks to our doors,” understanding that “there’s a little Godzilla in me, and in you, and that beast within us deserves an island home and playmates of its own and a happy ending where the credits roll as he strides into the ocean, head held high, finally accepted and understood for what he is.” 

 

8. 99Days: “So… What was Kamala Really Like?”

For me, there is only one guarantee in this election: if Biden and Harris win, the Howard University alumni will be insufferable. 

A mentor of mine who graduated from Howard in 1990 sent me this article which addresses the “alarming cultural ignorance about the HBCU experience, and an elevated level of distrust in Senator Harris’ ‘authenticity’ — as a candidate and as a Black woman” that the press and media have. My mentor LOVES #HU and always gets into it when we talk about HBCUs and their importance in cultivating Black excellence, and is often frustrated at the media’s (and sometimes my) lack of understanding. Here, Eric Easter, a Howard alum, articulates “the weirdness of trying to explain Howard University and Black excellence to an often clueless press.”

 

9. New York Times: Kamala Harris, Mass Incarceration and Me

This is the best, most informative and empathetic piece I have read on Kamala Harris and mass incarceration. Writer and former inmate Reginald Dwayne Betts tells the story of why he was incarcerated, his mother’s experience as the survivor of a violent crime, and the need for America to “grapple with the injustice of mass incarceration in a way that didn’t lose sight of what violence, and the sorrow it creates, does to families and communities,” all contextualized through Kamala Harris’s career as a prosecutor. 

Betts beautifully blends the personal and political in this piece, complicating the traditional narratives of Harris and mass incarceration.

 

10. YouTube: Second 2020 Presidential Debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden

Again, I did not watch this presidential debate and thus cannot comment on its content. However, what I can do is encourage you to vote. I have already filled out my ballot and just need to drop it off in a ballot box. Whatever your voting plan is, make sure you have one and that your voice is heard!

 

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

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