The last words said by Black youth murdered by policemen.
When you are 13 years old,
the heat will be turned up too high
and the stars will not be in your favor.
You will hide behind a bookcase
with your family and everything left behind.
You will pour an ocean into a diary.
When they find you, you will be nothing
but a spark above a burning bush,
still, tell them
Despite everything, I really believe people are good at heart.
When you are 14,
a voice will call you to greatness.
When the doubters call you crazy, do not listen.
They don’t know the sound
of their own God’s whisper. Use your armor,
use your sword, use your two good hands.
Do not let their doubting
drown out the sound of your own heartbeat.
You are the Maid of Untamed Patriotism.
Born to lead armies into victory and unite a nation
like a broken heart.
When you are 15, you will be punished
for learning too proudly. A man
will climb onto your school bus and insist
your sisters name you enemy.
When you do not hide,
he will point his gun at your temple
and fire three times. Three years later,
in an ocean of words, with no apologies,
you will stand before the leaders of the world
and tell them your country is burning.
When you are 16 years old,
you will invent science fiction.
The story of a man named Frankenstein
and his creation. Soon after you will learn
that little girls with big ideas are more terrifying
than monsters, but don’t worry.
You will be remembered long after
they have put down their torches.
When you are 17 years old,
you will strike out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig
one right after the other.
Men will be afraid of the lightening
in your fingertips. A few days later
you will be fired from the major leagues
because “Girls are too delicate to play baseball”
You will turn 18 with a baby on your back
leading Lewis and Clark
across North America.
You will turn 18
and become queen of the Nile.
You will turn 18
and bring justice to journalism.
You are now 18, standing on the precipice,
trembling before your own greatness.
This is your call to leap.
There will always being those
who say you are too young and delicate
to make anything happen for yourself.
They don’t see the part of you that smolders.
Don’t let their doubting drown out the sound
of your own heartbeat.
You are the first drop of a hurricane.
Your bravery builds beyond you. You are needed
by all the little girls still living in secret,
writing oceans made of monsters and
throwing like lightening.
You don’t need to grow up to find greatness.
You are stronger than the world has ever believed you to be.
The world laid out before you to set on fire.
All you have to do
This is re: my Odd Future post.
First of all, many thanks to mai’a, whom I’m pretty sure most folks reading this are already following, but should be if they’re not.
Second, I’m not quite sure that I did anything to justify the sexism and homophobia in OF’s music; in fact, I’m pretty sure I called it out. But I think that what makes it possible to ignore the fact that I was calling it out was the fact that I was also trying not to couple that critique with a retreat into a kind of smug critical self-satisfaction where I get to feel morally superior to or smarter than what or whom I’m critiquing.
It’s not only because I think that style of critique has led to barely disguised displays of racism. It’s also because I think that style of critique often allows us 1) to get away with learning very little about what we’re criticizing by applying the same critical formula to everything and anything, so long as we can show evidence of the ways in which it is misogynist and homophobic—and, for that matter, racist; and 2) to imagine our criticism as transcending the object of our critique by oversimplifying it (i.e. “TTC says stuff for attention”) or by performing a weird kind of doublespeak where we claim in one breath that it has no meaning and then, in the next breath, point out the homophobic and sexist meaning that is everywhere in it.
One of the cool things about the internet, and about tumblr especially, is the way that it allows for the quick propagation of all sorts of antiracist, antisexist, antihomophobic, etc., ideas. The appearance of sites like Color Lines, Jezebel, Racialicious, Feministe (sites which vary greatly in quality and ideological orientation), among others, have all been really important in popularizing antioppression ideas in general, and in producing a class of people able to problematize and critique oppressive discourses, especially those that can be found in popular culture.
One of the not so cool things about the internet is that it has helped to produce a class of people who are, relatively speaking, quite comfortable in their general anti-oppression stance. Anti-oppression discourse, nowadays, isn’t even about a politics (i.e. working collectively to change the world you inhabit) as much as it is about style—about speaking the right language, using the right terms, expressing outrage at the right moment, etc. Unlike previous generations of people discussing anti-oppression ideas, we who are members of this class don’t need to go to long, drawn-out meetings or to join activist groups in order to satisfy our desire to be against oppression. The discussion, in many ways, comes to us—just follow the right people, read the right blogs, etc. Anti-oppression, that is, arrives to us with the slick, polished sheen of a mass-marketed commodity.
Without even talking about the billions of people who cannot access this kind of discourse precisely because the very late capitalism that provides us with cheap-ish computers and internet access needs to keep their wages incredibly low in order to do so, I’ll end by saying this: I believe that there’s a difference between producing evidence of oppression, explaining oppression, and fighting oppression. One can produce evidence of oppression without being able to explain why oppression happens. My problem with the Jezebels and Racialiciouses of the world, as well as with a lot of stuff I see around here, is that they glorify their own capacity to produce evidence about oppression without explaining it. Or if they do explain it, the explanation tells us very little: it relies on the fact that we know oppression is bad and the fact that it feels good to know that. This, I think, is why sarcasm works so well on Jezebel and various other liberal feminist blogs—it allows its reader to ignore the lack of analytical depth by allowing her to substitute the feeling of Knowing Better Than Someone Else Does.
You might think that people who analyze oppression professionally would at least think about the question of who benefits from oppression, a question that necessitates at least a critical view onto capitalism. The problem is, of course, that those who produce evidence of oppression professionally have a class interest in not explaining or learning to explain who benefits from oppression. Folks like (Racialicious founder) Carmen Van Kerckhove have found creative ways to make a living off of talking about race (and talking about talking about race) without explaining much at all save the fact that racism exists, a fact that we seem not to be able to be reminded of enough.
But the fact that an entire industry has emerged to produce evidence about oppression without doing much at all to fight it should tell us something about where we’re at in terms of capitalism. Anti-oppression has become a commodity, too, and “we” are part of the machine by and through which that commodity is made and consumed. I’m not trying to trivialize or downplay the existence of oppression—oppression exists, and exists on a scale any in ways I am not even in a position to know or speak about. But I am trying to begin to understand how capitalism has enabled people—especially upwardly mobile, college educated people like me—to generate an anti-oppression discourse that allows many of us to feel as if we are doing much more to fight it than we actually are.
The trans woman struggle for parity with cis women can mean over identifying with the problems of cis women which are not always the same as our problems, erasing some of our biggest issues like misgendering and social death and everything else we know but have difficulty expressing because of a cis centric approach to this whole problem of being alive
The current wave of popular feminism is consumed with a rhetoric of fuck men misandry
A lot of trans women “look” and “sound” like “men”
Welcome to hell
Heterosexuality and homosexuality both contain idealized images which correspond to cis men (and many trans women). This means I can be pursued as a sexual object up until the point where I reveal that the words I use to describe myself are different from the words they thought I used to describe myself. I am more attractive to heterosexual women and gay men when that intangible part of myself is invisible to them.
So my “fault” lies in the information I embody. This is an information war, and my body is the disruption of idealized images.
And what does acceptance actually look like? Cis people are far more likely to accept trans feminine people who police other trans feminine people, even if they don’t consciously realize this. Visibility overwhelmingly corresponds to this act of policing which is actually an act of policing the ideas which that person’s body represents.
Popular feminism has a lot of rhetoric to hide the fact that it’s actually pretty uncomfortable embracing femininity, especially non-normative femininity. In which ways does centering masculinity, even negatively, serve to erase trans feminine people?
So for me the rhetoric that matters isn’t “fuck men” so much as “how can I be decentralizing masculinity and loving other feminine people” and “how can I be dismantling these idealized images that conflate bodies with identity”
This is a photo of Arielle Lipsen (a good friend of mine) who was thrown to the ground and hit with the butt of a DEA agent’s rifle. She is now wrongfully being charged with assaulting a federal agent during a DEA raid of her sister’s smoke shop in Texas. Her sister gave the following statement to a local news site:
“She was having a conversation with a female agent, and trying to give the agents the lock code,” Ilana Lipsen claimed. “She was trying to tell them there was no key, but a code. There were too many officers and about half of them were doing nothing, then this one agent charged at her, threw her, kicked her legs out from under her, and when she was falling, her leg brushed up against his leg. That’s when he said ‘you’re trying to beat a federal agent’ and shoved the butt of his rifle into her neck.” (via BigBendNow)
Arielle reached out to me last night asking if I could help get eyes on her story because not only is she being wrongly accused, but her bond restrictions are insane. She said: "Part of the bond restrictions is that my sister retract all her statements from the press and say that I was never assaulted and that she lied."
She asked me if I could get people’s eyes on this story. This is a thing to scream about. There’s no reason for a federal agent to put his hands on an unarmed, unthreatening citizen. Not only was she assaulted (LOOK AT THAT PHOTO) but now they might actually send her to jail.
Wow. Can they put restrictions like that on her bond?? They won’t let her out unless they tell the press they lied? I can’t eve wrap my brain around that.
Godfrey Gao rescued an injured kitten in his basement garage. The kitten was found with a dislocated ligament in the neck and bleeding from its ear. It could barely get up and walk without falling to its side. With treatments and tender loving care, he has helped kitty to get back up again! Its neck is now almost 100% fully recovered! Godfrey has named it Kitty Solo and lovingly nicknamed Chairman Meow :”D
Also in case you missed this last night, Godfrey Gao apparently saved an abandoned kitten
this is the second time I’ve reblogged this today and I DON’T EVEN CARE LOOK AT THIS MAN. JUST LOOK AT HIM. HE IS LITERALLY MY DREAM MAN. HE RESCUES KITTENS. LOOK AT HIM. I CAN’T
i would like to find godfrey gao in my garage today. if i do, that means i can keep him right?
oh my fucckkiiiiiiiing god. i can’t handle this.
I’ve been reading the ongoing, nuanced, thoughtful, intensely personal discussion of the use of dialect in stories in science fiction and fantasy with a lot of interest. It’s a good discussion, and the inimitable Sofia Samatar (Hugo and Campbell nominee: read her stuff) has a good link roundup and reaction post here.
LaShawn is a former student of mine who has since become a friend, so what she has to say speaks very personally to me. For one thing, I’m certainly guilty of counseling my students to avoid “eye dialect” under most circumstances. By eye dialect, what we generally mean is writing that attempts to phoneticize dialect, and which is often used for comedic effect or to represent a particular character as an ill-spoken hick or foreigner. (Think the inevitable bumpkins in Shakespeare.)
Too often, “eye dialect” is used to mock a marginalized group, and that’s (a) not funny and (b) distracting to the reader and (c) just plain rude.
But the current discussion has exposed to me a particular kyriarchal shortcoming in my own thinking on the issue, because what I’ve often done when asked, “Okay, how do we represent dialect?” is counsel being faithful to the rhythms of the speech, but using more or less standard spelling, or standard variations of spelling. (such as “gonna,” “ain’t,” “chillun,” “feets”) and also avoiding bumpkinizing characters by use of eye dialect.
And I always make a point of stressing to my students that “There are no rules in fiction writing, only techniques that do or don’t work in any given circumstance.” And of pointing out cases where dialect is used well and strongly—Nalo Hopkinson has a fabulous ear for dialect, for example, and so does Nisi Shawl. You can settle in and hear the voice speaking in your ear.
I think where I’ve failed my students is that I’ve failed to stress that if you’re using your own dialect, or one you’ve extensively researched and/or lived with, then the advice to avoid eye dialect absolutely does not apply. That yes, eye dialect will alienate some readers who aren’t willing to do the work to get through it, and that those are the choices that every writer makes every single time they decide between transparency (ease of reading) and complexity/nuance/depth/shades and layers*. But that sometimes it’s worth losing a few readers to say something truer and less whitewashed, less commodified.
The writer, having developed through practice and experience sufficient tools and skill to control their point of aim—gets to choose that point of aim and hopefully even hit it.
And as Amal El-Mohtar points out in her essay here, sometimes the writer’s true voice, truly represented, offers a much stronger and richer experience to readers willing to do the work.
So I think I owe LaShawn and my other students an apology on that front.
*Both are literary values, you see—and while they are not diametrically opposed, they are in tension with one another.
Note 1: Speaking as somebody who has studied perhaps a little more linguistics, anthropology, and English literature than is healthy for the human mind: standard or “proper” English is a social construct intended as a measure of class control and segregation. It doesn’t exist as a real, unconstructed thing. The linguist’s viewpoint is that “correct” language is any language as spoken by a fluent native speaker. The end.
Note 2: This discussion is also interesting for me from a personal point of view, because I am the grandaughter of immigrants, and being well-spoken was of Very High Value in the house I grew up in. My grandfather learned English when he was 12, and spoke it with precision and power, because being well-spoken was recognized as the way to get ahead among the immigrant communities in New York City in the nineteen-teens and nineteen-twenties. My native speech was therefore crisp enough that I was often mistaken as an immigrant by other immigrants. And when I moved to Nevada, suddenly that same diction (and my traces of a Yankee accent, which basically only show up on one word out of a hundred—water, quarter, roof, root. library—and in certain dialectical choices) marked me out for fairly severe mockery and a certain amount of reflexive prejudice. My participle endings have suffered as a result, which I sort of mourn.
Note 3: I’ve also damn well used dialect in my own work, extensively, where I felt i could represent it well. Often with the help of a native informant. Often, I have myself chosen to downplay it, either by using standardized spelling (what I refer to as the nature-identical Elizabethan flavoring in Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth, for example) or by being somewhat sparing in what I chose to accentuate as with Razorface in the Jenny Casey books and Don in Whiskey and Water.
Some of this sparingness is because I know I don’t have a particularly good ear for accents and dialect, and I’d rather go easy than get it wrong. That also makes me work extra hard at it when I use it, and yell for help a lot.
But I have used it when it felt necessary, in “The Cold Blacksmith” and in Karen Memory and probably in a hundred other places that currently don’t spring to mind.