Supernatural adventures for girls and women.

[linking] Sunday Sporadic Link Round-Up

Inuit, Tattoos: ‘This is so powerful:’ Kitikmeot women revive traditional Inuit tattoos by Juanita Taylor, CBC News

Indigenous people are bringing back sacred practices that were forbidden by Christian missionaries a century ago, and it is wonderful. They’re learning and sharing the traditional hand-poke and skin-stitching tattoo methods, too, and sharing with their community. This is so, so important.

Millie Angulalik broke down in sobs after seeing herself in the mirror.

Her niece had practised her new skill flawlessly, creating an exact replica of a traditional Inuit facial tattoo on her aunt’s face.

“I feel so complete,” said Angulalik. “Like really complete. I feel like flying like a bird.”

The lines on her forehead represent her parents, who have died. The lines on her chin represent her niece, parents and two sisters.

“My mom and dad … they’re right there, they’re the centre of me. They’ll be with me forever to guide me through the Inuk way of life. This is so powerful and I’m really blessed my niece did it.

“I’ve always been Inuk but this is real Inuk, you know? I love it, I’m so proud of myself for doing that. I know I’m going to be strong now to walk forward in life.”

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Nostalgia: ‘Pioneer Girl’ Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Real Memoir Overturns Our False Nostalgia by Jennifer Grant at Christianity Today

One of my earliest memories is of my mom reading the Little House books to me. I can remember how she read, her lips shaping the words, precise, careful. I visited Mansfield, Missouri (Where the Little House Books were Written) as a child and as an adult, for different reasons, with different results. A friend of the family bought me LET THE HURRICANE ROAR when I was young and staying with her; we read it together, and then road tripped to Mansfield, and she told me stories about her own childhood. Episodes of the show were on in the background when my great-aunt taught me to cross-stitch.

There is a nostalgia, for me, that supersedes the actual story, and is much more about the experiences surrounding it, when I read it, when it was read to me, where, by whom. But there is a nostalgia to the books themselves, and it sounds like PIONEER GIRL really pushes back against that. I’d like to read it, because false nostalgia is interesting to me; Sarah and I talk a lot about the false nostalgia for the 50s and how to use that in our writing. (Not our current project, but one slated for the future.) I hope that it also pushes back against the way western expansion is idealized and the treatment of the Indians, but we’ll see if it does.

I can’t imagine an editor that takes more pains in her diligence than does Hill in the new volume, published by the South Dakota Historical Society. Her notes detail everything from the differences between kinds of plums and varieties of jackrabbits to detailed minutiae about every person whom Wilder mentions in Pioneer Girl. The book is nearly 500 pages long; many of these are devoted to Hill’s research.

Despite my wistful memories of the Little House books and TV show, Pioneer Girl is not all grassy meadows and hymn sings. As has been noted in many reviews, the book paints an uglier picture of life “on the prairie” than do the children’s stories. The blizzards are colder, the people are generally less respectable, and the food is much, much scarcer.

Not long into reading Pioneer Girl, that sentimental fog that’s risen in me whenever I’ve thought about Laura Ingalls completely burned off. As Hill said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the real Laura Ingalls saw a “much grittier world” than did the fictional one.

YA, Publishing, ARCs, Blogging: On ARCs, Ethics & Speaking Up by Kelly at StackedBooks.org

This was written back in 2012, but is still applicable; there’s a pretty huge discussion going on right now, after BEA (Book Expo America, a giant book event; 2016’s event just took place in Chicago).

The problem emerges when ARCs show up with a price tag attached. When one person puts a price tag on a book that’s clearly an unfinished copy, that clearly has a note on it saying the item is not meant for sale, they’re practicing something that is unethical.

But the blame isn’t just on the person who sells the ARC. It’s also on the person who buys it, especially if it’s someone who knows better than that. It sort of sounds like a no duh moment, but the fact is, it happens, and it’s not as hidden as people think it is. Buying and selling of ARCs is much more common than we like to believe it is.

When someone purchases an ARC, rather than a finished copy of the book, they rob the book of a sale. The author and the publisher and the agent and the editor and everyone else involved in the production of a book sees nothing. The money spent on the ARC goes to the person unethically selling it, rather than to those who worked hard to put together the best finished version of that story.

Tattoos, Disability, Ableism, Queer: Tattoos and Disability: Surviving An Experience Not Everyone Can Handle by Carrie at Autostraddle.com

The suggestion that you manicure your disability (like you’re plucking your eyebrows or fixing your hair), the hungry curiosity, the gut reaction to stay “in hiding” while everyone else “walks nude through the house”—I’ve felt all of that, deeply. Sometimes I do it to myself. That’s the ableism I know: benevolent, well-meaning, even familial. The kind that everyone understands is wrong almost never happens to me. No one yells at me on the street, I’m not being denied social services or lifesaving care, and walking means that I can access most spaces (if not always on the first try). Instead, I get pity dressed as compassion. I get “I forget you’re disabled!”, glares for not giving up my seat on the train, and congratulations on being “so close to normal” (yes, that’s an actual thing somebody said). Able-bodied strangers ask “what happened?” not as an accusation, but in a way that invites sympathy. As if I’m going to say “yeah, it sucks, doesn’t it?”. They expect common ground. I look and behave and sound and succeed so much like them that I get an honorary spot on the team. That’s what ableism looks like filtered through privilege: an invitation to distance. Vitamin E for erasing parts of the body that bother other people.

Law, AIs, Tech: Artificially Intelligent Lawyer “Ross” Has Been Hired By Its First Official Law Firm

Don’t mind me, I’ll just be over here humming “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”. (Technology progresses, takes jobs, AIs inherit the earth.)

Literary Journals, Diversity, Marginalization: Who really needs another literary journal? by Ron Charles at The Washington Post

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a friend of mine, recently took over as editor in chief at the Offing, and I was interested to see this interview from last year about the journal and its purpose and goals.

And the fact is that, though necessary and laudable, the recent strides made by the literary community hardly touch its historical reality: The sheer volume of published work by mainstream writers versus historically marginalized writers speaks for itself. The Offing’s reason for being is, at least in part, to move beyond liberality, beyond tolerance, even beyond ‘welcome,’ to seek out and amplify the voices of these writers and artists, to put them at the center, to put them in charge. We are working, alongside many others, toward a more profound transformation of, and a true diversity in, the literary world — and the world beyond.

Vin Diesel, Social Media: A Powerful Collective Rooting for You: On Vin Diesel’s Facebook by Muna Mire at the New York Times Magazine

I remember a time, not all that long ago, when it was difficult to find other people who were fans of Vin Diesel, even online. (This was post-Pitch Black and before The Fast and the Furious really started to take off.) And now look at him.

I also think there’s an interesting look at traditional masculinity versus what he’s creating there, but I haven’t yet put those thoughts into order. If I ever do end up writing about this, I’d want to look at Dwayne Johnson’s social media presence, too, because I think he does something similar in how he presents himself, though it’s not quite the same sort of community building. (In part because it is on a different platform.) Actually, I’d also want to contrast them to Steve Austin and Chris Jericho — crap, I do not have the time to do an in-depth analysis of masculinity tropes and how they are subverted (or not) in certain (former) pro wrestlers (and Vin Diesel, who is what started this whole train of thought in the first place).

It would be saccharine coming from anyone else, but Diesel’s Facebook page stands in stark contrast to the gritty, unbreakable masculinity that has made him famous. VinBook certainly complicates his public image, adding a layer of earnestness that is both unexpected and welcome.

VinBook allows us a rare glimpse at a man who is so secure in his sense of self that he is able to be painfully sincere. Diesel is not self-conscious in the slightest; he posts about his love for Sarah McLachlan’s music and his Dungeons and Dragons birthday cake (he wrote the foreword to the game’s 30th anniversary retrospective book), decidedly unmasculine attributes.

Evolution, Fossils, Science: A Monster Comes out of Hiding: Researchers solve a long-standing phylogenetic mystery by Rachel Nuwer at Scientific American

If I had another life to live (or enough money that even more education wasn’t prohibitively expensive; alas, I am still paying off my last degree), I would go into paleontology in a heartbeat.

In 1955 amateur fossil hunter Francis Tully discovered an exceedingly odd specimen in Mazon Creek, a collecting hotspot near Chicago. Imprinted on Tully’s rock were the remains of a tubular creature with stalk eyeballs and a long mouth apparatus terminating in a feature that resembled an alligator clip. Dubbed the Tully monster, the 300-million-year-old specimen later became Illinois’s official state fossil. Despite its popularity, though, researchers have made neither heads nor tails of it—until now.

Technology, Diversity: The 7 Very Coolest Things I Found At NY Tech Day by Ali at Autostraddle.com

My favorite of this list is the Bitsbox, because it is CODING FOR KIDS, and it sounds amazing.

I LOVE box subscriptions. Love love love. And this is a box for kids that teaches them how to code—every box comes with dozens of apps, and everyone gets everything. No girls box or boys box. The Rocket Girl project goes out to everyone. The coolest thing, said Anastasia, the Director of Operations, is then watching the kids break the apps and rebuild them into exactly what they want. Kids build with real code, not visual building blocks. The box is $30 per month.

Fat, Feminism: 6 Ways I Was Taught to Be a Good Fatty (And Why I Stopped) by Kitty Stryker at Everday Feminism

(Photos may be NSFW.)

Still, I’m not immune to the messaging on television or on the street, where my body taking up space was always seen as a threat and something to be ashamed of.

So I learned, over time, how to perform the dance of the “Good Fatty” – the fat person who can never be socially acceptable, but at least publicly flogs herself for the sin of excess pounds.

The Good Fatty comes in many guises, though the one I encounter the most often is the performative, apologetic, trying-not-to-be-fat Good Fatty.

The Good Fatty is the one who acknowledges and accepts their Othering, both by the people in their personal lives, and the professionals they interact with. The Good Fatty is influenced by the medical profession, the corporate world, the advertising that seeps into our lives.

The Good Fatty is the fatty that people will tolerate – so it quickly becomes a survival strategy for many fat folks, including myself. But it’s also a strategy we can learn to leave behind – for other forms of self-preservation.

So here are some of the lessons I learned – and how I’m beginning to unlearn them.

Money: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans: Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency. I’m one of them. by Neal Gabler at The Atlantic

I did not find anything about this surprising, but a ton of people I know from law school did. I think that says a lot about the family wealth situations of people who go to elite law schools, to be honest. (Obviously not all of them.)

I know what it is like to have to juggle creditors to make it through a week. I know what it is like to have to swallow my pride and constantly dun people to pay me so that I can pay others. I know what it is like to have liens slapped on me and to have my bank account levied by creditors. I know what it is like to be down to my last $5—literally—while I wait for a paycheck to arrive, and I know what it is like to subsist for days on a diet of eggs. I know what it is like to dread going to the mailbox, because there will always be new bills to pay but seldom a check with which to pay them. I know what it is like to have to tell my daughter that I didn’t know if I would be able to pay for her wedding; it all depended on whether something good happened. And I know what it is like to have to borrow money from my adult daughters because my wife and I ran out of heating oil.

You wouldn’t know any of that to look at me. I like to think I appear reasonably prosperous. Nor would you know it to look at my résumé. I have had a passably good career as a writer—five books, hundreds of articles published, a number of awards and fellowships, and a small (very small) but respectable reputation. You wouldn’t even know it to look at my tax return. I am nowhere near rich, but I have typically made a solid middle- or even, at times, upper-middle-class income, which is about all a writer can expect, even a writer who also teaches and lectures and writes television scripts, as I do. And you certainly wouldn’t know it to talk to me, because the last thing I would ever do—until now—is admit to financial insecurity or, as I think of it, “financial impotence,” because it has many of the characteristics of sexual impotence, not least of which is the desperate need to mask it and pretend everything is going swimmingly. In truth, it may be more embarrassing than sexual impotence. “You are more likely to hear from your buddy that he is on Viagra than that he has credit-card problems,” says Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist who teaches at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and ministers to individuals with financial issues. “Much more likely.” America is a country, as Donald Trump has reminded us, of winners and losers, alphas and weaklings. To struggle financially is a source of shame, a daily humiliation—even a form of social suicide. Silence is the only protection.

Racism, Work: The Customer is Not Always Right: Microaggressions in the Service Industry by Saher Naumaan at the Toast

Working in the service industry, I was involuntarily subjected to this uncomfortable and often intrusive examination of my history on a regular basis. It’s as if I had tacitly agreed to become an object of scrutiny — on display — due to my job and my background, and every inch, every aspect of my life was fair game for questioners. In a context in which responding in kind to a rude question is never an option, I felt trapped by the need to maintain a professional demeanor, even if I would prefer to be flippant. You know how “the customer is always right”? That phrase takes on a whole new meaning when you get inappropriate questions about your racial and ethnic background in your place of employment.

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[linking] Klingon Language Copyright Lawsuit

Copyright, Language, Star Trek: ‘Star Trek’ Lawsuit: The Debate Over Klingon Language Heats Up by Eriq Gardner at The Hollywood Reporter

I first heard about it because some attorneys I know from my stint at Microsoft were talking about it, and of course I am both delighted and intrigued, because it combines two of my favorite geeky loves, SFF and IP law.

Basically, Axanar is a crowdfunded Star Trek film series. There was Prelude to Axanar a few years ago, and then this one, which is a feature-length film Star Trek: Axanar. Paramount Studios owns the Star Trek franchise (I suppose I should say allegedly, because there’s a challenge to that as a part of all this, but it is at least commonly believed that they own it), and traditionally allows fan-made projects to occur as long as they’re not selling anything (e.g., tickets, copies of the finished project, merchandise).

At the end of 2015, Paramount Pictures and CBS filed a lawsuit claiming that the Axanar works infringe their rights, including by making use of the Klingon language.

AND NOW EVERYONE IS DEBATING WHETHER YOU CAN COPYRIGHT KLINGON AND I AM FILLED WITH SO MUCH FUCKING DELIGHT.

I’ve seen a lot of people dismiss this as a bit of a pointless discussion, because it’s really about the broader Star Trek IP and it doesn’t really matter whether this one language is copyrightable, but if this precedence is set, it could have a hugely damaging impact on coding languages, which are arguably also created languages.

Once the Axanar defendants made their claim that Klingon is not copyrightable because it is a useful system, Paramount and CBS argued that: The Klingon language is wholly fictitious, original and copyrightable, and Defendants’ incorporation of that language in their works will be part of the Court’s eventual substantial similarity analysis. Defendants’ use of the Klingon language in their works is simply further evidence of their infringement of Plaintiffs’ characters, since speaking this fictitious language is an aspect of their characters.

The Language Creation Society filed an amicus brief supporting the defends that discusses whether the Klingon language is copyrightable, and it is glorious: you can read the brief here, and see how it incorporates Klingon into the brief itself. (An amicus brief, or friend-of-the-court brief, is a document filed by people who aren’t directly involved in the litigation, but who have a strong interest in what is being litigation, and offer the court information and arguments the court may consider. They show up pretty often in IP law, where people are terrified of what sort of precedent will be set, especially by judges who aren’t super familiar with the nuances of technology.)

Now, with 250,000 copies of a Klingon dictionary said to have been sold, Klingon language certification programs being offered, the Microsoft search engine Bing presenting English-to-Klingon translations, one Swedish couple performing their marriage vows in Klingon, foreign governments providing official statements in Klingon and so on, the Language Creation Society is holding up Klingon as having freed the “bounds of its textual chains.”

Ultimately, the amicus brief comes back to the theory that Klingon is not copyrightable.

“What is a language other than a procedure, process, or system for communication?” asks the society. “What is a language’s vocabulary but a collection of words? The vocabulary and grammar rules of a language provide instructions for a speaker to articulate thoughts and ideas. One cannot disregard grammatical rules and still be intelligible, and creating one’s own vocabulary only worked well for the Bard. Vocabulary and grammar are no more protectable than the bookkeeping system in Baker v. Selden, 101 U.S. 99, 101 (1879).”

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[linking] Sunday Sporadic Link Round-Up

Mental Illness, Disability, Language: The Forks Model of Disability at Thing of Things

The spoons model is an excellent model. However, in thinking about my own mental illness, I have discovered that it is, in fact, the exact opposite of how my mental illness works. Therefore, I have decided to coin the forks model.

(Look, I was not the one who decided that all our emotional energy metaphors needed to be utensil-based.)

Forks work somewhat like spoons, in that you have to pay varying amounts for tasks. However, unlike spoons, forks don’t replenish gradually over time. Instead, you get forks when you finish particular tasks. For instance, socializing might cost you ten forks and give you twelve, showering might cost you three and give you ten, and eating might cost you one and give you twenty. (Eating is important.)

In my own case, I’ve found that the more I do something, the easier it is for me to do it. When I haven’t written for a week, if I try to write, I wind up staring at my word processor and occasionally typing “the” and then slowly backspacing it. On the other hand, I have, several times in my life, written more than ten thousand words in a single day.

Unfortunately, some people– like me– are, for whatever reason, stuck with chronically low forks. Chronically low forks leaves you in one of the most perverse situations ever: when you know that if you did a particular thing, you would be happier and more able to do things, but you don’t have enough forks now to do the thing. (Unlike spoons, you cannot borrow forks from future selves.) If I worked on my homework, after like fifteen minutes I would feel like I could take on the world, but right now all I have the energy to do is browse Tumblr. If I ate, I would totally be able to cook an awesome meal, but right now I’m too hungry to cook.

The writing example rings particularly true for me. It’s why I try to write daily, even though I know daily writing goals can stymie other authors. (Including my cowriter, Sarah, who often has a bad response to setting writing goals. Somehow, we still make cowriting work.) If I sit down to write after not writing for awhile, I will maybe be able to force out 100 words. If I write daily, some days are 100-500 words, and some days are 10k+. Unfortunately, the chronically low fork part rang particularly true, too. There are many, many times when I know exactly what I need to do. I just don’t have anything left to do it, no matter what I’ve done or what I try to do.

Racism, Transphobia, Misogyny, Violence: Remembering Us When We’re Gone, Ignoring Us While We’re Here: Trans Women Deserve More by Morgan Collado at Autostraddle

There’s an interesting phenomenon that I’ve witnessed over the past few years. The names of trans women of color will be in the mouths of the queer community after they’ve been murdered, but support for us while we are still alive is sporadic at best. Trans women are pushed out of queer spaces by cis people, dfab genderqueers, and trans men, just to name a few. Women’s spaces are frequently hostile to us because we aren’t “real women” but trans men almost always get a free pass. And I’ve seen more than one cis queer say that trans women are “appropriating” the gay rights movement, totally ignorant of the fact that we started the damn thing. I have seen more than one cis queer say that we have nothing in common with them, that our issues are completely unrelated. We have a hard time finding dates, finding support, finding community. And when we dare to call people out for their transmisogyny, we are labeled crazy, hysterical, divisive. I have been called Austin “queer scene’s” number one enemy. All for daring to share my thoughts on the world around me.

Here in Austin there’s this tradition of calling the names of the dead and then having an audience member sit in a chair that represents where the dead trans woman would sit. The seats are always filled with white people and non-trans women. What do our deaths mean when our bodies, our lives, the physical space we take up, is appropriated by white folks? How can I mourn for my sisters when the space set up for that mourning is so thoroughly colonized? And how can I even see hope of living a full life when I don’t see myself reflected in what is supposed to be my community?

Horror, Racism, Violence: Eutopia: horror novel about Lovecraftian racism by Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing

Doctor Andrew Waggoner — a Paris-educated Black American doctor — is hospitalized by Klansman in the utopian settlement of Eliada, Idaho, where he soon encounters Jason Thistledown, the sole survivor of a plague that wiped out the town of Cracked Wheel, Montana. The two of them become unlikely allies in uncovering the mystery of “Mr Juke,” a strange creature housed in the hospital’s enormous quarantine.

Mr Juke is a monster, of an ancient race of parasites whose offspring incubate in the wombs of human women, and who are able to inspire religious ecstasy in the people who serve them. Mr Juke and his kind might have lived undiscovered in the back country, in grotesque symbiosis with the hill people, if not for Eliada’s eugenics project, through which hill people are systematically catalogued and sterilized “to improve the race.”

I don’t have a copy of this yet, but soon.

Related: Horror, Racism: Don’t Mention the War – Some Thoughts on H.P. Lovecraft and Race by David Nickle

Specifically, I wanted to talk about race as it pertained to H.P. Lovecraft’s writings.

It seemed like the thing to do. The organizers of World Horror had found me a panel to sit on, moderated by Lovecraftian scholar, critic and anthologist S.T. Joshi, called Lovecraft’s Eternal Fascination. My first novel, Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism, is the only pseudo-Lovecraftian book I’ve written, and one of my aims with that book was to deal with Lovecraftian xenophobia from a post-Martin-Luther-King perspective–to tie Lovecraft’s horrible eugenic notions together with the genuine and just as horrible eugenic fallacies that were making the rounds in early 20th century America. As Eternal Fascinations went, I thought race might rate.

When the panel started it became clear: not so much. I brought up the topic early and affably in the panel, and just a little later but also affably, Mr. Joshi shut it down with a familiar canard: Lovecraft’s racism and xenophobia must be viewed in the context of Lovecraft’s considerably less-enlightened time. I recall gently objecting that Lovecraft’s views may have been more mainstream in the 1920s and 1930s yet were still not universal–but, not wanting to be seen as hijacking the panel, letting things go.

I’d make the case that Lovecraft’s fiction–and Lovecraftian horror–depends on the xenophobia that was endemic to Lovecraft’s work to the point that without it, many of his stories lose their unique and uniquely profound effect. “The Horror in Red Hook” is a direct channelling of Lovecraft’s loathing of newcomers to New York City; the real horror of “The Call of Cthulhu” is not the octopus-headed demigod that emerges out of his underwater city to kill all the people, but the people themselves–all either eugenically unfit denizens of the bayou or “primitive” island cultures whose religious practises amount to a kind of proactive nihilism. The manifestation of Nyarlathotep in the eponymous story is that of a black man bearing trinkets, who seduces the good white folk of America into authoring their own demise.

Lovecraft’s horror is such a core to the genre, but Nickle is absolutely right: we have to talk more about his racism and xenophobia. I don’t care how old it is, I don’t care about the “world he came from,” we still tout him and his work as high level horror, the kind we as writers should try to achieve. His racism and xenophobia is a huge part of that.

I’ve tried my hand at Lovecraftian horror while dealing with the racism of the source. It is hard, and I’ve not yet managed a story that I actually think works. But I will keep writing, and I will keep educating myself.

3d Printing, Technology, Copyright, Law: Licensing Your 3D Printed Stuff: Why 3D Printed Objects Challenge Our Copyright Beliefs by Michael Weinberg at TechDirt

The past fifteen years or so have given us all a collective informal education in intellectual property law. We have been taught to assume that everything we see on our computer screen is protected by intellectual property law (usually copyright), and that copying those things without permission can often result in copyright infringement (and potentially lawsuits).

By and large, this has been a reasonable rule of thumb. The things that we most often associate with our computer screens – those are the music, movies, software, photos, articles, and whatnot – happen to also be the types of things that are protectable by copyrights. As copyright automatically protects things that are categorically eligible for protection, it is safe to begin from the assumption that the music, movies, software, photos, articles, and whatnot made in the last century that you find online are actively protected by copyright.

This easy assumption becomes less reasonable in the context of 3D printing. Many of the objects coming out of a 3D printer are simply not eligible for copyright protection. As “functional” objects, they are beyond copyright’s scope. They may be protectable by patent, but because patent protection is not automatic, many of these objects will simply not be protected by intellectual property at all. The idea that something is entirely unprotected by copyright or patent would have felt perfectly natural 30 years ago, but can feel deeply disorienting today.

Furthermore, unlike those music, movies, software, photos, articles, and whatnot, we often have to treat a physical object and the digital file that represents that object differently in the context of 3D printing and intellectual property. Although we do not often draw the distinction between a song and an .mp3 file, there are many situations where we are called on to conceive of an object and its digital file as fundamentally different intellectual property entities.

I’m not sure how much I agree with the first paragraph, because what I’ve seen more is that instead of receiving an informal education about IP law and how things are protected, people really have taken away that if it is available freely on the internet (here I mean “freely” both as “free” and as “easily accessible” though not necessarily both), that means it can be used by anyone for any reason, because no one wants to believe they can’t use something. (Tech law means often telling people no, you can’t use that, I don’t care how many other people are doing so.) Still, this is really interesting, especially as 3D printing becomes so widely available. (My youngest brother, T, has been creating amazing things with his 3D printer. I am intrigued as an artist, and a tech lover, and a lawyer.)

Poverty, Racism, Classism: Poverty is Not a Crime, So Stop Trying to Punish Poor People by Altheria Gaston at ForHarriet

(Note: Keep in mind this piece is more than a year old RE the proposed legislation mentioned in it.)

Whether we utilize government assistance or not, we need to push back against the policing of women of color. These restrictions are classist, sexist, and racist and preserve a broken social, political, and economic system that leave women of color on the bottom layer of stratification in a society built on the ideals of freedom and equality. I find it ironic that the same groups advocating for freedom from restrictions for wealthy business owners are seeking to regulate the poor. This is an issue of power and privilege, not misuse and abuse.

It is my hope that my research will illuminate the reality of the conditions in which these women find themselves. Perhaps this and similar scholarship can be used to inform future legislation that improves the plight of the poor.

Menstruation, Taboos, India, TED: A taboo-free way to talk about periods by Aditi Gupta (video)

It’s true: talking about menstruation makes many people uncomfortable. And that taboo has consequences: in India, three out of every 10 girls don’t even know what menstruation is at the time of their first period, and restrictive customs related to periods inflict psychological damage on young girls. Growing up with this taboo herself, Aditi Gupta knew she wanted to help girls, parents and teachers talk about periods comfortably and without shame. She shares how she did it.

Queer, Language: 5 Reasons LGBT People Should Stop Saying We Were “Born This Way” by Cassie Sheets at Pride

1) We don’t have to justify our sexual orientation or gender identity.

Many of us (myself included) have used the “we were born this way,” defense whenever we hear someone attacking LGBT rights. But if someone is attacking LGBT rights, or trying to say LGBT people are unnatural in some way, that defense isn’t going to change their mind. We’re here. We exist. We’re people who deserve basic human rights and respect. Whether our sexual orientation and gender identities are products of genetics, environments, or choices, we still deserve basic human rights and respect.

Prince, Disability: Whether Or Not Prince Knew It, He Was A Disability Icon To Me by Ekundayo Afolayan

My attachment to Prince grew when I found out that, like me, he also dealt with disability throughout his life. As a kid, Prince had epilepsy and as he aged, he also had hip dysplasia but, for religious reasons, he refused surgery and opted for a cane instead. I’ve personally had to deal with having seizures for almost a decade now. It is grounding for me to know that an international icon who I have always admired also has a history of dealing with a similar condition.

Visibility is really important to me; especially because positive representation of Black folks, femmes, and people with disabilities is rare. We typically aren’t seen as desirable or worthy of love. But Prince helped to inspire my self-love by exuding his confidence and being celebrated for it. I’m taking a cue from Prince. I’ve learned to be extravagant and myself not despite the seizures, but in the active acceptance of them.

Wrestling, Sexism, Chyna: Chyna Deserved Better by Malread Small Stald at Jezebel

It’s worth noting here that Chyna and Elizabeth, two women dead too young, are also the two most glaring absences in the WWE Hall of Fame. In an oft-cited interview last year, Steve Austin asked WWE Chief Operating Officer (and Chyna’s ex-boyfriend) Triple H if Chyna would ever be inducted. “Does she deserve to go into the Hall of Fame? Absolutely,” said Triple H. But he claimed the decision was complicated due to the fact that Chyna’s post-wrestling foray into amateur and then professional porn would appear when any eight-year-old might look her up on the internet.

A similar line of reasoning provides one possible explanation for Miss Elizabeth’s ongoing exclusion: overdosing isn’t kid-friendly. But that the Hall of Fame includes, in its celebrity wing alone, convicted rapist Mike Tyson and—inducted just this year—the titular director of the pornographic Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, does not seem to bother the Google-conscious COO.

The message sent from the company to its female employees is simple: you can bare your body, but only if it suits us. You can wreck your health, but only for our benefit. Steroids, CTE, injury, fatigue, degradation: fine, fine. But drugs and porn? No chance—not off the clock, anyway. Not when cameras are rolling—cameras that aren’t ours. The fact that Triple H—whose on-screen relationship with his eventual off-screen wife, Stephanie McMahon, began with forced marriage and allusions to rape—thinks a Vivid Video contract is reason enough to keep the woman he’s called “a paradigm-shifter” and “phenomenal talent” from the recognition she deserves is laughable.

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[listening] Gretchen Rubin’s A Little Happier — Forgetting Teachers and What They Taught

Sometimes I’ll listen to a handful of episodes of Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft’s podcast, Happier, and now Rubin is doing mini-podcasts along with it (hence A Little Happier). I listened to the first mini-episode earlier and in it, Rubin talks about the claim that within ten years of leaving school, you’ll have forgotten your teachers’ names and all the things they taught. She goes on to describe two sharp memories she has of her undergrad experience and teachers who were particularly enthusiastic about what they were teaching, but I was too busy being surprised by the claim she cited.

Do most people really forget their teachers names and what they’ve taught within a decade of finishing? Really?

I’m more than 15 years out of high school, 10 out of undergrad, and 5 out of law school, and while I can’t tell you every single teacher I had or every single thing I learned, I definitely remember most of my professors and a lot of the things they taught me. Obviously, the ones who meant a lot to me are the ones I remember best (my adoration for Dr Susan Swartwout at Southeast Missouri State University will burn forever because she was an amazing teacher, a wonderful mentor, and continues to touch her former students to this day), but I remember the ones who weren’t great, too, or the ones with whom I just didn’t click. I remember pieces of things they taught me; I use the things they taught me, some of it pretty much daily, whether it was from high school or college or law school. There are many things I don’t remember about life, but I can’t imagine it being standard to forget what you were taught, your teachers’ names, within ten years or less of leaving the school.

This sense of shock is the same I felt when my law school classmates, as we approached graduation, were so joyous that they were done with school and would never go back. I did not feel that way then, and I do not feel that way now. I haven’t yet gone back to school, but odds are high it will happen. I can guarantee I’ll take more classes, even if I don’t get another degree. (… hell, pottery could probably count as an actual class I’m taking, considering how many of my undergrad classes were writing-based or design-based.)

Do you remember your teachers? Do you remember the things you were taught?

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[family] Mothers, Identity, and Self

Fashion, Identity: Our First Role Model at Shybiker

My mother was not really my first fashion role model, but that’s mostly because I didn’t (and still don’t) have much thought for fashion beyond function most of the time, and while I have worked to develop a bit of a fashion sense as an adult (mostly by relying on my younger sister and some dear friends to help), I really didn’t give a shit as a kid. Mom never taught me to wear makeup or do my hair because I didn’t care about those things.

But I remember how carefully she would dress herself for church, how she would sit and brush my long, straight hair for what felt like hours (I didn’t get my riotous curls until I hit puberty), how she would apply make-up when we traveled together, how important it was for her to dress nicely. I know a lot of that came from growing up a woman when she did, being terribly shy, and growing up so desperately poor; new clothes, make-up, the money for a perm, those were things she could use to gird herself against the world.

I’m adopted. I didn’t grow up seeing myself in my mother. This rang true to me still, in so many ways.

I really love Shybiker’s blog, and have for a long time now.

For most of us, our mothers are our first role model. For everything including fashion. Was that the case for you?

It was for me — which was hard ’cause I was considered a boy. Everyone, including my mother, discouraged me from emulating her. But I tried. And tried.

Eventually I realized that path was closed; I wasn’t allowed to be openly like her. I did, however, pretend to be a girl in the privacy of my bathroom; I used a bath-towel as a makeshift skirt.

Lately, as I’ve been re-claiming a female-identity, I find connections to my mother that are surprising. For example, I vividly remember how my mother’s arms had freckles. Lots and lots of freckles. I thought that was unusual — until I started shaving hair off my arms and was shocked to see that I too have freckles on my arms. I never saw them under the hair. I suspect I have many genetic similarities with my mom.

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[wrestling] Women and the Spectacle of Wrestling

Wrestling, WWE, Women: The Women Warriors of NXT at The Work of Wrestling

This article is about a year and a half old, and there have been many, many changes to how WWE treats its women wrestlers (including, finally, calling them Superstars just like the guys, which they are), and many of the women mentioned here have moved up from NXT to main roster WWE work (NXT is, basically, a development team for WWE, and is absolutely wonderful, in part for the reasons laid out in this article, which is why I’m linking it so long after it was posted).

I was not a wrestling fan back when it was being presented as “real” (scare quotes because there’s a lot to unpack there that I’m not going to address right now), and I love wrestling (sports entertainment) for what it actually is, a show (show is too small a word — a conglomerate? a form of entertainment?) that is telling a story through controlled violence.

The times I love wrestling best are the times when I am so caught up in the story that it makes perfect sense for someone to, oh, throw themselves off the top of a cage to try to win a match. I can get lost in the spectacle just like I can get lost in, say, a car crashing through three sky high buildings in a glorious action sequence (Furious 7).

All that being said, I need the spectacle to have a heart to it, too. In the Fast and the Furious movies, it’s chosen family. In wrestling it’s — well, sometimes it’s chosen family. Sometimes it’s protecting your reputation. Sometimes it’s pushing back against the Authority.

Sometimes — too often, when it comes to women’s wrestling on the main roster — it’s a story about two girls who try to “out crazy” each other (let me tell you how well that goes down with me, and note my intentional use of the word girls there, because that’s what the show uses, too) or fight over a man. And it is gross and sexist and infuriating. Their matches get cut. Some of the commentators say disgusting things. The fans can be terrible toward them. (The racism and sexism thrown at my beloved Naomi makes me want to punch everyone in the face.) Things are changing, but these criticisms are still valid.

What separates NXT from the WWE main-stage, and the reason fans love it so much, is best summed up in one simple word:

Respect.

This respect is represented in the specific way in which NXT tells pro-wrestling stories. NXT respects the most fundamental truth of the professional wrestling medium, the purpose of professional wrestling and the quality of professional wrestling that this website is named for: NXT presents itself as a legitimate sports organization promoting athletes who are competing to win championship gold.

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[linking] Sunday Sporadic Link Round-Up

Hawaii, Hula, Science: Hula competitors avoid iconic flower because of fungus by Jennifer Sinco Kelleher

After the terrible way many scientists approached the thirty meter telescope at Mauna Kea, it was really interesting to see how the forestry scientists handled this situation.

People going into the forests to harvest the blossoms and leaves could spread the disease through sticky spores of the fungus that can travel on vehicles, tools and shoes.

Scientists don’t want to tell festival organizers and participants what to do about an important cultural practice. The flowers are said to be Laka’s physical representation and an important symbol of hula.

“We’re all mainland haoles,” said J.B. Friday, University of Hawaii forester, using a word meaning white person to refer to the three scientists leading the effort to battle the disease. “We’re not going to tell Hawaiians what to do.”

Sexism, YA, Publishing: Buzzfeed Writer Harassed off Twitter for Urging “Not-White, Not-Male” Writers to Pitch to Buzzfeed Canada by Carolyn Cox

Don’t for one second think this kind of stuff doesn’t happen in the USA too, constantly.

You’d be hard pressed to find a better demonstration of the perceived oppression of white people being called out on their privilege then what happened to Buzzfeed Canada writer Scaachi Koul over the weekend. [Note: Not this weekend.]

In a series of tweets that have since been deleted but are screencapped over on Huffington Post, Koul wrote, “Would you like to write long-form for Buzzfeed Canada? WELL YOU CAN. We want pitched for your Canada-centric essays & reporting. Buzzfeed Canada would particularly like to hear from you if you are not white and not male.” A pretty innocuous statement, right? Apparently, twitter thought otherwise.

Incredibly, the backlash to Koul’s call for diverse writers didn’t end there; she also tweeted that she was “starting to get tweets from white men saying that my (white, male) boss should rape and/or murder me as professional discipline,” and has since deleted her Twitter account. (It’s worth wondering if Silverman would have received comparable harassment if he’d tweeted the exact same thing as Koul—somehow, I think not.)

Copyright: Monkey See, Monkey Do, But Judge Says Monkey Gets No Copyright by Mike Masnick

If you haven’t heard about this, basically, a photographer let an Indonesian macaque monkey hold a camera and it took a selfie. The photographer then tried to claim he owned the copyright. Then PETA tried to claim that it represented the monkey and the monkey owned the copyright. And I am left wondering why this didn’t happen while I was still in law school taking copyright courses, when it would have been a blessed relief to see on an exam.

To sum up: non-human copyrights have been rejected by both the Copyright Office and the court. Shocker ending, I know.

Fat: How Fat People Deserve To Be Treated at Dances with Fat

As I’ve said before, the idea that our right to live in fat bodies and be treated with basic human respect is debatable is a pretty clear indication of the problem. The truth is that fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies without shaming, stigma, bullying or oppression regardless of why we are fat, what it means to be fat, or if we could become thin. There are no other valid opinions about that, it should never be up for debate.

For the record, I’m not suggesting that I can force people to treat fat people with basic human respect. What I am saying is that it’s important to know that we deserve to be treated with basic human respect. We deserve to live in fat bodies without shame, stigma, or bullying, and we are entitled to live without the crushing weight of fat phobia and oppression. What each of us does with that information is up to us – but it’s critical for us to know that these things aren’t our fault, though they become our problem, and they shouldn’t be happening to us.

Sexism, Comics: How to Talk to Our Daughters About Women in Refrigerators by Caroline Pruett

God, comics. I love them a ton, even though the creators (and the fans), sometimes seem to hate us (people who aren’t straight white dudes) so much.

So I bought her the book. Her mother reports that she’s been reading it when she’s supposed to be getting ready for school. Cool aunt win!

But – what now? If she comes back and asks what happened to Babs next, do I say: “She kept on fighting crime and flirting with Robin and absolutely never got shot in the spine by the Joker in a story that wasn’t even about her”?

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[linking] Sunday Sporadic Link Round-Up

Feminism, Technology: Why Do I Have to Call This App ‘Julie’? by Joanne McNeil at The New York Times

And why does artificial intelligence need a gender at all? Why not imagine a talking cat or a wise owl as a virtual assistant? I would trust an anthropomorphized cartoon animal with my calendar. Better yet, I would love to delegate tasks to a non-binary gendered robot alient from a galaxy where setting up meetings over email is respected as a high art.

But Julie could be the name of a friend of mine. To use it at all requires an element of playacting. And if I treat it with kindness, the company is capitalizing on my very human emotions.

Fat, Concern Trolling: 11 Reasons Your ‘Concern’ for Fat People’s Health Isn’t Helping Anyone by Melissa A. Fabello and Linda Bacon at Everyday Feminism

Concern trolling – which is the act of a person participating “in a debate posing as an actual or potential ally who simply has concerns they need answered before they will ally themselves with a cause” – is something we see all too often, even on our very own Everyday Feminism Facebook page.

And most often, we get these sort of “But isn’t this freedom actually kinda dangerous for society?” comments on articles that we post about fat acceptance and body liberation.

And to be honest, it’s disheartening to see feminists – people who we generally trust to engage with content and have their status quo boundaries pushed – rush to quote sketchy research and throw oppressive ideologies around all in the name of, supposedly, “health.”

But when we live in a world that so desperately hates people of size (um, hello, “War on Obesity”), we completely understand how these prejudices turn into truths in our minds.

Fandom, 90s, Queer Joy: ’90s BFFs We Shipped Before Shipping Was a Thing by Natasia Langfelder at AfterEllen

Note: That title (and the opening paragraph) is terrible, because shipping was a thing way before the 90s. God, people, learn your fannish history if you’re going to write about it. (The opening paragraph says that in the 90s, fan fiction was just getting off the ground and “shipping” wasn’t something they talked about. Um. No. Wrong. Incorrect. Do your research, people. One example: slash fanfic goes back to at least the 70s. Kirk and Spock shippers, as just one group, could shout this stupidity to silence.)

Mostly I love this list, but it includes Buffy and Faith. While I still, to this day, ship the hell out of Buffy and Faith, calling them BFFs is a stretch, and that was part of the appeal.

Okay, before everyone gets upset, I recognize that Willow and Tara are the best couple to ever couple. However, Willow and Tara weren’t a thing until 2000. In the ’90s, Willow had no idea her soul mate wasn’t a dude. What we did have in the late ’90s was Sarah Michelle Gellar and Eliza Dusku alternately fighting each other and working together to slay vampires, and it was the hottest thing ever.

Buffy and Faith were both sarcastic, funny and bore the burden of being a slayer. They totally understood each other, even when they were at each other’s throats, their longing glances at each other proved they were ready to throw down their weapons and have a make out sesh. And there’s no way you ever forgot about the time they danced together at The Bronze. Faith was also a lot more fun than mopey, brooding Angel. Who would choose Angel over Faith?! Sadly, the Buffyverse left this pairing unexplored.

Mental Illnes, Privilege: Why Speaking Up About Mental Illness is a Privilege by Anna Spargo-Ryan at DailyLife

People told me I was “brave”. You’re so brave, they said, for being honest and out there about your mental illness. It’s so brave of you to lay it down like that, to stand up against stigma and discrimination.

What a load of crap. I didn’t share these photos because I’m brave. I shared them because I’m privileged.

The only reason I’m able to share my experiences with mental illness is that I do so with little risk. I have a family who love and support me with full awareness of my illnesses. I’m self-employed in a dual-income household. I will not be out on the street, I will not be broke and I will not be ostracised by the people I love. I’m already ahead of the mental health game before I even start. I am a white, educated and middle-class person living in a capital city, and that means I have a loud voice.

The system is not set up to support people outside of this model. In fact, it begets mental crises in at-risk people and groups. The barriers to seeking treatment are immense and often insurmountable. To seek treatment is to confront stigma head-on, and for many people that can mean shame, fear, financial distress, exclusion and discrimination.

Dumb luck, too, that I am privileged enough to share this with you. Middle-class, white, educated. I have better access to mental health support than 99.9% of the world population. I’m not brave. I’m shouting.

Science, Space: NASA Working on Technology to Shoot Us to Mars Super Fast With Lasers by Dan Van Winkle at The Mary Sue

One of those technologies is photonic propulsion, or literally shooting us there with lasers, and the best part is that it’s not nearly as outlandish as it sounds. As a matter of fact, the Kepler space telescope is already using the pressure of photons traveling from the sun to balance itself and continue its mission in space. Meanwhile, The Planetary Society is using a similar technique for propulsion of its LightSail spacecraft.

However, to actually propel large spacecraft (LightSail is pretty … well, light) to the relativistic speeds (speeds even somewhat approaching the speed of light) necessary to significantly shorten space travel times, NASA wouldn’t so much rely on photons from the sun as on powerful lasers on Earth that would be directed at the spacecraft. This could allow a robotic mission to reach Mars in a matter of days.

Cultural Appropriation: Not Your Idea: Cultural Appropriation in the Birthing Community by Aaminah Shakur at The Toast

A dear friend of mine was just talking about her experiences with this and her new baby. The second I saw this article, I thought about her.

It wasn’t until about seven years later, when I had a Nicaraguan partner, that I had the opportunity to see Central American mothers wearing their babies on their backs in blankets. In the last 10 years, thanks to the internet, I have seen a resurgence in accessible information about babywearing. Unfortunately, most information and marketing is geared towards middle class white women, often with selling points about this great “new” phenomenon and requiring expensive contraptions, while disregarding the communities of color in which babywearing has been the norm since the beginning of time. This is evident in the lack of Black and Brown families present in most marketing campaigns and even social media. Four years ago I started a Tumblr dedicated to just showing people of color babywearing, and it was difficult to find pictures to post (this has since improved somewhat). It was also met with anger from white women who said that there was no need for a blog just for families of color and that it was “exclusionary.” They seemed to totally miss the irony of that term.

It is worth noting that traditional forms of babywearing and belly-binding did not require owning multiple $50-200 wraps or strappy carriers. All one needs is a long scarf, piece of fabric, or blanket. One can argue that it was only a matter of time before wraps became commercialized, and that marketing of wraps is responding to a demand. On the other hand, I would suggest that such marketing is exactly what makes these options seem “not for you” to many poor parents of color for whom such an expense is simply not realistic. Instead of teaching that belly-binding and babywearing can be done with one item, and showing how any scarf of a certain size can be functional, marketing suggests that babywearing is complex and expensive. For poor and non-white women who are also at a higher risk of accusations of neglectful caregiving, the question of safety is also very real. Marketers are quick to imply that carriers and wraps are necessary for safety despite the fact that women all over the world continue to wear their babies with a thin cotton scarf and no problems. It isn’t about the type or cost of your wrap, it is about being knowledgeable about how to use it safely. Access to the traditional knowledge of our ancestors and support to acknowledge that wisdom and methodology is a key missing ingredient because it has been appropriated by white women who fail to do outreach to the communities from which they have stolen the traditions.

Science, Health: 10 Epidemics Waiting to Happen (That You Won’t Enjoy) by Mira Grant at BuzzFeed

Who loves a good epidemic? Not…not anyone. Like the VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown, only kind of more disgusting. Mira Grant, author of Parasite, Symbiont, and the bestselling Newsflesh trilogy, presents the Top 10 Future Epidemic Countdown! Remember, good hygiene and vaccination can protect you from many potential illnesses, as can adherence to basic quarantine procedures. Don’t panic, plan. And don’t use an outbreak as an excuse to be an asshole.

We have a reliable vaccine for polio: we have a way to keep it from spreading. But it hasn’t been considered a disease of great concern in America since the 1960s, and the polio vaccine is one of many to have been disputed by the anti-vaccination crowd. The return of polio to the nations where it is not currently a concern is not an “if,” it’s a “when.” I have nothing funny or pithy to say here. It’s coming. We could stop it.

We won’t.

Finally, in case you haven’t seen it: My Little Pony doll creator.

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[linking] Sunday Sporadic Link Round-Up

Critics, Diversity, Whitewashing: Chaz Ebert: Where Are All the Diverse Voices in Film Criticism?

It is not enough to have reviewers who understand how to discuss film. We need reviewers who can speak deeply and with nuance because of their lived experiences. The trusted voices in film criticism should be diverse ambassadors who have access to the larger conversation. If we can’t recognize ourselves within the existing public discourse, we are implicitly being asked to devalue our experiences and accept a narrative that is not our own. Excluding diverse voices from the conversation de-emphasizes the value of our different experiences. It is critical that the people who write about film and television and the arts—and indeed the world—mirror the people in our society.

Work, Privacy: Now Playing in Your Headphones: Nothing by Lindsay Mannering

Short of building a fort around our dsks using empty shipping boxes and half-functioning umbrellas, headphones are the only “Do Not Disturb” signs we have left.

Queer, Dating, Latina: How to Date Your Future Latina Girlfriend by Lorena Russi

When people meet me, I often get confused for a white boy. Which, hey, on the accidental privilege scale, it could be worse. But in fact, I’m a Queer, Colombian woman. Das right ladies! I shop in the little boys’ section of H&M, watched the original Ugly Betty series in Spanish, and eat fríjoles. So, when potential girlfriends find out, they don’t usually care about any of this. They aren’t interested in my career as a professional soccer player, that coming out to Colombian parents was difficult, yet not impossible, or that my Spanish accent sounds like I’m Spaniard. At least not at first. Instead, I get asked a standard set of questions to test my level of “Spanishness”:

“Are both of your parents Colombian?
 “Yes.” 


“Well, do you even speak Spanish?”
 “Yes.”


“But you look Jewish?”
 “…Yes?”

Fat, Queer, Dating: Dating While Fat: 5 Things I Consider Before Commitment by Ashleigh Shackelford

In navigating a fatphobic, sizist culture, it’s very difficult to find a partner that is worth committing to when the world codifies your body as unworthy of love. In finding a potential partner, my experiences have allowed me to create questions to guide me in knowing who to invest in as a queer Black fat femme.

To be honest, dating while fat, Black, queer, a hood feminist, and a radical activist means either compromising parts of myself, or suffering through easing partners into gradually respecting all of my humanity. Living in a culture that defines my body as unhealthy, a problem, ugly, unhygienic, and unworthy of love makes it that much harder to find a potential partner to value all of me.

Friendships, Homes: How our housing choices make adult friendships more difficult by David Roberts

Our ability to form and maintain friendships is shaped in crucial ways by the physical spaces in which we live. “Land use,” as it’s rather aridly known, shapes behavior and sociality. And in America we have settled on patterns of land use that might as well have been designed to prevent spontaneous encounters, the kind out of which rich social ties are built.

Harry Potter, Racism, Cultural Appropriation, White Washing: A bunch of links about this topic. Basically, J.K. Rowling released the History of Magic in North America on Pottermore, and it became clear that the HP universe is even more white washed, racist, and badly developed than people thought.

NORTH AMERICAN MAGIC: THE WORST THING TO HAPPEN TO HARRY POTTER SINCE VOLDEMORT by Justina Ireland

While the rest of the Harry Potter books and movies show a casual disregard for inclusiveness and rely on token minority characters (when they appear at all), the History of Magic in North America is the literary equivalent of performing in black face, although I suppose in this case it’s red face. I discussed on twitter why Rowling’s history of Magic in North America was lazy, but it’s worse than that. While it’s easy for readers to hand wave away the terrible representation in the earlier works, and by extension the movies (which have the whitest London ever depicted since My Fair Lady), it isn’t easy to dismiss this newest work. Rowling cobbled together random bits of found folklore and woo-woo like a New Age practitioner trying for a fresh identity after their third divorce. This isn’t worldbuilding, this isn’t a fresh and new spin on well-known tropes for a deeper message. This is a literal laundry list of stereotypes about Native Americans that required no thought or deeper examination. It’s hurtful to Native Americans and harmful, spreading problematic tropes, but it’s also insulting to the fans who have spent their money and time on the franchise.

Magic & Marginalization: Et tu, JK? 🙁 by Righting Red

And it being JK Rowling, you can imagine the kind of violent backlash these Indigenous women are receiving from fans who couldn’t care less about Natives or our issues (or our women, obviously).

For me the representation issue boils down to this: The mass media narrative around Natives is intensely problematic; if we’re mentioned at all, it’s within a stereotypical or fantastical sense, and very rarely goes beyond 1 or 2-D. Many consumers of this media have no idea we still exist as contemporary, multi-dimensional individuals, which makes these fantastical/fictional perpetrations very much a part of the problem in that NO ONE knows or cares to know any of the very real issues our communities face. Who cares about the epidemic levels of Native youth suicide when OMG JK ROWLING IS WRITING ABOUT MAGICAL INDIAN SKINWALKERS!!!

We’re marginalized in real life and we’re marginalized in media. To have a powerhouse like Rowling (though any non-Native author really) profit off our continued erasure and harmful representations is something I am totally not here for. The argument that it’s “fiction” is worthless to me. If we (as consumers) had diverse representation of Native people the same way white people do, Rowling’s latest wouldn’t be so problematic, because consumers would have other representations to base opinions off of. As it is, so much of the Native narrative is romanticized and fantastical and now one of the world’s most successful authors has thrown her mighty magical empire against our fragile reemergence from near-total cultural genocide.

William Apess (Pequot) on Depictions of Native People in Stories

It is what Apess wrote there, in that paragraph, that matters to me in my work as a Native scholar who, 187 years later, is doing the same thing that Apess did in 1829. Through story, he learned mistaken ideas about his own people such that he was afraid of them.

Obviously, misrepresenting who we are was wrong in 1829, and it is wrong now.

What J.K. Rowling did yesterday (March 8, 2016) in the first story of her “History of Magic in North America” is the most recent example of white people misrepresenting Native people. Her misrepresentations are harmful. And yet, countless people are cheering what Rowling did, and dismissing our objections. That, too, is not ok.

It could’ve been great by N.K. Jemisin

You know, the thing I always try to remember when I’m borrowing from mythology is to be a shit-ton more careful with still-living traditions than I am with those long gone or transformed away from their roots. I feel relatively safe treading on the threads of Egyptian myth because there isn’t a centuries-long-and-ongoing history of using, say, the worship of Bast as an excuse to steal people’s ancestral land and children in the name of Christianity. But you know what? I’m still careful, even with “dead” faiths, because I don’t know how playing with these things might hurt real people. Nations have been built upon and torn down by the concepts I’m playing with. The least I can do is research the hell out of a thing before I put a toe in that ancient water.

It’s even more crucial for religions that are alive, and whose adherents still suffer for misconceptions and misappropriations. But these are easier to research, and it’s often much easier to figure out when you’re about to put a foot right into a morass of discrimination and objectification. All the evidence is there, sometimes still wet with blood. You just need to read. You just need to ask people. You just need to think.

And whether I believe in a thing or not, I always try to recognize that these concepts, these names, these words, have power. Power is always to be respected, whether it’s yours or someone else’s, present or past.

All of the following by Dr. Adrienne Keene:

“Magic in North America”: The Harry Potter franchise veers too close to home

So I get worried thinking about the message it sends to have “indigenous magic” suddenly be associated with the Harry Potter brand and world. Because the other piece I deal with on this blog is the constant commodification of our spiritual practices too. There is an entire industry of plastic shamans selling ceremonies, or places like Urban Outfitters selling “smudge kits” and fake eagle feathers. As someone who owns a genuine time-turner, I know that marketing around Harry Potter is a billion dollar enterprise, and so I get nervous thinking about the marketing piece. American fans are going to be super stoked at the existence of a wizarding school on this side of the pond, and I’m sure will want to snatch up anything related to it–which I really hope doesn’t include Native-inspired anything.

and

Native spirituality and religions are not fantasy on the same level as wizards. These beliefs are alive, practiced, and protected. The fact that the trailer even mentions the Navajo concept of skinwalkers sends red flags all over the place, and that it’s mentioned next to the Salem witch trials? Disaster. Even the visual imagery of the only humans shown in the trailer being a Native man and burning girls places the two too close for comfort.

We fight so hard every single day as Native peoples to be seen as contemporary, real, full, and complete human beings and to push away from the stereotypes that restrict us in stock categories of mystical-connected-to-nature-shamans or violent-savage-warriors. Colonization erases our humanity, tells us that we are less than, that our beliefs and religions are “uncivilized”, that our existence is incongruent with modernity. This is not ancient history, this is not “the past.” The ongoing oppression of Native peoples is reinscribed everyday through texts and images like this trailer. How in the world could a young person watch this and not make a logical leap that Native peoples belong in the same fictional world as Harry Potter?

Magic in North America Part 1: Ugh.

So, this is where I’m going to perform what Audra Simpson calls an “ethnographic refusal,” “a calculus ethnography of what you need to know and what I refuse to write in.” In her work with her own community, she asks herself the questions: “what am I revealing here and why? Where will this get us? Who benefits from this and why?”

I had a long phone call with one of my friends/mentors today, who is Navajo, asking her about the concepts Rowling is drawing upon here, and discussing how to best talk about this in a culturally appropriate way that can help you (the reader, and maybe Rowling) understand the depths to the harm this causes, while not crossing boundaries and taboos of culture. What did I decide? That you don’t need to know. It’s not for you to know. I am performing a refusal.

What you do need to know is that the belief of these things (beings?) has a deep and powerful place in Navajo understandings of the world. It is connected to many other concepts and many other ceremonial understandings and lifeways. It is not just a scary story, or something to tell kids to get them to behave, it’s much deeper than that. My own community also has shape-shifters, but I’m not delving into that either.

What happens when Rowling pulls this in, is we as Native people are now opened up to a barrage of questions about these beliefs and traditions (take a look at my twitter mentions if you don’t believe me)–but these are not things that need or should be discussed by outsiders. At all. I’m sorry if that seems “unfair,” but that’s how our cultures survive.

The other piece here is that Rowling is completely re-writing these traditions. Traditions that come from a particular context, place, understanding, and truth. These things are not “misunderstood wizards”. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

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[linking] Sunday Sporadic Link Round-Up

Cuba: Going Home for the First Time: A Return to Cuba by Monica Castillo.

Going to Cuba, I heard plenty from others who had been there before: the people are wonderful and it is a land stuck in time; be sure to get pictures of the cars and cigars! I’m glad visitors like the Cuban people–they may be talking about my family after all–but they’re people just like in any other part of the world. I wince at every reporter playing Columbus at the sight of our cars and cigars. My Cuba is more than an idealized postcard. It is a real place full of beauty and pain, of want and generosity. I knew I could never go back to the Cuba my parents left; time and scarcity have seen to that. But I wanted to see what’s left of my roots: my family that has never seen me in person and the one-screen movie theaters I heard so much about growing up. The ones where my mom would see her first Disney movies, Japanese samurai films, French comedies, cheap Italian spy flicks and Soviet period melodramas. They’re all still there.

Diversity, Discrimination, Hollywood: Of Fear and Fake Diversity by Lexi Alexander.

So, good news….I’m ready to answer the question as to whether or not I have seen any changes: Yes, but none of them are good, some could eventually backfire and the vast majority are the usual fake diversity campaigns.

I’m not saying there aren’t people who take diversity and inclusion seriously, they do exist. I’ve had dozens of meetings over the past couple of months (courtesy of my amazing manager and a team of new high performance agents). These meetings are set up for me to talk about directing and developing TV, but nowadays almost everybody brings up an article I’ve written about women directors or my diversity activism on Twitter (more than a few times now I’ve been elevated to VIP status with an important executive because either one of their family members, friends or children follows me on Twitter…which is quite amazing if you consider the wider connotation).

Movies, Sexism, Racism: Fuck You, Spike Lee by Ijeoma Oluo.

Here we were, the most antisocial people in the writing world, reaching out to share the pain we had just experienced. The pain of Chi-Raq, Spike Lee’s ambitious new film tackling inner-city Chicago violence through the power of the pussy (I wish I were exaggerating, but it’s based on the ancient Greek play Lysistrata). A fucking horrible film. This film is so bad, that even after 20 minutes of commiserating with other reviewers, even after bitching about it on my date later in the evening for another 20 minutes, I still don’t know how to pour all my hate for this film into one review.

So I’ll start here: Chi-Raq is bad. Everything about it is bad. Don’t see it. For those of you who need more than that before being convinced to not waste $12 and two hours of your life on this monstrosity, let me try to put into words what makes this film so awful, listed from least egregious to “Jesus, Spike Lee, what happened to you?”

Libraries, Badass Women, Politics, Copyright: Obama’s new Librarian of Congress nominee is a rip-snortin’, copyfightin’, surveillance-hatin’ no-foolin’ LIBRARIAN by Cory Doctorow.

RIP-SNORTIN! And to think my law school friends nearly died over my use of hootenanny in a game one night. Clearly, I need to start adding “rip-snorting” to my vocabulary. More importantly, though, Carla Hayden sounds amazing. I am in awe of her, and want to grow up to be more like her.

The outgoing Librarian of Congress was a technophobe who refused all gadgets more advanced than a fax machine; he was in charge of the nation’s copyright, and hence its IT policy.

27 years later, he’s finally going, and after a lot of speculation, the president has announced his nominee: the wonderful Carla Hayden. Hayden is an actual librarian, she fought the Patriot Act, lobbies for open access, and the RIAA hates her.

Copyright, Australia: Three Strikes System In Australia ‘Too Costly’ For Industry; Seems Piracy Not Such A Massive Problem After All by Glyn Moody.

It was evident when the “three strikes” or “graduated response” was first proposed in France back in 2009 that it was a really bad idea. After all, in its crudest form, it cuts people off from what has become a necessity for modern life — the Internet — simply because they are accused of copyright infringement, an area of law that is notoriously full of uncertainties. Given that inauspicious start, it’s no surprise that over the years, the three strikes system has failed everywhere, with some of the early adopters either dropping it, or putting it on hold. No wonder, then, that a latecomer, Australia, is also having problems with implementing the approach, as this report from c|net makes clear:

A three strikes scheme to track down individual pirates and send them warning letters about their downloading habits has been all but quashed, after rights holders and ISPs decided that manually targeting and contacting downloaders would be too costly.

Comics, TV: The CW is Officially in the Archie TV Show Business by William Hughes.

Whaaaaaat?! It is a really great time to be a comic book adaptation fan. (J, who generally hates comic book adaptations, except for The Walking Dead and iZombie, is not nearly so pleased, because I keep dragging him to see things. Last year’s movie negotiations ended with him not having to watch a single comic book movie, but he failed to ask if Vin Diesel had more than one movie out, so he got stuck with two Vin Diesel movies. I still feel like I won that negotiation.) But anyway, ARCHIE TV SHOW! … except a Glee writer is involved, and anyone attached to Glee makes me leery.

The CW has ordered a pilot for Riverdale, comic-book-to-TV-series mastermind Greg Bertlanti’s “surprising and subversive take” on the quietly bizarre Archie universe. Scripted by Glee writer and Archie Comics Chief Creative Officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the series will explore the suburban madness—zombies, gun-toting vigilantes, hamburger-loving, crown-wearing time cops—that lurks just beneath regular teen Archie Andrews’ various romantic squabbles.

(No lie, though, the pilots CW picked up sound really interesting, between Archie and the period horror drama Transylvania. Get it, CW. Get it.)

Art, DIY, Jewelry: DIY: Coding Jewelry by Gabrielle.

Last month I went to a lecture about girls and tech given by Cynthia Bailey Lee of Stanford University. Cynthia is a mom of two, and teaches C++ programming, computing theory, processor architecture, and number theory. Specifically her lecture was about getting our daughters and nieces and any other young girls in our lives to get more excited about working with code, and making the coding world more accessible.

One idea she had was making jewelry based on ASCII code. (And if you don’t know what ASCII code is, no worries. It’s all explained below.) I was really taken by this idea! I called Amy Christie and we brainstormed options for both kid jewelry and grown up jewelry (because hey! it’s not too late for us grownups to learn coding either).

The basic idea is to use beads to write your name or initials or a favorite word or a secret message in code. It’s so cool!

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