As warm and fuzzy as it feels to know I’m not alone in being tortured by irrational, unhealthy standards of beauty, I find it highly troubling that body-dysmorphic disorder and its more proactive companions, anorexia and bulimia, are rampant to the point of banality. “A or B?” a friend asked me nonchalantly when I told her I used to have an eating disorder. She asked it with as much concern as a waitress in a Greek diner: “Coleslaw or potato?” (NY Observer)
Celebrities, especially musicians, are often dead in the water the moment they become famous. Record companies and executives are said to be very shrewd and callous in the way they deal with their artists. Oftentimes musicians are encouraged to develop drug and alcohol habits, and people are hired to cater to their every whim. Drugs, alcohol, and other vices are bought and paid for by the label to keep their artists happy and producing work. In the case that those addictions lead to the demise of the artist, well, the record company benefits from that, too. (Persephone Magazine)
Perhaps people knew each other’s true states because they spent time together, in person; they congregated, in salons, cafes, colonies. You came as you were. But on Facebook, you compose your status, you present a manufactured version of yourself, your voice, your images. It occurs to me that I recoil from Facebook and Twitter partly because they feel to me like the Flanders household from The Simpsons, where everything is “okeley-dokeley!” — upbeat, positive, happy. Excited to eat this ramen! with accompanying photo, not Broke-ass and alone, vodka and blow for breakfast. (The Millions)
Serving as a nice reminder that good readers can bring as much to your work as you brought to the original piece.
A regular occurance in the blogosphere, I know, but somewhat less common in traditional journalism, which tends … not to have so much great dialogue around it. Or great dialogue that I actually get to hear about, at any rate!
Hills quotes Housos, Pizza and Swift & Shift Couriers producer Paul Fenech, who likens the uproar over Housos as “a rich wanker test. The truth is, when we show this comedy to people who live it, they love it.” This could also be applied to the carbon tax and the public reception of shows like Angry Boys: you can always count on the conservative, upper-to-middle class right to become uproarious about such things. Could it be because “talking about class makes us nervous… because it suggests that we might not be as equal as we’d like to think we are—and that’s threatening”? I’d bet it is.
But what’s so wrong with believing everyone should receive the same civil rights? Abbott would argue, “why ‘screw over… people who want to get ahead’?” Indeed; but does it mean that we have to step on the little man to do so?
Ask Rachel: On eating disorders and feminism(s). And a bit of Caitlin Moran.
Gemma asks: [I]t would be really interesting to hear your personal insight on suffering from an eating disorder in your early 20s. I understand the topic must be hard, and I also sense from your writing that you might not entirely be sure how your experience fits into everything else you write about… but I would love to read more about it.
That’s the funny thing about life, isn’t it?
When you’re actually living through something, it feels like some dark, impossible shame you could never speak openly to anyone about. Then there’s the stage of recovery where the whole event seems far enough in the past that the stigma begins to evaporate and you can speak about it freely. And eventually, you get to the point where it seems so long ago that it no longer feels relevant, almost as if it happened to another person.
That’s the point I’m at now on the eating disorder issue. I’m happy to talk about it when it seems relevant. I don’t feel the shame about it that I did when I was 20, 21, or 22. But in most respects, the albatross has been lifted. It’s no longer a subject of trauma for me.
As for how it fits in to everything else that I write about, I would say this: Having an eating disorder didn’t make me a feminist. I was a feminist a good few years before I started starving myself and throwing up meals. But I do suspect that the emotions and general sense of confusion that led to me doing those things might be the same emotions and confusion that led to my fascination with gender issues.
A few weeks ago, I read Caitlin Moran’s much-vaunted book, How To Be A Woman (interview with Moran forthcoming in Sunday Life the weekend after next). The chapter that resonated most with me was the last one, in which Moran talks about her teenaged efforts to become “fabulous”. She writes:
I presumed that once I’d cracked being thin, beautiful, stylishly dressed, poised and gracious, everything else would fall into place. That my life’s real work was not a career - but myself. That if I worked on being pleasing, the world would adore, and then reward me. … That’s how I’d get fallen in love with. That’s how I’d get along.
And, you know, I think Moran is exaggerating a bit here. This a woman, after all, who published her first novel when she was 15. Similarly - 17, 18, 19-year-old Rachel wanted to record albums, write books, think and say important things. But she also believed that she was deeply deficient, and that the only way she could become otherwise - the only way she could become loved - was if she transformed herself into someone else. Especially physically.
I wasn’t particularly happy about the situation. Actually, I pretty much thought it was a crock of shit. But on some level, I figured that this was just how the world worked, and however fucked up it was, if I wanted to get along, I may as well suck it up. Become a perfect princess, and everything will fall into place. (For the record, it doesn’t.)
I’d like to think I’ve grown out of that now. Some people don’t. Those “internet celebrities” who try to position themselves as the most gorgeous, awesome, adored people around? I don’t think they have. Nor has that rampant narcissist most of us have lurking somewhere on our Facebook feed. The jostling, the posing, the self-promotion - it’s all just a thinly veiled attempt to transform into someone who is “worthy” of being loved, born of a fear that if people figured out who they really were, no one would love them.
I’d like to hope that in my youthful attempts to turn myself into someone else, I didn’t become one of those people. I hope I was still somewhat honest, even in my attempts to build an outer veneer of ”perfection”.
(All of the above, I realise, is very self indulgent. It does not speak well of me.)
I think it was Demi Lovato who recently said that eating disorders never fully go away. And I can still see traces of mine. The way treats quickly become habits. The way I stare at food the same way some people stare at breasts. The fact that I have to ask my fiance to hide chocolate from me, because otherwise once I start eating it, I won’t stop, until I get way past the point where I feel physically and mentally sick. It’s not that I starve myself (I haven’t for years and years and years), so much that junk food is clearly a very psychological thing for me.
I never used to do any of that before I had an eating disorder.
What I am beyond - and the reason I said at the beginning that all the other stuff feels like it happened to a different person - is the self-hatred that made these behaviours a daily compulsion. I don’t think I’m perfect - sometimes I slip - but then I don’t know many people who are when it comes to this stuff.
Instead, what I try to do, and what I don’t always succeed in, is to listen to my body. I know which foods make me feel nourished and energetic, like an invincible ball of health. And I know which foods, when I consume a lot of them, make me feel sluggish; like something is out of alignment.
That sounds psychological too, I know, but I actually think it’s very physical - that when we speak of our “fat days”, usually it’s less because of what we look like than because of what we’ve been doing with our bodies.
All of the above makes me sound like a trainwreck, but I don’t actually think that I am. I’m just a little bit fucked up, like so many of us are. And I hope that someday I can eat and treat myself without it being an issue.
I’m working on it. (Seriously. I actually quite actively am!)
Got a burning question you’d like me to answer? Click here.
“When I was a student at Cambridge I remember an anthropology professor holding up a picture of a bone with 28 incisions carved in it. “This is often considered to be man’s first attempt at a calendar” she explained. She paused as we dutifully wrote this down. ‘My question to you is this – what man needs to mark 28 days? I would suggest to you that this is woman’s first attempt at a calendar.’ It was a moment that changed my life. In that second I stopped to question almost everything I had been taught about the past. How often had I overlooked women’s contributions?”—
And then, we received a text message from a friend. “Have you seen Twitter?” it said. Immediately, I looked online. It turns out someone had been watching us at the restaurant. Whether it was someone who had just happened upon us by chance, or someone who’d deliberately set out to track us down and monitor us, I didn’t know. Either way, it was creepy. This guy had been sending a series of messages talking about what we were eating, drinking, and talking about, and most incredibly, making things up about this! (Power Shifting Towards Tomorrow)
One particular favourite of mine is a series of 28 articles she published for French daily newspaper Liberation (1983). After finding an address book on the street, Calle photocopied the contents before returning the address book to the rightful owner. What followed was a series of stalkerish conversations of the people listed within the book. (Girls Are Made From Pepsi)
I don’t agree with Clarisse Thorn that “creepy” is a meaningless or sexist term. I think it has a very clear meaning: someone who is creepy is someone who makes you feel unsafe and uncomfortable in a sexual way. When it’s realest are the times when you don’t know why you feel it. If someone strikes you as “creepy” and you can’t put your finger on it, you feel a little unfair applying the label because they’re clearly so nice but you just keep having this feeling—do not get alone with them. (The Pervocracy)
What concerns me is what happens when the everywoman is nothing more than a shill—a curated example of the glossy ideals that continue to terrorise femininity and perceptions of femininity in the mainstream media. When fashion bloggers essentially become caricatures of themselves—with professional photography, unrealistic beauty and lucrative deals for product placement, what message is being sent to the other side of the screen? (Thought Catalog, via Something Changed)
The PS1 exhibit, “Only the Lonely”, also includes videos and photographs that do not feature her male collaborators. Some of these works complicate the sexualised tropes of pop culture, and are all the more disturbing for it. Ms Nakadate takes images that would otherwise be as familiar as an American Apparel ad and pushes them to melancholy and perverse extremes. (The Economist)
“Youngest siblings encompass a space greater than their own. Their knowledge of the world is informed by many eyes, many ears, many ideas. I have my own sense of self and character and livelihood, but in the back of my mind, I often consider what my sister thinks. Before there were my own interests, there were hers. Before I knew what I liked, I knew what she liked and took from that the way to see the world.”—
Anonymous writes: I write for several publications, and have editorial responsibilities at a couple of these. I understand it’s the nature of the industry and that it’s important to have this experience, but I’m starting to wonder if too many publications capitalise on the fact that young writers need experience and are willing to undersell themselves as a result.
How do you approach this crossover? Am I just being bratty in not wanting to keep volunteering my skills? At what point should you expect to get paid for the experience you’ve already acquired and the ‘dues’ you’ve already paid?
I’ve had a few people ask me this question lately, and after years of long, convoluted responses, I’ve finally come up with a simple answer.
You should stop working for free when you can find someone to pay you. And no matter how early on you are in your career, there’s no harm in at least trying to get paid.
As the amount of paid work you take on increases, the amount of unpaid work you’re able to take on will naturally decrease, until eventually you get to the point where you’re got so much paid work that any unpaid work you continue to do is truly a matter of giving back (or passion for the project in question), rather than “exposure”.
How do you manage the transition? Start pitching publications that pay. Start applying for jobs that pay. Pitch and apply relentlessly, building upon all those skills and experience you developed doing your unpaid work. Write for low paying publications if you have to, as you work your way up - it’s better than no paying, at least. Dream up ways you can make money off your skills without relying on a middleman for approval.
You don’t have to kiss your volunteer commitments goodbye just yet… unless you really, really want to, in which case go for it. Like you said, they do offer valuable experience and networks. But there’s no harm in asking for a little money - you have just to start putting yourself in front of people in the position to give it.
Got a burning question you’d like me to answer? Click here.
“The fraudulence paradox was that the more time and effort you put into trying to appear impressive or attractive to other people, the less impressive or attractive you felt inside — you were a fraud. And the more of a fraud you felt like, the harder you tried to convey an impressive or likable image of yourself so that other people wouldn’t find out what a hollow, fraudulent person you really were. Logically, you would think that the moment a supposedly intelligent nineteen-year-old became aware of this paradox, he’d stop being a fraud and just settle for being himself (whatever that was) because he’d figured out that being a fraud was a vicious infinite regress that ultimately resulted in being frightened, lonely, alienated, etc. But here was the other, higher-order paradox, which didn’t even have a form or name — I didn’t, I couldn’t.”—David Foster Wallace (via whiporwill)
You are not your sex drive: the problem with Jong.
I’m a bit late responding to Erica Jong’s rathercontroversialopinion piece in the New York Times the weekend before last. If you haven’t already read it, Jong basically argues that the younger generation (by which she mostly means women in their thirties) have “given up” on sex, trading in its complexities for the simple pleasures of marriage (simple? huh?), motherhood (double huh?) and the internet.
Jong isn’t the first person to make these claims. As I’ve written about here before, the New York Observer's Nate Freeman made similar observations after no one got any action at a couple of Manhattan parties he attended (millennials are too narcissistic and Twitter obsessed to pursue sex, apparently). Slate's Jessica Grose wondered if there was a backlash against sex positivity and casual sex because Lena Chen got a live in boyfriend (okay, I simplify!) and ran a conference critiquing popular perceptions of virginity.
These articles rely on a number of assumptions. Some of which, I would argue, are not all that different to the other type of commentary we often see about young people and sex. That is: “Oh my god! kids today are getting it on more than they ever have before, and they are ruining their chastity and ability to form lasting relationships in the process!” (See here for but one recent example).
Both types of articles assume that the norm for young people is to have a lot of sex with a lot of different people, which as I’ve written over and over again, and will be writing about in more detail in a forthcoming Sunday Life feature (it’s about number 6 in the pipeline at the moment, though, so you probably won’t see it for a while), simply isn’t the case - even amongst beautiful, confident, partying-since-they-were-14 types.
They also assume that this alleged outbreak of carnal activity is a matter of freedom. In the case of social conservatives, it’s about “too much” freedom, or freedom gone amok. For some on the left, it’s about a sense that if sex has historically been repressed, having lots of it must be an act of resistance.
In Jong’s era, this made sense. If you grow up being told that sex is dirty, that premarital sex makes you a “slut”, that having sex with people of the same gender makes you a “freak”, then it’s no great leap that you would be pissed off about that. And in response to that climate, becoming sexually active - and doing it on your own terms - might feel like a juicy, sensual freedom. (Then again, it might also feel like it did for the characters in Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach.)
Our own era is more complex. Slut shaming may be alive and well, but we also live an era in which sex is almost, I would argue, compulsory. In which if you’re not having sex, you’re deemed boring, ugly or just plain weird. In which people worry that they’re not having “good sex” unless they’re engaging in carnal acrobatics six times a week.
Look - done right, sex is fantastic. (By “done right”, I mean with a healthy degree of self-sexual knowledge and/or with someone who is willing to put in the effort to make it good. And no medical issues that make it difficult or painful for you.) As physical pleasures go, it’s definitely high up there.
But just because sex is pleasurable doesn’t mean it should form the crux of our freedom or identities. And just because Jong’s daughter is not as invested in pursuing sexual freedom as her mother was doesn’t mean she is repressed.
Sometimes not getting laid does signify some kind of internal repression, sure. Other times, it just means you’ve got other things on your mind or there’s no one around you want to have sex with. Sometimes hooking up is about pleasure, sometimes it’s a thumbed nose to the establishment, and sometimes it’s just an awkward performance of what we’re told is “freedom”.
As (the very sex positive) Rachel Rabbit White said to me over lunch last week: there is a difference between sex positivity and sexual hedonism.
Woman at post office: What is in this package? Rachel: A book. WAPO: Just a book? Rachel: Yep. Oh, and a birthday card. WAPO: Okay, we’re going to have to charge you more then. That’ll be £12.50. Rachel: Are you serious? WAPO: If there’s a card in there we classify it as a letter rather than a parcel. Rachel: But surely if anyone is sending a present, they’re going to include a card. WAPO: You should send the card separately. Rachel: What would it have cost otherwise? WAPO: £8. Rachel: Okay, whatever. [Pays] What a ridiculous rule! WAPO: Thank you. Next! Rachel: No, seriously. I know you can’t do anything about it, but don’t you agree that rules makes no sense? WAPO: *smiles wanly*
It was the lack of acknowledgment that the rule had no logic that annoyed me most. This is why I get paranoid whenever I fill out government forms: not because I think they’re “collecting information from me”, but because I worry the person reading it is going to be looking for flaws, instead of ensuring it fits the key criteria. And also why, despite my penchant for Getting Things Done, I am still a Myers Briggs P rather than J.
See also: the time I ordered a £45 artwork from a US Etsy seller, and was lumped with £22 sales tax before the government would deliver my item.
[I]deally, fashion designers should learn how to make clothes for thin women, fat women, tall women, petite women, large chested women, sway-backed women, short waisted women, broad shouldered women, etc etc. Learning on a narrow range of mannequins in a larger size is a big step in the right direction, but … [j]ust shifting the mean size used doesn’t address the fact that lots of women don’t hew to that mean, and sizing cannot be boiled down to a single (arbitrary) number. (Persephone Magazine)
We must give our girls tools to navigate a beauty-obsessed world. I don’t think praise on their looks should be one of them. It’s engagement that will help her with that navigation: Listening to her thoughts on the matter, picking up on her cues, asking questions and paying close attention to the answer. Wallpapering her self-esteem with “you’re so pretty”—even alongside “and strong and kind and you sure can draw well!”—doesn’t get at the heart of the issue. (The Beheld)
[W]hat impact will all this added pressure on perfecting the online self have on girls who need room for growth, exploration, adventure and making mistakes to truly come into themselves? Will this focus on cultivating the ideal public image come at the expense of getting to know the real you? And if girls are measuring themselves up constantly against highly cultivated online personas, are we at risk of a Stepford Wife Rising with Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters outcomes? (Girl With A Satchel)
[R]ace and racism are largely written from the perspectives of white narrators or protagonists, and it exists in discrete pockets of the text rather than being embedded in everything a character or a situation is. These pockets take a routine shape, particular moments of racist and racial meeting white people are taught to recognise, rather than being woven in as a substantial experience unable to be figured in such blips. (Zero at The Bone)
Before I got contacts in March, I just never really counted myself in the general pool of people who might be considered attractive. I wasn’t insecure about how I looked, I just made peace with the fact that I wasn’t, to me, an attractive person, and decided to milk my charming personality instead. The glasses were an easy way to isolate myself from even having to consider keeping up some kind of face. Then I slowly came to feel that, well, maybe I did want my face to be visible. Maybe I liked my face. Is that not okay? (The Style Rookie)
The Chinese taxi driver had a big incredulous smile plastered over his face. “Where are you from?!” he asked, hardly containing his laughter. To any ordinary foreigner this is an ordinary question. But to a Chinese Australian in China, the question contains an unintended implication which stings, just a little.
“I’m Chinese,” I replied.
This made him laugh even more. “HAHAHAHAHA, no you are not! I mean you LOOK like one -”
“But I certainly don’t sound like one,” I finished for him, with a sigh.
It’s been a year and a half since I landed in China. Back then I didn’t have a lick of Chinese, any kind of Chinese. I couldn’t even say “I don’t understand,” so people would speak to me and I would open my mouth, but then say nothing. Just stare at them, open-mouthed and silent. The road from there to now – conversational Mandarin – has been a hard, brow-beating slog of masochistic proportions. And after all of that my white foreign friends will be applauded for the simplest of ni haos, while my Chinese will always be substandard.
For according to my appearance, it should be flawless.
There has only been one instance where I’ve managed to pass myself off as a Mainlander. Chongqing gave me my first taste of having Mandarin that, lo-and-behold, was better than a Chinese person’s. On my first night in the friendly town of Dazu I found a street corner with food stalls and in ordering up some of “what that guy is having,” soon discovered the waiters weren’t able to speak Mandarin, only speak their own dialect.
Luckily I’d picked a table with a young, local student who could also speak Mandarin, and his father, so they translated for me. The student had a cute, boyish face, and wore a black T-shirt with a stylish print. He told me his English name is ‘Smooth’. I laughed, and gently informed him that ‘smooth’ isn’t really a name. “I know. But it sounds good and it suits me,” he replied with a smile. Fair enough.
After chatting a while I asked him slyly, “where do you think I’m from?” He thought for a moment before offering, “Xinjiang?” I was floored! Xinjiang is a North-Western autonomous region of China, quite distinct from the rest of the country. The province has a strong Eastern European and Turkish influence, and the local ethnic group look almost white. So while it’s not exactly a compliment to my Mandarin I was amazed he had even assumed I was Mainland.
I knew I was about to blow his mind with the next sentence. “Actually,” I paused for effect, “I’m a foreigner. My ancestors are Chinese, but I was born and raised in Australia.”
His eyes widened, “No way!” His father also smiled in surprise. “You’re my first foreign friend!” he beamed. I pointed out that he’d said his English teacher was Australian, but he replied that didn’t count.
That evening I thought sure, I’d never pass as a Beijinger. Let’s face it, with that piratey-rrrrr, few Chinese can. But what about the provincial locals who can’t really speak Mandarin? Surely I can pass for one of them?
The next day I landed in the city of Chongqing, where I met up with my Chinese friend, 22 year old customer service assistant Xiao Hu. She took me to the city’s esplanade, which was buzzing with Friday night revelers. Even so late in the evening the heat was suffocating, with Xiao Hu commenting that Chongqing is the hottest place in China. “Wouldn’t that be a more Southern city like Guangzhou?” I asked, feeling uncomfortably beads of sweat slide down my back. She explained that Guangzhou had the sea breeze. In Chongqing the heat was trapped like an angry bee, seeming to rise from every surface. I looked down on the Yangtze River. At that time of the year the water was very low, revealing mangy patches of dirt.
We entered a packed elevator to leave the platform. I’d been talking to Xiao Hu in Chinese while everyone else was silent so my voice seemed extra loud. A moment later I heard an awed voice from behind me suddenly say, “foreigner.” The young woman had even said it in English, further rubbing salt in the wound. I turned around, exasperated, and said, “Yes! Foreigner.” All my joy from Dazu where I’d been taken for a Xinjiang person instantly evaporated.
And so it is with every Beijing taxi driver I come across. They never suspect my substandard Mandarin is because I’m from another province. They know that I’m a foreigner because I speak Mandarin like a foreigner. As one particularly hilarious driver once told me, even in Chinese I betray my banana-hood – white on the inside, yellow on the outside. (He went on to tell me that he’s a lemon: yellow on the outside, yellow on the inside, there are boiled eggs: yellow on the inside, white on the outside, and scrambled eggs: those with one Asian parent and one White parent.)
It’s difficult to pinpoint why, exactly, it’s so important to me to pass off as a Chinese person. No more guffawing from taxi drivers would be just one of many advantages.
I like looking like a Chinese person in China. When I’m traveling in the countryside I can go for days without seeing a single foreigner. One simply becomes accustomed to being surrounded by 1.3 billion Chinese people, with the sight of that shining, white skin with the curly hair or absurdly tall figure is somewhat of a shock. Even my white friends living in China – all of whom will report a degree of frustration at the staring they attract – say they also can’t help but double-look at the sight of a pale-skinned compatriot.
I like the fact that I don’t get gawked at and can quietly, and inconspicuously, go about my business. I like the fact that this country and culture is, in so many ways, so different to what I knew growing up. And yet the bridge between me and the Chinese is smaller than what it is for a non-ethnically Chinese foreigner. A white person can work on their Chinese all they like, peppering their flawless Chinese with all sorts of authentic local slang. They can live, eat and sleep like a Chinese person. But in the end when you’re living in a country that’s as ethnically homogenous as this, there will always be an unbridgeable gap.
My gap is not physical in nature. It is entirely abstract and one that can be filled in with time, experience and knowledge. Language is only the first step. There is culture too.
My last dinner in Chongqing with Xiao Hu was hot pot. Plates of meat and vegetables cooked in a delicious broth infused with shiny-red chillies, plump mushrooms and herbs. As we ate, Xiao Hu and I discussed some of the peculiarities of the Chinese language, and she asked me if I knew about the roundabout ways one must talk in Chinese.
“Let’s say you invite a Chinese person over to your house. Naturally you ask them if they’d like a drink. They’re going to say no, because they don’t want to trouble you.”
“Even if they want one?” I ask, with a smile.
“Right. So even if they say no, you should get them a drink. Tea preferably, otherwise water is fine.”
“But what if they really didn’t want one?”
“Then they won’t drink it.”
I laughed at this. Humility, self-depreciation, courtesy and saving face lay at the heart of Chinese manners, in a way that takes some high degree of getting used to. Particularly for Australians and Americans whose nations’ histories are short, and did away with their colonial past in order to create young, dynamic societies featuring first egalitarianism, honesty and efficiency. As a child growing up in Sydney my parents had done a poor job in educating their children about Chinese-style behaviour. Every time my brothers, sister and I were taken to their hometown in Malaysia on family holidays we’d spend the time feeling like elephants crashing through the Chinese crystal shop of manners. We couldn’t pick up on the subtle cues that they, having grown up in a Chinese community, were so well versed in. And my extended family couldn’t understand why we were so rude.
Only as an adult did I begin to get a handle on things, and have since learned to “fudge” it – but it never feels like second nature. It is a language I’ve learned, just like Mandarin, rather than something I was born with. So I am always fumbling around awkwardly, afraid I’m about to (or have already) taken a wrong step in a very crowded minefield.
Despite all my dining faux pas, grammatical errors on Weibo, and horrifyingly Australian accented Chinese, I can look back on this last year and a half and see I have improved in leaps and bounds and in that stepped closer into that thing called China. It is only a matter of time before my ‘fraudulent’ Chinese identity emerges into something close to authenticity. My ancestral links to this country will no longer seem absurd, but only natural.
China, that 5000-year-old-plus great dame, in which nearly one fifth of the world’s population lives, is, in many ways, as close as the rest of the world has to a parallel universe. Being ‘hua-ren’ means I have a rare opportunity: a foreigner with full access. And in this process of discovery I find myself changed. Not so much a transformation, as a new ambidexterity. I have not lost myself, but gained a new self.
“Try this the next time you meet a little girl. She may be surprised and unsure at first, because few ask her about her mind, but be patient and stick with it. Ask her what she’s reading. What does she like and dislike, and why? There are no wrong answers. You’re just generating an intelligent conversation that respects her brain. For older girls, ask her about current events issues: pollution, wars, school budgets slashed. What bothers her out there in the world? How would she fix it if she had a magic wand? You may get some intriguing answers. Tell her about your ideas and accomplishments and your favorite books. Model for her what a thinking woman says and does.
Here’s to changing the world, one little girl at a time.”—
Lisa Bloom in the Huffington Post.
Take a look at the article, which models a great example of meeting a little girl, here.
This goes much further than pointing at the collective and trying to wash away the impact of the current development by claiming that “we all lie”. The core of the problem here is slightly different: some people’s survival, their very own sustainability sometimes depend on a lie. We judge these lies based on parameters that never contemplate this need for survival. We apply a normalized quasi religious stance: lying is bad! But hardly anyone questions why the lies are necessary, why we live in a system where certain people must lie in order to get access to privileges that are always afforded to members of the dominant culture.
“When you’re setting out on your career, do not think about carving out time to have children," says [Sian] Westerman, advising against thinking pre-emptively about kids because it’ll mean you stop looking for that next promotion. "Just go for it.”—Polly Vernon quotes Sian Westerman in ‘Where Have All The Bright Women Gone?’, UK Grazia.
So it’s great if weight-think is replaced by finding a cure for AIDS, or by being a more attentive stay-at-home mom. But even if weight-think just gets swapped for taking a walk, watching TV, reading a book, or doing some mundane task at work and thinking about, say, whether Pippa’s single again and what this means for Harry, this, too, counts as progress. (What Would Phoebe Do?)
Kozol visited a wealthy public school in a suburb of New York City that shares a name with a certain type of bread. He engaged students there in a discussion of the segregation that they undoubtedly benefited from. Even after hearing of their fellow teens taking computer classes on typewriters or sharing a guidance counselor with 400 other students, the bright and conscientious teens at this school were unmoved. They were unwilling to examine their privilege. … The underlying message was, “I deserve this because I am better.” I don’t know if these students would be able to articulate why they felt they were better, but I would guess it is because they are white and rich. (Persephone Magazine)