On Tuesday, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, a Democrat, walked into the Texas Capitol building wearing a back brace, pink sneakers, and a heart full of defiance to complete a 13-hour filibuster that prevented the state’s Senate Bill 5 from passing. SB5 threatened to close 37 of the 42 abortion clinics in Texas, which would have effectively made it impossible for women in Texas to exercise their reproductive rights. According to the state’s archaic filibuster rules, Davis wasn’t allowed to lean on a desk, go to the bathroom, or take any breaks; she had to stand there and talk nonstop the whole time (13 hours!) in an attempt to run out the clock and prevenot the vote from happening before the midnight deadline. As she bravely defended women’s right to choose what happens to our bodies, support was mounting across the state, the country, and the world. I watched the live feed on YouTube (not one major news outlet covered it as it was happening) and live-tweeted with thousands of others with a mixture of excitement and nervousness—the filibuster was interrupted a few times, and opposing senators did everything they could to find Davis in violation of filibuster rules. Moments before midnight, Senator Leticia Van de Putte, after not being recognized by the Senate chair, calmly asked a question:
She is a stone-cold badass! And so is Davis, who succeeded in running out the clock, only to find that other senators broke the rules and voted after midnight anyway. Thankfully, the vote did not count, and SB5 did not pass. The entire night really galvanized the need to keep fighting for women’s rights, and it was amazing to see the lengths people will go to in order to protect them.
In other good legal news, the Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that barred the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex marriages as legal unions, unconstitutional on Wednesday! Though this does not mean that same-sex marriages are legal everywhere in the U.S., it DOES mean that the federal government will finally recognize same-sex partners when it comes to things like insurance benefits, immigration, and filing taxes. The court also ruled that California’s Proposition 8, which prevented same-sex marriages in the state, is unconstitutional, and that marriages there could resume immediately. We’re a few steps closer to getting rid of what President Obama called “discrimination enshrined in law.” Happy Pride month!
Our beloved Jessica put together this great oral history of Liz Phair’s album Exile in Guyville. Do you know that album? It came out 20 years ago, when I was 23, and it quickly became one of those records that you just obsessively and exclusively listen to for six months straight, and it changed something in me. It made me feel a little braver and more justified in my actions and decisions and a little less willing to be treated badly, especially by men. It lifted me up like a balloon and just made me happier. In 1993 it honestly felt like no girls had to take shit from guys anymore now that this record existed. It sounds silly now, but it was that momentous a work of art—it was quiet and feminine and COULD NOT be ignored. Go listen to it, then read Jessica’s piece, in which a guy who knew Phair when she was making Exile says, “I do recall having one very long conversation about music with her, where she passionately argued to me that there were a lot of teenage girls out there who were waiting for music they could relate to, and she was making her music specifically for them.” And then, if you feel like going down an Exile in Guyville rabbithole like I did after reading it, take a look at this prequel of sorts, which might lead you here, where you can download all three of the demo tapes, recorded by Phair alone in her parents’ basement, that would eventually lead to her masterpiece.
Hunx from Hunx and His Punx is getting his own advice column at Flavorwire! That means all the down-and-dirty questions you can think of should make their way to his inbox (email firstname.lastname@example.org). I bet his answers will be beyond perfect.
I think the UK-born pop star Charli XCX is perfect too—but for some reason she just hasn’t exploded in the U.S. yet. Strange, considering that she wrote Icona Pop’s mega-hit “I Love It” (then again, not that many people know she did). This Grantland article tries to answer why she hasn’t made it big yet and whether anyone can really make it as an “alt-pop” star.
Boring people—who probably know nothing about art—can be all, “EW! MENSTRUAL BLOOD IN ART! GROSS!” As Hrag Vartanian points out on Hyperallergic, “Calm Down, Menstrual Blood Art Isn’t a Big Deal.” In fact, it even has its own name: menstrala. Get with the program, world.
Rookie’s own Gabby wrote this amazing piece on alternative kids’ birthday party themes, and obviously they’re hilarious. I’m partial to the LinkedIn party, because I really want to see a room full of toddlers play “Marketing, Marketing, Blogging” clutching party favors like this:
Much of the media coverage and public conversations surrounding Rachel Jeantel, the star witness of the Trayvon Martin murder trial, have been racist, disgusting, and cruel. Jeantel is a full-bodied, dark-skinned black teenager of Haitian descent who speaks three languages, and her dialect and speaking style have brought out some very ugly bigotry in people.
Here’s the quick backstory: Jeantel was Martin’s good friend and the last person to speak to him before George Zimmerman shot him dead in Sanford, Florida. If you’re unfamiliar with the case, Zimmerman, a neighborhood-watch coordinator, called the police on and then began following Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old, on the street for no apparent reason other than that he looked “real suspicious” (read: was black). The two men got in a fight (the details of this are unclear, but Zimmerman has said he did not believe that his life was in danger), and then Zimmerman killed Martin with a gun. The case has brought out a lot prejudice, first immediately following the murder, and now at the trial.
This essay on Global Grind does an excellent job of deconstructing why the things many people are saying about Jeantel (and her general treatment in this trial) are total dog vomit, and how admirable it is that she has remained unwavering and confident despite the way Zimmerman’s defense condescends to her.
There were several great reads about Rachel Jeantel’s aforementioned testimony and how she has been treated by attorneys and the mainstream media, including Brittney Cooper’s piece at Salon about how Jeantel has been labeled “combative.” “These kinds of terms—combat, aggression, anger,” writes Cooper, “stalk black women, especially black women who are dark-skinned and plus-sized like Rachel, at every turn, seeking to discredit the validity of our experiences and render invisible our traumas.” Jeantel’s court appearance was among several stories this week about women speaking for ourselves. There was also Wendy Davis and Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the DOMA case. It all got me thinking a lot about how hard we have to fight to have any accepted reality that isn’t history or morality according to who’s in power (white men). And how the real struggles of women in this country to live with humanity and dignity are all but invisible to the powers that be because so much of everything they have ever known is privilege. And about the (wrong) notion that women or children or poor people or people who live with active and inherited racism and/or discrimination every minute of their lives should just be able to yank ourselves up by our bootstraps and live according to the privileged class’s rules about what is right and wrong. I felt confused and infuriated by so many things that were orbiting around those ideas.
Britt Julious’s piece at WBEZ about how even the most famous black women in pop culture are still never considered “good enough” was super on-the-spot and did some whip-cracking on these tired conversations about whether Beyoncé (or whoever!) is a feminist or not. Those are among the arguments that fractured feminism in the ’60s and ’70s—I always think of them as signs that we feminists have internalized the patriarchy telling us that we are not good enough. Regarding Beyoncé, Julious writes: “If we seek to promote the value in feminism and challenge the negative connotations of feminism in the public eye, tearing down a performer who speaks openly about women doing right for themselves, who literally called herself a feminist, does more harm than good.” Hear, hear.
Meet Aaralyn O’Neil, the most bad-ass girl in the world. In this clip from America’s Got Talent, the six-year-old sings her original song “Zombie Skin” with her brother Isaiah on drums, and it’s the most surprising, mind-blowing performance on a TV singing competition since Susan Boyle. Yup, I went there.
On Monday, I read a blog post by the actor Stephen Fry that has stayed with me all week. His reflections on the kindness and attention he has received since his recent suicide attempt are moving. It hurt me to think such a bright and wise person could have left the world that way, and that it happens all the time. It was a clarifying reminder to check my own sensitivity towards those in my life who are battling mental illness. I cannot begin to understand what it’s like to have those battles, and that’s what can be so frustrating about seeing loved ones, friends, and people I admire go through them. Fry eloquently and honestly brought to mind that I just don’t know, can’t know, and shouldn’t TRY to know—but I can respect and honor people’s struggles, and support them by just being there for them. His thoughts on loneliness also felt so relatable, and gave me yet another reminder/humanity-check—that regardless of what we have or don’t have in our material, career, or love lives, emotions are still inescapably part of us. It’s OK to feel lonely or sad even when I’m surrounded by bright people and/or when life is vibrant, because I am a PERSON. “Feelings are not something to which one does or does not have rights,” Fry writes. The most respect we can pay him—and ourselves—is to acknowledge that we all have the right to be people, and that means to have feelings. No matter what happens.
Sometimes, when the day is too hot and work seems impossible, you turn to a live video feed of snow leopards at a zoo in Sweden. Mostly they curl up and sleep, and their little spots get bigger and smaller when they breathe, but they also make everything alright. Thank you, snow leopards! ♦