Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz is carrying her mattress with her everywhere she goes until her rapist is expelled from school. Sulkowicz, one of 23 Columbia students who filed a federal complaint in April accusing the school of mishandling sexual assault cases, is studying visual arts, and carrying the mattress is part of her senior thesis, a performance-art piece called “Carry That Weight.” There’s a good chance you’ve already heard about her story, but I recommend you read this interview with Sulkowicz herself, too.
Rookie’s beloved Roxane Gay wrote a piece for the Guardian about when private photos of female celebrities are leaked, in which she points out that “privacy is a privilege…rarely enjoyed by women or transgender men and women, queer people, or people of color”—or celebrities. I have spent this whole week feeling furious about the latest such incident, in which a 4chan user exposed revealing photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Lea Michele, Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst, Hope Solo, and other young women. It’s yet more proof that our sense of ownership of our own bodies is just an illusion that can be stripped from us at any time, for any reason. This kind of thing happens to so many of us every single day—we endure sexual harassment on the street, on dating sites, on Instagram and Twitter and YouTube, and pretty much anywhere else we dare to exist. I am so, so tired of it. To quote Roxane again, “What these people are doing is reminding women that, no matter who they are, they are still women. They are forever vulnerable.” My heart goes out to these latest (and all past and future) victims. I hope they find the justice that we all deserve.
To me, the best thing about fall is Halloween, so I’m already seeking out those spooky vibes. I found them big time this week the trailer for Micol Ostow’s newest book, Amity, inspired by the same maybe-possibly-true events that formed the basis of the Amityville Horror book and movies. Ostow’s books is so scary, and I such a wuss, that I can only read it during the day!
I’m also reading a memoir called My Body Is a Book of Rules by Elissa Washuta, who published a really powerful essay this week called “I Am Not Pocahontas.” In the essay, Elissa, a member of the Native American Cowlitz tribe, discusses the Hollywood Indian; how ’90s movies like Pocahontas and Dances With Wolves affected her as a kid; the history of “blood quantum” laws, which define whether someone is “Indian enough” to receive federal benefits in the United States; and her personal history of constantly being asked the cringeworthy question “Are you a real Indian?”
If you are as big a fan of ’90s rock as I am, this list of the 100 best alternative rock songs from 1994 will float your boat.
This Chris Kraus piece about the artist and writer Kathy Acker is beyond amazing. I owe both of these writers SO MUCH of myself.
I am really excited about Nervous Like Me, the debut album from the Philadelphia band Cayetana. Technically, the album is out on Tuesday, but the whole thing is available to stream RIGHT HERE (see above), RIGHT THIS VERY NOW. It’s perfect end-of-summer-montage music. My immediate fave tracks: “Serious Things are Stupid,” “Dirty Laundry,” and “Hot Dad Calendar.” And “Madame B.” And all of them, actually. I like all the songs.
At The Hairpin, our own Lola regales us with this hilarious and beautiful story from Lola’s freshman year of college. I say this totally impartially: Everything she writes is the literary equivalent of gold-covered diamonds. I don’t want to give too much away about this piece, but it includes sex and Tool and Playstation and backrub parties and a bat.
“When you’re playing a song backward to hear the secret message and it’s racist,” and other conditions upon which one may claim reverse racism.
Vogue shot Karlie Kloss wearing a bunch of cool clothes, then published an editorial featuring 3D-printed versions of the photos. The future is now, guys!
The mystery of the moving rocks in Death Valley remained largely unsolved…until now! The rocks that have been leaving inexplicable trails in the dust were created, scientists say, by the formation and breaking-up of ice particles. Not by alien radiation. Or laser beams. As far as we know…
When Joan Rivers died on Thursday, a lot of my younger friends weren’t too upset. “She was a hateful person,” they said. “Outdated,” they declared. “Mean and disgusting,” they decided. I get it: If my only exposure to Joan were Fashion Police, I’d probably feel the same way. But that’s like basing your opinion of Beyoncé on only that one Pepsi commercial. That snark-TV shit was what Joan did to pay the bills in her old age; it was a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of her lifetime of fearless and revolutionary work.
You want to know what I think of when I think of Joan Rivers? I think about the show I saw a few months ago in New York, in a tiny room where she did regular standup sets, where she cut EVERYONE, including herself, to shreds with so much love and zero fear. I think of this moment from the 2010 documentary about her, A Piece of Work (which if you haven’t seen it YOU HAVE TO SEE IT and then we’ll talk). In it, a heckler boos Joan after she tells a “distasteful” joke about Helen Keller. Joan’s response to that heckler made me cry:
I grew up in a scary and unhappy place. More than anything else, comedy is the thing that kept me sane as a kid (and probably still does now). Watching Bill Murray and Bill Cosby and Gilda Radner and Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin and, yes, Joan Rivers on TV was like a life preserver sent to me from the future, when I’d get to create a new family out of people who got the joke—who understood pain and who could make me laugh about it. There’s nothing better than that, I don’t think.
When she started out in comedy in the 1950s, Joan was confrontational and self-deprecating and impolite in the way women weren’t supposed to be, and it freaked people out and made them laugh their butts off. Here she is on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1967. She was 34.
Did she say stuff I disagreed with? Of course! That was the whole POINT of Joan Rivers. That is what she was TRYING to do. When I saw her onstage the other month, she never looked happier than when the audience—all decades younger than her—groaned their disapproval. It reminded me so much of when I saw John Waters do basically a standup set a few years ago, and a little smirk would flash across his face every time he had produced audible disgust from the crowd. Joan Rivers wasn’t was a “hateful person,” she was a goddam concealed weapon, a proper-looking lady who savored her ability to shock and offend the masses and took obvious glee in horrifying the normies. She was a radical and a pioneer who fought sexism in and disrespect and outright hostility from the comedy and entertainment industries for 50 years, who refused to be pitied or idolized, who insisted on being known for what came out of her goddamn head and not for anything she had suffered nor any good deeds she had done (of which there were many), who told the truth no matter what, and who saved the lives of a lot of people who actually needed something to laugh about. (She also happens to have written one of the funniest feminist revenge fantasies you’ll ever watch, 1973’s The Girl Most Likely To… )
I’m so sad that she’s gone, but I’m so happy that she went hard as fuck at what she loved till the very end. And she had a lot more to say and do. You could tell that when you saw her onstage, 80 years old, spitting breathtakingly funny riffs about how much she hated hanging out with old people. You could tell when you watched this scene she did on Louie in 2011:
I don’t know how to end this, but because the rules of this here column require me to include something that happened on the internet this week, here are David Letterman, Sarah Silverman, and Jimmy Kimmel remembering Joan: