The positive response to Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover story has been so, so, so heartwarming to witness. The story, which appeared on June 1, has made international news, and has further opened the national discussion about trans visibility and the ways that cisnormative beauty standards, economic privilege, and access to healthcare affect trans people.
Janet Mock and Laverne Cox have contributed their voices to this national discussion, praising Caitlyn while also encouraging increasingly diverse representation of trans people. In a Tumblr post, Laverne Cox stressed that there are many trans narratives, and all of them need to be represented. She writes:
[I]n certain lighting, at certain angles I am able to embody certain cisnormative beauty standards. Now, there are many trans folks because of genetics and/or lack of material access who will never be able to embody these standards. More importantly, many trans folks don’t want to embody them, and we shouldn’t have to to be seen as ourselves and respected as ourselves. It is important to note that these standards are also informed by race, class, and ability, among other intersections.
Janet Mock published an article on Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover and the media and public responses to it. She quotes Jenner’s words about the importance she places on “looking the part” and “putting people at ease,” to emphasize that not all trans people care about putting cis people at ease. Her article draws attention to the ways that our cisnormative beauty standards endanger the lives of trans people, and reminds us that although it’s exciting to witness Caitlyn’s moment, her experience in no way reflects that of every trans person.
If you are trying to stay informed of the human casualties of cheap and cute clothing, the film The True Cost investigates the social cost of fast fashion. The movie came out on May 29, and is available on iTunes.
Crystal Frasier started the #MyVanityFairCover hashtag on Tumblr and Twitter. She created some Vanity Fair-style templates and urged other trans people to upload their photos to “show the world the myriad faces of the trans community.” In an interview with BuzzFeed, Crystal explained:
I think everybody is happy that Caitlyn is happy. This is in no way any kind of critique on her life or choices, but this is a great moment to remind everyone—especially trans kids who might be taking in a message that their worth is based around their ability to look white and cisnormative—that trans people come in a huge variety and we all deserve love, attention, and understanding.
Serena Williams has just won her twentieth grand slam title after defeating Lucie Safarova in the final of the French Open. I’m glad that she continues to crip walk all over tennis.
Florence + the Machine released their new album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, which definitely lives up to the “beautiful” in its title. Florence Welch bends her voice from whispered cooing to full-out belting, and the instrumentation is swoonworthy. Right now, my favorite song from the album is the title track, which just makes me feel so wonderful on the inside. Take a listen, your ears deserve it!
Last month, Sheryl Sandberg’s husband Dave Goldberg died suddenly while their family was on vacation in Mexico. This week marked the end of sheloshim, a 30-day period of mourning, and Sandberg published a touching post about the nature of grief on her Facebook wall. Her words offer a picture of the sadness she has lived with this past month, and indirectly offers advice to those of us who may feel at a loss about how to help our grieving loved ones.
Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not. […] Even a simple ‘How are you?’—almost always asked with the best of intentions—is better replaced with ‘How are you today?’ When I am asked ‘How are you?’ I stop myself from shouting, My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am? When I hear ‘How are you today?’ I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.
Last week I lost my grandfather, my favourite person in the whole world. When I spoke to my grandma, his wife, on the phone a few days later, I realised how out of my depth I was attempting to offer comfort to someone who’d just lost someone they spent 60 years of their life with. I realized that what I could do was listen, offer as much practical, tangible help as I could, allow my loved ones to mourn and be sad and not expect to be able to “fix” the situation.
As part of National Reconciliation Week in Australia—a time of year commemorating key political milestones for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people—the NSW Reconciliation Council hosted an event at the University of Sydney called “I’m Not Racist, But….” At the event, the writer, playwright, and actor Nakkiah Lui gave a stunning speech. Nakkiah suggested that those hoping to see change in the attitudes and behaviours of Australian people must confront white privilege:
I wanted to offer the people who benefit from White Privilege some kind of action they could take, to help those who don’t. I had nothing. How do you tell people that they have to give up being at the centre? Maybe it’s not up to white people to change things. Maybe they can’t. If equality for all means a loss of privilege for some, why would they want to give that up? And can they? The one thing we can all do is start to disrupt White Privilege, through our thoughts and discourse; to make White Privilege the centre when we talk about racism. Let’s not share the blame.
Last weekend, the British pop group Little Mix released the video for “Black Magic,” the first single from their upcoming third album. Inspired by the movie The Craft, the video shows Jesy, Leigh-Anne, Jade, and Perrie transform from dorky girls—ignored by the cool kids—into sparkly witches after a bedroom seance gifts them with a little black magic. I would’ve loved if the video had showed them using their powers for something more empowering than embarrassing the popular girl and making a nerdy boy attractive to the mean girls, but I’m just grateful the video ended before one of them went full Nancy!
Urban legend has it that after 9/11, Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marlon Brando escaped New York together in a car. In this week’s New Yorker, Zadie Smith imagined the event as a short story, which would be satisfying enough for the aggressive Elizabeth-Marlon back-and-forth, but also tugged at my heartstrings with its insights into fame and isolation. Like this bit about Michael: “He’d never had to persuade anyone of anything, least of all his own genius, which was, of course, a weird childhood gift he’d never asked for and which had proved impossible to give back.” Also really recommend going for a walk and listening to the audio of Smith reading the story aloud.
Adrian Chen’s story about a “troll factory” in Russia starts as a typical piece of investigative journalism—”here are some people dedicated to raising hell on the internet, let’s figure out why and how”—but ends up taking some wild twists and turns that eventually implicate Chen himself in the story. Read through to the end: It is worth it.
There’s been a whole lotta Selfish commentary on the webs lately, but despite all the racket, I heartfully recommend Anupa Mistry’s take on Kim Kardashian West’s book of selfies over at the Hairpin. I believe in this piece’s happy ending, and marveled at this moment: “I was already on the road to understanding what happens to your self-image when you take control of the presentation; Selfish suggests this is an actual superpower in a patriarchal world.”
Mawlynnong in northeastern India is famous—despite its remoteness—as one of the world’s few matrilineal societies. Karolin Klüppel’s photographic work was featured in the New York Times this week, as the Berlin-based artist’s exhibition spotlighting this community travels across Europe. This selection of Klüppel’s gorgeous portraits of the girls of Mawlynnong hasn’t left my mind since I saw it!
In one of those scream-it-from-the-rooftops, “I LOVE THE INTERNET AND ITS INNUMERABLE RESOURCES!” moments: Ann Powers at NPR Music asked contemporary music critics about their favorite music archives. Highlights include an exhaustive Big Star fan blog, a hip-hop sampling source finder, subsets of the Library of Congress archive, and more. Dig in this weekend!
The YA comic- and lit-focused Cicada Magazine posted an open call for submissions from authors and artists 14 years old and above. The magazine has featured work by some of my favorite artists, including Hellen Jo, Anna Bongiovanni, Corinne Mucha, Cathy G. Johnson, and… yoouuuuuu? I’m submitting something soon—maybe we’ll be in an issue together! Wouldn’t that be neat?
I just love Jessica Nightmare’s webcomic “Manic Pixie Nightmare Girls.” She talks about transmisogyny (a term that means misogyny directed at trans women—more helpful than the more general term “transphobia”), body dysmorphia, and other issues in a funny, nuanced, imaginative way. And her DRAWINGS! Her protagonist Jesska’s big googly eyes focus a little off-center to great comedic effect, like a Muppet or an early-period Simpsons drawing. The fun, wobbly shapes of the faces reflect a possible influence from Meredith Gran’s webcomic “Octopus Pie.” I can’t wait to see where Nightmare goes with the strip.
The Criterion Collection has restored and re-released the influential Indian director Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy to a limited theatrical run. I watched part of movie The Big City (part of the Trilogy) on Hulu Plus, and I fell in love with its soulfulness and wit, its subtle handling of family dynamics, and its nuanced depiction of class struggles. Best of all, the movie’s protagonist is a bright, determined, gorgeous woman named Arati. I plan to marathon The Apu Trilogy in a theater asap. You can see if it’s playing near you on Criterion’s website.
The CAKE indie comics fest goes down this weekend in Chicago, and it’s free to attend. The fest features some of my favorite artists ever: Jillian Tamaki of SuperMutant Magic Academy and This One Summer, the Hernandez brothers of Love & Rockets fame, Eleanor Davis, and many more. The panel discussions promise to be inspiring for young artists and fans (of which I am both, so I know). The programming lineup also includes The Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation, co-curated by the wonderful cartoonist and animator Lilli Carré.