ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Monthly Archive: May 2019

Monday

27

May 2019

0

COMMENTS

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshefegh

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Two Stars

Best for:
People looking for a well-written, fairly quick read of no consequence, whose characters are all unappealing, especially the protagonist.

In a nutshell:
Orphaned rich woman (no name given, which I didn’t realize until I went to write this review) decides the way she wants to deal with her life is by sleeping. So she find a doctor who is willing to prescribe her all manner of sleeping pills.

Worth quoting:
‘It’s not about the men,’ she said. ‘Women are so judgmental. They’re always comparing.’
‘But why do you care? It’s not a contest.’
‘Yes, it is. You just can’t see it because you’ve always been the winner.’

Why I chose it:
I have picked this book up in shops probably a half-dozen times. Now that it’s in paperback I finally decided to get it. I’m glad, if only because my curiosity is well-sated.

Review:
This was a quick read, for sure. But I did not enjoy it. When I finished it, I wondered what I’d missed. Was this satire – a mocking of all those sort-of coming-of-age books written by white men about young white men? No? It’s just a character study? Huh.

Author Moshfegh is talented, for sure. The book is easy to read, the scenes evocative and well-thought-out. I have a strong picture in my mind of every place described, and a real feeling about each place. But the overall idea of the book, the main concept, the plot, just didn’t work for me at all. As it moved along I sort of got a bit of why the protagonist was doing what she was doing. I think?

Was she depressed? Probably. But was that what was fueling her desire to sleep? Or was she just ill-equipped for the world? Honestly? I didn’t care. Was I supposed to care? Unclear. Like I said, I might have missed something, but maybe not. Maybe it just wasn’t my thing. Entertainment Weekly said “One of the most compelling protagonists modern fiction has offered in years” and just … no. I disagree.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Toss it

Sunday

26

May 2019

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – 26 May, 2019

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Reproductive Health

“But while the league-wide drama both on and off the court remains the utmost importance to the league’s athletes, they’re hardly shutting out the world around them. Over the past few weeks, many players — including 2018 WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart — have taken to social media to express their anger and sadness over a recent slate of anti-abortion bills in Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri. The bill passed by the Alabama Senate, perhaps the most extreme of its kind, would punish abortion providers with up to 99 years in prison. There is no exception for rape and incest.” WNBA’s star players speak out against anti-abortion bills (by Lindsay Gibbs for Think Progress)

“I didn’t call the police — not after he left my dorm room and not after I discovered I was pregnant. I never once imagined that calling the police could help my situation. It could only make things worse. I envisioned prosecutors, courtrooms and interrogations. I was trying to survive my first year of law school, worried I might fail out, wondering how I would make it through my first round of exams. The last thing I wanted was to become a court case myself. Nor did I want a baby. I had no extended family to fall back on; no one who could loan me money to help raise a child; no place to go except to my parents’ rented home — a place that felt temporary, at best, given their financial insecurity and recent eviction. I did not want to give a baby away and I did not want to raise my rapist’s child.” My Rapist Apologized (by Michelle Alexander for the New York Times)

“Though the 19th century is seen as a time of more restrictive sexual mores, abortion was actually common: according to at least one estimate, one in every five women at the time had had an abortion. Abortifacients were hawked in store fronts and even door to door. Vendors openly advertised their willingness to end women’s pregnancies. And in private, women shared information about how to prevent conception and induce miscarriages. Then things changed—thanks in part to doctors determined to make abortions their realm. During the second half of the 19th century, American physicians intent on overseeing women’s reproductive health campaigned to criminalize abortion, sending a common practice underground.” The Criminalization of Abortion Began as a Business Tactic (by Erin Blakemore for History)

Sports Fuck-Ups

“It’s actually *more difficult* to randomize group seating than seat people together. @FIFAcom @FIFAWWC you’re going to need to reissue tickets. Call your ticketing vendor and sort this,” wrote @SnodgrassLaura. Others noted that such a situation would be unlikely to occur at the men’s World Cup. “Why assign seats at all then?” wrote @Paul_Par. “It’s going to devolve into some kind of General Admission hybrid mayhem. They should have learned from what happened at the Men’s World Cup. Oh wait. They would never, ever exhibit this kind of idiocy for the men.” Women’s World Cup: tickets bought together may not be next to each other (The Guardian)

Politics and the Far Right

“Sooner or later progressives are going to have to stop being stunned by these electoral defeats. The first time, it is plausible to ask, “How could this possibly happen?” But when that possibility recurs in relatively short order, what once presented itself as a shock has now curdled into self-deception. It turns out that the country you woke up in is the precisely the one you went to bed in. If you still don’t recognise it then you are going to have real problems changing it.” Shocked by the rise of the right? Then you weren’t paying attention (by Gary Younge for The Guardian)

“By contrast, chucking a milkshake is not political violence at all; it is political theatre, of a kind shared down the ages and across countries. Indeed, the best modern example comes from Bogotá. In 1995, Antanas Mockus became mayor of the Colombian capital, winning a landslide on his promise to root out corruption. No professional politician, Mockus had been a philosopher at the National University until he moonied a lecture theatre of unruly students. He defended himself by referring to Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of symbolic violence, as one would, but HR wasn’t buying it.” This Milkshake Spring isn’t political violence – it’s political theatre (by Aditya Chakrabortty for The Guardian)

Men Being Creepy

“Speaking to Harper’s Bazaar, Portman acknowledged meeting Moby backstage after going to one of his concerts as a fan, but denied ever being romantically involved with him. She also said she was still a teenager when they met, rather than 20 as Moby claimed in the book. “I was surprised to hear that he characterised the very short time that I knew him as dating because my recollection is a much older man being creepy with me when I just had graduated high school,” Portman said. “He said I was 20; I definitely wasn’t. I was a teenager. I had just turned 18. There was no fact checking from him or his publisher – it almost feels deliberate.” Natalie Portman calls Moby ‘creepy’ and denies claim they dated 20 years ago (by Roisin O’Connor for the Independent)

Climate Change

“But their time is up. We are experiencing an unprecedented wave of grassroots organising and citizen engagement with climate action. From millions of students holding school strikes around the world, to peaceful civil disobedience in our cities, to David Attenborough’s much talked about new documentary. Climate breakdown has received more media coverage in the UK recently than at any other time in the past five years. This public pressure is working, resulting in the Welsh and Scottish governments as well as UK and Irish parliaments all declaring a climate emergency.” Divest Parliament (by Karn Bianco for Ecologist)

Something Good

No accompanying video, but the Women’s World Cup starts in under two weeks, and I’ll be at my first match in 17 days. Summer of soccer!!

Saturday

25

May 2019

0

COMMENTS

Skylight by José Saramago

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
Fans of books that look at many different characters(as opposed to just one or two protagonists).

In a nutshell:
In late-1940s Lisbon, six apartments contain a variety of tenants searching for something more in their lives — or searching for ways to keep their lives the same.

Worth quoting:
“She knew men too well to love any of them.”
“I have never lied so much in my life and I hadn’t realised how many people are prepared to believe lies.”
“His brain attached itself to all kinds of things, went over and over the same problems, plunged into them, drowned in them, so that, in the end, his own thoughts became the problem.”

Why I chose it:
My favorite book is Blindness, which José Saramago published in 1995. A friend bought it for me (having never read it himself) and it turned into the book I gave friends if I stayed with them. Maybe an odd choice, but whatever. I think it’s a fantastic book. I read the sequel and wasn’t as into it, but still, Saramago can write. Last year we went to Lisbon for our anniversary and visited Casa dos Bicos, which is home to the Saramago foundation. I saw his Nobel Prize for literature. It was amazing. They also had a bookshop, and this book stood out to me because it was one of his first books but was only published after his death.

Review:
CN: Brief discussion of marital assault

Early in his career, Saramago sent the manuscript for Skylight to a publisher. Early, as in, he sent it in 1953. The publisher didn’t get back to him. In 1989, someone at the publishing house found it and asked if they could publish it. Saramago said no. In fact, he said it couldn’t be published until after his death.

Although this book is set in the 1940s, it could be set in the 2010s. Obviously there are no mobile phones, and people listen to the radio or play games in the evening, but nothing about the stories feels dated or old fashioned, which is, to me, a pretty amazing sign of Saramago’s ability to write people, regardless of time or space.

That’s not to say that time and space don’t play into this. Some of the people in this book are a bit of a throwback (in my mind at least), such as the man who has a wife and daughter and prides himself on being the head of the household in a way that I consider pathetic. There is the mother, her sister, and two daughters all living together because the family has come on hard times.

The neighbors are connected in some ways, and disconnected in others. One couple takes in a lodger who stays up late discussing life with the husband. Another is a woman living alone in an apartment kept by the man who employs her as a mistress; he also employs another tenant as an office worker, which creates some drama. There is the couple whose daughter died and who cannot stand each other the the point that he sexually assaults her (in fairly brief scene that challenges the reader). There is the woman who is attracted to other women but doesn’t know what to do with those feelings.

And the women don’t exist just to further along the plots of the men. We get to hear from them, get their points of view, experience their lives. As part of the time, many of those lives are intertwined with or dependent on men, but they clearly have their own goals and dreams and perspectives. The writing of them isn’t perfect, but it’s mostly well done.

I was a bit worried to pick this one up because I love Blindness so much. What if it was a fluke? What if Saramago’s writing only spoke to me the one time? Especially as I didn’t entirely enjoy the follow-up? But not to worry – this was nearly as good as Blindness for me. Radically different in plot, but still an interesting exploration of human life.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it

Sunday

19

May 2019

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – May 19, 2019

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Elections

““Since 2012, I have advocated tirelessly to empower our communities and make them safer,” she said in a statement Saturday. “But the work is not done. I am proud to announce that I will run to represent District 1 on the county commission.” Fulton announced Saturday that she would launch her campaign for the District 1 seat, which will be relinquished in 2020 by the term-limited Commissioner Barbara Jordan. Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert is also running for the seat, one of five up for grabs after Miami-Dade voters approved a two-term limit for the 13-member board in 2012. Miami Gardens is the biggest city in District 1.” Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, will run for Miami-Dade County Commission (by Martin Vassolo for the Miami Herald)

Gun Violence

“Eubanks was 17 at the time of the Columbine shooting, according to CNN affiliate KMGH.
He was in the library with his friends, trying to decide whether they were going to go fishing or play golf after school, when they heard the sound of gunshots. “A teacher ran through the same doors that we just entered into the library, yelling at everybody to get under the tables, that somebody had a gun, and I remember just being in shock,” Eubanks told CNN last year.” Columbine survivor Austin Eubanks found dead at 37 (by Amir Vera for CNN)

Homophobia

“But Kessem was about to become the latest victim of a government policy that effectively de-recognizes her parents’ marriage, granting her no automatic rights to American birthright citizenship despite the fact that both her fathers are U.S. citizens. That policy, Kessem’s fathers told The Daily Beast, poses a unique threat to LGBT families, and could change the decades-old legal understanding of what the word “family” even means. “This is a very clear attack on families, on American families,” Roee, who married Adiel in California in 2013, told The Daily Beast. “Denying American married couples their rights to pass their citizenship, that is flat-out discrimination, and everyone should be concerned about this.”” Trump Administration to LGBT Couples: Your ‘Out of Wedlock’ Kids Aren’t Citizens (by Scott Bixby for Daily Beast)

Reproductive Health

What is going on in the US is misogynistic and horrible. If you want to fight back, here are a couple of options:

National Network of Abortion Funds

Stop Abortion Bans

Something Good

Excellent.

 

Sunday

12

May 2019

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – 12 May 2019

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Reproductive Health

“Helmi Henkin—chair of the clinic escort group West Alabama Clinic Defenders and Alabama’s only statewide abortion fund, the Yellowhammer Fund—witnessed the incident, called police, and uploaded a picture of the driver’s car to her social media accounts for people to share. “She is fine now, but we were just really emotionally overwhelmed by the incident,” Henkin told Rewire.News.” In Alabama, an Anti-Choice Protester Tried to Run Over an Abortion Clinic Escort (by Auditi Guha for Rewire.News)

“David Simon, creator of “The Wire” and “The Deuce,” said in a tweet on Thursday that his company Blown Deadline’s “assessments of locations for upcoming development will pull Georgia off the list until we can be assured the health options and civil liberties of our female colleagues are unimpaired.” “I can’t ask any female member of any film production with which I am involved to so marginalize themselves or compromise their inalienable authority over their own bodies,” Simon said.” Two production companies pledge to pull filming from Georgia over strict anti-abortion law (by Aris Folley for The Hill)

“The primary purpose of HB 481 is to prohibit doctors from terminating any pregnancy after they can detect “embryonic or fetal cardiac activity,” which typically occurs at six weeks’ gestation. But the bill does far more than that. In one sweeping provision, it declares that “unborn children are a class of living, distinct person” that deserves “full legal recognition.” Thus, Georgia law must “recognize unborn children as natural persons”—not just for the purposes of abortion, but as a legal rule.” Georgia Just Criminalized Abortion. Women Who Terminate Their Pregnancies Would Receive Life in Prison. (by Mark Joseph Stern for Slate)

“The long and short is, though, I got to a point of wanting to get sterilized because I wanted to a.) stop being told by doctors what I actually wanted, and b.) be able to say “see, now I CAN’T change my mind, so what else have you got to say about it?” People take this choice—one that doesn’t impact them in even any mild way!—really personally. They view it as a judgement of their own choices. And honestly, after doing All Of The Thinking about it for the last, oh, third of my life, I’m kind of done dealing with it. I’m done walking judgemental busybodies through it and justifying it and thinking about it myself.” I Got My Tubes Tied at 31. Here’s What I Learned (by Hanna Brooks Olsen via Medium)

Sexual Assault

“If the Senate Judiciary Committee, led then by Mr. Biden, had done its job and held a hearing that showed that its members understood the seriousness of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence, the cultural shift we saw in 2017 after #MeToo might have begun in 1991 — with the support of the government. If the government had shown that it would treat survivors with dignity and listen to women, it could have had a ripple effect. People agitating for change would have been operating from a position of strength. It could have given institutions like the military, the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission greater license to take more decisive action to end the scourge of harassment. And research shows that if leaders convey that they won’t tolerate harassment, people within an organization typically obey.” Anita Hill: Let’s Talk About How to End Sexual Violence (by Anita Hill for The New York Times)

Gender Essentialism in Sport

“The controversy surrounding Semenya echoes the broader media treatment of intersex athletes. The argument being made against Semenya is the same one that was made about Indian runner Dutee Chand, and Spanish hurdler Maria José Martínez-Patiño before that. While transgender and intersex are not the same thing, they’re often conflated in public discussion. (“Transgender” is a term used to describe somebody who was assigned one gender at birth but identifies with and will often medically transition to another. “Intersex” is a term used to describe any number of medical conditions where someone is born with characteristics outside of the typical male and female binary, ranging from the noticeable to the invisible.) The terms were confused last week when Fox News reporter Carley Shimkus incorrectly referred to Semenya as “a transgender Olympic runner” during an episode of Fox & Friends. Shimkus apologized the following day.” Caster Semenya, and the myth of the uneven playing field (by Parker Molloy for Columbia Journalism Review)

School Shootings

“The words were familiar to 15-year-old Duarte, who has participated in nearly 50 active shooter drills in the five years she’s been a student at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, a few miles away from Columbine High School. Only this time, it wasn’t a drill. Two students opened fire on their classmates on Tuesday, killing one and injuring eight others before they were taken into custody.” This Is What It Sounds Like Hiding In A Dark Classroom During A School Shooting (by Tasneem Nashrulla for Buzzfeed)

Something Good

Singer / Songwriter / Podcast host Jenny Owens Young occasionally writes songs for A Cast of Kings, an unofficial Game of Thrones Podcast. The latest is a bit of an ear worm and I like it. (Spoilers, obviously): The Long Night

 

 

Monday

6

May 2019

0

COMMENTS

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

 

Best for:
People looking for hard facts on how the lack of data collected about women harms us.

In a nutshell:
Much of ruling society treats (cis) men as the default, dismissing the needs of women as abnormal. This screws us over.

Worth quoting:
“Like so many of the decisions to exclude women in the interests of simplicity, from architecture to medical research, this conclusion could only be reached in a culture that conceives of men as the default human and women as a niche aberration.”

Why I chose it:
I wanted some hard facts to support something I was already generally aware of.

Review:
I really struggled with picking up this book. Normally I wouldn’t because the topics is right up my alley. It’s non-fiction. It’s written by a woman. It talks about sexism. It focuses on statistics and data. That’s my jam! Except the author is a problematic feminist and I hate that she is the one who wrote this book, because she has a real problem with the idea of cis women (she wants to be called woman by default, not a cis woman, necessarily othering trans women. Oh the irony). Which means this book never once gives even a sidebar mention of the fact that some of the data gaps she is focused on are even worse for trans women. She also quotes a transphobic woman (Sarah Ditum) in the first few pages. I wish she were a better on this, but here we are.

The fact is, she has written an interesting and easy-to-read book that should piss everyone off. From data gaps about unpaid care work and women’s contributions to the economy to the fact that women metabolize and react to medications differently than men (but are often barely represented in studies — if they are included at all), she looks at the literally hundreds of ways that society places the needs of men in general above the needs of women in general, and the impact it has on how we navigate the world.

Obviously this requires some generalizations. For example, many of the areas focus on women’s role as caretaker, specifically as a mother. I’m not a mother and never will be, so I don’t fit in that realm. But I recognize that overwhelmingly most women will at some point have a child, so I appreciate that not taking that into account will harm many, many women.

Some were areas I’d been aware of before, though not in this level of detail. But other things were light-bulb moments. Early on in the book she talks about the planning of public space and public transportation, and some of the revelations were, looking back, obvious, but also so insidious as to not have occurred to me before.

The focus on the average man’s life experience as the default informs so many decisions in our world, and that means women get left out, left behind, and actively harmed. And the solution is to collect — and the use — more data, but there’s a problem there, as the gatekeepers for things like funding scientific studies are overwhelmingly dudes, and they don’t see the need for studying women-specific issues, or even disaggregating data by sex or gender.

There aren’t easy solutions that corporations and governments are just going to accept and implement. My biggest take-away from this is to be alert to any new studies I read that generalize about people, and to be an outspoken advocate to ensure that new initiatives at the government level have taken into account the lives not just of men, but of women, as well as people in other demographic groups.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it.

Sunday

5

May 2019

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – May 5, 2019

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Bigotry in Sport

“No matter what her personal medical history is, her story illustrates the way people, especially people of color, can be scrutinized when they seem to fall outside gender norms. Being intersex is not the same as being trans, but society at large tends to conflate the two, Pagonis said. “And a lot of people hate trans people.” Meanwhile, “I see a lot of intersex phobia that is heightened because she’s a black woman,” Pagonis added. “Had Caster been a gender-conforming, straight-identified white girl who just was faster than the other people, they would have never invaded her body” by demanding testing, they said.” “I am a woman and I am fast”: what Caster Semenya’s story says about gender and race in sports (by Anna North for Vox)

“Alternatively, the IAAF could consider the road it has not yet travelled: engage in educational efforts aimed at promoting informed discussion, allaying fears of the unknown and promoting understanding as a viable alternative to exclusion. In other words, the IAAF could take the lead in creating a sporting environment in which it becomes possible to truly recognise women with high testosterone as the “humans, daughters, and sisters” that our president, Seb Coe, claims them to be at the same time as he denies their right to participate.” I was sore about losing to Caster Semenya. But this decision against her is wrong (by Madeleine Pape for The Guardian)

““There is no such thing as a standard level of testosterone in a woman’s body,” the doctor explained to i.“A lot of women can be affected by higher than average levels of testosterone. “They can have too little energy or libido, or too much hair and too many mood swings because of conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome or pre-menstrual syndrome, that affects millions of women.” Doctor ‘wouldn’t prescribe’ the hormone suppressants IAAF demands for Caster Semenya (by Jasmine Andersson for i news)

Public Health

“We have been listening to the alerts from the Pan American Health Organization. There are outbreaks of measles [in the United States] largely because persons have not taken the vaccine,” Fredericks-James said. The outbreak comes amid an alarming number of measles diagnoses in the U.S., with 704 cases already reported this year in 22 states — the most in 25 years. It’s an astonishing uptick for a disease that was declared eradicated in the U.S. by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2000.” Scientology Ship Quarantined in St. Lucia After Measles Diagnosis (by Seth Abramovitch for The Hollywood Reporter)

Racism in Policing

“The report on the New Year’s Eve killing, which sparked national police accountability protests, was disclosed this week following journalists’ requests under a new California police transparency law. The previously sealed internal file, written 10 years ago, documented how the Bay Area Rapid Transit (Bart) officer Anthony Pirone “started a cascade of events that ultimately led to the shooting”. Pirone called Grant the N-word while detaining him, hit him in the face in an “unprovoked” attack, and later gave a series of false statements contradicted by videos, investigators said.” Officer punched Oscar Grant and lied about facts in 2009 killing, records show (by Sam Levin for The Guardian)

The Patriarchy Harms Everyone

“The idea of an “emotional gold digger” was first touched on in 2016 by writer Erin Rodgers with a tweet that continues to be re-posted on social media—both by women who married self-described feminist men, and by those with more conservative husbands. It has gained more traction recently as women, feeling increasingly burdened by unpaid emotional labor, have wised up to the toll of toxic masculinity, which keeps men isolated and incapable of leaning on each other. Across the spectrum, women seem to be complaining about the same thing: While they read countless self-help books, listen to podcasts, seek out career advisors, turn to female friends for advice and support, or spend a small fortune on therapists to deal with old wounds and current problems, the men in their lives simply rely on them.” Men Have No Friends and Women Bear the Burden (by Melanie Hamlett for Harper’s Bazaar)

Something Good

If you enjoy Game of Thrones, check out the deep dive recaps every Thursday:  Game of Thrones ‘The Long Night’ Deep Dive Recap (by Lord Castleton for Pajiba)