Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I’m a loud and proud Andi Zeisler fan. Andi is cofounder and editorial/creative director for the independent news source Bitch Media, based in Portland, OR. Zeisler’s new book, We Were Feminists Once deep dives into the feminist movement in the United States and how it has been co-opted by our capitalist society and consumer-driven culture. The book centers mostly on “marketplace feminism,” which is the idea that feminism can be bought and sold, equating the once deeply political movement into an individual act of consumption.
I think the most fascinating—and somewhat troubling—dimension of [marketplace feminism] that I’ve seen in talking to college students over the past few years is that so many of them see feminism not as something that is an ongoing ethic, but as something that is a quality of consumer products that makes them either okay or not okay to consume… Feminism is not a static metric of quality; it’s a way to look at the movies you watch and the music you listen to and think about it critically. It’s not something that is a stamp of approval that makes you feel good about consuming it.
Listen to Andi discuss this idea on the podcast What Would a Feminist Do? here.
Have you ever been out to dinner with someone who won’t look away from their cell phone screen? And technically you were together, but it felt more like you were alone together rather than enjoying a shared experience? This has definitely happened to me, and as a friend was describing yet another alone together experience of her own last night, I was reminded of an article that I read recently by Andrew Sullivan aptly titled I Used to Be a Human Being. Sullivan shares his personal experience with cell phone addiction and his eventual recovery from it. The article is paired with brilliant photos of Kim Dong-kyu’s illustration series Art x Smart. Naturally, I read this article on my cell phone.
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Reading wasn’t a major focus of my dearly departed sabbatical, but I did manage to make my way through a few good volumes.
- I started off my absence by enjoying Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down in which sportswriter Dave Zirin examines that many ways that professional sports and politics reflect and influence each other. It was good context for the Black Lives Matter protests that have more recently captured the spotlight in the NFL.
- Thoroughly entertaining was Rinker Buck’s The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, that is both a rollicking modern adventure story and an entrancing historical account of America’s western pilgrims.
- It’s hard to know where exactly in the stacks to file The Sellout, Paul Beatty’s satirical (and often hilarious) story about a black man in LA who’s facing rather usual charges. It’s easily one of the most engaging pieces of fiction I’ve read recently.
- The honor for the best novel I read on my break probably belongs to Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, which haunted by dreams and waking hours alike during the period that I was immersed in it. (I was pleased to learn that Doerr is a Cascadian.)
- Less good, but still tons of fun, was The Girl on the Train. It’s a wonderful booze-addled murder mystery for the first 90 percent, though the ending is lackluster.
- I returned to one of my lifetime favorite books, Pale Fire the 1962 masterpiece by Vladimir Nabakov. Every time I read it, it’s weirder, sillier, and more complex than I had remembered.
- After reading The Abundance, a new(?) collection of essays by Annie Dillard, I went on a miniature binge of the remaining pieces of her work that I hadn’t yet read. Teaching a Stone to Talk was very good. Holy the Firm, an examination of the problem of natural evil set in the San Juan Islands, sent me reeling in the way that only the most profound meditations can.
- For poetry, I read Pablo Neruda’s, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. I needed it.
- The Smartest Kids in the World by journalist Amanda Ripley is a compelling analysis of US education policy. It’s particularly interesting because it is grounded by narrative accounts of American exchange students at school in three countries that have demonstrated meteoric rises in academic achievement: Finland, South Korea, and Poland.
- Data scientist Cathy O’Neil’s new book, Weapons of Math Destruction, unveils some of the ways that big data and proprietary algorithms are ushering in a worrisome new age of inequality and discrimination, one that is largely hidden from public view and immune to regulation.
- Finally, I’ve been inching my way through Ron Chernow’s, Alexander Hamilton. It’s a fascinating biography to be sure, but I might like a 300-page version rather than the 800-page tome I’ve been lugging around to try to look smart.
I have yet to live on my own in my adult life. I’ve chosen the communal living path, and I don’t know if I’ll ever give it up. What could be better than sharing household duties, splitting bills, cooking meals together, and watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on our DIY white-sheet-and-projector movie theater? This recent Atlantic article highlights how communal living is back in style and how more people are moving away from traditional single-family housing options. The article also points out how, for the typical American child, there is no longer a single dominant family structure. And if you are a parent living a communal-housing lifestyle, you have a built-in network of babysitters right in your own home! (Now that’s a lifehack.) My fingers are crossed that more cohousing options will continue to pop up around Cascadia.
Check out this Sightline Daily pick for more on the cultural norms of home design and the paradigm-shift of family structures. More people are creating families outside of the nuclear single-family ideal, and their homes should reflect their lifestyle. I’ll leave you with some food for thought from the author:
If you could throw out all the conventions and constructs and limitations of our current understanding of family, what would you create for yourself?