Selfies, selfies, everywhere: in our Facebook feeds, in our news reports, in our dictionaries. But what do these tech-enabled self portraits say about their subjects? And, indeed: What do they say about us? Are they, as their names might suggest, symptoms of narcissism? Are they empowering? Are they a cry for help?
They are probably, on some level, all of those things—in addition to being just, you know, playful pictures. But here’s another thing about selfies: They are not new. Selfies, contemporary anxieties about them notwithstanding, are very, very old.
The latest reminder of this (which is also an appropriately aged reminder of this): the selfie above. Which was, apparently, snapped by the Grand Duchess Anastasia (yep, that Anastasia) in 1913, when she was a teenager. The youngest daughter of Russia’s last czar is using the wildly popular camera of her time—the Kodak brownie, released in 1900—and a mirror to capture her own likeness. She is gazing at herself. She is looking at herself. She looks, to me, a little bit curious. And a little bit excited. And a little bit scared.
Read more. [Image: Retronaut]
HAS ANYTHING EVER BEEN BETTER
Y CAN’T I STOP ALL CAPPING I’M TURNING INTO YOUR “DAD”
A group of pugs is called a grumble and if you don’t think that’s one of the cutest things in world then you can get out.
I have been out of town for a week, but I have RETURNED TO THIS GRUMBLE OF PUPPIES AND NOTHING COULD BE A BETTER WELCOME HOME!
It’s that time again, hoes! Because you’re all super fucking interested in my ridiculously naive & fancypantsy list of reading goals for the year, welcome to the new edition of this annual Miz Mimoo Tradition!
So, liiiiiike. Basically - and “basic bitch,” a category to which I am not inclined - I’m trying to round out at an even 100 books for the year. Last year, my goal was 88 (random, AMIRITE????), and I hit 95. 75% of that 95 was done in the last 2.5-3 months of the year, so I feel I can safely up the ante if I space things out better this year.
My BIG goals are the Proust Reading Group on Goodreads (see link here: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/75460-2013-the-year-of-reading-proust ) - the plan is to read all of A La Recherche over the course of the year - AND Infinite Jest. Well, I’m not actually sure yet whether I want to do that one or not. But I’m going to say I do, because I’ve been saying it for 4 years, and maybe this is the year that I actually battle a 1,000 page novel (I feel like if I can do Proust, I can do DFW - and I mean literally “do” them, as in the way you used to talk about sex in junior high). I’d like to keep more contemporary, as well, so I got my hooves on a number of 2012 publications that I’d been looking forward to, among them Mantel, Z Smith, new Morrison, Alice Munro, and a few others.
I’m also making a shorter list here than 100 books & limiting myself to books I really RILLY want to read this year. That way, I won’t feel like a little sad horsey with an out of reach carrot, where every book I read has to have been prescribed by dis list. I guess that’s not much like a horsey-carrot scene at all.
Without further ado:
John Ashbery, The Double Dream of Spring
Baudelaire, Les Fleurs Du Mal (en Francais)
Frank Bidart, Star Dust / Desire
Elizabeth Bishop, North & South
Eavan Boland, Against Love Poetry
Anne Carson, Red Doc >
Anne Carson, The Beauty of the Husband
H.D., Helen of Egypt
Carol Ann Duffy, Rapture
Jorie Graham, Erosion
Frank O’Hara, Lunch Poems
Denise Levertov, Breathing the Water / The Sorrow Dance
James Merrill, The Changing Light at Sandover
Sharon Olds, Stag’s Leap
Rimbaud, Le Bateau Ivre et autres poemes (en Francais)
caption: Miz Francine O’Hara
Kathy Acker, In Memoriam to Identity
Margaret Atwood, Bodily Harm
Margaret Atwood, untitled 3rd novel in MaddAddam Trilogy, TBR
Neil Bartlett, Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall
Charlotte Bronte, Villette
Octavia Butler, Wild Seed
A.S. Byatt, Babel Tower
Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Angela Carter, Love
Jean Genet, Our Lady of the Flowers
Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye To Berlin
Henry James, The Bostonians
Doris Lessing, A Proper Marriage
Deborah Levy, Swimming Home
Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies
Ian McEwan, Sweet Tooth
Toni Morrison, Home Alice Munro, Dear Life
Philip Roth, The Breast
Zadie Smith, NW
David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
Edith Wharton, The Custom of the Country
Virginia Woolf, Night and Day
Virginia Woolf, The Years
caption: Lil Miz Jeannette Genet
(AND for the Year of Reading Proust!!!)
In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower (en Anglais et en Francais)
The Guermantes Way
Sodom and Gomorrah
caption: Madame Marcella Proust
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
The Brontes, Juliet Barker
The Sixties: Diaries, Christopher Isherwood
Isherwood, Peter Parker
Keats, Andrew Motion
The Unabridged Journals of…, Sylvia Plath
As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals & Notebooks, 1964-1980, Susan Sontag
The Selected Letters of…, Rebecca West
Edith Wharton, Hermione Lee
Oscar Wilde, Richard Ellman
The Diary, Vol 2, 1920-1924/Vol 3, 1925-1930, Virginia Woolf
Caption: Rebecca W(rq)est
Sarah Ahmed, The Promise of Happiness
Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism
Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection
Lee Edelman, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive
Jack Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure
David Halperin, Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography
Brian Massumi, Parables of the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation
Eve Sedgwick, The Weather in Proust
Susan Sontag, On Photography
Caption: Susan Cigtag
*01/01/13 - Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
*01/06/13 - Zadie Smith, NW
*01/07/13 - Octavia Butler, Wild Seed
*01/09/13 - Anne Carson, The Beauty of the Husband
*01/11/13 - Toni Morrison, Home
*01/20/13 - Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies
01/29/13 - Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man (re-read)
*02/06/13 - Alice Munro, Dear Life
This article has been making the rounds on various social media sites I use, & AS A WHITE (non-cis) GAY MAN, I feel contractually obligated to respond to it. No! Just kidding! I think it’s quite astute in many places, though I’d like to pressure some of Ndopu’s terminologies and distinctions, but what I find particularly silly is that basically every white gay “cis” male I know is regurgitating this without comment or, alternately, with a sort of guilt-reflex, i.e., “OMG I really need to stop saying things like ‘fierce,’ and ‘gurl!’ These are racist and sexist appropriations!” And then we all move on, because we’ve effectively and guiltily dissociated ourselves from the culture of queerness that redeploys certain lexicons and gender presentations said to be “not ours.” Here’s the article, by the way:
Perhaps I should say outright that my loyalties lie, technically, with Banks - at least they would, if I didn’t think she’d made such a fucking childish error in (a) tossing around homophobic insults carelessly; and (b) going on to defend these homophobic discourses when people called her on it as particularly about “effeminate gay men.” I love her music; I like her swag; I found her a refreshing voice in a stale landscape of female rap almost exclusively understood as “Nicki Minaj” (who I also love about 30% of the time). Part of what makes AB feel so novel is her indebtedness to ball culture and queerness, which presents in both her lyrics and her marriage of rap/hip-hop verbal-dexterity and beats and house/club music.
I’m not going to go on at length about this except to say that Banks seemed to be a new kind of voice in the rap scene; younger, harder, female, and less invested in conventional woman-and-queer hating braggadocio. (Which isn’t to say it’s nowhere in her music, but that even those moments which register these kinds of discourses often become contextualized ironically or are later undercut/revised.)
Ndopu’s essay succeeds where it reminds us that the cultural context for imagining a feud between a white gay man and a black queer woman cannot possibly be founded on equal terms. The modes of access to privilege are simply not commensurable with one another; as Ndopu writes, we “must take into account the overarching power imbalances that frame interpersonal experiences of epistemic violence.” Fair enough, and v important, but what seems to be the outcome of Ndopu’s essay is a critical abstraction that divorces the actual Twitter feud between Banks and Hilton so far from its original situational violence that it becomes ultimately devoid of any practical meaning & subsequently operates as a distanced cultural logic that enables Ndopu to tackle broader sociopolitical anxieties that he believes aren’t being effectually grappled with in a more extensive fashion.
Basically, the problem with this is that, simply because a particular event enables us to use it as a “teachable moment” (or whatever) does not mean that the event itself becomes wholly allegorical. As I said, Ndopu’s point is well-taken and presented in a powerful manner: a great deal of the attention to this feud almost certainly comes out of a history of white racist discourses that link blackness necessarily with homophobia, particularly within the rap community. And certainly, a black queer woman likely will not have the same social privilege that a white cis gay man will - AND YET.
Is this actually true of this particular situation, or has Ndopu redirected the conversation to a more generalized problematic of our world? This is where the question becomes murky. Azealia Banks has exploded in the past year & has a level of visibility, wealth, and power denied a large proportion of women supposedly “in” the category of her identity. On the flip side, Perez Hilton, while technically a sort of “force” within celebrity culture, has little to no cultural esteem, even if he has racial and gender privilege in addition to his position in the media. He’s one of the most hated figures in contemporary American culture because of his blatant disrespect for common decency & ethical concerns, re: privacy. Public sympathy works profoundly to his disfavor, and it seems to me that much of the distaste about Banks’ use of the word “faggot” flies in the face of Hilton-hatred - in other words, people make a Scylla & Charybdis decision here, deciding that hate speech has to be addressed despite the fact that Hilton is himself such a hate-able figure.
Thus what seems troubling when Ndopu abstracts the situation is that it seems consequently justifiable to excuse homophobia because of the assumption that Hilton is, in fact, the sort of person “deserving” of hatespeech due to his white male privilege and his own personal grotesquerie, and on the flip side, because of a history of cultural disenfranchisement, Azealia Banks - herself realistically no longer disenfranchised in at least a capitalistic and culturally visible sense - should be allowed, in a sort of verbal avenue of “reparations”, to deploy this hatespeech.
The fact is, no one “deserves” to be called a faggot in a hateful manner, no matter how horrible we believe them to be. When we excuse Azealia Banks’ use of this on the basis of our distaste for Hilton or our sense of guilt or anxiety concerning continuing racialized disparities of power, we fall into a sliding logic that likewise continues to suggest that it’s “ok” to deploy homophobic violence if the person in question seems justifiably available for that violence. A homophobe always thinks that the target of their violence “deserves” it - that’s the logic of homophobia! Hatespeech operates on the assumption that the addressee is less-than-human and so less entitled to protection from violence - this sort of speech also frequently works to “put in their place” those who are legibly beyond or outside the normative.
Thus Banks’ clarification of her use of the word “faggot” as being particularly about “effeminate gay men” sounds like the same tired shit, rather than this revolutionary equalizing of the power differentials operative in the Twitter feud, as Ndopu insinuates. Seems to me strange, in this way, too, that Ndopu identifies Hilton as “cis.” Of course, I’m a bit out of the loop on what counts as “cis” these days, as it seems to be thrown around as anything even approaching the normative, rather than particular to a conventional gendered legibility. In any case, Ndopu’s suggestion that we must be mindful of the femmephobia directed at Banks as a black woman sounds like a paradoxical claim in the face of what Banks actually said - and then clarified further as DEFINITELY what she said and meant. She’s now specified that what she *really* meant in using the term “faggot” was that the insult and hatred involved was not only about homophobia (faggots, as she said, have loose assholes that whistle! I’ll vouch for that one, wink wink!) but also about hatred of femininity - men who act “like” women. Men who don’t know their place in two regards - how they self-present and who they fuck.
A great deal of the outrage over her mistake is also, I think, about a sense of betrayal within the queer community. Having hitherto presented herself not only as a bisexual woman, but as a queer-ally, Banks’ reiteration of this verbal violence thus felt like a refusal to follow through on a promise that she might actually bring something different to the table, particularly within a music genre that is, if not entirely hostile, at least dominated by figures with whom women and queers cannot unproblematically identify. The question of misogyny & homophobia in rap music is a discussion that’s far more complicated than this, and is beyond the bounds of what I’m talking about at present, but it seems to me that the flack Banks has received has been as much about the fact that her use of the word “faggot” felt like a horrible revelation that her prior alignment with, and appropriation of, queer culture was something more like an opportunistic lie than an actual alliance.
This final note points in another direction that Ndopu fails to effectively account for - the question of who “owns” cultural property and thus has a right to use it. It’s interesting that Ndopu fails to articulate Banks’ own appropriations of queer culture - notably, ball culture, which, while having a black female presence, has more to do with a kind of performative play, drag, genderfuck, etc. She cites Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary “Paris is Burning” particularly & frequently uses this sort of lingo - “banjee” and so on. This citationality does not bother me, but it seems like it should bother Ndope, who believes that particular cultures have rightful parameters, beyond which they should not reach, unless they’re “the most disenfranchised” on the unarticulated but obviously implied identity-totem-pole hierarchy that Ndopu imagines.
Thus words like “gurl,” and “fierce,” and “work,” seem in this logic to be the actual cultural property of black women - black femininities, and the assertion is that white gay men appropriate these femininities as a form of “ontological mockery.” This presumes a universalizable usage of camp, a term which doesn’t come up in Ndopu’s piece, but which seems relevant here - and in this sense, camp, bricolage, pastiche, gender play all become null and void, because black women do this, say that, and sound a particular way, all while being presumptively femme (Ndopu also doesn’t really attend to Banks’ play with masculinity) and white gay men who do any of these things or say any of these words are being racist fucks.
This only reinstitutionalizes a necessary masculinity to (white) gay male bodies — and again, there’s an invisible community here, the largely non-white and distinctively femme gay male bodies at work in the ball culture Banks cites - the same men who are probably most vulnerable to the homophobic violence often resultant from the “faggot” address — and ensures that a certain kind of linguistic and aesthetic style is not only “owned” by black women, but is inescapable for them.
Where is the pleasure in gender play and identities which are not the proper property of the subjects assigned to them? What about the usage of camp, which assembles identity from a multitude of cultures, might have productive and critically reflexive capacities? As a white gay male who is also very decidedly NOT masculine, part of my struggle to lead a livable life in a world that sees me as one of the worst possible cultural mistakes (the faggot or “effeminate gay man” to use Banks clarification - the sexual deviant who is also visibly inhabiting a treasonous gender) has been in enjoying the very instability of my identity and my gender-presentation - the reward for being hypervisible and particularly available to sexual and gender-based violence is that I’m also at leisure to refashion myself and am not tied to a particular kind of masculinity or whiteness or queerness that has been prescribed to me, and continues to be prescribed in both Ndopu’s logic and in the discourses operative in a Twitter battle which ultimately leaves both parties, while not positionally comparable, looking equally shitty.
Thus sitting back and saying Banks had to equalize the playing field, Hilton deserved what he got, and white cis gay men need to go back to being “white” and “butch” (whatever these things actually entail) - rather than being afforded the possibility of cultural play - only perpetuates the sort of identificatory divisions that generate racism, homophobia, misogyny, hatespeech, and violence against marginalized subjects. Attending to cultural disparities is an important project, but relegating the originary deployment of violence to abstraction in the service of opening eyes to those cultural disparities does no one any favors.
“How we need another soul to cling to, another body to keep us warm. To rest and trust; to give your soul in confidence: I need this, I need someone to pour myself into.”
– The Unabridged Journals, by Sylvia Plath
Not the best thing I’ve seen about their friendship, but perhaps a good starting point.
this is literally the image i have been waiting my (w)hole life 2 c!!!
old lady drag ON A BABY!!! YES!~!!!
my junior year in college i had a birthday that was jellystomp themed, to which my friends were encouraged to come dressed as a baby (colloquially referred to as a jelly, as in “i want to spread that baby on my bagel like jelly”) or a stomp (an old lady, as in when you yell to an old lady hobbling down the lane to “stomp it out, gur!”) or a mixture of the two (a jellystomp)
she died so young.
OH MY FREAKING CHRIST. Gregory’s life is complete! We used to spend hours, HOURS I tell you!, searching google for things like “old lady baby,” “baby in geriatric dress,” “babies in floral print heels,” &co&co&co — and then subsequently worry that the gov’mint was like, watching our internet activity vewy vewy closely.
But finally! A picture of a baby dressed as an old lady! And it’s more than I ever could have imagined!