Tag Archives: Matter

A Reading List Inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins

Photo: Chris

I used the seven deadly sins–lust, gluttony, envy, greed, sloth, pride, and anger — as the springboard for choosing these stories.

1. LUST: “Eileen Myles on the Excruciating Pain of Waiting for Love.” (Eileen Myles, The Cut, February 2016)

Poet and novelist Eileen Myles muses on a summer fling that should’ve lasted forever.

2. GLUTTONY: “Hunger Makes Me.” (Jess Zimmerman, Hazlitt, July 2016)

Jess Zimmerman writes eloquently on the subject of emotional labor, and “Hunger Makes Me” connects the twin suppressions of women’s physical and emotional appetites.

3. ENVY: “Tan Lines.” (Durga Chew-Bose, Matter, August 2015)

Lucky for us, Durga Chew-Bose’s essay collection, Too Much and Not the Mood (not “not IN the mood,” as many 2017 book previews have miswritten), debuts in April. Here, Chew-Bose meditates on her heritage and the double standard of the white obsession with tanning.

4. PRIDE: “Southern Fried Pride: What Hattiesburg’s First Pride Means in the Deep South.” (Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Medium, August 2016)

In the parlance of sinning, pride is associated with selfishness, narcissism, and vanity (i.e., our current presidential administration). Instead, I wanted to feature self-love and self-confidence, a kind of pride that isn’t evil in the slightest, as well as a reminder that it’s 2017 and bigots still protest against LGBTQ people (and not just in the American South).

5. GREED: “A Tyrannosaur of One’s Own.” (Laurie Gwen Shapiro, Aeon, January 2016)

Are private fossil collections a disservice to the scientific community?

6. ANGER: “She Mad and She Magic.” (Muna Mire, The New Inquiry, August 2015)

An insightful review of Michele Wallace’s groundbreaking text, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwomanrecently reissued by Verso Books. Muna Mire examines the book’s controversial reception in 1979 and its contemporary resonance, concluding, “Black Macho may have been inconvenient; it may not have been careful. But it was a necessary push forward. Getting angry works for Black women — it gets results and keeps us alive.”

7. SLOTH: “Fuck Work.” (James Livingston, Aeon, November 2016)

“Fuck Work” sounds blunt, until you learn James Livingston is the author of a book called No More Work: Why Full Employment is a Bad Idea. Livingston critiques our capitalist obsession with productivity and defining our self-worth via our work ethic, because full employment doesn’t insure quality of life. He asks,

“How do you make a living without a job – can you receive income without working for it? Is it possible, to begin with and then, the hard part, is it ethical? If you were raised to believe that work is the index of your value to society – as most of us were – would it feel like cheating to get something for nothing?”

All Hail the Queen: Five Stories About Pageants

On Sunday, the first openly gay Miss America contestant will vie for the crown on national TV. She’s Miss Missouri, Erin O’Flaherty, and her platform centers on suicide prevention—a particularly prescient topic, since LGBTQ-identified teens are far more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. I’m excited for O’Flaherty and hopeful her presence will increase awareness of the abysmal suicide rates among our community. On the other hand, I take issue with O’Flaherty’s declaration that “the Miss America Organization has always been open and accepting of women of all backgrounds.” This, as I learned during my reading this week, is simply not true. Black women were prohibited from competing until 1950. Women who had abortions or were divorced could not compete until 1999. Until recently, the “swimwear” modeling portion accounted for 15 percent of each contestant’s overall score; this year, it’s 10 percent. These are just the facts.

Miss America isn’t the only pageant out there, of course, and this week, I learned about Miss Rodeo America and Miss Gay America, too. In this list, you’ll find stories about drag royalty, the price of the perfect Western wardrobe, the perils of butt glue, and more. Read more…

‘The One Who Gives Birth to Herself’: Rachel Syme on Empowerment and Agency Through Posting Selfies

It’s difficult to select just one perfect quote as a representative sample of Rachel Syme’s excellent ode to the selfie, at Matter. She comes at the subject from so many smart angles that there are too many to choose from. A prolific self-portrait poster herself, Syme defends this hugely popular phenomenon–so frequently derided as narcissistic and shallow, especially in reference to women–as a respectable act of self-expression and self-determination:

We are living in times of peak-selfie, and therefore, peak selfie-hatred. When a phenomenon leaks so completely and quickly into the cultural water supply, people are bound to get freaked out…

Those who see selfies as signs of the end times are focusing on the outliers; the bad actors. The people who accidentally fall into a waterfall and die in the pursuit of the perfect shot. The kids who get addicted to the digital feedback loop and start relying on hearts to get up in the morning. The moms and dads who take selfies when they should be watching their babies; the seething loners who use their selfies as a way to spread hate (if this hate spills over into violence, then selfies will surely get the blame). But these types of delinquents have always existed: the teenagers who don’t pay attention in class, ​the bros ​who snooze through cultural events,​ the trolls who care about snark over compassion. ​There are always going to be tourists who shove themselves obnoxiously to the front of the line, people who put their needs over the needs of others, people who gawk at fires and funerals: these are not unique social problems created by the selfie or its accoutrement.

​What the critics don’t focus on is how to decode the language of selfies when they are being used correctly: what the people in them are trying to do with their portraiture, what big message each individual’s self-representational practice all adds up to in the end.

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.
Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

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Deaf Culture and Sign Language: A Reading List

While learning about language for last week’s Reading List, I read a number of stories about the Deaf community. Deaf culture is unique and thriving. As Sujata Gupta puts it in her essay for Matter:

Very few hearing people are aware of the vibrancy and depth of Deaf culture. It’s a world with its own etiquette and norms. It has languages—the many different forms of sign—as rich and nuanced as any spoken tongue. Like any culture, it has its own interpretation of history. There are Deaf theater companies and Deaf film festivals and Deaf comedy shows. And these are not facsimiles of hearing-world versions, with speech replaced by sign. The shared experience of deafness, and the physical nature of sign, make Deaf arts distinct in a way that most hearing people cannot appreciate.

The following four stories demonstrate this vibrancy and history–the enduring presence of Deaf culture and its advocates. Read more…

‘Why Don’t Pure Loves Meet?’ On the Radio in Afghanistan

Photo: Lig Ynnek

In this beautiful piece from Matter, Mujib Mashal takes the reader to the Afghani airwaves, into the hearts of its listeners. From the complications of arranged marriage to online dating woes, the youth of Afghanistan have a lot on their minds. DJ Ajmal Noorzai solemnly shares their stories on his program, The Night of Lovers. 

When the show first aired, callers were reticent to speak honestly. But slowly, with Ajmal’s guidance, they opened up — so much so that stories had to be debated before they were aired. In one, a young girl named Sameera sobbed as she recounted falling for a man other than her arranged spouse. Honor is everything in Afghan society; it is a highly shameful act for a female member of the family to engage in relations of any kind with a man before marriage. Producers had to be careful to safeguard Sameera’s identity.

Sameera had been engaged to a man for three years; he was a good man. But no matter how hard she tried “to send her heart his way,” she couldn’t. Her family — her sister, her brother — tried to help her forget the man she truly loved, without success. She felt trapped. “I just wanted to share this with the listeners. I am a very pained girl. Good night to you — and I pray that those who have not been united with each other, they meet again. God protect you.”

What struck Ajmal about Sameera’s story wasn’t just that she was speaking honestly, openly, about a taboo subject. It was that she was connecting to thousands of others united in pain and heartache. Afghanistan is a nation of suppressed pain, in its every color and form. A nation awash in PTSD. We have seen such extremes that what elsewhere would draw the attention of psychologists here is considered normal. Pain is something to be dealt with in solitude, to be “only shared with the mirrors,” as the poet Qahar Asi put it.

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Rest in Peace: Stories About Death Care

I. I’ve been thinking: What would my life look like if I were not afraid of death? Thinking too closely about not existing, not having a consciousness, sends me spiraling into a panic attack. Protestant Christians believe in an afterlife—a heaven, a hell. I did, too, for a while. I was confident, fervent, about heaven. I was no longer afraid to die. Now I’m not so sure. Nothingness scares me, but so does an eternity spent somewhere else.

A month ago, I shared a reading list about architecture. My pick from The Stranger was about Katrina Spade, an  archeologist from Seattle interested in environmentally friendly, community-centered death care: city centers dedicated to composting human beings and reuniting their bodies with nature. It’s called the Urban Death Project. A few days ago, Spade debuted her fundraising campaign to make the project a reality.

I studied artist Iris Gottlieb’s drawings of plants and fungi and Spade’s architectural plans. I liked the idea that the composting hubs would be unique to each city—much like libraries, which take on aspects of their communities while serving the same essential purpose worldwide, Spade explained. Reading the details of Spade’s proposal, I felt genuinely moved, and, for the first time in a decade, peaceful. Read more…

Shut-Ins and the Sharing Economy

Photo by PixaBay

With Alfred, you no longer have to open the door for the Instacart delivery: A worker comes into your apartment and stocks food in your fridge. You don’t hand off your dirty undies to a Washio messenger; Alfred puts the laundered undies in the drawer. This all happens by paying your Alfred $99 a month, plus the goods and services at reduced cost through Alfred’s hookups. Alfred won first place in the TechCrunch Disrupt SF conference last year.

Shutting people out is an important part of being a shut-in: When signing up, customers can choose the option of not seeing their Alfred, who will come in when they’re at work. Alfred’s messaging is aimed at sweeping aside any middle-class shame.

“We’re trying to remove the taboo and the guilt that you should have to do it,” says Alfred’s CEO Marcela Sapone over the phone. “We’re empowering you to let others do it for you. You’re the manager of your life. It’s against the stigma of ‘People use this because they’re lazy.’ Absolutely not. They’re using this because they’re extremely busy.”

Lauren Smiley, in an essay for Matter about the “sharing economy,” where anything and everything is now deliverable with a single click. Smiley sees the on-demand economy as less about sharing and more about serving, creating a world where one is either “pampered, isolated royalty,” or a “21st century servant.”

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Photo of Cody Spafford by: Geoffrey Smith

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

* * *

Read more…

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

* * *

Read more…