what rape culture can’t do: harvey weinstein and accountability

First of all, fuck Harvey Weinstein and all the people who have protected him. And let’s just say fuck you to all rapists, abusers, and harassers for good measure. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s not be surprised that a powerful white man used his position of power to deeply harm other people. That is exactly what we should expect. However, as a Liberal, Harvey Weinstein has to care what feminists and feminist-adjacent people think about him being a shitty, violent misogynist. So he issued a statement on October 5, in which he apologized for the pain he’s caused without specifying what pain he was talking about, made a weak excuse about how he came of age in a different time in which this was acceptable, and said he was getting help from therapists and lawyers. He ends by talking about how he is on the path to setting up a scholarship for women directors at the University of Southern California, and how he will name it after his mom. It is not totally clear why he felt compelled to add that into an apology. Does he think that giving some women money means he doesn’t have to feel guilty for hurting others?

Then on October 10, his spokeswoman (QuiT, GIRLLLLL) said, “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.” This across-the-board denial of wrongdoing is pretty much par for the course, but it’s also very confusing (and utterly enraging, if you are easily wound up like I am). 5 days earlier, he said he was sorry for pain he’s caused right after his many sexual harassment settlements came to light and people started paying attention to his sexual violence. What other pain could he possibly have been referencing? How is he going to do right by the people he hurt (which he said on October 5) when, 5 days later, he says he never did anything wrong in the first place?

Continue reading what rape culture can’t do: harvey weinstein and accountability

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no other way: why we should be anti-gun extremists

Something horrible happened on Sunday. 59 people were killed by someone with a gun. Hundreds of people were injured in the ensuing chaos. Terrifying. Unimaginable. But then, we aren’t unfamiliar with these stories in the United States. In the past 5 years, there have been more than 1,500 mass shootings (in which four or more people were shot). But we already know this. We know how the news cycle will go when a white man kills people. Calls for prayers, as if that will help. Calls to stop the politicization of death, as if death isn’t always politicized. Calls to band together as a country, as if that will change anything. Speculation about the mental health of the shooter. Use of the phrase “lone wolf.” Resistance by most politicians to any major political action. Mass shootings shouldn’t feel banal, but they do.

There is a concept called the Overton window that describes the relative acceptability of various political ideas. Ideas that fall within the window are generally acceptable according to public opinion. In a talk by Jaclyn Friedman, author of “Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World without Rape,” she urged progressives and leftists not just to hold the line of acceptable political discourse but to continually push it left, no matter how futile it feels. She said that to hold the line means to concede ground to those who would push it right.

Perhaps the financial power of the NRA combined with the passion of NRA superfan voters frightens progressives into taking timid, milquetoast positions on gun control. Perhaps Democrats truly do believe that “we can respect the rights of responsible gun owners while keeping our communities safe.” And increased regulation, banning assault weapons, and making it more difficult for people who are known to be violent (particularly with intimate partners) to obtain guns would certainly be better than nothing. But I think we need to push the Overton window further left. People who oppose gun violence must understand that there is only one way to end it: to eliminate all gun manufacturing and ownership. This is not a politically viable opinion in the United States right now, and it would involve a Constitutional amendment, something that feels like a nightmare to achieve. But most important things will take a long time and a lot of work. There is no other way. Continue reading no other way: why we should be anti-gun extremists

be kind, not nice: how niceness marginalizes oppressed people and protects oppressors

This weekend, I had an experience with a dude that reminded me how much women are expected to be nice to strange men who give us no particular reason to be nice. On a hot night at a rooftop bar in Minneapolis that serves $3 vodka rail drinks (uh oh), I am sitting with four women friends when a stranger comes up to our table and starts making conversation. It is pretty clear that he is there to flirt with literally any one of us who will take him. Unfortunately, he is not especially interesting. He says nothing of importance. The onus is on us to keep the conversation moving along, and so we tease him about being boring. He calls us mean as a joke. I’m sure you can imagine how stupid the conversation is. One of my friends, who happens to be sitting across the table from the man and thus is ill-positioned to hear him in a loud bar, starts looking at her phone and talking to our friend who is sitting next to her. The man seemingly can’t take this, even though three other women are humoring his attempts at conversation politely. He says she’s being mean. He says she could just be nice. I tell him, as gently as I can, that what he’s saying is sexist and that she owes him nothing: not time, not attention, not laughter, and not conversation. He tells me I’m crazy, that he’s being nice and he just thinks someone should be nice, and that’s sexist?! In a perfect moment, another friend happens to arrive at the bar right as he’s saying this. She asks, don’t you have friends you can hang out with? He says yes. She says, then go hang out with them. The high of watching him angrily leave because he has been told to go is almost worth the low of having to listen to him talk for half an hour.

I know many other women have experienced nearly identical scenarios, perhaps with less happy endings. I also know that the expectation of niceness is put on other marginalized groups too: people of color and people with disabilities, especially. And it’s definitely required that marginalized people are nice when talking about their own oppression; being anything but nice is, in and of itself, grounds for complete and total disregard.  Continue reading be kind, not nice: how niceness marginalizes oppressed people and protects oppressors

vegan pizza

Pizza, mio amore! I have always loved you: feeling lucky to eat Hungry Howie’s in elementary school for Friday lunches, making pizza on a grill in the summer, eating Domino’s drunk and late at night in college, discovering pizza rosa on the streets of Rome. It never occurred to me to order or make pizza without cheese, but even before trying to be vegan was a twinkle in my eye, I often peeled the cheese off pizza, a habit that baffled and even disgusted most people who saw me do it. But I am here to say that cheese-less pizza is delicious! Without cheese, the sauces and toppings get to be in the spotlight (and your sauces and toppings will be so good that you don’t need cheese to enjoy pizza!). No cheese makes for a different pizza experience, but I think it’s exceptional. Below is my favorite pizza dough recipe, favorite sauce recipe, and favorite toppings. Enjoy! Continue reading vegan pizza

a vegan’s guide to eating in omaha

I came to Omaha last August for a year-long position at a nonprofit organization.  As my year wraps up, it seems like a nice time to write about the amazing food I’ve had here. I know most people who live elsewhere don’t think much of this city, smack dab in the middle of the country, surrounded by the Dakotas, Iowa, and the rest of Nebraska. Well, I have news for all of you! Omaha is awesome! I mean, as awesome as any small to midsize city. It has a lot of very serious problems that other cities also face: a mayor who loves the police a little too much, racial segregation, people who hate reproductive rights, people facing severe economic injustices, pollution, police brutality and militarization, and pipelines galore. But Omaha is not whatever empty wasteland people from the coasts (and even from snobbier parts of the Midwest!) imagine. It has a rich culinary community, and there are plenty of wonderful places to eat if you’re vegetarian or vegan. Here are some of my favorites: Continue reading a vegan’s guide to eating in omaha

a delicious way to eat brussels sprouts

I feel kind of silly, but I just learned that the correct way to refer to those delicious, tiny cabbages that are so trendy these days is Brussels sprouts, as in the city of Brussels! I’ve been spelling it brussel sprouts for years! The humiliation! I might continue to not capitalize the “b” because that just seems like too much respect for one vegetable.

Anyway, this recipe was inspired by some brussels sprouts I had at The Lowry in Minneapolis a few months ago. Their brussels sprouts were fried, and then drizzled in honey and sprinkled with toasted almonds and goat cheese. Very delicious. I mistakenly got them as an appetizer with a group of (foolish) people who did not like brussels sprouts, and though I also ordered an entree, the brussels sprouts really would have sufficed. They were crispy, caramelized, tangy, nutty, salty, and sweet. Brussels sprouts at their finest.

This recipe was altered a bit to fit the ingredients I already had, but the idea is similar. I used a balsamic reduction instead of honey because I really love vinegar, nixed the almonds because I didn’t want to buy them, and added shiitake bacon to make it a real meal. This would be great with almonds or other nuts, and can be eaten without cheese or with a vegan goat cheese to make it vegan. Enjoy! Continue reading a delicious way to eat brussels sprouts

review: “beatriz at dinner”

I couldn’t help thinking about “Get Out” while I was watching “Beatriz at Dinner.” Both are slightly fantastical movies about the insidious violence of rich, white people’s racism, filled with microaggressions and dream sequences. While “Get Out” is a full-blown horror movie, though, “Beatriz at Dinner” is something different. It could be categorized as a cringe comedy; the overwhelming feelings I had while watching it were stress and anxiety. However, while most cringe comedies skewer a few characters for obliviously violating social norms, this one targets not only individual characters but entire systems of violence.  It also critiques a particular segment of likely viewers: wealthy or upper-middle class liberals. Perhaps it would be more accurate to call this a cringe dramedy, given the solemn underlying tone of the film.

The film, directed by Michael Arteta and written by Mike White, is about a woman, Beatriz (Salma Hayek), who emigrated to California from Mexico as a child and who is now a healer, dealing in massage, sound therapy, reiki, and more.  She is a deeply compassionate person; we see this before we know her occupation, when we first meet her as she is awakened by her distressed goat who is bleating loudly from a pen in her bedroom. She climbs into the small pen and holds the goat close to her body, making soothing noises. She is also spiritual: she has both Buddha and the Virgin Mary in her car, and she starts her day by meditating on loved ones she has lost. The rest of her day is spent tending to other people’s pain at a clinic for people with cancer. Continue reading review: “beatriz at dinner”