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”

away from the racist, classist center, democrats

I’m getting pretty fucking sick of cisgender, heterosexual, professional/upper class white dudes lecturing leftists on how shit our policies are and how little we’ve done for the Democrats. It continues today in the New York Times, in an opinion piece titled, “Back to the Center, Democrats,” by Andrew Stein and Mark Penn. Here is a taste:

Central to the Democrats’ diminishment has been their loss of support among working-class voters, who feel abandoned by the party’s shift away from moderate positions on trade and immigration, from backing police and tough anti-crime measures, from trying to restore manufacturing jobs. They saw the party being mired too often in political correctness, transgender bathroom issues and policies offering more help to undocumented immigrants than to the heartland.

This piece is full of useful advice for Democrats, such as, “restore the sanctity of America’s borders,” “reject socialist ideas,” “give up on both building walls and sanctuary cities” (side note: pray tell when progressives were into building walls; pretty sure that was all conservatives, and frankly, fuck you both for equating xenophobic walls and sanctuary cities), be nicer to the Catholics, and back tougher anti-crime/pro-police bills. You know, if I were going to write a parody of the asinine think pieces about how Democrats really need to get back to the center, it would look a lot like this loose stool Penn and Stein managed to squeeze out. Continue reading away from the racist, classist center, democrats

food justice is reproductive justice

Depressing stories about reproductive healthcare and rights routinely fill the news: four Planned Parenthood clinics close in Iowa due to targeted budget cuts, our ass of a president expanded the global gag rule that prevents organizations that provide abortions from receiving U.S. foreign aid money, the soulless ghouls who make up the U.S. Senate Republicans have created a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare that targets reproductive healthcare,  and the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale strikes fear into our hearts (I guess this one is only depressing because it’s “too real,” as they say).  In the United States, activists and feminists continue to struggle just to beat back anti-abortion legislation. Unfortunately, this has meant that many of us are stuck in a reproductive rights paradigm. The reproductive rights framework for activism is generally limited to the legal sphere and focused primarily on the legal right for someone to have an abortion. This legal right is, of course, nothing to sneeze at, and reproductive rights are critical to reproductive freedom. However, as a paradigm for movement-building, reproductive rights lacks the capacity to effectively connect with other social movements, and to move beyond a narrow focus on choice and “women’s health.” Continue reading food justice is reproductive justice

moving restorative justice from margins to center: what i learned

This past weekend, I went to Oakland, California, to attend the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice‘s annual conference, this year titled, “Moving Restorative Justice from Margins to Center: We’re The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For.” It was a truly incredible experience. I’m grateful and humbled to have been able to learn from some seriously visionary and creative activists. This conference was where you can find the people who have ideas so big and daring, it’s a little bit scary. It’s definitely scary to people who are invested in the status quo, which is what made it so awesome! Here are some of the lessons from the conference that resonated most strongly with me, and that I imagine will stick with me for a really long time. Continue reading moving restorative justice from margins to center: what i learned

gender studies rule, boys drool: “the conceptual penis” and sexist attempts to discredit feminist scholarship

I’ll be perfectly frank: when I first read “The Conceptual Penis” and the authors’ accompanying article explaining their hoax, I was SUPER pissed. I was a women’s and gender studies major in college; the discipline changed my life and my understanding of the world. I hold it in very high esteem (though that’s not to say there are no problems with the field, or with academia as a whole). Gender studies is very important to me personally, and it’s an extremely important addition and subversion of more mainstream and well-established academic departments. As you can tell, after cooling off for a couple of days, I’m now only a little bit pissed.

The hoax, which was published by Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay (under pseudonyms) in the journal Cogent Social Sciences, was a play on a similar “hoax” by the physicist Alan Sokal in 1996. Sokal submitted a fake paper to a peer-reviewed journal as a prank that aimed to show that any article could be published in even fancy journals if it was filled with enough big words and run-on sentences to please postmodern academic sensibilities, and if it aligned with postmodern (left-of-center) ideology.

Inspired by Sokal, Boghossian and Lindsay submitted an article to Cogent titled, “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct.” In a piece that they wrote to explain the hoax, they say:

The paper was ridiculous by intention, essentially arguing that penises shouldn’t be thought of as male genital organs but as damaging social constructions. We made no attempt to find out what ‘post-structuralist discursive gender theory’ actually means. We assumed that if we were merely clear in our moral implications that maleness is intrinsically bad and that the penis is somehow at the root of it, we could get the paper published in a respectable journal…After completing the paper, we read it carefully to ensure it didn’t say anything meaningful, and as neither one of us could determine what it is actually about, we deemed it a success.”

Aside from the arrogant, smarmy tone of the piece (which is annoying but not really a substantive problem), there are some serious issues with the premise of their “hoax”:  it is, at its heart, a sexist attempt to discredit gender studies and not a genuine academic exploration; their theorizing is not, in fact, as silly as they make it sound; their own positionalities and ideologies prevent them from seeing the limitations of their “hoax;” and it’s simply bad scholarship with a conclusion that lacks supporting evidence and authors who intentionally obscure any evidence that contradicts their ideology, which is the exact crime they accuse gender studies of committing. To put it bluntly, they’re full of shit and are having a power trip by creating a sexist caricature of gender studies. Continue reading gender studies rule, boys drool: “the conceptual penis” and sexist attempts to discredit feminist scholarship

4 tips for avoiding foodie cultural appropriation

My bf made the above video to go with a script I wrote! I think it’s safe to say most of us have, at some point, felt unsure about whether instances of potential cultural appropriation really were that. This video is about food, in particular, but the lessons can apply across many types of cultural expression. A longer version of the script (which hopefully will clear up questions that anyone may have after watching) is below. Enjoy!

Continue reading 4 tips for avoiding foodie cultural appropriation

why i have trust issues with vegans

Recently(ish), I wrote about how primarily animal-centered activists and  primarily human-centered activists can and should be working together towards a future without oppression, violence, or systemic hierarchies and dichotomies. Despite the rampant racism, classism, and sexism in mainstream animal rights activism, I think that the principles underlying racial/gender/economic justice movements are present in some food justice and animal rights movements, and that those coalitions should be expanded.

I still believe that, but I want to provide a (semi-)topical example of someone who makes that kind of coalition-building difficult.  Casey Affleck, Oscar winner, (alleged) sexual harasser and assaulter, and vegan/animal rights activist, represents a lot of the problems with mainstream animal rights activism and food-based social movements.  It’s very hard for anti-racist and feminist activists to be open to food-based social movements that are truly progressive and radical when Casey Affleck and others like him continue to be the most public faces of veganism and animal rights activism.  Casey makes this particularly difficult, both because his activism is simplistic and oppressive and because of the interpersonal violence he himself has perpetrated. Continue reading why i have trust issues with vegans