August 7th, 2013 / 1:21 pm
Author News & Behind the Scenes & Craft Notes & Haut or not & Random


Picture 4

Choire Sicha’s first book is out. I haven’t read it yet, but it is called Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. AD 2009) in a Large City. The book party was at the East Village gay bar “The Cock,” and I have to say I have never seen it as packed as last night, at least as a pedestrian who quickly walked past it from the outside. There will be a lot of talk about the book, because almost everyone who reads (a lot?) online knows of Sicha. The book follows a group of gay men and chronicles their lives, but for some reason I trust it to not be regressive, even before I read it. I choose to believe Salon, that it will be “among a next wave of books about gay folks as full American citizens that doesn’t bother walking them through schematic journeys meant to stand in for the American Gay Experience.”

The active endeavor to ensure the meaningful participation of diverse individuals in media is integral. It helps reach a realistic and more informed view on the specifics of a broader range of identities.  However, the constant overanalyzing of public figures’ gender, race and ethnicity identification choices may end up harming the very purpose they were intended to serve: letting individuals receive merit-based recognition for their objectively high-quality work.


A recent example of excessive analyzing of such nature is that of Hillary Clinton setting up a twitter account. Since the first moment she signed up for the social media website many jokes–some witty, others offensive–have been recurring. An approach that stuck out to me as particularly idiotic was the interpretation of how she chose to order the numerous qualities that define her in her two-line bio. To assert that Hillary Clinton is “anti-feminist” because she starts her twitter bio with “wife” and “mom” before addressing her professional accomplishments, is not only naive and judgmental, it is also self-righteous and flat-out manipulative. Policing the way people choose to present themselves, and telling them they are not to be taken seriously as feminists because they prioritize differently then the average feminist is expected to (?) is childish.

Additionally, who does not know that she also has served as Secretary of State? Pure common sense makes the dialogue surrounding the topic redundant. I think this line of thinking contradicts the true sense of feminism, as in such a system of order the women are provided the agency to identify how to present themselves. What about the people who use humor in their bios? Is that unethical? Are we taking things–such as a public figure’s social media presence–that seriously, and if we are, whose fault is it?


A piece in The Millions presented a family saga focusing on the case-hardened nature of the way identity is performed by the writer and her grandmother, who seem to fall into the trap of being defined by the social expectations their social identities in how they attain and use power.

“As mixed-race girls, we learned to take what we could from where we could to make a whole. That’s a vulnerable position to be in, susceptible to second-guessing and collapse, but it’s also a crash course in manipulation. Hence the posturing of invulnerability. The multitude of ways that my grandmother and I announced a lack of need, and presented ourselves as in solid control. We don’t need you, we projected, and therefore we may have to ignore what you need as we go about proving that to ourselves once and again. One of the only things I know how to say in Chinese is: Wo zi ze lai. I can help myself.”

After its initial appearance, the ideology of representation has slowly lost a large chunk of its significance. There are times that I feel like I am not supposed to not like non-white writing, even if some of it has to be mundane, dull and entitled. The worst is when the writing is also patronizing and borders delusional. In some ways, if the argument is reduced to powerlessness  as its selling point, it cannot easily be powerful when the powerlessness is not real.


I am not Miley Cyrus’ biggest fan, but an open letter addressed to her on The Huffington Post offended me. The writer aggressively requests Miley Curys ought to stop disrespecting “what feels black.” What he means of course, is that she should stop trying to emulate the rap element that currently dominates pop culture: she is white, thus cannot and must not do these things associated with what the author considers parts of the black identity, such as twerking. To claim these as an exclusive element of black culture is silly, and certainly flawed at its core: it leads to a new separation and division among people of different races. It seems like the writer might not be comfortable with a broadly inclusive culture that is not segmented the way he views it, or at least that is what the tone of his letter indicates.

His main issue and the central issue with her is her requesting producers that she was trying to go for a vibe that “feels black.” Her creative endeavor to do that cannot be offensive. It can be successful or not. While it is difficult to decide which is the case, at the end of the video for “We Can’t Stop” she smiles wearing a grill. It is not a mocking grin, rather a smile of awareness. She knows what she is doing, and she is doing it with a sense of humor.

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  1. mimi

      top image reminds me of a recurrent childhood nightmare and makes me feel really really claustrophobic!

  2. elias tezapsidis

      that s how i feel about the last one :((

  3. mimi


      that one makes my face itch

  4. Willis Plummer

      seems like you started off the article as a thoughtful individual and devolved to troll by the end. the analysis of miley cyrus’ appropriation of ‘blackness’ feels utopian and post-racial in a way that doesn’t reflect how our society works, and you’re not doing enough work to call her video ‘self-aware’ because she smiles at the end. it doesn’t really even seem fair to say that cyrus is an artist – more a product of corporate interests. if anything she’s taking ‘blackness’ and appropriating it, parodying it, making it digestible for a white suburban audience. When she smiles at the end, she’s just telling parents, ‘it’s okay, i’m not like those scary black people – i’m just a white girl playing around, and your kids are safe.’

  5. elias tezapsidis

      hey man-thx for reading.

      i really disagree. but i also don t feel like disagreeing w/ someone on appropriation in a forum extensively.

      briefly, i think that in the end, what matters is the artist’s–or to you not artist’s–intention. and she is not parodying or disrespecting the hip-hop/ rap culture. (i refuse to call it “blackness,” because i do think that is what the problem is. please do read the dude s letter i linked to on the huffpost. it disgusts me, but if u think the guy makes valid points, i dont care to disagree further.)

  6. August Wissmath

      I agree with you, Cyrus’ we can’t stop is complicated and self aware. But its content at face value is disrespectful and an excellent example of a ‘white’ celebrity using ‘authentic’ black women to legitimize her appropriation of what we might call “black culture.”

      I think your argument on authorial intent is flawed. Since I can’t express why in words. I’ll illustrated it with this “totally not racist” music video called “Asian Girlz.”

      The authors assert that the video is “self-aware” and “satirical”–born out of “love” and “respect” for “Asian Girlz.” However, I would argue that the visual content is anything but respectful.