Staunchly, vol. 71: Tell Me Something, Girl


Ok well that was a shit week to end all shit weeks. 

Every woman I know is exhausted to the point of hospitalization à la every tabloid celebrity in the mid-2000s, so let’s just get to it. 

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Senate Republicans finally agreed to an FBI investigation (“limited in scope”) into the life and times of sentient Lipitor ad / analog date planning-enthusiast / overall belligerent douche Brett Kavanaugh, otherwise known as: the poor man’s Squi. That development comes in no small part thanks to the courage of two extraordinary women and sexual assault survivors, Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher, who cornered Senator Jeff Flake in a Capitol elevator and demanded he listen to their stories. It was a stunning moment of courage and humanity in a building often lacking both, and it may have been the tipping point in getting the Arizona Republican to call for an FBI investigation. 

I am allergic to the deification of Senator Flake, who looks exactly like your mom’s new boyfriend she met on a Royal Caribbean cruise to CocoCay. He seems to have been allowed to have his cake (enjoy praise for standing up to Trump) and eat it too (while still rubber-stamping Trump’s conservative agenda), but I’m grateful that he did the basically decent thing here. I just wish it didn’t take two women standing in the elevator doors, asking him to treat them like people, for us to get to this point. Never ever forget how hard they make us fight for scraps of dignity. 

But here’s the point I want to make in earnest (a tone I try to strike only rarely): you can make a difference. It’s kind of wild to think but the activism of these two women may have ended the inevitability of Kavanaugh’s confirmation which in turn could shape the future of the Supreme Court and also the whole direction of the republic?? Major long-shots abound, but still! At the least, they made a man pause, which is not nothing. 

(Also, a note to sexual assault survivors: You are in no way required to share your trauma. If you choose to talk about your experience in the service of making a moral and political point in this moment, you are courageous. If you choose to hold your story close to yourself, because it belongs to you and you alone, and focus on healing, you are also courageous. Take care of yourself.)

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I feel like I read 45 pieces this week on the Kavanaugh hearings, the entitlement of privileged white men, the bravery of Christine Blasey Ford, the power of female rage, and the impossible respectability bar that female witnesses need to meet (tip: be white). Here’s a selection of my favorites:
Fury Is a Political Weapon. And Women Need to Wield It. by Rebecca Traister (NY Times)
Kavanaugh and the Blackout Theory by Sarah Hepola (NY Times)
Christine Blasey Ford Is a Class Traitor by Irin Carmon (NY Mag)
They Don’t Want to Know: Rebecca Solnit on Brett Kavanaugh and the Denial of Old White Men (Literary Hub)
Would You Be Believed? by Anne Helen Peterson (Buzzfeed)
The Kavanaugh Hearing Puts White Male Entitlement on Angry Display by Emma Goldberg (Feministing)


Now as a reward for engaging with all the horrible Kavanaugh news, let’s talk about how bad the Celine show was!
Celine, Against All Odds by Emilia Petrarca (The Cut)
To quote Audrey Gelman on Twitter, “the celine show is just another callous indignity women have had to suffer this week.”

I thought Petrarca’s review of the show, Hedi Slimane’s first for the fashion house, was well done and nuanced. Many fashion writers have pointed out that under Phoebe Philo, Céline (accent aigu re-added as commentary) stood for something bigger than itself. It represented a female gaze, women-forward design in an industry (women’s fashion) where that was all-too rare. Slimane disregarded Philo’s legacy and instead designed a collection for his own kind of person: girlish club kid, biker chick, emaciated Blues Brother. Side note: if you’re not already, follow Diet Prada on Instagram for some of the most insightful fashion commentary and plagiarism policing on the internet. 

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I read The Awakening (1899) by Kate Chopin this month for the first time and it impacted me more than any other book I’ve read in my late twenties. Maybe it’s the time and place I read it. I finished it outside by my parents’ pool under a really bright sun at high noon. (I feel like the books I consume near a strong heat source stay with me longer, have a deeper char. Like putting ideas under the broiler.)

Maybe it’s because the protagonist, Edna Pontellier, is willful, 28 going on 29, and motivated by nothing so much as the retrieval of her own identity and fight for her freedom* (*she is a very privileged white woman in the gulf south at the start of the Jim Crow era, so “freedom” requires an asterisk).

Maybe it’s because the book is staunchly feminist, bleak as hell, and yet weirdly triumphant—which is my preferred stew of tones.

Probably all of the above.
It’s an incredible read. I wish I’d found it 10 years ago, but I’m glad I read it now.  
I also highly recommend checking out “You Will Not Own a Porsche One Day,” Nicole Skibola’s essay for Girls at Library about the push and pull of The Awakening on her own life and the things we let go in pursuit of the essential us.

My life was, shall we say, open to possibilities. I had no clear direction, my foray into the arts made me un-hireable in the business world, and I had no assets, savings, or plan for the future. All I knew is that I wanted to write and draw, and I wanted a sense of freedom…

- Skibola

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I don’t think I’ve stopped listening to “Shallow” from the A Star Is Born soundtrack since they put it up on Spotify. I’m not even sure it’s a good song. Regardless, I got sick of hitting repeat so I made a playlist of “Shallow” played 400 times for 24 hours. Enjoy.