Staunchly, vol. 93: Neoliberal Parkour


Well, this week did not go as planned.

As I wrote this issue Monday, Notre Dame was burning. I was working by the pool at my parents’ house when my mom came out onto her balcony to tell me, Notre Dame is burning. I made it to a TV just in time to see the spire collapse, a ribby spike split like a chicken bone by a mouth of fire. Should we take it personally that a cathedral that withstood 800 years, Hitler, collapsed (partially) in our lifetime? Or is it just something like what Rachel said to Joey about refrigerators: that cathedrals don’t live as long as a society?

Either way the conversation online about how much we are allowed to care about a pretty old thing burning is making me seasick. We are allowed to care about pretty old things burning while acknowledging that the institutions behind them have brought a lot of harm to a lot of people. We can be touched by a city’s reverence for its history and also grossed out by the difference in velocities at which funds are mobilized by rich people for buildings in need vs. people in need. Here’s one good thing to come out of this week: three black Baptist churches in Louisiana devastated by racially-motivated arson have raised nearly $2 million for repairs in the wake of the Notre Dame fire. You can add to that sum here.

On Tuesday, I got in a pretty bad car wreck. Everything went white and metallic, or maybe it was more like baby blue, the color of the airbags. I’m ok, just shaken and sore as hell. Mostly I’m grateful. I wish I could tell a sadder, younger version of myself that someday I’d be 29, trembling in smashed metal, and all the friends I texted from my dying phone would drop what they were doing to come to me, hold my hand, call insurance, give me a tangerine La Croix. Weird it took a traumatic accident to remind me that people care about me but have you ever met a Scorpio?

- Henri Matisse via The Paris Review

- Henri Matisse via The Paris Review

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If I had to sum up 2019 Staunchly in one sentence it would be: come for the rant about gendered campaign coverage, stay for the killer eyegloss rec. Today’s motivation: Rebecca Traister’s unsurprisingly great essay in The Cut about the way we talk about candidates as parents. Tl; dr: male politicians like Beto get to be men in search of themselves, seekers on a hero’s journey with no domestic encumbrances and faithful wives to keep the hearth and drive carpool. Female candidates are still expected to make dinner.

Not only do we explicitly and implicitly punish women when (we think) they’ve neglected motherhood duties for political pursuits, we also as a société never fail to judge and belittle the very “mom culture” we demand they inhabit:

“The tight knot for women in politics (and perhaps in life) has been, will always be, this: Everything associated with motherhood has been coded as faintly embarrassing and less than — from mom jeans to mommy brain to the Resistance. And yet to be a bad mom has been disqualifying, and to not be a mom at all is to be understood as lacking something: gravity, value, femininity.”

Ok cool!! I guess I’ll just go knit a sweater then?? (no tea no shade I love the skein arts).

Traister’s writing is always crisp, but she’s particularly convincing when she interrogates the additional racial texture in the media’s treatment of black mothers. “Black women have rarely been celebrated politically as maternal ideals,” she writes. “Before Michelle Obama became mom-in-chief, black mothers most often turned up in a presidential context as emblems of bad parenting, deployed as ‘welfare queens’ and pathologized as unfit single mothers in fights to reduce government programs. Were she a mother, [Kamala] Harris would surely be judged on an even more unforgiving scale.”

As we move forward through this million-year campaign cycle, let’s keep investigating the ways we’ve been trained to applaud men for doing the absolute bare minimum and stay vigilant when we see antiquated gender bullshit slip into the narrative like sneaky little stowaways. Alternatively: wikihow dot com slash ‘how to build a themyscira from scratch.’

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Will be back on Monday with more deep reads and some Mueller thoughts, but here are some pieces to tide you over.

The Hidden Horror of Hudson Yards Is How It Was Financed by Kriston Capps (CityLab)

How abuse of a visa program designed to pump investments into disadvantaged neighborhoods led to the creation of the billionaire playground/neoliberal parkour arena known as Hudson Yards. Outrage: activate.

A White Restaurateur Advertised ‘Clean’ Chinese Food. Chinese-Americans Had Something to Say About It. by Sharon Otterman (NY Times)

One of my favorite restaurants in LA serves healthful, seasonal, delicious fare with a variety of cultural influences. There’s a curry on the menu, a shakshuka, and many dishes feature ingredients native to Southeast Asian cooking. The women who own it are white, but their conscientious approach to flavor and sustainability makes each dish feel like an homage. They do not promise authenticity. They promise flavorful comfort food from wholesome elements and thoughtful processes. It has been my experience that they deliver (again and again and again).

An uncomfortable truth is that most of the wellness food en vogue today is heavily inspired by non-Western cuisines, if not plainly appropriative. This article is a case study on what happens when you approach it from a place of “cultural arrogance,” a privilege so blinding you can’t even see why branding your minty millennial white interpretation of Chinese food as “clean” is so gobsmackingly tone-deaf to the history of Asian stereotypes in this country.


My opinion is: cook what you want (within reason—choose inspiration over outright theft), but access it from a state of respect and awareness and don’t sound like an asshole.

Tell Me Again Why Prisoners Can’t Vote by Jamelle Bouie (NY Times)

“Citizenship is not a right that expires upon misbehavior” - Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren in 1958. Bouie makes a convincing case for why denying anyone convicted of a crime the right to vote completely negates the concept of “inalienable” rights.

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One of the benefits of being in pain from this accident is the excuse to get incredibly high and lie in bed with my iPad flat across my face. I did so last night and started PEN15. I made it through half—maybe a third—of an episode in two hours because I kept rewinding to watch specific scenes. It’s the most precise representation of my own experience as an eighth grade girl that I’ve ever seen. Which makes it endlessly cringey, but so satisfying.

I also binged and loved Derry Girls last week. Nineties schoolgirl-centered TV show set in the Irish Troubles? I’m listening. Although I will say it was not as enjoyable to consume high, which I find very rare for a comedy. When I was high, the hamminess of the show came through a lot more. Maybe I was just hyper-aware of it because my spoilsport friend Travis had called the show “too broad.” But yeah, one of the best parts about being high is the delight you can find in tiny delicious details you might have otherwise missed. Little quirks to obsess over. Derry Girls was surprisingly lacking in these. I’ll stop explaining being high now.

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I was dissociating in a Rite Aid recently, searching for a phantom Revlon eye gloss that I saw once in a magazine like six months ago and never again since, when I decided to just google “best drugstore eye glosses” and reorient my focus. I came upon this curation of said products from Beyonce’s makeup artist, Sir John, who recommends four cheap lip products to create that shiny, wet eye look I find so strangely chic. I honestly am not sure why I’ve become so obsessed with eye gloss. I like how it creates this dewy little pocket at the top of your face that catches the light in pleasing ways, and I like how it leans fully into the bête noire of eye grease, a dreaded function of the body we were instructed to suppress with layers of chalky, spackle-like lid primer from Urban Decay.

Sir John suggests applying L’oreal Colour Riche Shine Lipstick on the lid with a flat brush for the ultimate shellac-ed eye look. I bought it in glossy fawn, a peachy nude, and applied it with my fingers. It’s the perfect glazy wash of color.