Frontier Domesticity

In a July 10, 2017 entry on her website, The Pioneer Woman—popular television cooking personality Ree Drummond—describes a scene in which her husband and children round up their herd of cattle for shipping in the rain. Labeled under the tag “Confessions of a Pioneer Woman,” Drummond’s post details the cattle roundup and also serves as entry into the ways that the fantasy of the frontier continues to underpin gendered conceptions of individual, familial, and communal identity in the United States. Describing her daughter’s experience, Drummond writes, “Aw, poor cowgirl. She definitely earned her stripes. I wanted to run over and wrap her in a blanket, but she likes being one of the big kids … [Read more...]

Ingrid Goes Insane: Instagram, Mental Illness, and a New Aesthetic

Celebrity culture has always involved emulation and envy.  People wanted to be as glamorous as Audrey Hepburn or Cary Grant or Julia Roberts; the herculean popularity of Bollywood for the masses of South Asia speaks to the allure of sitting in a dark, air-conditioned room and getting carried away to a magical place where sexy, talented people carry on lives almost unimaginable to the ordinary person.  Woody Allen’s classic The Purple Rose of Cairo functions the same way, as a meditation on workaday poverty and romantic “escapism,” as it is somewhat derisively described by scholars and critics. Something peculiar has happened in the age of the Internet, though.  A mendacious nobody … [Read more...]

Say Her Name! Confronting Erasure & Rethinking Possibilities for a Democratic Future

The auditorium was at capacity in Tampa Bay, Florida for the 2016 North American Society for the Sociology of Sport annual conference in anticipation of Dr. Harry Edwards.  I had made it a must to attend this conference so that I could hear and possibly meet him.  Dr. Kimberly Schimmel provided the first keynote the day before that brought together a brilliant, expansive, critical exploration of sport in addressing issues of space, cities, gentrification, surveillance, and prisons. Now in a packed house with hundreds of people in the audience, Dr. Edwards provided a keynote lecture. His prior scholarship and activist work, especially with regards to the 1968 Olympics, inspired me.  His … [Read more...]

Nerdland Diary: Three Days in the Tropics of MegaCon

Sci-fi and fantasy conventions are typically a sensory overload of cosplay, celebrities, merchandise, “geek-themed” entertainment, and overwhelming crowds. This Memorial Day Weekend, I attended MegaCon 2017 in balmy Orlando, Florida for three days. During my first forty eight hours, I spent enough money to impress a stock-photo model, befriended Rogue of the X-Men, and watched the original Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture Show storm offstage. On the third day, I had a photo op with geek goddess Felicia Day. It was quite a time. The following is an account of those three days. All of the photographs are my own. No names have been changed to protect anyone. But in all truth, I didn't try … [Read more...]

The Exquisite Exquisiteness of Carol

We got this piece seven months ago and shelved it because, at the time, it didn't seem like it could be of any great relevance; the author just really, really likes a movie. And then we saw this piece in Wired on the rapid efflorescence of extreme Carol fandom online.  And we reconsidered. Go figure. Seldom has a movie so moved me as Todd Haynes's Carol. Haynes is an auteur's auteur, a throwback to the heyday of Great Directors in the 1970s.  His 1995 film Safe nearly inspired me to write a book, and his 2007 I'm Not There--a riff on the identity and iconicity of Bob Dylan--almost made me stop hating biopics. Indeed, the director's versatility and willingness to play with issues of gender … [Read more...]

Spinning through Arab America (and More) with Randa Jarrar

Despite being a slim volume, Randa Jarrar’s remarkable collection, Him, Me, Muhammad Ali, manages to take readers on a world tour of unlikely places: the shabby apartments of an Egyptian beach town, the mean streets of Yonkers, the tony Seattle home of a celebrity feminist academic.  Jarrar, who teaches creative writing at Fresno State, offers readers a dazzling array of perspectives and voices, at turns slangy and foul-mouthed and bittersweet and lyrical.  Throughout it all, though, Jarrar ties together her short stories with the thread of an Arab and Arab-American experience that is diverse and varied yet utterly distinctive. Her voice may change from story to story, but it remains frank, … [Read more...]

The Untold Story of a Prison Guard’s Struggle

With a generator powering the house, my family reluctantly went through belongings at my sister’s home. While going through her bedroom, deciding what clothes to keep and what to donate, I discovered a journal containing my sister’s own words about her time as a prison guard. At the age of twenty-one my sister, Jami, went off to the California Correctional Academy with dreams of having a lifelong career. After completing and graduating from the academy at the top of her class, she received a job at Corcoran State Prison. When it opened in February 1988, Corcoran State Prison was only the nineteenth prison established by the state of California since 1852. The opening of Corcoran, however, … [Read more...]

The Other Freestyle: Recovering 80s Latin Dance Music

I was wandering through a street fair off Canal Street a few years ago when I came across a stand selling bootleg CDs of hip-hop, rock, and many other genres.  The discs were mixes, rather than outright copies of already-released albums.  I had, of course, seen both in Manhattan, having picked up a $6 copy of Beck’s Guero on Varick Street and some amazing, educational anthologies of bossa nova and Americana near St. Mark’s Place in years past.  I did not know what I was in for when I visited this vendor, though. One CD was labeled Best of Freestyle.  Though I did not recognize the names – Nice N Wild, Sa Fire, Freeze – I assumed they must be old-school rappers of hip-hop’s golden age, … [Read more...]

7 Books to Make You Grateful for Your Own Family on Thanksgiving

Visual media have the advantage of providing quick comfort; if you need a change of mood or just an easy distraction, a TV show or a movie or even a YouTube clip can get the job done without too much effort, so long as said visual media is not designed by Ingmar Bergman or Lars von Trier.  Earlier this week ToM offered up its suggestions for films that touch on the variegated vicissitudes of family, on the theory that watching Pan's Labyrinth or Rachel Getting Married might put the craziness of one's own family in gratifying context.  Books, however, don't offer the same kind of instant remedy.  As Meatwad once said, "Books is from the devil, and TV is twice as fast!"  However, we humbly … [Read more...]

The Whole World a Prison: Forced Feminization Narratives and the Politics of Sexual Identity

[Editor's note: Though undoubtedly analytical, the post below contains references to mature themes, sexuality, and sexual assault. Please proceed accordingly.] The idea that gender and sexual identities are malleable has become increasingly familiar to many Americans in recent years. The feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s challenged ideas of what femininity meant—the submissive, dependent housewife and nurturing caretaker was not all womanhood could mean—while the rise of LGBT activism since the late 1960s put forth new models of acting, being, and loving in the world, which did not necessarily comport with older notions of heteronormative male and female identity. Most recently, the … [Read more...]