#MeToo & Aziz Ansari reading list

Actor Aziz Ansari

Actor Aziz Ansari (Photo: David Shankbone/Flickr/cc)

Hi, Internet friends…

As #MeToo started to take off last October, I volunteered to cover it for the website that I write for daily, Common Dreams. Since then, our site has published multiple stories, some of which I have contributed to or written.

But in the aftermath of Babe.net‘s recent viral piece about Aziz Ansari, I have been struggling with some seemingly contradictory feelings about the courses that the #MeToo movement and the articles about it have taken.

Although I am not yet ready to publicly hash out my complex reactions, I have compiled a reading list of pieces—plus a video response. Please feel free to comment or direct message me with your article suggestions about Grace’s story or the #MeToo movement more broadly.

I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life” by Katie Way for Babe.net

tl;dr: “Grace is a 23-year-old Brooklyn-based photographer, then aged 22. We are not using her real name to protect her identity because she is not a public figure…. The date didn’t go as planned. The night would end with Grace in an Uber home, in tears, messaging her friends about how Ansari behaved. Babe spoke to the first friends she told about it, and reviewed the messages on her phone.” The story provides a play-by-play of their sexual encounter, during which Grace “says she used verbal and non-verbal cues to indicate how uncomfortable and distressed she was.” Ansari responded with a statement that Babe.net published in full. He acknowledged the “sexual activity, which by all indications was completely consensual,” as well as a text message exchange that occurred following their date, and expressed his continued support for the movement.

The poorly reported Aziz Ansari exposé was a missed opportunity” Jill Filipovic for The Guardian

tl;dr: “It was bound to happen. In the midst of women sharing stories of harassment and assault via the #MeToo movement, and a brewing backlash of hand-wringers wondering if women have perhaps gone too far, it was only a matter of time before a publication did us the disservice of publishing a sensational story of a badly behaved man who was nonetheless not a sexual assailant…. we need to talk more about how pervasive power imbalances benefit men and make sex worse for women. But instead of telling this particular story with the care it called for, it was jammed into a pre-existing movement grounded in the language of assault and illegality…. The language of “a bad hookup” fails to capture the unequal power dynamics and the deep sense of disorientation and betrayal that comes when someone treats you as a hole rather than a person. Nor does it adequately measure the weight of centuries of misogyny that have shaped our most intimate moments…. it’s up to us to lead the way in confronting the private, intimate interactions that may be technically consensual but still profoundly sexist.”

Babe, What Are You Doing?” by Julianne Escobedo Shepherd for Jezebel

tl;dr: “[A] side effect of the tidal wave of sexual assault and harassment reporting since October is that, having been long confined to explicitly feminist outlets, reporting about sexual impropriety is, all of a sudden, considered general-interest prestige reporting…. Because of the amateurish way the Babe report was handled (her wine choices; her outfit), and the way it was written with an almost prurient and unnecessarily macabre interest in the minute details of their interaction (“the claw”), it left the subject open to further attacks, the kind that are entirely, exhaustingly predictable…. At its core, Babe’s piece about Grace is important, but the inexperience evident in the execution of the piece did a disservice to the topic—and it’s a shame, because its execution obscures an extremely valuable, timely conversation at a time when it seems finally possible to have it in a public forum.”

On Aziz Ansari And ‘Bad Sex’” by Katie Anthony for Bust

tl;dr: “The allegations against Ansari open up the next, harder, messier chapter in the #MeToo movement…. I read Grace’s story with amusement, embarrassment, and creeping unease…. Grace’s story is common. It’s so common that I don’t have to imagine it because I remember it. I laugh about it without smiling. It’s the story of so much bad sex. And when I hear that bad sex described as a sexual assault, it forces me to reexamine my own history…. I believe her; I don’t agree with her. I’m telling you this not because I think she is wrong, but because I think I am…. Women have already taken enough of a painful personal inventory to be able to say #metoo; I am not eager to go back over what I’ve come to comfortably accept as “crappy hookups,” or “shitty sex,” and come to realize that yes, that was sexual assault, too…. People are quick to label sex crimes as deviant or aberrant, but the truth is that sexual violence is socialized into us. Men are socialized to fuck hard and often, and women are socialized to get fucked, look happy, and keep quiet about it. Aziz Ansari has been socialized. And if we don’t like the way socialized men do sex, then we need to take a hard look at our society, friend.” [emphasis added by Katie Anthony]

No, Aziz Ansari’s accuser is not breaking up #MeToo—the divisions have been there all along” by Natasha Lennard for The Intercept

tl;dr: “The rallying cry of Women’s March found expression in the so-called #MeToo movement. Women were grabbing back the narrative around sexual violence, harassment, and patriarchal oppression, grabbing back for the power that these scourges have taken from us. Now, though, in 2018, the anniversary of the Women’s March comes at a watershed moment. Questions are being raised about whether today’s would-be feminist movement grabbed back “too far.” It came to a head with this week’s fierce debates around accusations against Aziz Ansari…. This young accuser, many in the elite media said, was putting the whole #MeToo movement at risk…. #MeToo is not suddenly cracking up. Instead, the rallying cry is revealing itself to represent different and perhaps incompatible ideas of feminism and feminist strategy—not quite a united front. To frame the emergent debate as a question of whether women have gone “too far” is to gloss over deeper fractures underlying the putatively big-tent women’s movement. The Ansari accusation did not create these fissures, but the debates it birthed have revealed where the fractures lie, along ideological, generational, class, and political lines…. Invocations of “empowerment” are of little use to these women who face harassment and sexual violence in workplaces, relationships, and situations they feel structurally, emotionally, or financially unable to walk away from—something the attacks against Ansari’s accuser seem to miss.”

#MeToo Backlash” segment on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee



I have decided to discontinue my weekly roundup posts for now, but to read my recent work, check out my author page on commondreams.org.

ALSO! As many of you may know, last year I fact-checked a book. Soon, it’ll be available for purchase, but you can pre-order a copy of The Making of a Dream on Amazon. 


We are what we consume

This week my mind has been swirling with thoughts of consumption (no, not TB; please don’t call me “Satine”).

Faced with the super-fun task of crafting a budget to pay down my credit card, I have been seeking ways to reduce my spending without sacrificing the quality of everything I put into and onto my body.

As most of you know—despite my unbreakable sweet tooth—I tend to be rather strict about what I eat and the types of products (personal hygiene, cosmetic, household cleaning, etc.) I use. I try to limit my exposure to harmful chemicals however I can. (Useful resource: the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database)

I am also devoted to raising awareness about climate change (if you are rolling your eyes here, please skip the rest of my blog post and instead check out theses informative, accessible webpages from NASA—or, finish reading and then check out the site).

On Wednesday, I tried to watch U.S. President Donald Trump’s first United Nations speech—I had only caught soundbites of it live. About halfway through, I paused, then closed the window on my laptop and decided to find something more productive to do with the remaining time I’d given myself to watch the speech.

Retrospectively, that shift was also reflecting a broader awareness of consumption that I have been gaining this week. The title of this post is “We are what we consume,” inspired by the timeless saying “we are what we eat.” However, in my journey to improve and refine my consumption habits, I am aiming to be mindful of more than just the food I eat and the products I buy; I am also striving to be incredibly mindful of what I am reading and watching daily.

After shutting down the president’s disconcerting speech (I’d already gotten the gist of it from my managing editor’s story; I already knew all I needed to, both as a citizen and a journalist, so watching it after the fact was just torturous), I opted for a few other videos:

Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 15.05.13

Lauren Singer of Trash is For Tossers | Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pF72px2R3Hg

This isn’t the first of Lauren Singer’s videos I watched, but it’s the one I recommend as a starter. On her blog, Trash is for Tossers, Lauren shares her experiences living a “zero waste” lifestyle. All her trash from the past four years is in that mason jar she’s holding.

From Lauren, I learned about Bea Johnson, whom the New York Times has crowned the “Priestess of Waste-Free Living.” But instead of just reading a Times story, I also explored Bea’s website, Zero Waste Home, and watched her TED Talk:

Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 15.27.17

Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home | Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSUmo-40pqA

I don’t think I will convert my lifestyle to fully mirror those of Lauren and Bea—at least, not yet. But from them, I am learning about how I can save money and produce less waste—which serves not only my bank account but also the planet. I hope to share some of that journey her as well as on my recently-switched-to-public Instagram account: @jess_corbett.

My first move was to buy food from the bulk section when I stopped at Whole Foods on Wednesday. I opted for their recyclable paper bags because I have not yet invested in the reusable ones, but I felt a sense of excitement when I came home and transferred my organic, unsalted almonds and dried mango slices into my glass containers. Baby steps.

Since I returned home from work last night, I have watched two additional documentaries. While they are not about zero waste living, they do align with my goals of mindfully consuming content, and giving more thought to what I do and do not need.

The first has been on my “to watch” list for ages, and I am so grateful I finally sat down to enjoy it. I watched Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things on Netflix, as I put DVDs into a giant case and ripped apart their individual cases to recycle the paper parts.

The film stars two men who have made it their mission to launch a minimalist movement in America, and while they don’t overtly state that their goal is to acquire less so they produce less waste, their key points resonated with me. Among them, we are happier when we just invest in high-quality things we actually need, and “Love people and use things, because the opposite never works.”

This afternoon, as I shredded old bank statements, I watched a Netflix’s original documentary called Chasing Coral. Although it is heart-wrenching to see how climate change is impacting coral reefs around the globe, I was riveted. I encourage you to watch it until the end; you’ll be rewarded with an original song from Kristen Bell plus videos of baby sea turtles—and who doesn’t love baby sea turtles?


Chasing Coral is available on Netflix.

The film also was not about living a zero waste lifestyle, but it motivated me to be more mindful of my consumption habits. Although we need to globally overhaul our energy systems to effectively combat climate change, seeing how the warming oceans are killing off massive swaths of beautiful coral reefs brought tears to my eyes. I also felt confident that watching the film fit with my goal of more mindfully consuming media content.

So far, this post has just been a list of suggestions for where you should seek information elsewhere; that’s because while I have tried for the past few years to prioritize mindfulness, this consumption component is still very new for me, and I don’t have too much to say about it just yet. I merely want to share these resources and invite you to send me any related/relevant suggestions.

Thanks for reading, and if you’re not bored of me yet, below I’m including a roundup of my recent articles for Common Dreams. 

xo, Jess

My recent articles—related and not to my comments above (read all my CD articles here)

#StopBetsy trends after our lovely Education Secretary takes a “horrific step back” on Title IX (aka the federal law barring sexual discrimination in schools)

Even all 50 state directors of Medicaid agree that Graham-Cassidy is terrible

EPA forces staff to attend anti-leak classes as Trump wages war on the planet

Two California cities sue Big Oil companies for their contributions to climate change

Surprise! Bill written by two male Republicans sucks for millions of women

Gun stocks surge as Trump pushes to ease export regulations for assault weapons

New poll reveals nearly half of Americans and 2/3rds of Democrats want a single-payer healthcare system implemented in the United States

New research released during UNGA reveals there are more than 40 million modern slaves worldwide—and many of them women and children

Progressive groups and lawmakers mobilize in response to Republicans’ last-ditch attempt to cut off millions of Americans from healthcare 

Conservationists are outrage after Zinke memo reveals the federal government’s unprecedented assault on public lands

Bolstering the case for a single-payer system, a new report shows how for-profit insurers are fueling America’s opioid crisis

“Spitting in the eye of transparency,’ the federal government reveals just 22 Mar-a-Lago visitors after promising to release full logs

The EU’s food safety watchdog is under fire for copying and pasting analysis from Monsanto into a Roundup safety report

As the United States reels from several natural disasters, 300+ groups endorse a sweeping climate bill

New research shows 10 percent of global GDP is hidden in tax havens while the world’s poorest people suffer

As Democrats and Trump bicker, Dreamers send a clear message: ‘No deal without us!’

In districts where Trump dominated, these Democrats delivered a stunning blow to the GOP in special elections

Trump gets shit for exploiting storm victims by pushing tax cuts for the wealthy amid disaster recovery

In a “groundbreaking” development, more than a dozen Democratic co-sponsors rush aboard Bernie’s Medicare for All train

After Hurricane Harvey, Texas is left with a toxic soup of shit, spilled Fuel, pesticides, and more

16 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Muslims are still central targets in war with no end

If humanity doesn’t turn back from climate abyss, says Pope, “we will go down”

Mueller warns the White House that he plans to interview six Trump aides

Inspired by Standing Rock, First Nations ‘Tiny House Warriors’ protest pipeline project

Citing climate change hoax, Rush Limbaugh downplayed Hurricane Irma, then evacuated

As Scotland vows 100% transition to electric cars, the U.S. caves to the auto industry’s dirty demands

As the planet rages with fires and storms, experts are fed us with murderous climate denialism

Study finds 83% of tap water around the globe tested positive for tiny plastic fibers

Abortion rights are under attack as Kentucky moves to close the state’s last open clinic

“This is about basic decency,” says Obama, denouncing Trump as the DACA decision sparks nationwide protest

“This is evil,” say immigrant rights advocates, blasting Trump’s decision to end DACA

More than 120,000 of “world’s most persecuted people” are fleeing violence in Myanmar

Trump’s ending of DACA will spark protests, lawsuits, and congressional battles

“No more road left” for diplomacy regarding North Korea, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley tells the United Nations Security Council

Analysis reveals Hurricane Harvey triggered the release of nearly a million pounds of toxic air pollutants

An “Impeach Donald Trump Now” Billboard goes up a mile from Mar-a-Lago

Trump warned: “If you end DACA, we will make your life impossible”

The sinister side effect of an amazing new cancer drug: one dose costs nearly $500K

Relief for immigrants as court blocks a “patently unconstitutional” law in Texas

As workers ditch Trump, AFL-CIO president says the White House is full of “racists” and “Wall Streeters”

UN Human Rights chief questions if Trump is fomenting violence against journalists

With a midnight deadline, activists begin a final push to thwart Trump’s attack on net neutrality

“Unprecedented” rainfall and “catastrophic” flooding devastate the Gulf Coast

A Charlottesville coalition will march 10 days to D.C. to confront white supremacy

Thousands of San Franciscans celebrate after a far-right group cancels their rally

Trump’s “pioneering” hurricane news dump fails to prevent controversy

“Law is dead in America”: presidential pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio is widely condemned

Outside Trump’s White House, Dreamers vow to “fight like hell” to #DefendDACA

Defunding clinics, GOP governor “throws women under the bus” in South Carolina

Rightwing protesters to be welcomed in San Francisco… with piles of dog poop

100% renewable roadmaps for 139 nations reveal comprehensive path to fully sustainable system worldwide

Trump-allied firm slammed for $1 billion lawsuit against Standing Rock water protectors

Harvard study confirms #ExxonKnew and misled public about the climate threat for decades

Trump’s hint at pardon for Sheriff Joe Arpaio denounced as “an official endorsement of racism”

As Trump ramps up the War on Terror, U.S. bombings kill 170+ civilians in a week

Cleveland Browns football players kneel during the national anthem in the largest NFL racial justice protest yet

Treasury secretary’s wife provokes outrage with a classist tirade on Instagram

With Trump, warns Scahill, the “unelected national security apparatus” has been unleashed

Demanding a ban on killer robots, tech experts warn of opening “this pandora’s box”


Grappling with responses to Charlottesville & my August article roundup

I haven’t posted in a while. I had some wifi struggles, took a trip, and this past week I have been grappling with violence and hatred that I have been trying to sort through both personally and professionally. However, an article I came across earlier today was the push I needed to go beyond my tweets, Facebook posts, and Common Dreams articles, in an effort to engage in more online discussions about racism in the U.S. today.

Before Charlottesville, I planned to share an article roundup that began with: Through emergency apartment construction, an internet outage that jeopardized some deadlines, work challenges, financial worries, and car troubles, this past week and a half has reminded me that we learn from struggles and failures, rather than from success.

All of that remains true, and I’m still working on how to deal with that concept, especially because last weekend I returned to my college campus for the first time in more than two years, which forced me to confront a lot of my emotions and experiences from the most difficult period of my life.  However, in light of current events, thoughts about fierce debates over nationalism and white supremacy in the U.S. have taken priority in my mind, so that’s what I’m going to address in the rest of this post.

I came across this video on Facebook. My reaction to it was so detailed and complex that I decided against posting comments on someone else’s profile; instead, my blog seemed like a more productive space to respond to it and hopefully start a broader conversation.

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 20.34.42

Screenshot from YouTube user Red Pill Black’s video titled “I Don’t Care About Charlottesville, the KKK, or White Supremacy” (Click the photo to watch her full video)

A list of my reactions, in no particular order:

  • Nationalism and white supremacy are notable components of U.S. history, and significantly influenced the formation of our government as well as our institutions that perpetuate systemic racism—e.g., public schools, prisons, as the vlogger notes. Nationalism and white supremacy never disappeared from the U.S., but immediately before Trump’s political career kicked off, these ideologies seemed to gain more public support, partly tied to the economic crisis and its impact on white working and middle-class Americans.
  • The perpetual racism in the U.S. seemed to intensify leading up to the rise of Trump because (1) we had a black president for two terms, and (2) before, during and after the economic crisis, politicians and media figures alike told white people who were financially struggling that people of color were taking their tax dollars via government programs—often ignoring that many white Americans rely on these programs, from food stamps to public housing, and the recession disproportionately impacted communities and people of color.
  • This intensifying racism contributed to the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement (which this black vlogger is apparently also against). Although there has been violence at some BLM events, it’s worth noting that these events and this movement have come in response to violence against and systemic oppression of people of color. Dismissing the Charlottesville counter-protesters as “losers,” as this vlogger does, dismisses the violence and systemic racism that people of color have encountered in the U.S.
  • The growing threat of nationalism and white supremacism is not a false media narrative, as the vlogger suggests. The demonstrations in Charlottesville last weekend and the white nationalist/supremacist rallies across the country today illustrate that they and their ideologies significantly threaten people of color, and while it’s true that these racist individuals and groups were still organizing and demonstrating during the Obama years, and the decades beforehand, many nationalists and white supremacists have publicly stated that they feel empowered by President Donald Trump.
  • Trump’s accession to the presidency has not just motivated individuals to publicly proclaim racist views, it’s also a symptom of nationalism and white supremacy’s rise pre-Trump (which in addition to being partly triggered by the economic crisis, also intensified in response to the BLM movement). Trump gained supporters on the campaign trail by speaking to the (sometimes unconscious) racist views of many white Americans of all socioeconomic classes. Many white people who voted for Trump bought into his claims that he too was frustrated with the “swamp” of long-serving politicians and the influence money has on politics—in addition to arguments touted by white supremacists that people of color are not only taking money away from hard-working white people but also that they are negatively changing the culture of the US. As president, not only has Trump stacked the White House and agencies with “swamp” dwellers (long-time politicians, lobbyists, and corporate insiders), but he’s also  appointed agency leaders and advisers known for pushing racist and nationalist agendas—e.g., Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who couldn’t even get approved for a lesser role during the Reagan years because of accusations of racism, and Steve Bannon, an accused white nationalist who, until yesterday, served as the WH’s chief strategist. The nationalists and white supremacists cheered on Trump’s recent remarks about violence on “both sides” in Charlottesville—on their own social media and in interviews—and they have openly stated that they feel emboldened by Trump’s commentary as president. Thus, nationalists and white supremacists are a greater threat today than they were before the election because they, by their own admission, are emboldened by the Trump administration.
  • Although it is true that the news media often failed to cover the threats posed by racism and racist policies and institutions during the Obama years—and even before his two terms—and also often failed to adequately understand how much support Trump was garnering during his campaign (hence the “shock” when he won), it is foolish and ignorant of this vlogger to dismiss the threat of nationalism and white supremacism as a false media narrative. It is valid and reasonable to critique the news media’s coverage of race topics, but the thousands of people across the country protesting in favor of and in opposition to nationalism and white supremacy this week clearly illustrate that the news media is not merely making up these threats.
  • This vlogger also bases her conclusions that the racial war in the U.S. is “fake” and white supremacy is no longer a threat on only her first-hand experience. Based only on the outline she provides of her day (going to the gym, then buying a latte), it appears she may be wealthy enough to avoid some of the barriers and threats that many others—especially black women—in America face every day. As a white woman, I cannot fully comprehend what it is like to be a woman of color in America, but from my interactions with people of various races, as well as from studying racism, sexism, U.S. history, and U.S. politics, it seems that this vlogger is either ignoring or unaware of how her experiences differ from that of many other people—particularly women—of color. She doesn’t seem willing to consider that just because people of various races at her gym or local coffee shop appear to be getting along doesn’t necessarily mean that other people of color in the U.S. aren’t experiencing the full force of racism and white supremacy. I am especially intrigued by this vlogger’s apparent unwillingness to consider the potential limits of her perspective because although I disagree with many of her expressed political views, in the few videos I have seen she comes across as composed, thoughtful, and as though she has substantially engaged with history and current events.
  • Being concerned about high rates of black-on-black crime and being concerned about racist threats from white supremacy are not mutually exclusive. It makes sense that people target other people of their own race when they commit violent crimes because (1) often those who commit violent crimes target people they are near to and/or people they know personally, and (2) the nation’s long history of racist housing policies and “white flight” have led to segregation in communities across the country, so it is logical that statistically there is more black-on-black violent crime (and more white-on-white violent crime) than violent crimes across races. But just because violent crime is statistically more likely to occur between two people of the same race—and, as the vlogger points out, black people in the U.S. face many other threats and struggles beyond racist attacks—does not mean that we should dismiss threats posed by the neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white supremacists, and nationalists picking up their semi-automatic weapons and tiki torches to riot in the streets across the country in favor of white dominance.

Conclusion: Nationalism and white supremacism currently threaten our nation, and their rise especially threatens people of color, but it should concern all of us because silence is complicity; by not condemning racism, we enable it to continue and become partly responsible for it. As a white woman from a middle-class family, I recognize that I had I privileged upbringing and I feel it is my obligation try to learn from and advocate for reforms that improve the lives of people who have been oppressed by the systems that have given me my privileged status, in an effort to contribute to creating a more equitable and inclusive country. This rise of nationalism and white supremacy we’re seeing isn’t a narrative made up by the news media; the movement existed long before Trump was elected, but also it has intensified as a result of his campaign and election. This video worries me because it signals to her audience that people of color and white people alike don’t need to worry about nationalism and white supremacists, as if the systemic racism in the institutions she mentions isn’t a direct result of the culture of white superiority that influenced our country’s creation, and continues to influence our institutions and society. What’s baffling to me is that she acknowledges that systemic racism in schools and prisons keep people of color in a cycle of crime and poverty, but she is apparently unwilling to recognize that the way those institutions operate is a direct result of the same nationalism and white supremacism that’s currently being debated in our nation’s streets.

I encourage you to share this post/respond privately or publicly/send me related articles, books, videos, and documentaries. I am interested in exploring and understanding these topics more.

My recent articles—related and not to my comments above (read all my CD articles here)

Anti-Fracking Activists Celebrate Court Ruling Against Major New York State Pipeline

Al Gore Has Just One Small Bit of Advice for Trump: ‘Resign’

ACLU Will No Longer Defend Armed Demonstrations After Charlottesville

Despite Death in Charlottesville, Republicans Defend State Bills to Protect Drivers Who Hit Protesters

Public Support for Impeachment Grows Amid Speculation Trump Will Resign

Four Arrested for Toppling Confederate Statue, But No Neo-Nazis Arrested for Brutally Beating a Black Man in Charlottesville

Oregon Lauded as Progressive Model for Reproductive Healthcare Reform as Texas Passes Troubling Anti-Choice Measures

Ignoring Threat of Rising Seas, Trump Eliminates Flood Risk Standards for Taxpayer-Funded Infrastructure Projects

Weeks Before Charlottesville, Trump Cut Federal Funding for a Group Fighting White Supremacy

“Shame! Shame! Shame!”: New Yorkers Surround Trump Tower to Protest President’s Return Home

Democrats Demand Answers About FCC’s Apparent Favoritism Toward Conservative Local News Giant Sinclair Broadcast Group

Scientists and Environmentalists Condemn the Trump Administration’s “Assault on America’s Water Resources”

Analysis Shows Trump/GOP Sabotage to Blame for Coming Insurance Premium Hikes

Canada Builds Border Camp for Asylum Seekers Fleeing US

Pence’s Indiana ‘Cautionary Tale’ for Privatizing Infrastructure Projects

Trump DOJ’s Decision to Support Ohio Voter-Rolls Purge Program Confirms “Worst Fears” About Voting Rights

Medicare for All Supporters Are Ready to Hold Democrats to Account

Leaked Emails Show USDA Staff Were Told to ‘Avoid’ Term ‘Climate Change’ Under Trump

‘Brazen Attack on Media Freedom’: Critics Blast Israel’s Move to Ban Al Jazeera

“We’re Ready to Stop It Again”: KXL Opponents Flood Nebraska’s Capitol

Court Throws Out Blackwater Guards’ Sentences for 2007 Nisour Square Massacre

New Report Reveals Water Threats Posed by the “Dirty Three’s” Pipeline Routes

Trump’s War on Science Forces Federal Officials to Consider Polluters’ Demands

Asylum Seekers, Fleeing Trump’s Hostility, Overwhelm Quebec’s Refugee Resources

Responding to the Democratic Party’s 2018 Campaign Plan to Support Anti-Choice Candidates, Progressive Groups Release Pro-Choice Platform

Far-Reaching Bill Would Legalize Weed and Offer Reparations to Communities Impacted by the War on Drugs

Docs Reveal Monsanto’s Attempts to Influence Reports About the Dangers of Roundup

Sen. Bernie Sanders Introduces Bill Aimed at Ending ‘Tragic’ Youth Unemployment Crisis

“America’s Toughest Sheriff” Joe Arpaio Violated a Court Order to Stop Racially Profiling Latinos

Green Groups Celebrate as Court Orders EPA to Reinstate Obama-Era Methane Rule

Reproductive Rights Advocates Condemn Democrats’ Support of Anti-Choice Candidates

Climate Science Out, Coal In: EPA Exhibit Will Reflect Trump’s Deregulatory, Pro-Coal Agenda

Weekly article roundup & extra goodies


#CurrentlyReading: Naomi Klein’s “No Is Not Enough”

There’s a line where the sky meets the sea and it calls me
But no one knows, how far it goes
All the time wondering where I need to be is behind me
I’m on my own, to worlds unknown

–”How Far I’ll Go – Reprise,” Moana

This past weekend, I trained at Common Dreams for the Saturday/Sunday shift, so I got to take off today. I used my free time to visit the DMV and handle some household chores, but I am happy to feel increasingly settled at my new job and in my apartment. After work on Friday, I was drained from a long day of trying to sort through some troubling global affairs, so I went home and watched Moana, a Disney film released last year. (For a fascinating look at how producers navigated culture and criticism, check out “Consider the coconut! The Polynesian myths (and Disney-fications) behind Moana.”) For me, Moana resonated because its main female character seeks adventures and life experiences beyond the limited parameters her father sets for her—similar to Ariel in The Little Mermaid, and Belle in Beauty and the Beast.

After watching the movie, I found myself reflecting on two scenes from my teen years. When I was 14 years old and started researching some journalism and political science programs at prestigious Northeastern colleges, my father said to me, “get your head out of the clouds.” He promptly informed me that I would attend community college first, and if I attempted to go to any out-of-state schools, I would “not get a dime” from him. I channeled his rejection of my ambitions into motivation to study harder and lead as many extracurricular activities as I could manage. Three years later, I accepted a full scholarship to attend Ithaca College in New York State; I told my father about it in the exact place where he had told me to stop dreaming.

So, for anyone who has read this far down the post: Don’t let yourself be held back by the people who don’t believe in you. College was by no means easy, but it taught me the value of perseverance, and the vitalness of finding people who love, respect, and support me. I learned to seek out people who both challenge and encourage me to chase after my “crazy” dreams.

Apparently, last week’s reflection theme was “absurd restrictions forced upon me as a teenager,” because I also ranted about dress codes—and received many wonderful words of encouragement from friends, family, and former teachers. I am including it below.

As I retrieved my apartment keys from my handbag tonight, I couldn’t help but notice that my fingertips brushed against my thighs, so this dress would have violated my high school dress code. It has been a decade since I started high school, yet the policing of my attire apparently remains engrained in my subconscious. I, like almost every woman and girl I know, have struggled with body image issues most of my life…but I have also cultivated a love for fashion, and I use my clothing choices to express who I am and who I wish to be. I remember when a male high school teacher reprimanded me for a skirt that barely complied with the dress code; I remember sweating through short-sleeved tops in 90-degree weather, because we weren’t allowed to wear shirts that showed our shoulders; I remember being relieved that the yoga pants-ban came after I graduated, because as a college-bound 18-year-old, they were my go-to comfort option.
Somehow—despite my visible tattoos, pink hair dye, and “short” dress selection for summertime work attire—at age 24, I have graduated college (which I attended on an academic scholarship), secured full-time employment in my desired career field, and fostered a wonderfully supportive community of friends, family, and colleagues who embrace me for who I am, and what I wear. So, maybe it’s time we stop pulling teenage girls out of classrooms for their “distracting” dresses, and allow them to learn while wearing whatever clothing makes them most comfortable. Eventually, they will have to decide what careers they want to pursue and whether they can live with any requirements that accompany those career fields, but first, LET THEM LEARN WHO THEY ARE AND WHO THEY WANT TO BE.
If they want to pursue careers that involve pantsuits and heels, that’s awesome. If they want to work from home in pajamas, sounds great to me. If they want to work for a company that, like mine, accepts an animal print dress and Birkenstocks, then that’s fantastic…but while teens are trying to figure out what to do with their futures, let’s stop policing their wardrobes and instead focus on encouraging them to be thoughtful, compassionate human beings.

A few more pieces you should read (in addition to mine, which are posted at the bottom):

Weekly Roundup (read all my CD articles here)

“The Mooch” Likes Cameras, But DJT is the Boss

Unlike Sen. Sanders, Senate Democrats Don’t Condemn Dirty Energy Bill

Poland’s Lawmakers Are Nuts and Poles Are Mad About It (Update: Shockingly, their far-right president did a good thing and vetoed these awful bills)

Muslim Worshippers Clash With Israeli Forces Outside a Famous Holy Site

Sen. Warren Flunks Trump – Six Month Report Card

Exxon-Exec-Turned-US’s-Top-Diplomat Did Some Bad Things With Russia

Trump Snubs Nation’s Oldest Civil Rights Group (Again)

DJT’s ‘Bait and Switch’ Presidency (Spoiler Alert: He Didn’t “Drain the Swamp”)

GOP Tries to Gut Federal Protections for Endangered Species (See Cute Animal Pics!)

House Republicans Introduce a Budget/Tax Reform to Boost Military, Help Rich Folks

State Dept. Plans to Shut Down Office That Investigates War Crimes, Genocide, Etc.

It Is Also Considering Sending the Refugee Office to Homeland Security

Badass Nuns Build Cornfield Chapel in an Attempt to Block Pennsylvania Pipeline

What ‘successful’ people do


Me, enjoying The Great Outdoors, before the EPA and U.S. environmental regulations are fully done away with and the beauty of nature is destroyed (Photo credit: Ian Engel)

As I noted in a piece a couple of weeks ago, this post has been dwelling in my drafted email folder for quite some time. Whenever I considered publishing it, I found an excuse not to — I’m too busy with work; it’s missing something; do I really believe in what I’m writing?

There’s no denying I tend to seek out challenging — and thus often stressful — opportunities. I crave personal progress and whenever possible I give most of my energy to professional projects. When I did the final revision of this piece, I took on someone else’s full-time publicity job (she went to Thailand, and yes, I’m eternally envious) while also freelance fact-checking and working my part-time job. Some nights, I slept 3 hours; some meals, I skipped simply because I couldn’t stop working. I try to be an advocate for wellness, but exemplifying that — especially in my line of work, media — is tricky. But as I struggled to regulate my sleep and eat nutritious meals, I found myself thinking about what it means to be successful, and I returned to this drafted essay…

Forbes piece appeared in my Facebook feed last spring. At the time, I was working about 65 hours a week — half at a lefty national magazine; half at a luxury fitness club. I would roll out of bed at 4:30 AM to drag my sleepy self five blocks to the gym. Five hours later I’d speed walk back to my apartment with exactly 15 minutes to change, pack lunch, and brew a second cup of coffee. For five months, I hardly slept or socialized, and my body shut down. For weeks I battled sicknesses that built upon each other, until I found myself curled up in a Midtown CityMD waiting room, unable to work and in need of an antibiotic. I considered leaving the city when my lease ended last August. I spent much of my summer browsing housing sites. Twice, I had apartments fall through just as I was about to fork over hundreds of dollars for deposits. I finally found myself a new home — a spacious Crown Heights apartment with two wonderful roommates. I couldn’t be more grateful for the changes the late summer brought: a new apartment, a new job, fewer hours at the fitness club, and just a bit more time to socialize (read: sleep).
Although my new schedule allows more freedom, I keep coming back to the Forbes piece. I read “How Successful People Spend Their Weekends” on a Sunday night. At first glance, I was very excited; I figured it would offer some Thrive–esque advice about time, stress and/or money management. It didn’t necessary fail to do that, but I found myself repelled by its assumptions. I was drawn in by “successful” in the headline. Success is a concept I’ve been seriously grappling with for the past few years. But as I read through the Forbes cheat sheet for how to make better use of my weekend time and model myself after “successful” individuals, I grew frustrated because it didn’t apply to me or many people I know.
Some samples of my reactions:

#2 They Designate Mornings as Me Time. 
That sounds lovely, and since I stopped opening the fitness club, I’ve tried to do that more. Still, sometimes I have to send emails, make calls or run errands, because it’s the only time I can. But when I first read this piece, I was already rising before the sun. To have “me time” in the morning, I would’ve had to wake up between 2:00 and 3:00 AM. I was working so much to pay rent — and yet I couldn’t help but wonder, “Does working insane hours to pay my bills on time make me ‘unsuccessful’?” The folks at Forbes probably think so… but I saw it as responsible. I’d rather work extra hours than get evicted, acquire a ton of credit card debt, or have to call home to beg a parent for extra cash.

#4 They Pursue a Passion.
 I agree that “indulging your passions is a great way to escape stress and to open your mind to new ways of thinking.” It’s a key reason I try to work jobs about which I’m passionate during the week. On weekends, I clock in at the fitness club by 7:30 AM, and those shifts on Saturdays and Sundays allow me to maintain my membership, so I can work on weightlifting and attend yoga classes. The gym job is far from a dream position, but it allows me to pursue my passion for fitness, as well as stay healthy enough to spend weekdays on my primary passion: journalism. It’s fundamental to personal development to pursue passions, but if we designate only the weekends for our passion projects, it seems likely we’ll end up miserable the other five days of the week.

#6 They Minimize Chores. 
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I really hate household chores — but I must also confess to being a stress-cleaner who derives satisfaction from scrubbing floors and disinfecting all surfaces in sight. My journalism job (or “jobs,” since my main gig is freelance and I often work for multiple outlets simultaneously) can keep me at the office late. The hours are unpredictable and when I add that to my attempt to exercise regularly, I don’t spend much time at my apartment. I can occasionally squeeze in some late-night laundry, or vacuum on an afternoon off, but I tend to dedicate one of my weekend afternoons to cleaning, because I like the tidy space and that’s when I have the time.

I am only 23 years old; I have many, many more years in the work force, and I plan to continue working jobs about which I’m passionate. I still struggle with whether I’d call myself “successful,” but I care deeply about the work I do and try to make sure each task aligns with my career goals and personal values. The Forbes list reads to me like advice for people who hate their day-jobs and only tend to their passions (and mental states) on the weekends…but rather than success, I see that as failure. Success should mean pursuing your passions (and finding a way to make a livable profit from that), rather than putting off passions until the two days per week a ‘successful’ person does ‘me time.’ Sure, sometimes I go weeks without a full day off…but when you (mostly) enjoy and believe in what you do for money, you don’t have to reserve your weekends to recover from your miserable day-to-day life. You end up living for more than the weekends; you end up living for every day you get to wake up and take on your next challenge.

(NB: I would like to note that my ability — especially at my age — to pursue a career about which I am passionate has been made possible in part by my white privilege + middle-class suburban upbringing, and the educational and networking opportunities provided to me because of that…in addition to a lot of all-nighters, many missed meals and excessively high stress levels.)

Magical thinking & other lessons Didion taught me


Author Joan Didion. Photo from Goodreads profile.

The Year of Magical Thinking is not something I can fully put into words. Reading it is a truly humbling experience. It is more than just a book; it allows for a deep examination of the human mind in a troubled state.

One of the most marvelous abilities of Didion is that she forces the reader to strongly consider the shallowness of sanity (see p. 7). This book is a lesson in survival, but not the Boy Scout kind. It made my life flash before my eyes — past, present, and future. It forced me to be introspective. I laughed aloud at points, but also had to set the book aside to avoid tears. It is so human, almost too human, too real, but also too good to not read.

Her tale is deeply personal and reflective. I read the first couple chapters a few months ago, for a college course, and I was motivated to write about my own life because of it. A mark of a talented writer is the ability to inspire other writers. In that regard, I aspire to be like Joan Didion. It was a true test of my will that I was able to put the book on hold until I finished final exams.

Thematically, The Year of Magical Thinking explores loss, grief and mourning. I’d often seen the latter two as one in the same, but she writes, “Grief was passive. Grief happened. Mourning, the act of dealing with grief, required attention” (p.143). She is writing to understand her own grief, and notes examples from literature, popular culture and religion that resonate with her, such as, “I think I am beginning to understand why grief feels like suspense. It comes from the frustration of so many impulses that had become habitual,” as C.S. Lewis wrote.

I found myself relating to her not only through her grief, but also through personality. She writes,

Why do you always have to be right.

Why do you always have to have the last word.

For once in your life just let it go (p. 141).

These questions are asked by others, but echo in her mind. They also stand as barriers to working through the loss of her husband. They made me consider what other barriers are built from this level of perfectionism — this need to constantly remain what she calls “a cool customer.”

In a moment of chaos, she writes,

“I wondered what an uncool customer would be allowed to do. Break down? Require sedation? Scream?” (p. 16).

Like Didion, I also write to discover my own thoughts. She asks, “Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought?” (p. 162). For me, I’ve found the answer is often “yes.” She also writes, “I am a writer. Imagining what someone would say or do comes to me as naturally as breathing” (p. 196). It is so rare to find someone recognizing the conversations we all play out in our heads. But especially writers, those with wild imaginations, allow it to happen constantly. It’s a feeling I know well. One of the most incredible elements of this book is that she truly lays out her mind in paper and ink. She’s not capturing her thoughts to be controlling. In a way, it seems writing is one of the only ways she lets herself lose control; writing allows her to be free.

Didion also reminded me that even the littlest of details can stay with you forever:

“His eyes. His blue eyes. His imperfect blue eyes” (p. 40).