Monday, August 28, 2017

The beginnings of thoughts

-The post-decency presidency. He's not just unconcerned with niceties on some liberal-arts-seminar level. It's this elaborate performance of, how would a person act if totally OK with being awful? And the answer is, unsurprisingly, not great. 

Because oh. my. goodness. Say what you will about virtue-signaling. Roll your eyes, if you feel like, when acquaintances with no personal relationship to a tragedy, no news or help to share, post about how they find it sad. But if your job is president of a country, then even if your mind is on which flavor of potato chips to next eat, you really do have to at least pretend to care. Ideally you would care, but given who the president is, that's exceedingly hard to picture happening.

All I can think is, Trump won on a platform of opposing political correctness broadly defined - not just of-the-moment hypersensitivity and progressive Tumblr excesses. Not just baseline, mainstream-etiquette rejection of overt racism and sexism. No, it goes further. It's about rejecting whatever check most of us but especially politicians are meant to have on selfish and tone-deaf impulses.

Which, look, if his thing were that he said what popped into his head, had no concern for niceties, but had good policies, and diverted the energy that might have gone to platitudes and PR towards improving things, then... fine? But no, this is not what he was doing. This was never what he was going to do. He's dispensed with niceties and put, in their place, awfulness.

-The White Lady, post-post-election. (Chapter 4 is on this but I wrote it - like the rest of the book - pre-election.) Anne Helen Petersen's essay and much of the Taylor Swift continues to exist content. Also: Chelsea Clinton continues to exist content. Louise Linton's #designerboasting, Paris Hilton's canine McMansion. The lady who opened a fancy-Toronto-neighborhood-named but also appropriative bar in Brooklyn. Marie Antoinette.

As always, there's the question of, how much of ugh-white-ladies is anti-racism and/or anti-oligarchy, and how much a form of ugh-women-in-general but with a progressive-seeming veneer? It would seem to be a case where speaker identity matters. When a white man - I don't care how sure he is that he's speaking As An Ally - declares white women the worst, particularly a straight white man who likely has a romantic history (real or desired) in which white women play a substantial role, I have to wonder. Whereas when a woman of color - especially, in the US context at least, a black woman - makes what are in principle the same points, I'm ten trillion times more likely to think there's something there.

But this still leaves the question of whether it's on the whole a positive development that Bourgeois White Lady Awfulness has become such a thing in the culture. How much is it a necessary corrective to the idea (an idea someone may in fact hold, maybe?) that the real racism or classism is sexism, i.e. that rich white women of the Louise Linton persuasion are, because women, just as oppressed as, say, trans women of color? And how much is it just a new way of sparing rich white men - that is, the people with the most power, but oh, not the most luxurious privilege, just, you know... power - their comeuppance?

-Sam Sifton or maybe the NYT on behalf of him crowdsourcing female authors. A response tweet that one got - and that I'm now not finding - with someone's spreadsheet listing books they'd read, with the authors' gender and race also noted. The necessity of feeling allowed to like what you like (and of having some space where you consume whatever you consume, without an audience), but also the advantages of being... thoughtful? intentional? when, as a critic, you're deciding what to promote. Which is a different thing. And which is what a summer reading list in a big newspaper consists of. The whole thing didn't begin with online activists digging up a Goodreads account.

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