Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Feelings revisited

But first, some more self-promotion.

With that out of the way, Gawker alerts us to a painful-to-read essay about what a black fellow-student in a white woman's yoga class might be thinking about said white woman, aka the author. We never leave the realm of the author's feelings, which are, as per the genre, projected onto another person about whose feelings the author knows nothing. All that's evident is that this woman is black, heavy, and not particularly elegant at yoga, thus possibly new at it. And yet, the feelings:

I was completely unable to focus on my practice, instead feeling hyper-aware of my high-waisted bike shorts, my tastefully tacky sports bra, my well-versedness in these poses that I have been in hundreds of times. My skinny white girl body. Surely this woman was noticing all of these things and judging me for them, stereotyping me, resenting me—or so I imagined.
It's a fine case of where to even begin. Is it, as someone just put on Twitter, "white privilege" that she's making this story about her? Or is it, as someone (else, presumably) commented on Gawker, a case of a young woman acknowledging her privilege, only to be berated for it? And with trendy, pseudoacademic privileged bodies and accommodating spaces jargon at that?

Or am I getting sidetracked - is this a story about Journalism Today, and how, if you want to go viral, it helps to say something both hyper-personal and wildly outrageous. 'That Time I Saw An Elderly Chinese Man Waiting For The Bus And Had a Feeling.' The essay can be about how the man is judging you for having just bought $500 worth of groceries at Whole Foods, for having gone to Vassar, for having come from Soul Cycle. You just know he knows this, even though as it turns out, he didn't even look at you. As it turns out, he's actually blind. As well as multi-generation Korean-American. You have no idea. But why stop this oh-so-fertile line of thought?


caryatis said...

Xojane is a terrible site which exists only to get pageviews without contributing worthwhile journalistic content to the internet. That's the reason why this piece got published.

As for why it got written, the author has realized that race affects our daily lives. This is something only young upper-class liberals notice, and the world needs to know. The world needs to know so desperately that there is no time to come up with any facts, interviews or anything other than navel-gazing.

caryatis said...

BTW, I appreciate the self-promotion. Otherwise I would never see these things, since law school has put a real dent in my ability to read everything on the internet.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Glad the self-promotion's appreciated! I figure there's overlap between people reading this and people who'd plausibly want to read things I've written elsewhere.

As for xoJane, I've seen it but never read it regularly. I'd heard this about it, so perhaps that's why? Anyway, the "navel-gazing" could have worked, maybe, or at least failed less miserably, if it had actually been about this woman's own feelings, and hadn't involved projecting thoughts onto someone else.