These two young women are about to liven up your Tuesday and slay you dead!
Weekly Dance Break: Panda (Desiigner)
These two young women are about to liven up your Tuesday and slay you dead!
These two young women are about to liven up your Tuesday and slay you dead!
Our beloved FLOTUS took the stage with Beyonce at the 2015 Global Citizen Festival to raise awareness for her new campaign, 62 Million Girls. In partnership with the initiative Let Girls Learn, 62 Million Girls seeks to empower girls around the world, helping them to continue their educations, eradicate gender-based violence, achieve economic stability, and more. The focus on education and earning potential gives girls greater bodily autonomy and control of their own futures. Continue reading “Michelle Obama Promotes #62MillionGirls and the Let Girls Learn Initiative”
It’s autumn, and here at Acro that means one thing: our #ladymafia is headed back to school. Here, we’ve compiled a couple of semester essentials. Don’t be caught without.
#Ladymafia, start your coffee-makers.
Post may contain slight spoilers.
Since tittering with Acro coven-mate K.S. at the beefcake and bromance of Magic Mike XXL last month, I have been hungry for more stories about friendship. One of the best things for me about the Magic Mike sequel was the way it dwelt in male friendship and let the quiet moments between the men unfold. Those, more than any panting over hard dude bods, are the moments that I recognize as most genuine.
Friendship seems always to get short shrift in popular discussions about relationships. While desire, usually expressed as sex or ambition, romance or power, is compulsively and regularly narrated for us, friendship is always the consolation prize. It is the zone that represents thwarted desire. As a form of dependence that does not preserve the individualism undergirding our narratives of desire, friendship has the potential to be something radically affirming and constructive. And for all our chatter about the difficulties of romantic love—men are like this, women are like this, am I right, ladies???—it is friendship that feels truly dynamic, diverse, complex and difficult.
In preparation for this list I asked some of my friends to recommend their favorite stories about friendship, and as with most friendly advice, I summarily ignored it all (thanks, buds!). So below find a more or less idiosyncratic and personal list of friendship stories that I find particularly compelling.
The relationship between Abbi and Ilana is the best-friendship I’ve always coveted. Both effortless and deep, whimsical yet vital, youthful but solid, their friendship is striking in its simplicity. Neither sex nor competition muddies their rapport and mutual devotion. And unlike other female friendships on this list, this is not the sweetness of girlhood dependence before adulthood and the world of men and sex intrudes. No rich dentist or kinky neighbor could hope to replace the spark that exists for these women in each other.
Ilana is the best-friend unicorn of every 20-something girl’s dreams. More adventurous, brazen and cocksure than the staid Abbi with a sporty suffer-no-fools attitude and a seemingly boundless well of affection, she is the exciting boundary-pushing fantasy girl that inspires so many submissions to Thought Catalogue. The manic pixie dream friend who doesn’t seek adulthood or personal development, but will joyfully hump a wall in triumph at learning that Abbi has finally, finally, pegged a guy.
Every time I hear Ilana’s “dooood!” I am reminded of all of my cusp-of-adulthood friendships and the self-contained intensity of young women who keep the best of themselves for each other.
We are, all of us, just Abbis searching for our Ilana.
The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
There is a certain kind of friendship that is only possible in the presence of a shared enemy. I’m not talking about the kind of bonding facilitated by a bad boss or a mean teacher, but about a primal connection that can draw people hurt by the same person together. These friendships are built on the perverse satisfaction of dwelling in one’s misery, of discovering an ally who will poke your wound only to comfort you in your hurt. Finding someone who knows your pain intimately, and won’t ask you to metabolize it constructively.
This is the friendship that Roz, Charis and Tony share in Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride. Each woman has fallen victim to Zenia, erstwhile best friend and recidivist husband-stealer, whose long-ago death is not as permanent as it should be. They are drawn together through their shared anger and pain at Zenia’s various betrayals, but they are equally bound by an unspoken grief at her loss. Although each woman rages and mourns at the loss of her man, filtered through that pain is the more fundamental betrayal of sisterhood and friendship perpetrated by Zenia herself. We might have expected it of men, they say, but how could a woman do such a thing to me?
Drawn together by the betrayal of another woman, Roz, Charis and Tony need each other simply to bear the pain of losing both their men and their sisterhood at once.
Withnail and I
The film follows the relationship between the titular Withnail, played masterfully by Richard E. Grant, and Marwood (the “I” played by Paul McGann), two unemployed actors living one drink to the next in a grimy London flat as they attempt to snatch a little relief from the oppressive misery of their lives on a misguided holiday in the country. It is about the kind of friendship made possible by substance abuse and the kind of substance abuse facilitated through codependence. Alcoholism enabled by a friendship that feels distressingly like addiction. Withnail’s calls for alcohol are a constant refrain, and one of the best scenes in the movie has Withnail guzzling lighter fluid after they’ve run out of booze while Marwood objects that “you should never mix your drinks!” Riding the line where devotion slides into addiction, it deftly captures the feeling of emotional hangover.
Here is codependence and self-destruction at its most horrific and compelling. Here is friendship with a profound loneliness at its center. Here are men who consume each other with needs that can never be satisfied.
I should mention this is a comedy.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
I am devoted to bromance. Although I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about women and their relationships, my heart positively melts in the presence of genuine affection between men. Bromance isn’t exactly rare in film—the buddy movie is a time honored tradition, as is the cowboy flick—but the friendship between Butch and Sundance transcends, for me, the usual perimeters of male friendship prescribed by Hollywood. Their jauntiness is not a cover for homosexual panic. Their friendship is not an excuse to flee shrewish wives. They do not compete for money or jobs or women. No grudging respect, this. Theirs is a meeting of kindred hearts.
Butch and Sundance are so obviously in love with each other in that way that we fall for friendships that feels like destiny. The movie feels a little dissonant because it looks and feels like a gritty revisionist western with the sparkling banter of a romantic comedy. It lets Paul Newman and Robert Redford be beautiful and charming at each other in a way that feels more consistent with Frank Capra than John Ford. Theirs is the closest to genuine sexual tension to appear on this list. The banter is clever and flirty, and it really seems that bickering through the desert on horseback is the greatest pleasure these men could imagine. If Robert Redford were a woman they would have found their way into bed before the third act. As it is, they consummate their love through the proxy of an apparently non-competitive romance with the same woman—Butch handles the seduction and Sundance gets the sex. But rather than doing the obvious queer reading this film is begging for, I want to dwell in the friendship. This movie allows us to enjoy the erotic potential of friendship without insisting that its only pleasure must eventually be sex.
At its center, the Harry Potter series is about the vital necessity of friendship to the struggle, any struggle. The ties of friendship in this world have the power to mobilize armies and topple totalitarian regimes. These books believe that courage is a function of community and that the causes we fight for must include the people we love. Friendship here is nothing if not a political association. It is the very basis of revolutionary potential and political action. Fighting for a better world cannot be divorced from dedication to community just as investment in friendship is intimately tied to enthusiasm for justice. It is, perhaps, a romantic fantasy to believe that a pure enough love can solve political problems, but I think it is just as true that the model of anti-individualist dependence offered by friendship is a good place to begin building a sustainable politics.
Friendship here, as in a lot of other YA fiction, is so much more critical than romance. The crucible of puberty and sexual awakening is a strong presence, but desire can never sustain the struggle the way friendship does. The most touching relationships in the series are not the romances, many of which whiff hard, but the fierce loyalty and trust comrades carry for each other. They fight for the world so that their friends may continue to live.
Sula by Toni Morrison
The friendship in Sula is, in many ways, quite the opposite of that in Broad City. While Abbi and Ilana can live uncomplicatedly for each other while high-fiving over their various conquests, Nel and Sula grow up violently and early to discover that the communion of women is perverse and destructive in a world organized by men under the sign of hetero love. Among many things, Sula explores the ravages that adulthood and sexuality have on the exuberance of female friendship.
Sula and Nel’s adolescent devotion disintegrates under the pressure of Nel’s choice to marry a man named Jude while Sula remains unattached and unapologetically unconventional. Eventually Nel loses Jude and Sula both, and they live most of their lives without each other. But Sula’s death provides one of the most heartbreaking moments of mourning for friendship I have ever found:
“All the same, all that time, I thought I was missing Jude.” And the loss pressed down on her chest and came up into her throat. “We were girls together,” she said as though explaining something. “O Lord, Sula,” she cried, “girl, girl, girlgirlgirl.”
To be girls together. That is a loss worth mourning.
Do you have a favorite story about friendship? Any recommendations for must-reads? Let us know in the comments!
As pretty much anyone who’s ever met me can attest to, I have a lot of feelings. About everything. I have a lot of feelings about reproductive rights, education policy, the environment; I cry at the end of happy movies and sad movies and at emotionally charged scenes in the middle of movies; since the birth of my niece I even occasionally cry at commercials featuring babies. I’m not quite at Kristen Bell levels of emotional lability, but I’m pretty close. Traditionally, having an abundance of feelings has been associated with a lack of rational thought. Calling someone “emotional” is a hair’s breadth away from calling them “hysterical”; it signals an inherent “femininity,” an inability to think straight. “You’re being emotional” is used to dismiss women, whether they are calling out sexism or arguing about whose turn it is to clean. There are other variants on this theme: “Calm down,” “you’re just overreacting,” and my personal favorite, “is it that time of the month?”
But Pixar’s latest film, Inside Out, makes the best argument I have ever seen in mainstream media for the importance of emotions. The main “characters” of the film are the emotions of a cheerful 11 year-old girl, Riley, as she goes through a difficult transition in her life. Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) has been at the helm of Riley’s emotional “control center” since birth, but when the family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco, Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith) begins to take over.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t yet seen Inside Out, go watch it. Bring a pack of tissues. Then come back and keep reading.)
Throughout Riley’s childhood, we see the way Joy, Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Anger (Lewis Black), serve their purposes. Joy guides Riley happily through most of her life. Fear keeps her safe, Disgust stops her from being poisoned – physically or socially — and Anger both alerts Riley to what is unfair and gives her hockey game its verve. But over and over, Sadness is relegated to a corner; on the first day at a new school, Joy gives out assignments to the other three emotions, then draws a chalk circle, ordering Sadness not to leave. But in the tumult of the move, Sadness oversteps her bounds and puts her hands on some of Riley’s “core memories,” turning them from a joyful yellow to a melancholy blue. Sadness doesn’t mean to do any harm, she just does.
Joy and Sadness wind up in a tussle over these core memories, and the two of them are sucked up in a memory storage tube – one of Inside Out’s many clever literalizations of the inner workings of the mind — leaving Fear, Disgust, and Anger at the helm. Without Joy or Sadness, Riley becomes listless, irritable and withdrawn. She cries in class and hates herself for it. She snaps at her parents. In a misguided attempt to help bring Joy back into the fold, the three remaining emotions implant the idea – with a light-bulb, of course – of running away back to Minnesota (well, Anger and Disgust do. Fear wisely protests, but holds no sway over Anger). As Riley goes through with this plan, however, they realize their mistake, and try to get her to turn around. But, in a beautiful metaphor for depression, the controls no longer work. Riley is completely divorced from emotion, and in being so, is also completely divorced from reason.
Inside Out is a thoroughly researched film: director Peter Docter consulted at length with two well-established psychologists, Dacher Keltner and Paul Ekman. In a New York Times article titled “The Science of Inside Out,” the two UC Berkeley psychologists make a case for the importance of emotion:
“Emotions organize – rather than disrupt – rational thinking…emotions guide our perception of the world… most typically in ways that enable effective responses to the current situation.”
Of course, we can get over-emotional, but at their core, emotions alert us to what is happening in the world, and help us navigate our way through. Anger tells us when something is unfair to us, and can drive our sense of justice in the world. Without anger, we are complacent. Fear keeps us from doing things that might get us killed, and without it, we are reckless. Disgust alerts us to foods that might be poisonous, or social behaviors that might isolate us. Joy keeps us going. Of course, there are more than five emotions, but Docter wisely chose to keep the number of central characters low rather than try to achieve full psychological accuracy. The question at the heart of the film is “what does sadness do?”
In their efforts to get back to Riley’s control center, Joy and Sadness fight and separate; Joy falls into the abyss of lost memories. While stuck down there, carefully guarding her bag of core memories, she examines one of her favorites – Riley, buoyed on the shoulders of her hockey teammates, cheering wildly. But when Joy replays the memory (which she does by swiping – apparently, our memories operate on touchscreens), she sees blue, not yellow. She sees the moments leading up to Riley’s joyful rally with her friends; a forlorn Riley sits on a tree branch, head in her hands. Her team had just lost a big game, and she thinks it’s her fault. First, her sadness draws her parents to her, and then her team.
The people Riley loves and who love her are drawn to her sadness; because of her sadness, they protect her, they lift her up, they bring her joy. This is consistent with what many scientists believe is the evolutionary purpose of sadness and its teary manifestation.
In an earlier moment, Riley’s former imaginary friend Bing Bong is crying candy tears, too overwhelmed with mourning to help Joy and Sadness to the Train of Thought. Joy tries everything she can to cheer him up; she tickles him, she makes funny faces, all without success. Then Sadness sits down next to him. She doesn’t try to cheer him up. She doesn’t tell him not to be sad, or that things will be okay. She just acknowledges how he feels. She acknowledges the very real pain that comes with Bing Bong’s realization that he is no longer part of Riley’s life. She just lets him feel what he needs to feel. Soon, he feels okay again – despite the continuing sad circumstances which lead to his ultimate sacrifice – and is able to help Joy and Sadness on their journey.
“How did you do that?” Joy asks. “He just needed someone to talk to,” Sadness replied, “so I listened.”
As we see in the first part of the film, not all emotions – at least according to common perception – are created equal. Inside Out deals with the way in which Sadness tends to be looked down upon – something also touched upon by Allie Brosh in her chronicle of depression, and our own K.H. in her rocky start to graduate school. Like K.H., I have dealt with my fair share of depression; I have also experienced loss, sometimes of people far too young to die, and its accompanying grief. Often, the most well-intentioned people will say things like “are you feeling better?” or offer a well-meaning “chin up,” “pick yourself back up,” “it’s okay” – anyone who has been sad for a prolonged period of time (or, really, any period of time) has heard these things. Whether they come from a desire to make those around us happy or a deep discomfort with negative emotions, these responses can be damaging.
We would do well to take a cue from Sadness. At times, the best we can do for people struggling with difficult feelings is just sit down next to them and say, “I am sorry this is happening right now. I’m sure it hurts a lot. Take your time. I’m here.” Sometimes we need to know that it’s okay to be sad, that sadness is a perfectly logical reaction to some things in life. Sadness often responds best with room to be sad, rather than the frenetic distractions offered by Joy. It is only when Joy herself realizes Sadness’ power that she is able to get back to Riley’s control center, hand the reins to Sadness, and save their girl.
While I applaud Inside Out’s nuanced portrayal of Sadness, the movie did not give Anger the same treatment. And when you are a woman, or a person of color, anger becomes very complex indeed. When you move through a world that sometimes seems to hate you – a world that, at best, can make life very difficult for you – anger is, well, a totally rational response. I get angry when men go out of their way to intimidate me on the street, or go even further and grab at my body; I get angry when politicians who will never have to worry about getting pregnant do their best to strip me of my reproductive rights. How else am I supposed to react?
As E.Y. observed in her piece on #distractinglysexy, the policing of women’s bodies – our clothes, our makeup, the way we walk – is racialized in addition to being gendered. This certainly holds true for emotions, as well. The stereotype of the “angry black woman” forces many black women to be extra-demure, lest they get dismissed – or worse – for expressing even the tiniest hint of anger, no matter how justified. In the aftermath of the Charleston shooting, a narrative of forgiveness – a narrative, that is, of not showing anger – dominated the media. Roxane Gay argues that in looking for this narrative,
The call for forgiveness is a painfully familiar refrain when black people suffer. White people embrace narratives about forgiveness so they can pretend the world is a fairer place than it actually is, and that racism is merely a vestige of a painful past instead of this indelible part of our present… What white people are really asking for when they demand forgiveness from a traumatized community is absolution…I, for one, am done forgiving.
On a day-to-day basis, anger (along with fear and sadness) is policed along lines of both race and gender. If you are a woman, and angry, you are irrational. It’s that time of the month. You’re acting like a man (and not in one of the acceptable ways). If you are a black man, and angry, you are a threat. You’re out of control. If you are a black woman, and angry, you risk falling into either or both of the above categories, and getting pegged as an “angry black woman.” Often, it seems that only certain people are allowed to feel, or at least express anger. Of course, those who are allowed to express anger – white men – are not allowed to express “feminine” emotions like fear and sadness.
Our feelings can make us vulnerable, but that vulnerability can enforce a sense of community. And, perhaps even more importantly, without emotions, we are not highly-evolved, perfectly rational Vulcans. We are complacent, we are reckless, we are compassionless. We’re depressed, empty. We need to move beyond the idea that being emotional is “feminine” (as if that’s a bad thing) and weak, and that cold logic is always better. We also need to move beyond the idea that emotions and logic are at odds; one can be both intensely emotional and highly logical.
When Anger and Disgust (Fear is pretty meek) are at the helm of Riley’s command center, they decide she should go back to Minnesota to be happy again. But soon after implanting this idea in Riley’s mind, they realize it’s a pretty terrible one. However, as Riley’s depression worsens, her emotions are no longer able to influence her at all. Despite their best efforts, her three remaining emotions cannot make her turn around. She ignores her mother’s worried phone calls, and on a bus bound for Minnesota, she stares out the window, her face blank.
But just in the nick of time, Joy and Sadness make it back to the “command center.” Joy, having learned her lesson about Sadness’ power, steps back, pushing Sadness towards the controls. As soon as she is at the helm, Riley sits bolt upright, asks the bus-driver to let her off, and runs home as fast as she can, breaking down into tears as she crosses the threshold. At the end of the movie, Sadness saves the day, allowing Riley and her parents to reach a new level of empathy and understanding. Riley continues to be a happy, if slightly more somber, girl whose control center is shared equally by Joy and Sadness (and Anger when she’s on the ice).
Through Joy, Sadness, and the rest of the team, Inside Out provides its young audience with a crucial vocabulary for articulating emotions both celebrated and often unfairly maligned. The ability to discuss the importance of these emotions should not be underestimated—and these emotions, especially anger and sadness, should be divorced from questions of who is “allowed” to feel them.
Only the most desperate white racists openly identify as racists. Invariably, these white people come from a social stratum deprived of all that whiteness tries to connote: wealth, beauty, power, cleanliness, grace. But because it is uncomfortable for white people to define such things too clearly, the phrase “white trash” had to be invented to cover them. The phrase, developed to describe all Southern whites outside the aristocracy, has shifted in tandem with economic and social changes so that it now applies to a demographic sliver. Yet this reduction in range has not corresponded to a reduction in the disgust it evokes in whites of putatively higher status.
“Housing discrimination is the unfinished business of civil rights,” says Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. “It goes right to the heart of our divide from one another. It goes right to the heart of whether you believe that African American people’s lives matter, that you respect them, that you believe they can be your neighbors, that you want them to play with your children.”