Game of Thrones: An End of Season Recap

Or, as a friend once called it, “stabby castles.”

SPOILERS AHEAD
I recently wrote about the exciting potential of the early episodes of Game of Thrones season 6, and the second half of the season more than fulfilled the promise of the first half. The last two episodes in particular were each better than most full-length movies. (Also, we got confirmation of the most important of all fan theories: the one regarding Jon Snow’s parentage.) When I wrote about the first half of the season, I mentioned the surprising amount of female wish-fulfillment fantasy it contained; with the second half of the season, the dark side of that wish fulfillment became clear. We were given what we wanted—Sansa’s revenge on Ramsay Bolton, Arya’s on the Freys—only to feel how dark and morally murky our satisfaction with such scenes became. Continue reading “Game of Thrones: An End of Season Recap”

Assemble the #GirlSquad: Finding My New Best Friend on BumbleBFF

tldr; I tried online friend-dating so you don’t have to.

A good friend of mine says she wishes her early and mid-20s would come with a guidebook, like those pamphlets on puberty from grade school. There are just things we don’t know to expect, despite our generally good educations and common sense. Examples?

Here are some weird things your not-yet-old, not-quite-young body will start doing. Ten things besides taxes you don’t yet know how to do, but should.

After I uprooted my life and moved to a new city with my boyfriend, I added something else to her list: it’s really f*cking hard to make adult friends.

To paraphrase the ladies of Another Round, it’s weird to try finding adult female friends if you don’t have a good reason. You can’t just lean over to that cool-looking lady on the bus and be like, hey bus friend. You wanna go to the movies sometime?

A good friend of mine says she wishes her early and mid-20s would come with a guidebook, like those pamphlets on puberty from grade school. There are things we don’t know to expect, despite our generally good educations and common sense. Examples? Here are some weird things your not-yet-old, not-quite-young body will start doing. Ten things besides taxes you don’t yet know how to do, but should. After I uprooted my life and moved to a new city with my boyfriend, I added something else to her list: it’s really f*cking hard to make adult friends. 

I don’t mean friendly acquaintances, like that girl you always see at the gym and often chat with. I don’t even mean surface friends, the ones you see once a month for drinks and some pleasant small-talk. I’m talking the dream of female friendship that, lately, has blossomed beautifully in our pop culture: the Broad City love, the tight-knit ride-or-die crew. The women whose lives are woven together deeply through late night giggle sessions, daily commiserating over nothing at all, and deep existential talks while drunk.

broad city
TV’s weirdest and best female friendship

To be clear, not everyone wants or needs this level of female friendship. Plenty of people do well without. But it was certainly something of a lonely shock for me to be plunged from many years of effortless community building (through school), into a work-from-home situation where I trudged from coffeeshop to coffeeshop and wasted time in insipid MeetUps. I still had the friends I had relied on to keep me sane throughout school, and I still loved them as much as ever. But there’s a difference between even the most fulfilling GroupMe chat, and the reassuring feeling of having a friend in the same city who can run over at a moment’s notice. I had been confident that I could build a strong friendship network in my new city. After all, I had met *soulmates* in unlikely places. I had made friends even under the crushing pressure of a graduate school program I grew to deeply resent. I had never failed to make connections before—and now I would have all this “free” time. I could be flexible! Instead, I found myself split between my new city and my yearning for my friends in other places. I traveled a lot of weekends, dropping in for an intense bout of fun and emotional connection before returning to my lonely weekdays of work. Without the support of a structure, like school or a workplace, I found myself floundering. To paraphrase the ladies of Another Round, it’s weird to try finding adult female friends if you don’t have a good reason. You can’t just lean over to that cool-looking lady on the bus and be like, hey bus friend. You wanna go to the movies sometime?


 

In the corner of the internet where my online friends live  (a secret facebook group that doubles as constant sleepover/oversharing extravaganza), a woman mentioned a new resource that I had been waiting for without realizing it: BumbleBFF. You may know of Bumble, the dating app that requires women to make the first move when meeting men. BFF is a new feature in this app, which lets you create a profile and swipe on potential female friends like you would in a dating app.

Once you download Bumble (or set it to the BFF option), you create a profile by linking your facebook, much like tinder. You write a blurb about yourself, which is one of the hardest and most awkward kinds of writing that exists. You can also play around with your photos by deleting, rearranging, or adding new ones from your camera roll. Crowdsourced word of advice: pictures of pets? Good convo starter. Five bathroom selfies from slightly different angles? Not so much.

 

Many of the women using the app referenced well-known TV friendships in their blurbs, noting that they aspired to find their beautiful-tropical-fish-Ann-Perkins, or that they were looking for the “Tina Fey to my Amy Poehler.” I must have seen that line about Tina and Amy at least ten times. Are women more conscious of the expectation that they have a #squad? Probably. TV has perhaps fueled the desire for this kind of friendship—which is not a bad thing in itself. Many, many of the women on this app were also quick to note that they were on BumbleBFF because they were new to the city, or were looking to expand their social circles beyond work and their boyfriends. I’m normal, I promise!
It’s weird in some ways and not others, of course. It makes perfect sense, in this moment, to try and make friends the same way we do so much else: through an app. What’s weird is the slight mismatch between this interface and its purpose. When you swipe, you decide based on a picture and a blurb…but a lot of women don’t fill out the blurb, or list only a series of cryptic emoji (burrito, wine glass, twin bunny girls dancing). It’s pretty visual, and that’s a strange sole criterion for friendship. After all, I have never made an IRL friend solely based on her cuteness. But for a lot of these women, who for some reason chose only a selfie and no other info, that was all I had to go on.

It’s kind of a distasteful process to confront your own visual prejudices so clearly. The game-like aspects of this app, like all dating and social-matching apps, winnow your preferences quickly and clearly. The act of swiping trains you to quickly assess a limited amount of information and make a decision. In all honesty, I hesitated, and often swiped left, on *basic* white girls with chevron print dresses or monogrammed wine glasses. I swiped left on people who listed alcohol as their main interest, because it felt like they were performing some kind of *bitter-but-cool-millenial* wine-guzzling act. (I also like wine, and drinking, and brunch, but GIRL everyone does! It’s not a lot to go on when meeting an individual). They are probably lovely people, and we could have had a fine time together. Regardless, I swiped left because some part of me instinctively recoiled, and there were a lot of other women to look through. I’m sure other people on the app did the same for me.

I have never actually used a dating app, since my current boyfriend and I have been dating since before tinder was a thing. It was fun to participate in this facet of culture. As a low-stakes way to specify the kind of friends I wanted to meet, it was great. But for my (squad-)goals, did it work?

IMG_8014
Aren’t these redaction stickers the cutest?

I had a few matches within the first couple hours, which was heartening! When you match with someone (meaning both of you swiped right on each other), your phone buzzes in celebration and a whole world of possibility opens up in front of you. At least, that’s how it felt the first time I matched. A new window comes up, letting you know that the hours are ticking down on your new #foreverfriend, and one of you will have to start talking. Members of the secret facebook group mentioned above agreed: it is awkward af to start small-talking someone you don’t know if you’re not face to face. Some girls sent a blank, “how are you?” which was about as inspiring online as it is in person (which is to say, not very). A couple people sent compliments: “I love your hair!” or “ooh, the donuts in your pic look so yummy!” As is the case when I make in-person small talk, I felt like I was lifting heavy weights. (Small talk is tedious, y’all. Why don’t we as a society just acknowledge this fact?) It felt easy to let conversations fall by the wayside. After all, these were still strangers to whom I owed nothing. But that also meant that moving forward to meeting up was hard. Usually one or both of us flaked, or the topic never came up at all.

While I’ve yet to meet up with any of my matches, I suspect that this app, like most dating apps, can only do so much. We will still have to wade through the slough of small talk and introduction together. We will meet, and leave that meeting, still basically strangers—and it will take some effort to keep any momentum going. One or both of us will have to be very proactive, in a way that I find most people of my generation rarely are—at least when it comes to making and keeping social engagements with people, especially people you don’t know well. It’s too easy to lie back in bed, log in to netflix, and lazily flick through the next 20 women waiting in your screen. BumbleBFF may help us take the first step, but the hard work is still up to us. I remain optimistic, though. If anyone wants to buzz me, I’ll be here.

 

Weekly Dance Break: I’m in Control (AlunaGeorge ft. Popcaan)

Summer vibes, and not a moment too soon. Check out this video, which also celebrates life in the Dominican Republic!

 

What is Peach?

What is Peach?

peach-app

peach.cool is telling you: this is really cool, guys. Having cool in the url is the #1 youths-approved way of signaling your coolness. Continue reading “What is Peach?”

Ask Momo: 9/17/15

Momo tackles blankets/Miley Cyrus, office friendships, fashion.

Have a question? Submit your thoughts via the “Ask Momo” tab at the top of the page! 


Hey Momo,

My friend and I are still (I know, old news) kind of reeling from that amazing moment at the VMAs when Nicki came out to remind Miley what was what. It’s not that I stan for Nicki or anything. It was just so f—ing satisfying to see Miley put into her place while wearing those fake-ass ugly dreads and generally being a mess. I am so over these pop stars who pick and choose what parts of black culture to use to promote their own sorry asses. I guess that’s the whole history of pop music, but whatever.

Anyway, while I was talking to my other friend about this cultural theft and he (kind of rudely, I think?) was like, “But you have that blanket…” So, he’s talking about this Indian (Native American? Idk what term to use, sorry) blanket my parents and I bought while visiting South Dakota when I was a kid. I’ve had it for a long time and really love it. It has this really pretty red and yellow woven design on it, and I use it around the living room while I’m watching TV and stuff.

What I want to know is—do you think owning this blanket is also cultural appropriation? I’m feeling really conflicted because I would hate to participate in something that I personally hate in others. But no matter how I try to justify it to myself, I can’t really explain why it’s not really cultural theft. What do you think?

—Allison

Continue reading “Ask Momo: 9/17/15”

Acro Collective Greatest Hits: Celebrating 100 Posts!

I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe that this little project has already reached 100 posts! Thank you so much for continuing to grow with us and for supporting this community of thought, discourse, and love.

To celebrate our first major milestone, I highlight some of our most popular and beloved posts, in case you missed them or feel like revisiting the ideas they present. Stick with us! We love having you, and the best is yet to come.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe that this little project has already reached 100 posts! Thank you so much for continuing to grow with us and for supporting this community of thought, discourse, and love.

To celebrate our first major milestone, I highlight some of our most popular and beloved posts, in case you missed them or feel like revisiting the ideas they present. Stick with us! We love having you, and the best is yet to come.

What We Mean When We Talk About Responsibility: Romance, Pleasure, and Politics

The question I want to ask, then, is this: what does it mean for pleasure to be politically correct or not? Romance as a genre has historically been the subject of a lot of angst over this very question. Its investment in normative gender and sexual politics is right on the surface. Its sub-genre ghettoization of stories about POC and simultaneous exoticization of white women—heroines with exotic raven hair and milky skin are common staples—is well documented. And its fetishistic fascination with class performance and historical moments that were less than kind to non-white, non-rich people is nothing to dismiss. And, unlike Tarantino, romance doesn’t get the cover of an avant-garde aesthetic that can justify the pleasure romance readers get from the genre…Romance is smut, and the women who read romance read it specifically because it scratches a particular itch. They are self-conscious consumers of the fantasies in these books even if the fantasies they consume are shaped by cultural forces that are less than politically correct. Just hit up the romance lists section of Goodreads, and you’ll find women and men who know exactly what their fantasies and desires are and discuss the mechanics of the smut they read in savvy and precise terms.

 Today I want to talk about romance, that much-maligned literary genre that conjures up images of Fabio’s pecs and housewives with a password-protected kindle. As a genre explicitly dedicated to pleasure, women’s pleasure in particular, romance occupies a vexed position. It is both wildly popular and easily sneered at, impugned publicly, often, by the same people who consume it in private. Romance reading is thought to signal a certain lack of imagination and intellectual laziness which is rarely associated with the kinds of smut thought to be consumed by men. This probably has to do with the fact that romance is a literary genre and is therefore held to standards that don’t apply in the world of Brazzers, but it also has to do, I think, with the standards that women’s genres and pleasures are held to more generally.

Frequenters of Acro Collective know that we believe that political work and vital thinking cannot be sustained without a corrective measure of self-care and a diligent investment in our own pleasure. That, in fact, a fervent yet critical celebration of pleasure in many forms—both our own and that of others—is central to the type of intellectual space we’re interested in creating. We not only believe that the kinds of communities that form around a shared pleasure can be deeply affirming and potentially transformative, but we’re also aware that pleasure itself can get lost in the work of critique. We sometimes forget that ideology does not meet people on an intellectual level but is embedded in layers of aesthetic and affective experience which cannot be discarded indiscriminately simply because of their proximity to political content.

But precisely because so many of our most crucial pleasures are intersected by politics, we also know that we cannot responsibly affirm those pleasures without an equal measure of critical engagement with them. This is not to say that we cannot enjoy difficult or ideologically impure things, but simply that it’s important not to split the cultural landscape into the politically correct and the politically compromised because nothing would ever land on the correct side.

Yet the angst over this problem is real, especially in young politically-conscious circles. A quick Google search for “liking problematic things” returns almost half a million results, most aimed at social justice types, reassuring them that it is, indeed, possible to enjoy all sorts of representations which we would not be so complacent about in real life.

It’s depressingly common in social justice and academic discourse to accuse a piece of culture of being “problematic” with a fantasy ideal in our minds of a cultural artifact that is pure, purely responsible. But purely responsible culture does not exist, and if it did, it would feel hollow, sanitized, and deeply unsatisfying. Think of those midcentury anti-communist propaganda films. Their attempts to hit all the appropriate political talking-points make them feel farcical in a cult-film kind of way, but render them pretty uncompelling otherwise. I am not saying that we should not bring political critiques to our culture, but rather that it feels massively unproductive, not to mention exhausting and joyless, to speak in terms of enough—is Lena Dunham feminist enough? Is GOOP vegan enough?

Because culture is an aesthetic project as much as an ideological one it can never be purely responsible. The waters are muddied from the beginning by pleasure. Our experience of a painting as beautiful or ugly or a film as dazzling or dull bears on, indeed produces, our experience of its ideological content. I find myself deeply uncomfortable with artists like Quentin Tarantino for this very reason. I recognize the stunning, sensational, ravishing allure of his aesthetic project and I recognize the pleasure I feel at its hands, and I see how the brilliance of his experiments can obscure the ickiness of his politics while standing in for something more progressive.

Once more, I am not suggesting that aesthetics exist beyond or without the political, but just the opposite. I want to point to the ways in which the political is overlaid and infused by aesthetic experience—the ways that pleasure complicates and challenges our ideological commitments. Why do so many ostensibly politically responsible people feel the need to ask Google if they can like problematic things? It’s because, I think, they can recognize the dissonance between how they envision their politics and how they experience their pleasures.

The question I want to ask, then, is this: what does it mean for pleasure to be politically correct or not? Romance as a genre has historically been the subject of a lot of angst over this very question. Its investment in normative gender and sexual politics is right on the surface. Its sub-genre ghettoization of stories about POC and simultaneous exoticization of white women—heroines with exotic raven hair and milky skin are common staples—is well documented. And its fetishistic fascination with class performance and historical moments that were less than kind to non-white, non-rich people is nothing to dismiss. And, unlike Tarantino, romance doesn’t get the cover of an avant-garde aesthetic that can justify the pleasure romance readers get from the genre.

There is apparently nothing to redeem the romance reader. They are condemned from both sides as both politically naive and tasteless. The pleasure they take in the romance genre is bad pleasure not only because it is incited by ideologically compromised representations, but also because the generic aesthetic does not justify or forgive that pleasure like it might for something like prestige TV (which is definitely not immune from squicky politics).

It doesn’t help that romance readers are exclusively thought of as women. Women’s genres have always, since the high/low culture split at the end of the 19th century, been accused of bad aesthetics and facile thinking. Meanwhile Jonathan Franzen, noted curmudgeon, can write any number of hacky neoliberal novels and his readers can still be contributors for the New Yorker.

It’s much easier to disavow a pleasure in which one does not partake. I, for example, cannot affirm the kinds of pleasures that many people experience in patriotism. In fact, I find those pleasures altogether unsavory as simply an affective mask for the kinds of violence perpetrated in the name of (white, masculinist) nationalism. So, then, why do I insist that the pleasures offered by romance are different than those offered by patriotism when they can undoubtedly be symptomatic of racism and rape culture? Partly, it’s because women’s pleasures have historically been dismissed as unintellectual, backward and perverse. Partly because people tend to be able to recognize and compartmentalize sexual fantasy as fantasy in a way that they cannot for fantasies of nationalism.

This combination of taste and politics makes the romance reader an easy mark. She is simply too stupid to know what she’s doing. And this is why I am an unrepentant apologist for books like 50 Shades of Grey. The women who read books like that one aren’t idiots—or, at least, there are no more idiotic romance readers than there are Franzen fans. They didn’t accidentally stumble upon 50 Shades and decide to swallow the gender politics uncritically.

Look at this pesky New Woman soaking up scandal via her novel-reading! | Painting by Albert Ritzberger, image via jamesjoel (Flickr)
Look at this pesky New Woman soaking up scandal via her novel-reading! | Painting by Albert Ritzberger, image via jamesjoel (Flickr)

Romance is smut, and the women who read romance read it specifically because it scratches a particular itch. They are self-conscious consumers of the fantasies in these books even if the fantasies they consume are shaped by cultural forces that are less than politically correct. Just hit up the romance lists section of Goodreads, and you’ll find women and men who know exactly what their fantasies and desires are and discuss the mechanics of the smut they read in savvy and precise terms.

I’m willing to believe that the overwhelming majority of people who read 50 Shades of Grey are well aware that the kind of consent represented in those books is imperfect and acceptable only within the world of fantasy. And I propose that instead of talking about romance and other politically incorrect culture as a zero-sum game in which representations are either “good” or “bad,” feminist enough or not, we spend more time talking about how our pleasures are solicited and elicited, and how to mobilize our politically incorrect pleasures towards a more progressive cultural landscape.

This might mean making room in our politics for self-conscious experiences of pleasure as well as using our pleasure as a critical tool to examine our political commitments.

Weekly Link Roundup! McKinney, Twitter trolls, and more

Here’s some of what we collected this week:

  • VOX on some of the fraught history behind swimming pools, McKinney, and police assault of young black children.
  • The problem of plastic waste in the ocean, and what one fashion company is trying to do to change it.
  • The Mary Sue sits down with the inimitable Kate Beaton. 
  • Twitter  has added a new anti-troll feature. 
  • Women in STEM fields respond to Tim Hunt with a hashtag funnier than his asinine comments deserved: #distractinglysexy.

Have suggestions for our weekly link roundup? Leave us a comment or like us on facebook and let us know!

Weekly Dance Break: Awoo (Lim Kim)

Really excited for Acro Collective’s first feature from the beloved world of Korean music! This stylish MV for Lim Kim(김예림)’s “Awoo” has been bouncing around my brain since it came out last week. Check it out!

[Today’s song was first suggested by a friend of Acro Collective, AJ. Whoo!]