How Social Media Changed Election Politics for Young Women

It’s always fun to see your name in print. From an article examining how young feminists view Hillary Clinton before and after social media became the norm:

In the early and mid-2000s, after she left the White House and took up residence in the U.S. Senate, Clinton largely shifted away from a women-centered agenda as she worked to bolster her presidential résumé. At the same time, young bloggers like Lauren Bruce (Feministe) and Jessica Valenti (Feministing) were bringing feminist theory out of the Ivory Tower. “Each month seemed to bring a new site with feminist content,” Rebecca Traister writes in her 2010 book, Big Girls Don’t Cry. “At various points there were about six sites calling themselvesThe F-Word.”

Social media changed the landscape of feminism. Young women who might not learn about feminism in their schools or communities could find primers on Tumblr blogs with names like intersectional feminism 101. Their feminist awakenings thus involved, from the start, debates about second-wave feminism’s perceived failures of inclusivity. “Anyone who entered the feminist conversation in the Internet age has immediate access to not only research about those failures, but also to a lot of the conversations about them,” says feminist organizer and writer Shelby Knox, who’s 28. “The barriers are a lot lower for participation in the movement.”

Young women could now do more than read about feminist issues and discuss them in class; they could find communities of women on Twitter or Tumblr whose experiences they could relate to—or who could open up new vistas for them on what other women’s lives are like. They could participate in the creation of a new feminism—one that would be a far cry from Friedan’s. By 2011, the writer Flavia Dzodan was famously declaring on her blog: “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.” Her words became a rallying cry.

As young women’s notions of feminism evolved and broadened, so did their idea of what constitutes “women’s issues” in the political arena. “If you’re taking intersectionality as the foundation of this kind of feminism, you wouldn’t just be concerned with how any particular policy issue is affecting women,” says Gwendolyn Beetham, director of the Global Village at Douglass Residential College, the women’s residential college affiliated with Rutgers University. “But you would be asking, ‘Which women, and how?’ And you would be asking this whether or not you are a member of one of those groups.”

Who’s that girl on Meridian Street?

My neighbors and I were profiled in the Journal & Courier today for our creative  attempts to slow traffic on our crash-prone street:

meridian girl signThe idea came on June 27, as wreckers worked for nearly three hours to pull out a car wedged into the trees in Breschinsky’s yard. No one was hurt in the crash. But the driver missed the turn and took down two trees planted 20 years ago, in part, to protect the house from this very situation.

As neighbors gathered to watch the operation that day, they compared notes about crashes, big and small, and close calls. They decided, as Breschinsky said, “Enough was enough. We need a statement.”

Lauren Bruce lives across Meridian Street from Breschinsky. She said the last straw for her was nearly being hit as a car buzzed within inches of her bike — along with the trailer hauling her preschool daughter — as she signaled to turn into her driveway.

Bruce said she spoke with friends from Bicycle Lafayette, who have been working on several traffic-calming initiatives and displays — most recently getting riders to do all-day loops on Harrison Bridge and on 18th Street, after car-vs.-bike crashes in each place.

“What we came up with is, basically, the best way to slow traffic is to put something in the road,” Bruce said. “We were joking: You know, what if we get signs that look like little kids running into the street. I said, ‘I can do that.’ ”

Thanks to my friends at Bicycle Lafayette and MadMen Creative for enabling my civil disobedience.

A History of Creepy Dolls

Whoops!

When I first started going to auctions, I accidentally bid on and won a creepy doll. At an estate auction, I didn’t like the cut of some lady’s jib, and bid her up on a random item to be a jerk and give her a hard time. This is a common, if ill-advised, auction practice — I learned it from my parents.

Karma got me for showing off. I won it.

My win was an early 20th c. composition “mama” doll with a white gown and white leather shoes, whose head had been damaged by moisture and peeled away at the top, exposing a dense white skull of “composition,” a molded glue and sawdust mixture. She dated about 1910-1940. Her eyes opened and closed and her cloth body was stuffed to be about the size and weight of a 10-12 month old human child. These were called “mama” dolls because they had a voice box inside that said “mama” when you sat the baby up or laid her down. My baby no longer said “mama.”

She was creepy as all get out. She had flat eyes, a peeling head, and a weird smile. She was roughly the size and weight of an actual baby. Nobody wanted anything to do with her. I put her in an antique store but nobody would buy it. I tried to sell her online and got no interest at all. Eventually I stuck her in a closet waiting for an opportunity to unload this baby doll on someone else.

Posting about this weird mistake on social media, my friends and family were delighted with my bad luck and began to associate me with creepy dolls of all kinds. Folks sent me every link, photo, story, or event that had to do somehow with creepy dolls. It turns out there is a lot of them. There is even a doll museum in my hometown I didn’t know about prior, a two-story Victorian row house complete with a creepy curator and chock full of automatons from floor to ceiling. People are disappointed to find out that I not only don’t collect creepy dolls, but I’m also not into them apart from teasing my friends and family. 

Today, someone sent me this amazing article by The Smithsonian on the history and culture associated with Western dolls and an exploration of what we mean when we talk about “creepiness”:

Research into why we think things are creepy and what potential use that might have is somewhat limited, but it does exist (“creepy”, in the modern sense of the word, has been around since the middle of the 19th century; its first appearance in The New York Times was in an 1877 reference to a story about a ghost). In 2013, Frank McAndrew, a psychologist at Knox College in Illinois, and Sara Koehnke, a graduate student, put out a small paper on their working hypothesis about what “creepiness” means; the paper was based on the results of a survey of more than 1,300 people investigating what “creeped” them out (collecting dolls was named as one of the creepiest hobbies).

Creepiness, McAndrew says, comes down to uncertainty. “You’re getting mixed messages. If something is clearly frightening, you scream, you run away. If something is disgusting, you know how to act,” he explains. “But if something is creepy… it might be dangerous but you’re not sure it is… there’s an ambivalence.” If someone is acting outside of accepted social norms – standing too close, or staring, say – we become suspicious of their intentions. But in the absence of real evidence of a threat, we wait and in the meantime, call them creepy. The upshot, McAndrew says, is that being in a state of “creeped out” makes you “hyper-vigilant”. “It really focuses your attention and helps you process any relevant information to help you decide whether there is something to be afraid of or not. I really think creepiness is where we respond in situations where we don’t know have enough information to respond, but we have enough to put us on our guard.”

Finally, after three years of scaring myself by finding the creepy baby in closet after closet (“Did I move this, or…?”), I pawned it off on someone else. A local artist who didn’t seem too horrified by the idea found her on his doorstep.

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Champinones al Ajillo

Tapas Party spread, February 2015. Picture by Emily Blue.

Tapas Party spread, February 2015. Picture by Emily Blue.

A few months ago, one of my friends came up with the brilliant idea of Dinner Club, a group of local friends and foodies that regularly gets together to cook, eat, and socialize. It’s a collaborative and family-friendly gathering that is teeming with creativity and anticipation, as we plan and share our plans online leading up to the event.

Last month I hosted a tapas event. Tapas were my idea, but once I started looking into them I was immediately anxious about my choice. I am not comfortable cooking a lot of fish and seafoods, ingredients with which traditional tapas are heavy. Luckily other folks stepped up and made smelt, salmon ceviche, shrimp, and others. We had marinated chorizo, dates wrapped with bacon, manchego cheese with quince, melon con jamon, fresh bread and tomato caper salsa, and other fantastic and new flavors.

I made several items, but this was among my favorites, adapted from a smattering of recipes from Martha Stewart to Real Simple to others. I love mushrooms and this was easy and light, and got better and better as it sat around at room temperature marinating in its own juices. I took the leftovers and reheated them with a dose of heavy cream, reduced by half, and tossed with linguine, fresh chopped parsley, and parm. So good.

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How to Identify Stanhope Jewelry

A Stanhope ring with close-up. Photo from Pinterest.

A Stanhope ring with close-up. Photo from Pinterest.

Several months ago, I lucked out and found a large stash of Stanhope novelty pieces at a garage sale. The collection I had to choose from was mostly religious icons, like tiny paintings of saints, the Lord’s Prayer, and other iconography hidden in keychains and cross pendants. The naughty Stanhopes, however are highly collectible — Victorian cheesecake nudes — so I snatched them all up.

A Stanhope is a tiny peep hole with a lens containing a micro-photograph inserted into a novelty souvenir. The photo inside is the size of a pinhead and has to be held up to a light and very close to ones eye to view the image. 

A Stanhope ring.

A Stanhope ring.

In the Victorian era especially, these novelties were extremely popular and cheap to make, and because they were so proliferous, people didn’t take great care of them which accounts for their rarity today.

Although the pieces I have are merely cheeky today — microphotographs of Victorian ladies in various states of undress — these would have been quite scandalous way back when.

You can identify Stanhope jewelry primarily by the small lens located somewhere on the piece, usually on a pendant, fob, keychain, or ring. Oftentimes Stanhopes will look like little lenses, like a telescope, a pair of binoculars, or another eye piece. If this is a religious piece, the lens will typically be in the center of the cross. The lens is usually about 3mm in diameter and will go all the way through the piece, and is curved like a dome on one side. You must hold it right up to your eye and look through the dome in the direction of light to discern the image inside.

NOTE: If you have and love a piece of Stanhope, you must be very careful not to expose the piece to moisture in any form. Water, lotion, steam, or any other moisture will dissolve the tiny picture on the lens, negating much of the value of the piece. I learned this one the hard way.

On Cabbage Steaks, Rage Cooking, and Roasting Vegetables

There is this recipe floating around social media that makes me want to rage-quit the internet every time I read it, for “Garlic Rubbed Roasted Cabbage Steaks.” Why does it make me want to light a kitchen on fire? It’s over-complicated and shows a basic misunderstanding of how to use ingredients for a desired culinary end. It’s a now-classic issue that crops up frequently on Pinterest-heavy lifestyle sites, sites that are more in tune with what a recipe or hobby says about the author — and the desires of the reader — than they are about conveying clear instruction on a topic of expertise .

[The original cabbage “steak” is credited to Martha Stewart, but at the link one can see Martha is impatient with silly flavor profiles and unnecessary steps. Martha calls hers “wedges” because Martha knows a real steak when she sees one.]

In the recipe in question, the instructions tell you to cut a head of cabbage into one inch thick “steaks,” then “rub both sides of cabbage with smashed garlic.” Later, you get out your basting brush and literally paint the cabbage with oil. Veggies, especially the humble cabbage, weren’t meant to be this fussy.

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Thanksgiving Menu

Since my family will be scattered over the holiday, I’m cooking this weekend.

  • Roasted bone-in turkey breast, maybe with Herbes de Provence. Part of me wants to scrap this and just make honey lamb.
  • Sauteed Brussels sprouts w/ bacon — I can’t emphasize how good these are, halved and sauteed in bacon fat and caramelized with a shot of vinegar.
  • Creole cornbread and sausage stuffing.
  • Baked cheese grits — I don’t have a recipe for this one yet. The traditional one for my family is out of one of those ancient church cookbooks I love, but it’s similar to this, but with additional savory ingredients.
  • I wanted to make hasselback potatoes, but the kids overrode my opinion. Mashed potatoes it is. Boo.
  • Roasted, herbed honey carrots.
  • Deviled eggs.
  • All the pie.

I love a cooking holiday.

Chicken Dum Pukht

This chicken curry recipe is one of the better things I’ve found online, maybe ever. It’s spicy without being too hot, it makes the house smell delicious, and it provides an excellent lesson in making your own curry paste. I’ve also skipped the meat and made a good vegan version with hardier veggies (eggplant and okra were the stars), braising for less time.

Cilantro stems!

RECIPE: Southern Creole Sausage and Cornbread Dressing

I stole this picture from the internet. It looks something like this.

I stole this picture from the internet.

This is one of my favorite recipes of all time, a dish present on every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter table set at my mom’s house. The original recipe lives in a non-descript church cookbook from somewhere in the Middle South in the 1970s, and it’s in danger of being destroyed with time and use. Another iteration lives in an email from 2008, which is terribly inconvenient. I decided to record it here for posterity, with some of my own notes added.

This savory cornbread stuffing hits all the taste centers in your primitive lizard brain, with fats and carbs and meats galore. Sorry/not sorry about the sticks of butter.

For the cornbread, make any recipe you’d like as long as it’s a full unsweetened round. I make mine in a cast-iron skillet. And if you don’t feel like making your own Creole seasoning, get you a tin of Tony Chachere’s.

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Plum and Apple Torte

I made this torte on Wednesday night, and it looked and felt wrong until right before I pulled it out of the oven. It didn’t seem like there was enough batter, the batter was too thick like cookie dough, there seemed to be too much fruit to batter ratio, the spring form pan was too large. Then I pulled it out of the oven and the batter had puffed up into a perfect little cake, swallowing the plums (and apples I’d used for filler), lightly (or heavily) dusted with cinnamon and sugar. It’s a rustic little dessert, heavy with fruit but not too sweet. It couldn’t be any simpler, and it’s delicious — DELICIOUS — on Day Two.

If it lasts that long.

Review: Bastards of the Party

As the New York Times puts it, Bastards of the Party is the “genealogy for the institution of the gang. This feature-length documentary “traces the origin of black American gang history, from the great migration of African-Americans from the South to northern and western industrial cities, to the rise and demise of the Black Panther Party and the Organization Us of the mid- 1960s, ultimately to the formation of the 1990s and 2000s gang culture in Los Angeles. Through the eyes of former gang member and co-producer Cle “Bone” Sloan, Bastards focuses on LA gang culture as a micro-community reflective of bad social policies all through the U.S.

We misunderstand the gangs when we assume that they have no history or purpose apart from brute violence, but we romanticize them when we imagine that they’re bands of brave vigilantes.

Clear-eyed history — shot through with archival film — begins to set the record straight. Mr. Sloan begins with a myth: that gangs like the Bloods and the Crips started in 1972, when they formed in response to a dispute over a leather jacket. That’s rubbish. The film shows that gang animosity in Los Angeles dates to the 1940s and ’50s, when the police had set up an extortion racket on Central Avenue to bilk the black music clubs.

Then Bastards points an abject finger at the role of the Los Angeles Police Department, and explores how Chief William H. Parker bolstered the ranks of the LAPD with white recruits from the south during his tenure from 1950 to 1966, who brought their racist attitudes with them into the police force and police work processes. Parker’s racist sympathies helped to lay the groundwork for the volatile relationship between the black community and the LAPD that persists today, and led to the rise of gang culture. The “bastards of the party” are gangs who are, according to Sloan, the “bastard children of” revolutionary black political movements. This is what happens, he says, in a pressure cooker of no jobs, no social safety net, and a militarized police presence, and when the hopes of the prior generation turn into the resentments of the present. He ultimately lays responsibility for the allure of LA gang life at the feet of law enforcement and their complicity with and promotion of generations of racist policy.

This is an intensely political documentary that would be appropriate for all audiences interested in social justice, urban American politics, solutions to poverty, maladaptive youth cultures, discussions of gang violence, underground economies, Black American history, and Los Angeles history.