Currently mood: lemon meringue pie.
If you read my newsletter, you know why 🙂
Dr. Angelou, and lemon meringue pie, forever.
Shout out to my friend SK and the culture-Makers in my Feminist Marketing Mastermind. Love is food, food is love.
“When I read your essay,” she said, “I gotta admit, I felt personally called out.”
We were talking on the phone for the first time about one of my pieces on The Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand. She’d reached out to me because she’d read it, recognized it, and thought “wait a minute, is she talking about me???!”
This happens all the time.
I wasn’t, in fact, writing with her mind. I rarely am.
But the fact that she saw herself in it was the point.
I see myself in it, too.
I feel like it’s the cultural norm, the marketing default, so of course so many people are doing it.
That’s why I rarely name names. The individuals aren’t the point. That pattern is.
By writing pieces about the pattern, each of us can recognize ourselves in that mirror.
And change it up.
This happens to me, all the time, too.
I read something where someone’s essay or Instagram post pointing out some stupidity or bullshit or obliviousness and I think, oh my god, I do that too.
I am so grateful for that awful feeling.
(Tada Hozumi calls that ‘befriending the call-out‘ — and h/t to Holly Truhlar for introducing me to Tada’s work — because call outs provide “valuable feedback about behavior. They can offer great insights that we can integrate for our benefit.”)
I’m so grateful for everyone writing pieces and Instagram posts and FB status updates, chipping away at everything that limits us and asking us all to do our part, too.
As soon as I get that “oh my god, I recognize myself in this” feeling, I get to work unlearning that previously-invisible habit.
Sometimes I get it in a snap. Sometimes it takes some space for my fight-or-flight (or, more often, freeze) to simmer down so I can process what I’ve been offered; and then it takes conscious practice, reminding myself, catching myself, and correcting myself.
Here are some things I’m witnessing in myself and learning to unlearn:
- Ableist language like “I stand for justice”
- The notion that non-binary or trans is a bodily trait that you can read in someone’s appearance (I messed this up just yesterday and then read this piece by Ilya Parker of Decolonizing Fitness on Instagram and the locks and tumblers fell into place)
- Giving advice before asking someone if they want advice (consent!!!!) (I think learning from Gwynn Raimondi and following her on Facebook is what really brought this home for me)
this morning as i was catching up on chimamandagate i found myself feeling a ton of gratitude to trans, gender nonconforming and nonbinary people who have stayed with me through my unlearning process,
through my misgendering them, trying to argue grammar (even though in nearly every other instance i dismiss grammar rules and all other rules),
through my defensive reactions (“but half my lovers are trans/gnc i couldn’t be transphobic”),
through my feelings of scarcity around my womanhood and women’s spaces,
through delicate/scary conversations around transracial vs transgender journeys,
through my unrequested advice or protection,
through my absence when support was needed.
through my fascination and curiosity,
through my putting them on pedestals,
through my forgetting them in spaces where they needed inclusion and/or centering.
and through my fumbling love.
i wish i could say each of these lessons took me hours to learn, but some of it has taken days, weeks, years – sometimes i never made it back to thank the teachers of specific lessons, especially the ones that were hard.
and i am still unlearning.
and i am still grateful.
All I have to add to this is that I’m resolved to learn/unlearn as fast as I can and bring as many people with me as I do that so that it’s not so damn hard on the ones doing the explaining, who already have too much weight to carry.
This isn’t about converging on an orthodoxy.
It’s about each of us realizing that so often the voice of culture is working through us without our consent…
…and we can interrupt it, if we’re vulnerable enough to recognize ourselves not just as recipients of oppressive behaviours but perpetuators* of it, too.
*h/t to Inbal Sansani for sketching out that exact dilemma and pattern to me recently
…and that planted a seed in my noggin’.
This new series, The Love + Justice Reading Rally, is the result of that seedling.
I’ve been saving what I’ve been reading and metabolizing and unabashedly loving (or not!) this week and I’m sharing it with you in case there’s some good material in here for you, too.
Going forward, I’ll publish The Love + Justice Reading Rally once a month, at the end of the month.
Here are the books I’m reading this month
You know those features asking people what books are on their nightstand?
There are no books on my nightstand. My books are mostly on Kindle…or where the microwave ought to be.
Food for the soul, indeed.
I try to read one book every weekend, so this is what’s on screen and in my head this month:
Note: These book cover images link to affiliate book listings on Amazon. If you buy one using this link, I get paid a commission
Here’s everything else I’m reading
…and I said so, in my comment. Here’s what I wrote:
First, I’ve been to your office and workspace and met the team. I know how you work and your feminist business practices — so I know your feminist brand positioning isn’t positioning at all, but the real deal. You walk the talk**.
And then, second, because the imagery was so inclusive. Fat bodies. Non binary bodies*. People of colour. It was so real and human and not homogenized. I felt so affirmed and hopeful.
Third, I’ve seen radical campaigns (like say, H&M and one of your competitors) that appeared intersectional but then was disappointed to find out their exploitative labour practices didn’t match their feminist visuals — and because I KNOW you walk the talk**, I felt this deep heartfelt yes. This isn’t a ploy, this is a real feminist business, all the way through, and **this is how we do it**. Feminist businesses for the win.
I’m so happy for you and so proud for you of the work you do in the world.
I’m thrilled you’re thriving. It’s a lighthouse of possibility in what sometimes feels like shadowy, urgent times. You show me that yes, we can do this. We can build thriving enterprises based on our values — and we should. Onward. Together we rise.
The Instagram feed of Ilya Parker of Decolonizing Fitness has the same effect on me. This work is a glimpse at a just future, now.
You can follow Ilya (and buy a shirt!) and please do:
Ok so while we’re on the subject of tears, and belly laughs, and sighs of recognition (and relief), you MUST check out Emelia Symington-Fedy’s new audio memoir, Trying to Be Good: The Healing Powers of Lying, Cheating, Stealing, and Drugs
Emelia is a radio show host, an actor, a playwright (I took my mom to her play on motherhood last year for Mother’s Day and we laughed and wept all the way through), a comedienne, a performance artist, a yoga teacher, a mama, a friend. She is fierce with her love. I get tears in my eyes just thinking about how she was a rock for me last year when I was in the muck.
She helped me keep my chin up.
Anyway: Emelia’s audio-memoir is raw, it’s real, it’s deep, it’s life, it’s wise and wise-cracking.
In other words, it’s everything you need in your life if you’re exhausted by carefully curated love and light, as though nothing else exists.
I loved it so much I bought and downloaded two copies. One for each ear? Nah, just sisterly love.
(I learned this from Danielle LaPorte, who’s written that when people you love or want to boost put something out in the world, you buy one. Or a few.)
This is a wonderful breakdown from Scott Woods about how black directors Ryan Coogler and Ava DuVernay use their growing power to do great work for great causes and to create more art.
These two massive talents are, as my friend Meghna Majmudar often says, “playing the game to change the game”.
And what Scott Woods writes underlines for me how important it is for culture makers to generate influence and then USE IT.
Use your clout to do more great work. Don’t underuse your power.
Earn it and use alllllllllll of it.
Because together we rise.
A new Sade song. This is not a drill.
ALSO: Apparently Ava DuVernay fully expected Sade to say no, yet **she asked anyway**.
A lesson for us: Be audacious. ASK ANYWAY.
Isaac Hayes didn’t care if it the music he was making was commercial. He went all out on bringing the unconventional, genre-busting, genre-making sounds in his head to life…
…and the album stayed on the charts for 69 weeks.
An inspiration and an ode to the energetic power of NOT diluting your message, your voice, your work.
I’m sincerely trying to unpack what I perceive to be the jealousy and viciousness I’m witnessing in our own culture-making communities without defaulting to the “women are just catty and awful” bullshit trope.
I haven’t got it figured out. Yet.
Admittedly, my glee in this is not coming from my best self. But oh, how I relished these headlines:
““You Go, Girl! How to Balance Being a Mom and Being a Silent Figurehead for a Deeply Unstable Presidency”
“The New Open Marriage? Why Leaving Your Husband in the Middle of the Night, in a Private Jet, While He’s Under House Arrest Is the Next Modern Relationship Trend”
Teen Vogue, of course, is asking all the right questions.
Everything from Your Fat Friend is amazing. Linda Bacon described her to me as one the most beautiful writers, ever, and wow, is that ever true. What a writer.
“I’m body positive as long as you’re not obese.” – Your Fat Friend – Medium
If you’ve got a hankering for lemon pie because of my newsletter on Feb 21 (If you’d like to subscribe, you can sign up here), this is the recipe I was talking about.
Lemon Meringue Pie – Cuisine Noir Magazine
On rapid learning and unlearning: after I wrote this, I learned two things:
* that gender is not something that’s visible; and trans politics is about disrupting this notion. In other words, there’s no such thing as looking “non-binary”...and so I got it wrong when I wrote “non-binary bodies” as a visual descriptor, above.
** walk-the-talk is ableist
This note was self-induced. No one’s said anything to me about either of these things. I wanted to draw your attention to them for the sake of being real. I am never done learning and unlearning. No one is. We’re in this together.
The boys have been home one day and this morning they woke up to snow.
They’ve been in the Caribbean for a year, so snow really marked the fact that they’re home in Canada.
The little one was jumping up-and-down saying snow! snow! He immediately started making snowballs.
He’s only two. How he knows to make snowballs is a mystery. But he knew and it was awesome.
What’s a Culture Maker?
You don’t have to have a fancy title or an artsy career
to be a culture-maker (but you can if you want to!).
When you get brave and go first
and say something that makes others realize they’re not alone,
you are a culture-maker.
When you lift your voice to reject racism
(and, and, and),
you are a culture maker.
When you share and declare on Facebook or Instagam,
you are asserting new norms and you are a culture-maker.
When you paint, write, coach, and offer counsel around those new norms
and market without leveraging oppression,
you are making a new culture.
You have that power.
We all do.
Every single one of us is a culture maker.
Let’s make a better one.