Mimi Thi Nguyen: punk and resistance

There are a lot of smart insights in this Bluestockings interview with Mimi Thi Nguyen.  Feministing shared the link and gave me the heads up that there was some discussion of guilt and professional expectations in the essay.  Nguyen seems persuasive to this punk professor when she writes:

The disjuncture then comes when I consider how we are encouraged to carry ourselves in the academy. I feel a lot of pressure to professionalize, and the prescriptions for professionalization often run counter to my way of being in the world. I also struggle with the directive that I am supposed to professionalize my students. I don’t hold with the idea that I should train students to be better workers, because the content of “better” — more obedient, more efficient, whatever — runs counter to what I want to teach. In my feminist theories courses, I say, “Yeah, I just gave you assignments with deadlines! But I also want to say to you, what’s so great about work? Why do we believe work is supposed to be edifying? Should we always have to be productive? Why do we imagine work as something that gives us dignity? What if it’s just wearing us down?” My history in punk totally informs these attempts to practice other ways of being in a classroom, and other ways of being a professor.

via (Un)productivity in the Digital Age — A Conversation with Mimi Thi Nguyen | Bluestockings Magazine.

Like Nguyen I was a reader of Maximum Rock and Roll since my teens.  I was deeply informed by the DIY spirit and raw love of music and counterculture that ran through MRR.  Along with that inspiring freedom were some toxic interview discussions and columns that also were a big part of MRR.  I remember a particularly racist / sexist sex column, perhaps from Mykel Board?  Nguyen as a young punk writes MRR and challenges the columnist for MRR and gets a hateful column in reply.  The scrap with MRR inspires her to create her own zine Race Riot.

The impetus for Race Riot came when a columnist at Maximum Rockandroll wrote about his Asian fetish, suggesting that Asian women’s eyelids look like vulva, and that their vulva might be also horizontal. It is an old imperial joke — there are all kinds of imperial jokes about how racial, colonial women’s bodies are so inhuman that their genitalia might reflect this alien state. I wrote a letter to Maximum, cussing and citing postcolonial feminist theory. He then wrote a lengthy column in response about how though I’m Asian, because I’m an ugly feminist, he wouldn’t want to fuck me anyway. There was a discussion at the magazine about whether or not to publish this column because the magazine had a policy — no racism, no sexism, no homophobia. But the coordinator and founder of the magazine decided that this column qualified as satire, and so it was acceptable.

It was really infuriating for me to be 19 years old, totally invested in punk and politics, to be attacked under the guise of racist cool in the punk magazine. I was like, “Fuck it, I’m quitting punk.” But I figured I should do something, to leave something behind as a practice and as a document, to reach other punks of color who might feel as isolated as I did in the aftermath.

via (Un)productivity in the Digital Age — A Conversation with Mimi Thi Nguyen | Bluestockings Magazine.

I know a lot of punks who saw the academy as a reasonable place to continue thinking about punk praxis.  Or more particularly, many of us go to an academic job and are reasonably punk in that and other parts of our lives.  Many of the punks I knew are still working with intentional collectives, creating media, hosting shows, playing music, creating alternative spaces and doing-it-themselves.  I’ll give a shout out to my friend Zack Furness and his book Punkademics.  I think you can read the whole book at Minor Compositions.

I’ll note my appreciation and agreement with Nguyen’s analysis of internet communications and the need for pauses for reflection.   She argues:

New technologies have produced expectations that we now have more democratic access to more knowledge, and that we must accommodate ourselves to an accelerated sense of time. But I am wary of this internalization of capital’s rhythms for continuous consumption and open-ended production. I hate feeling obliged to produce a post or tweet on a timetable. It makes me anxious. There is value in being about to respond quickly to an object or event, of course, but I also want to hold out for other forms of temporal consciousness, including untimeliness and contemplation of deep structures, sitting with an object over time to consider how it changes you, how the encounter with it changes the nature of your inquiry.

via (Un)productivity in the Digital Age — A Conversation with Mimi Thi Nguyen | Bluestockings Magazine.

Good interview and strong arguments.

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Filed under academics, capitalism, communication, do-it-yourself, feminism, media, music, punk, race, representation, resistance, sexism, technology

Online harassment in Massive online classes

Massive Open Online Classes (MOOC) were a big deal a few years ago.  Turns out that one of the most prominent MIT MOOC teachers, Walter Lewin has been  using his MOOC to harass (mostly) international students like French student Faïza Harbi.  Inside Higher Education has the details and a discussion over whether students enrolled in free classes get Title IX protection from gender-based discrimination:

Whether MIT could be held liable for not protecting Harbi and the other women is still an unanswered question. MOOC providers differ on whether learners who are not enrolled at institutions eligible for federal financial aid are covered by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which some researchers have warned about. But when it comes to discrimination, legal experts said, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 should apply to anyone who registers for a MOOC.

“Title IX talks in terms of ‘no person’ shall experience discrimination — not ‘no student,’ ” Buzuvis said. “That broad language creates the possibility for anyone who’s a victim of discrimination [to] potentially have a claim under Title IX.”

Buzuvis, who runs the Title IX Blog, said that, based on the severity of the Lewin case, a lawsuit against MIT could come down to if the institution knew about the harassment and didn’t act to protect learners.

via Complainant in ‘unprecedented’ Walter Lewin sexual harassment case comes forward @insidehighered.

Buzuvis mentioned is: Erin Buzuvis, director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies at Western New England University.

Thanks for Feministing for the link!

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Fighting the trolls: Lindy West engages

I like Lindy West’s pop culture analysis.  She writes for a few online spots like Jezebel.  Feministing noted that she had been harassed by a troll who opened a twitter account in the name of her deceased father.  This is the feministing quote:

Lindy, who you might know from her writing at Jezebel and GQ, was trolled by someone who set up a Twitter account in the name of her dead father. She wrote about how awful that made her feel, and to her surprise, he wrote to her again – but this time, to apologize.

Then, she called him and interviewed him about what had gone through his mind when he decided to do what he did. And recorded it all. “It felt like if I could just get the specifics,” she says, “gather them up and hold them in my hands — then maybe I could start to understand all the people who were still trolling me.”

They talked for two hours, and by the end, she’d forgiven him for the terrible things he’d done – the meanest thing anyone has ever done to her. She understood what his life looked like at the time that he was trolling (he’s since stopped, he says) and she felt sorry for him. Still, she says, it’s disturbing to know that there was nothing wrong with him per se. “It’s frightening that he’s so normal,” she says. He’s not your idea of a monster, and unlike a fairy tale troll, he certainly doesn’t live alone under a bridge. He has women coworkers, and a girlfriend, and women friends. “They have no idea that he used to go online and traumatize women for fun.”

via “It’s frightening that he’s so normal.”.

In a Jezebel essay, West notes her reasoning to humanize and engage with trolls:

I feed trolls. Not always, not every troll, but when I feel like it—when I think it will make me feel better—I talk back. I talk back because the expectation is that when you tell a woman to shut up, she should shut up. I reject that. I talk back because it’s fun, sometimes, to rip an abusive dummy to shreds with my friends. I talk back because my mental health is my priority—not some troll’s personal satisfaction. I talk back because it emboldens other women to talk back online and in real life, and I talk back because women have told me that my responses give them a script for dealing with monsters in their own lives. And, most importantly, I talk back because internet trolls are not, in fact, monsters. They are human beings—and I don’t believe that their attempts to dehumanize me can be counteracted by dehumanizing them. The only thing that fights dehumanization is increased humanization—of me, of them, of marginalized groups in general, of the internet as a whole.

via Don’t Ignore the Trolls. Feed Them Until They Explode..

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Anita Sarkeesian and accountability for online harassment

Anita Sarkeesian does really good critical analysis of video games.  For that work she has received death threats and brutal online harassment.  What do you do with this kind of vitriol?  Sarkeesian explains her approach in an IGN interview:

I have a few strategies for dealing with harassment. First having a good support network is important. Whenever possible I try to look through the worst of the comments and messages with friends who can offer moral support and witty observations. Second, I never respond to any of the hateful messages, emails or comments directly. Its just not worth it on a tactical level or frankly, on an emotional level. You really can’t have a well reasoned argument with folks spewing blatant sexism all over the place.

Instead, after long discussions and careful consideration, I decided to document the abuse I was receiving and strategically post portions of it online. I knew that by refusing to be silent, and making the abuse public, I ran the risk of further enraging my attackers and becoming even more of a target but ultimately I felt it was worth it to try and bring more attention to the epidemic of sexist harassment that women face everyday just for wanting to be full participants online.

via Full IGN interview with Anita Sarkeesian | Feminist Frequency.

Sarkeesian also notes some potentially fruitful tactics to think structurally about accountability.

When it comes to the question of accountability, we obviously need our service providers to take online harassment seriously with built in structures and functionalities that actively deter bad behaviour and actually encourage good behavior. We also need to be creating a larger cultural shift away from impunity and towards a measure of social accountability.  This is a long process of course but it starts with community members especially men publicly calling out harassment and challenging misogyny when they see it. It’s critically important to make it clear that abusive behavior will not be tolerated in our digital spaces.  These small personal actions might not immediately change the mind or world view of the person doing the harassing, but if enough people speak up it can definitely help to create an environment where perpetrators will feel less comfortable and less supported in their abusive behaviour. Harassers might think twice before making a sexist, racist or homophobic comment next time around because they can’t be sure that their fellow gamers will just ignore or go along with it.

via Full IGN interview with Anita Sarkeesian | Feminist Frequency.

I also like her response to the idea that she should “grow a thicker skin.”

AS: Honestly, this is kind of a difficult question to answer. The events in question have of course had a pretty substantial impact on my life both professionally and personally. I would be lying if I said that it isn’t sometimes a struggle to deal with this kind of persistent vitriol on a daily basis.  I think one possible response to this much vicious hostility would be to simply become jaded and cynical or to “grow a thicker skin” so to speak.  But I don’t think that the price of admission to the world of gaming should be to have to disconnect from your emotional capacity or distance yourself from your own humanity. I don’t think that’s a fair trade. Its simply not ok to ask people to jettison their ability to feel in order to deal with a constant barrage of threats, slurs and abuse. So instead I try to balance it all by focusing more on the tremendous outpouring of support for my project. That incredible encouragement has really inspired me and deepened my convictions about the work I do and I think is an indication that the industry, and gaming culture more broadly, is already in the process of changing for the better. Although, this metamorphoses may be slow and painful at times, there can be no doubt that change is happening and will result in a better more inclusive gaming culture for everyone.

via Full IGN interview with Anita Sarkeesian | Feminist Frequency.

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Remember Leslie Feinberg as a revolutionary Communist

Leslie Feinberg has left the world.  In the Advocate, Feinberg’s partner Minnie Bruce Pratt describes the radical politics which made Feinberg such an inspiration:

She died at home in Syracuse, NY, with her partner and spouse of 22 years, Minnie Bruce Pratt, at her side. Her last words were: “Remember me as a revolutionary communist.”

Feinberg was the first theorist to advance a Marxist concept of “transgender liberation,” and her work impacted popular culture, academic research, and political organizing.

Her historical and theoretical writing has been widely anthologized and taught in the U.S. and international academic circles. Her impact on mass culture was primarily through her 1993 first novel, Stone Butch Blues, widely considered in and outside the U.S. as a groundbreaking work about the complexities of gender. Sold by the hundreds of thousands of copies and also passed from hand-to-hand inside prisons, the novel has been translated into Chinese, Dutch, German, Italian, Slovenian, Turkish, and Hebrew with her earnings from that edition going to ASWAT Palestinian Gay Women.

In a statement at the end of her life, she said she had “never been in search of a common umbrella identity, or even an umbrella term, that brings together people of oppressed sexes, gender expressions, and sexualities” and added that she believed in the right of self-determination of oppressed individuals, communities, groups, and nations.

via Transgender Pioneer Leslie Feinberg of Stone Butch Blues Has Died | Advocate.com.

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Daryl Hall and Chromeo: swimming, home rehab and “Tenderoni”

Daryl Hall is such a boss.  Here he is inviting Chromeo’s P-Thugg to swim in his 1700s farmhouse with the baller indoor pool before launching into Chromeo’s Tenderoni with the crew.

Strong music and a great moment for the talkbox.  Oh, and salute eighties musicians who put in work with a big glass of red wine.

Here is “No Can Do” from the same session.  

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Justice for Mike Brown: disrupting the symphony

Beautiful music.  A moment of public dialogue interjected into a space for beautiful music.   I don’t know how I missed this  St. Louis symphony showdown.

Elizabeth Vega on the conception of the symphony as a protest space.   Daily KOS reports:

Elizabeth: Two weeks ago, Sarah and I participated in a direct action at Cardinal Stadium. We did a series of banner drops at a baseball game with folks. We are both middle aged I am a grandmother and I am brown and Sarah is white. People were incredibly rude and racist to us at the game. They booed us. Told us “Pants up dont loot” etc.. They clearly saw what they wanted to see. We were escorted out in handcuffs and chanted “No justice! No Peace!” It was a rough night where we didnt feel any love. Sarah suggested that night, jokingly, that perhaps we needed another venue. The next day she said she wanted to do an action at the symphony. I was on board and immediately brought on Derek. When we found out the next performance was a requiem we had to do it.  It took us about two weeks among planning other actions and events for the national mobilization. We are all very busy but carved out about five hours total to recruit, plan and organize.

via Requiem for Mike Brown protest at St. Louis Symphony exposes both white privilege and support.

Thanks to feministing for the suggestion, link and video.

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