Blazer of Glory: On Leaving Academia

Ten months ago, I bought myself a brown corduroy blazer. With elbow patches. As it settled around my shoulders, I felt a surge of confidence fill me—a knowledge that, while I may look like an utter dweeb, I was doing exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I took a picture wearing it—a professorial selfie—and shared it with my friends.

Who does that?

It would be so much easier to say goodbye to teaching if I were a jaded curmudgeon, full of bitterness and spite that had curdled my soul into a spiritual Limburger cheese. I could flip the double deuce at the conniving university bureaucrats who had a hand in my exit as I rode off into the sunset. I could cackle at my former coworkers’ misfortune at being stuck in the quagmire of academia, telling myself I’m so much better off now. After two years of throwing myself at over a hundred academic positions and getting the door slammed in my face each time, it would be easier if I hated the university, the students, the professors; the committee-sitting, researching, grading, and especially the weary grind of teaching.

It would be easier if I could blame someone, anyone else for why I’m leaving.

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How To Emotionally Devastate A Very Specific Type Of Person

Whisper “I am a leaf on the wind; watch how I soar” to them.

Pretend not to understand any of their Spaced references.

Tell someone who likes to think of himself as a Moss from the IT Crowd that he in fact reminds you of “that one guy from The Big Bang Theory.”

“I think John Hurt was the best Doctor, personally.”

“Oh, I’m sorry — I figured you knew when I asked you to come over to watch Death At A Funeral that you knew I meant the American remake.”

Compare Batman: The Animated Series negatively to the comics.

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Link Roundup!

Tyler Coates looks back on In & Out to answer the very important (and now a column!) question: Was It Good For the Gays?

…at the end of the day, In & Out is mostly offensive because it’s not a very good movie. It’s formulaic and rather dumb — and, yes, The Village People’s “Macho Man” is heard twice. But like most bad movies, it has its fun moments. Joan Cusack more than deserved her Oscar nomination for her hilarious performance, and it’s quite a treat to see Wilford Brimley announce that he’s gay while standing next to Debbie Reynolds. And I’ll forgive Frank Oz and Paul Rudnick for the lame Streisand jokes (and the costume designer for Tom Selleck’s ugly ties), but only because June Squibb’s minor character reveals, with perfect dead-pan delivery, the following line: “My husband has three testicles, and it’s disgusting.”

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TNC reflects on his personal boycott of the NFL, two years on.

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into ittttt:

My family has many unwritten rules. The second most important is: do not open the door if the doorbell rings only once. In our family, if the doorbell only rings once, you were either a salesperson or a canvasser. And salespersons and canvassers are liars and thieves.

My mother came to this conclusion shortly after she first immigrated to Canada; two scam artists pretending to work for the government tried to enter our home. Looking back, this is probably why I couldn’t make it as a (sort of) con artist, selling chocolates on the mean streets of southwestern Ontario.

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The Women of Sisterhood of Hip-Hop

Sisterhood of Hip-Hop is anti-ratchet reality TV. The Oxygen reality show produced by T.I. follows five female MC’s as they hustle their way to stardom. Sisterhood, attempting to be an alternative to Love and Hip-Hop, tries to portray the rappers in a three-dimensional way that makes you root for them to succeed.

The show begins by focusing on Siya, a New York rapper who wants to be “the first openly gay rapper” in her words.  She is a butch lesbian rapper and wants to depend on her lyrics, not her looks, to get ahead in the hip-hop industry. On the show, she spoke out against the pressure on female rappers to be oversexualized. “There’s one thing I hate about the industry like you have to be naked to sell…Like no, you don’t!” 

Siya is being mentored by Murder Inc. founder Irv Gotti and R & B singer Tank. (All the rappers are mentored by a big-name urban artist throughout the show.) While she’s trying to build her name in New York, she is dealing with the personal issue of her homesick girlfriend, Renaye. The most refreshing part of the premiere was that their relationship was just presented as a regular relationship. Siya’s sexuality (so far) is presented as a part of her life, but not the totality of who she is. As she stated on the show, “My sexuality, to me, has never affected my career…It just so happened that I’m gay, but I’m a dope rapper.” 

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A Personal History of Misogyny

ONE

I think sometimes of all the bad things that could happen to me. Does anybody else do this? All the ways I could be hurt, the exact level and amount I could suffer, and survive.

It started, I think, in elementary school, while watching West Side Story with my parents. That scene where the Jets taunt Anita. Her shirt is fuchsia and her hair is short and her mouth is loud, and I love Anita the best out of everyone, sort of in the same way Rizzo was my favorite in Grease. I have always been drawn to loud women, to brusque women, to women who are defiantly nothing more, or less, than exactly who they are.

Anita disappears under pale arms and shouting. I ask my father, “They raped her, didn’t they?” Maybe it’s the first time I’ve ever said that word aloud. I try to remember just how many of them there were, and what I would do in a scene like that, how fast could I run, how loud could I yell, and if I ran the fastest, and yelled the loudest, would it make a difference.

I think I was maybe ten years old. My father doesn’t answer.

TWO

In middle school I get in trouble for wearing denim minidresses and high black boots, shirts made of lace, jeans that show my skin from hip to ankle in an inch wide gap held together by suede string. All around terrible fashion sense, but I love going to the mall. My mother shakes her head as I walk to the car each morning, but she lets me decide what I want to wear. Later, she’ll drive to school, pissed off and long-suffering, with more appropriate jeans and an I-told-you-so. And I’ll roll my eyes right back, and do the same thing the next week, because I like the attention, even when it comes in the forms of thirteen year old boys sticking quarters down the back of my pants. For blowjobs, they say.

I don’t know what a blowjob is, and once it’s explained, I’m mostly concerned with the nomenclature. Why blow job, if you’re not actually blowing on it?

THREE

My best friend and I do cartwheels on her front lawn after school, giggling when our shirts go up, smirking at each other when we hear whistles from the cars driving by. Is there anything better than being looked at? Is there any other way to know you’re beautiful?

FOUR

Eighth grade. I’m walking with my mother and kissing noises squeeze their way wetly out from the cracked windows of the cars driving by. It’s summertime and I shout FUCK OFF. “Don’t do that,” my mother says, and I feel a thrill, of terror, of rage. It is the thrill of knowing my young body is desirable, is noticed, and the terrifying certainty, dimly recognized, of knowing I have no way to defend it.

Later on, we’re on line at McDonald’s, and a man, tall, thin, with dirty blond hair and clearly drunk, presses up against my mother as she orders our food. I freeze. I say nothing. The girl behind the counter is only a few years older than me. She freezes too. I hear my mother, tiny and brave, say through gritted teeth, “Get your hands off me.” She’ll tell me later that it took her years to be able to say that. It will take me years, too.

The man giggles.

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Dirtbag Teddy Roosevelt

TAFT
what is it, Mr. President
COME INTO MY OFFICE
I WANT TO BENCH PRESS SOMETHING
why don’t you bench press your presidential desk
I ALREADY BENCH PRESSED IT
sir, I don’t want to be bench pressed
AM I THE PRESIDENT OR AREN’T I
IF I WANT TO BENCH PRESS THE MEN IN MY CABINET
IT’S FOR THE GOOD OF THE NATION
AND YOU SHOULD BE GRATEFUL FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE YOUR COUNTRY
NOW GET IN HERE AND ASSUME THE POSITION
yes, sir
I’LL BENCH PRESS ANY AMERICAN I WANT
yes, sir

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The Abs Brah

This weekend I was in Yosemite, one of our nation’s loveliest national parks. It was there that I met the Abs Brah.

abs brah

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Being Counted: Reporting My Rape at a School Under Title IX Investigation

July 2014

The first thing I have to do is find out X.’s full name. I know his first and last name, but I want to have his middle name. Being able to say all three names has power. Like when I get mad at my kids and say all three names, they know they’re in deep shit.

I don’t even know how to spell X.’s first name properly—it’s a name with a couple of possible spellings. Since I figure he’ll be a practicing doctor now, I just Google him. I don’t think twice. I type his name into the search bar and Google takes me right to his home page. To the page of his plastic surgery practice in one of the wealthiest towns in the United States.

Cheesy synth-jazz plays in the background while I stare into the eyes of my rapist.

I am not prepared for this.

I am not prepared to look into his eyes after so many years. After one doctorate, one marriage, and two children. This is not something I could ever have been prepared for. I hit mute on my computer.

I hate this man. I hate that he has a plastic surgery practice. The menu for the work he does divides women into body parts like “thighs,” “face,” “breasts,” and “torso.” Women’s eyes stare at me through my screen. His homepage looks like a fucking porno site. I get his full name and shut the browser.

I type his name into the rape reporting notes that I’m preparing to bring with me to campus. The notes feel inauthentic when compared to the report of, say, an undergraduate in a moment of crisis. But I know I will fight similar battles to the young women reporting rapes after finding themselves naked in frat house broom closets or basements.

The rape reporting people on campus will want details (details I won’t have.) They will want to tell me what to do with my report (and I will have to resist them.) They will quickly form ideas about what kind of person I am the minute I walk through the door (and those ideas will likely be wrong.)

Because they will want details, I’m preparing notes. My first problem is that I don’t remember the date. Fortunately, I’m detail-obsessed. I’ve kept journals since age thirteen to record everything. So that’s the first place I look to find the date. But, for some reason, I didn’t write down much about X. raping me. I didn’t write down the date. This is very unlike me. (Note to Past Me: What were you thinking?)

No problem, though, because I also keep a detailed calendar. Like, if Adrian Monk decided to keep a calendar, he would be jealous of my calendar. He’d ask me for calendar lessons. I start flipping through my past calendars, year by year, to the calendar for 20– … and it is gone. Fucking gone. They’re all lined up on the shelf, and that one is missing.

Now, I wouldn’t have written in the calendar “Raped by X.” on whatever day in 20–. But I would have written down when I was flying to visit a guy that I’d just started dating. The reason I was in Chapel Hill at all, instead of in Greensboro where I was attending graduate school, was to stay overnight with my sister so I could fly out of the Raleigh airport the next morning on Southwest Airlines.

In the early morning hours before that flight, X. raped me.

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