"Self-destruction for love is a particularly Durasian obsession. "You destroy me. You’re so good for me," repeats the woman in "Hiroshima Mon Amour" to her lover. I ask her today why sex and death are always entwined for her.
"It’s difficult to articulate. It’s erotic." She takes a deep breath. "I had a lover with whom I drank a lot of alcohol." She pauses, staring straight at me. Her face is expressionless, her dark eyes are absolutely still. "I’m acquainted with it, the desire to be killed. I know it exists.""
“My advice is this: Find the women. Surround yourself with women, read women, and meet up in person with women. Beauty myths will go BOOM! And suddenly, you’ll look to them for not just advice but ways of seeing and beauty, too, will shift.”—Durga Chew-Bose, http://adult-mag.com/ugly-sexy/ (via et—cetera)
AMY ROSE: How did race inform (a) the financial realities of your class, (b) your perception of your class, and/or (c) the class-based ways others treat or treated you? Coming from a white family, I quite obviously had tons of privilege even when we were at our poorest. My mom recently said something to me about how she felt like it was necessary to “dress black” when she was applying for welfare/aid, and it made me really upset. I love her a ton, and she stays admirably open to and receptive of discussions about race, class, and culture, but my family sometimes conflates race and class in a way that makes me so angry. TOTAL HONESTY, Y’ALL. I KNOW THIS KIND OF THING IS RAGE-INDUCING AND HARD TO TALK ABOUT, but it’s so necessary.
SUZY: It’s not just limited to white people! Many members of my family have adopted racist rhetoric in the hopes of better assimilating into white American culture. The idea that rich people have what they have only because they worked hard for it—the “bootstraps” mentality—does not work for everyone. Many CEOs have what they have because they had a team of low-income workers to support their businesses. And many businesses are set up so that none of those workers ever move up, no matter how hard they work.
JULIANNE: My mom’s personal class shame was also tied up with the racism she experienced when she was young. She often acted like she was ashamed to be Mexican. She was never racist against other races or other Mexicans, but she definitely hid her culture and did not speak Spanish at home with me. Being poor and being Mexican were one and the same to her, because basically every Mexican immigrant that she grew up with in Wyoming was poor and treated like garbaggio.
JENNY: There’s been a long history of pitting Asian folks against black folks with the myth of Asians as “model minorities,” and I know that there have been a few studies that have shown Asians in the U.S. to be the most likely to hold racist views, particularly against African-Americans. When I first got to the U.S., my parents took me to Harlem and said, “These are the poorest of the poor,” and then we drove back to our single-family home that we shared with three other families. My dad literally came to America with a broken broomstick in his suitcase—because he thought he would never be able to find one in America—and $50 that his sponsor back in Shanghai gave him that was stolen from him by a shitty customs official at JFK, so he had to borrow $20 from his academic advisor at NYU to get through the next two weeks. That said, he was still coming to the U.S. as a grad student which, of course, affords one many opportunities down the road that someone who did not go to college will never have.
CHANEL: I had a weird mix of experiences with race and class growing up. On one hand, as a black girl, there were definitely some assumptions of how I was raised and that I was probably low-income. I remember that this white kid in one of my classes laughed at me because I was reading Candy (that book about heroin addiction) and he said of course I would read something like that, since most black people are lowdown drug addicts. My mother didn’t really raise me to see characteristics based on race, even though she had it rouggghhh growing up in the ’60s (there was a “slave day” at her high school and she participated in a sit-in because of it, because she’s a badass). On the other hand, I often got flak that because I was in band and wrote for the literary magazine and stuff like that, I wasn’t “black enough” or part of “the black community.” Even my own family mocked the way I talked because it was “proper” and I came off as “affluent” (which is like, get the fuck outta here). So I guess you could say I didn’t really have a class to fit into, since people were giving me different definitions of my own life/actions/background/race, LOL.
I. Psychic Peaches Stevens Scammed Florida Woman Out Of $136,000
I’m not gay, but in Florida I’m a faggot. I’d heard the word spit at me in New York City, too, but every time it took me back to Chevron and Chick-Fil-A and hot pavement and pick up trucks, standing dumbfounded but eventually laughing with my faggot friends, our faggot pants, our music and our faggot long hair. We’d seen it coming.
At 24 with a haircut,I thought I’d outgrown the slur. But Misty, my psychic, smelled it on me.
Cassadaga is a small town without a school, known only for a Tom Petty song, a Bright Eyes album, and its spiritualism, summoned from the soil by overpriced mediums and psychics and gift shops whose signs say “book store.” On the second floor of the Cassadaga Hotel, Misty held my hands. “If you’re not feeling like we’re connecting, stop me,” she told me — after I’d handed $55 in cash to a “Gold Dust”-type woman at the gift shop. Pyrite dust, maybe. “We really do have a reputation here at the hotel,” said Misty. “If we’re not connecting, it’s because you’re supposed to be with someone else.” I was supposed to be with someone else — one of eight other psychics in the hotel, or forty-four mediums within a mile — or else not there at all, but I went with it.
Misty had a moon face. She wore a black blouse, with holes cut out on either side to bare her massive, fleshy deltoids. A hunk of turquoise wrapped in gold wire dangled between her breasts. (“I’m a psychic, not a medium,” she joked. “I’m really more of an extra-large.”) Her dark purple hair was pulled back, sharpening the widow’s peak hanging over her wide smile, her quickly browning teeth.
“You need to grow a little bit,” Misty said in a raspy but comforting coo that sounded on the edge of a gross cough. She chuckled, waited. We were ten minutes into her examination of my palms. “I have a girl that I feel is — is trying to create a relationship out of nothing.” Long pause. “I’m trying to figure out how to put this and not…” I bit my lip, half out of nervousness, but also in an attempt not to laugh. Misty felt less restrained. “Essentially, this is sort of like — like — like a fag hag who just won’t let go!” Exhale. “But I love you, it doesn’t matter,” she mocked, imitating the imaginary girlfriend. “It’ll work, I swear.” She sighed and shook her head.
“Be really, really, really gentle with correcting that misapprehension,” she warned. “It’s not your fault. Most likely she will tell you a story of rape at some point. That’s why she feels so completely safe with you. You are not a threat to her.” She was rolling now. “If you advertise cola and people show up and want Pepsi, you shouldn’t be surprised. If what you’re selling is tea, then that’s what you should be advertising, and you’re not.” I didn’t argue. “Do you understand what I mean by that?”
DCB: I was watching her interview when she addressed her Elle cover. And she says that she felt good that they wanted to focus on her face. I feel like women of color are forced to be their own spin doctors, but to appease the world. Like WOC are forced to focus on one good thing. Or what’s easy for others to swallow. Am I making sense?
HN: Yaasss, absolutely.
DCB: Like, as a kid it was about owning my good skin, or, like, thick hair! Or some bullshit like that. Now it’s, like, “eyebrows.”
HN: Lmaooo, yo you right — eyebrows are in.
DCB: When white girls tell me not to pluck, it’s like, I’m too lazy to pluck. My bushy eyebrows are the ones I was born with and I get a little sick when white women, unprompted, suggest I leave them the way they naturally are.
AS: Shout-out to every sperm-browed Becky who asked if I had caterpillars on my face in middle school but now spend their nights googling eyebrow implants/tints.
DCB: Exactly. Something about Mindy waxing about feeling good that they chose her face for the cover really set me off. Because I’ve done that too, my whole life.
HN: Yes, please speak on it!
DCB: Like, I had to own the compliments that were given to me rather than just feel everything I was as a whole woman. The amount of moms at soccer practice who loved my thick hair or people always tell me I should wear more color because colors look good on me.
AS: Wow, really heavy thinking about how much of that was part of my life that I just took for granted. For a long time I just assumed adults commenting on your body and touching it without your permission was just part of American culture. Only recently have I learned it’s not something I should/ever should have put up with.
DCB: Another one: dark rings under my eyes. The amount of people that ask me if I’m tired all the time. I’ve never once covered the dark rings under my eyes, and worse is when white girls are like, “No that’s in”
HN: (You can’t hear me right now but I keep just saying “Mmmm” to myself and feeling all emotional.) OMG the deep-set eyes thing!
DCB: I never get my makeup done. I also barely wear any makeup, but when someone else does it, the first thing they do is put some white stuff under my eyes and smudge.
AS: White people don’t have a frame of reference for our beauty; they wile out. Here we’re talking about growing up having white people rationalize our looks to themselves, framing their unsolicited commentary as a compliment we’re supposed to be grateful for. To be constantly put in a position to thank them for the white gaze applied to us. To be the source of their confusion is so grating; it’s dehumanization to be treated like a novelty rather than an equal.
HN: And all that time you spend being a source for their confusion really warps your mind. I remember the first time I ignored my mom and insisted that I get my hair done at a “regular” hair cuttery and feeling just so not human after I left. The fashion and beauty world in general just makes me feel so fundamentally not human.
DCB: My mom is Anglo-Indian so she’s got all kinds of bomb roots, but we look sorta nothing alike. And when people see her, they’re like, “She’s so white!” It always makes me mad. Like my roots surprise other people, like I’m just supposed to be Bollywood brown or something.
AS: A lot of the compliments I get from white people have been like when Regina George does a suspicious once-over and says, “You’re like, really pretty” and the implied “Howw whyyy?” hangs in the air. Honestly that there’s no frame of reference for WOC beauty that isn’t highly warped is so damaging because that’s why there are so many young South Asians who date white people and consider themselves lucky for being able to “get one.” Because they don’t consider themselves attractive, and learned not to find each other attractive, they so often don’t even know how to. It’s the oppression of invisibility. And the visibility is a fun-house mirror. Hollywood regularly asexualizes South Asian men, treating them as dickless jokes, while hypersexualizing South Asian women, preserving their availability for white men.
“SNP: And of course feminist magazines had and have their place. For me it wouldn’t be interesting to do that. In my writing career I’m often asked to provide the feminist perspective on an item, or a culture, and sometimes I can do that and it’s important. But I feel like we don’t really need, like, the feminist take on Chris Brown’s latest fight in a parking lot. I’m much more interested in how we can make a magazine in a less traditional way. Less hierarchical, I guess. Less patriarchal. So not patriarchal that you don’t even have to use the word patriarchal. I mean, that would be the dream, wouldn’t it?”—Sarah Nicole Prickett and Berkeley Poole talk to The Riveter (via adult-mag)
VG: Yes, I do. But it came with a price. And the price, of course, was to feel separated from men. Not closer to them. Not hating them, just separated. To realize that we were all growing up with antagonistic cultures. The culture inside me was not the culture inside him, and the one inside him didn’t wish me well. We did not wish each other well. We were all instrumental to one another.
"She had already begun work on her novel when “The Bandit Queen,” a film, based on the life of the female bandit Phoolan Devi, was released. Devi was a low-caste woman who became a famous gang leader and endured gang rape and imprisonment. Roy was incensed by the way the film portrayed her as a victim whose life was defined by rape instead of rebellion. “When I saw the film, I was infuriated, partly because I had grown up in Kerala, being taken to these Malayalam films, where in every film — every film — a woman got raped,” Roy said. “For many years, I believed that all women got raped. Then I read in the papers how Phoolan Devi said it was like being raped again. I read the book the film was based on and realized that these guys had added their own rapes… . I thought, You’ve changed India’s most famous bandit into history’s most famous rape victim.” Roy’s essay on the film, “The Great Indian Rape Trick,” published in the now-defunct Sunday magazine, eviscerated the makers of “Bandit Queen,” pointing out that they never even bothered to meet Phoolan Devi or to invite her to a screening.
The piece alienated many of the people Roy worked with. Krishen, who gives the impression of a flinty loyalty toward Roy even though the couple split up, says it was seen as a betrayal in the tightknit film circles of Delhi. For Roy, it was a lesson in how the media worked. “I watched very carefully what happened to Phoolan Devi,” she said. “I saw how the media can just excavate you and leave a shell behind. And I was lucky to learn from that. So when my turn came, the barricades were up.””
CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE & ZADIE SMITH GO IN (and also make each other laugh and it's glorious):
CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE: So basically in the US, it’s very hard for white people in general to get what it means to be black in America. It’s the same country, it’s the same country in many ways, but I just find that’s it’s very interesting. And the few instances where I talk to white people who really get race, it’s often because they’ve loved a black person, and deeply loved a black person.
ZADIE SMITH: Well maybe we could think of not just as the literal romance between white and black people but as a radical, philosophical idea, right? Instead of just tolerating your neighbor, you love them. You don’t have to move in with them, marry them, and have children, but you find a way to love them.
CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE:But, but there’s a version of American love that I don’t mean, right? I mean sorry but really. There’s a kind of American love where people just are not really connected. You’re supposed to be comfortable and you know you can be in love in this country and still be expected if you go out to individually pay for your own food, right? You know I come from a culture where loves means you all go out and one person pays for everyone and on the next day one person for everybody else, but in the US even if you’re in love you’re like [looks down at palm as if she were scrutinizing a bill and speaks in an American accent], “Now did you have the calamari?” Even going beyond romantic love, just the idea of trying to imagine. I suppose it’s difficult, I suppose it is, trying to imagine what’s it like to be someone else. Right and also, I don’t know, America fascinates me because I think there’s a willful, almost like a willful denial of history. I keep thinking how can white people not get it if you know the history of America.
DD: How does that express itself in Iranian youth culture now?
Golshifteh Farahani: It’s amazing, this is what I miss so much. Art is underground because everything is against the rules. All the artists are rebels because they’re fighting. Music, rappers, parties – everything is forbidden, so it gives this wonderful energy to the society, it’s boiling. The exhibitions, the plays, the movies people are making, the music that is coming out from bands every day. You have to fight for it – you cannot earn money from it and they can arrest you. You’re doing something for love, everything is so pure. This is what I miss. In Europe, art is also about money. Art and bourgeoisie are becoming the same thing. You have to have enough money, you have to promote yourself, you have to have connections. This kills art. In countries like Iran or even China, it’s not like that, it’s direct.
After defending his championship in 1950 (a fifteen round bout against Dauthuille where until the very end, Jake plays possum) he calls his brother, Joey, from a payphone. Inside the booth where Jake sits down – his face busted and swollen and all puffed up like a burnt pastry – there’s a sign resting on top of the phone that reads IS THERE SOMEONE ELSE YOU SHOULD CALL. When Joey answers and assumes the breathing on the other end is Salvy, he starts insulting Salvy’s mother and then hangs up. Jake never says a word. De Niro’s slumped posture, his post-fight jacket and brimmed hat, all seem too big and yet somehow shrunken in the cramped wooden booth. Because he never says anything, his estrangement from Joey feels evermore palpable. There is something uniquely certain about the echoed clank one receives through a payphone when a landline hangs up first.
Later in the movie in 1957, Jake is living in Miami. He’s fat. His belly bulges out from his shirt and over the elastic waist of his shorts. Having just tried to sell the jewels from his championship belt at a pawnshop, he stands inside a payphone outside, leaning against its walls as if he can’t support his own weight. He is faded excess personified.
Before walking outside with his crew after a celebratory dinner, Neil uses the restaurant’s payphone to call Eady. It’s late, she answers. They’ve only met and slept together once. “I’ve been busy,” he says. “Can I see you?” De Niro is feeling lonely despite living by a strict lifestyle of never becoming too attached to anyone or anything (he lives without furniture, for one). That night, everyone is coupled up; wives smiling with their new jewelry, husbands leaning back in their chairs. In some ways, Neil’s call, despite the entire film’s tone, is his truest moment of desperation. “Can I see you?”
Later, he uses a payphone in a parking lot outside a cheap motel to call the money launderer, Van Zant, and is instructed to wait by the phone for a callback. De Niro answers before the first ring is over. He clips the ring. Wearing shades, a pale grey suit, his hair slicked back and a crisp white shirt, one wonders if anyone has ever occupied the screen like that before, standing in a vacant parking lot outside a cheap motel. His face and hair and shirt and wrinkled brow are all straight, rigid lines. There’s impatience to how De Niro holds the payphone even if his grip isn’t tight; he leans his chin into the receiver and arches his eyebrows and one can only hope that whoever is on the other line will not waste his time.
Scorsese has said that the payphone scene is the most important scene in the film. When Bickle calls Betsy apologizing and trying to get another date, his body is turned away from the camera and towards the wall. His shame is so physical that the camera slowly pans away to the empty hallway in his apartment, focusing instead on the sounds of street trickling in from outside.
When instead of getting made, Tommy gets whacked, Jimmy finds out while making a call from a payphone in the parking lot outside the diner. “Whaddya mean? Whaddya mean?” he says in quick succession. He slams the phone four times and starts to cry, whimpering almost. He walks out of the booth and then returns to it seconds later to push the entire thing over.