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What we read: December 13, 2019

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And by that, I mean, every website ever has published not one but seven gift guides. Merry capitalist Christmas, everyone! Meanwhile, I’m eating gluten-free latkes and getting unnaturally excited about the one Hallmark movie I’ve found that even acknowledges Hanukkah. But I much prefer gift guides to “how to stay skinny this holiday season” tips, so I cant won’t complain. Instead of gift guides or “how to eat” tips, What We Read is our round up of “can’t miss it” must-read or reactionable news from the interwebs this week.

Speaking of Hallmark movies, every time I watch them I’m reminded of why I should be watching literally anything else. Aside from reinforcing old tropes about where women belong (usually not in powerful, corporate positions), these Christmas romantic comedies also insist on defining happiness as acquiescing to social norms about how women should look, behave and where they belong (safely ensconced in domesticity). This is problematic and gendered on its own, and since the movies traditionally star mostly-white, middle-class, always hetero and cisgendered characters, they serve to reinforce dominant societal norms of what happiness looks like (i.e., follow these norms). Additionally, the pursuit of happiness, especially the expectation that one must be happy is also dictated by social norms and puts an additional layer of pressure on folx to feel and look happy during what can be a very stressful time while failing to acknowledge that it is completely normal and okay to be unhappy sometimes, as the Vox article linked to above describes. Not only is it okay to not be happy, to assume that everyone must be “happy” all the time fails to acknowledge critical mental health issues. The idea of happiness is a construct defined by social notions of goodness (see Sara Ahmed’s The Promise of Happiness).

Restoring my faith in non-feminist collaboratives, Outside magazine’s people of 2019 is a refreshingly diverse and, in my opinion, spot-on group of the most influential and notable outdoors people this year. Beginning with the US women’s soccer team and including prominent environmental advocates, these are the exact folx who had a significant impact on my life this year. Apparently, sometimes, we do get nice things. Thanks, Outside. Time named 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg their person of the year, and they was labeled the word of 2019. Please tell Fox News not to cover this so we can avoid another twitter rant.

But, then, reminding us that Trump’s election was just as bad as we thought it would be, the United States Supreme Court (USSC) declined to review Kentucky’s law requiring women to view an ultrasound before being permitted to have an abortion. Now, while it may seem like declining to review a law is a neutral position for the court to take (although nothing is truly neutral), declining to review a case is tacit approval of the decision of the last court to review it. In this case, the last court to review it upheld the law, therefore the USSC has upheld an anti-abortion law. Scary times to be a woman here in the USSR sorry USA.

Reinforcing that perception, both Weinstein and Cosby have been busy trying to avoid justice. Cosby’s legal team has been trying to remove certain witness testimonies, and Weinstein’s team has come to a plea settlement with most of the women in the civil case that allows the case the end with Weinstein admitting guilt. Now, this settlement is just for the civil case; there is still a criminal case, and the expectation is that Weinstein will be found guilty and live out the remainder of his sad life in prison. But why or why won’t they simply admit they are very very guilty and retreat into the wallpaper? Please stop. We’re tired.

In times like these we need more rather than fewer women-led collaboratives and collectives, yet Feministing announced they were shuttering their virtual doors. Are darker times ahead? Hallmark might suggest that we’d all just be happier if we found ourself a nice, flannel-wearing man and a good, womanly job in the small city we grew up in, but since second-wave feminists fought to get us out of those cages, we have to fight to stay out of them and help our cis and non-binary folx to have access to places that have been built for men and only reluctantly allowed white, cisgender women to enter. The Witches are Coming, but not from Feministing anymore.

I typically don’t link to writing written by men because I want to highlight women and non-binary writers, but I thought Huber’s review of two books exploring the myths surrounding Testosterone and it’s role (or lack thereof) in women’s sports performance highlighted two women-authored books and described some of the controversy well. To be clear, I don’t think there is a controversy; women who identify as women should be able to compete as women without undergoing invasive and devastating medical procedures. But, I am also troubled about the way dividing sports competitions into two genders reinforces an artificial binary. I’m not sure what the solution is, but I do know that most of what everyone thinks about testosterone is wrong.

Meanwhile, this article on maximalism and fashion from ManRepeller is everything I wanted and needed to read to validate why I founded Contemporary Spinster. Yes, fashion, especially the marketing of fashion, reinforces the Beauty Myth. But, fashion and style also allows for everyone to express themselves and take up space however they please. In a world where women and non-binary folx are told they are too much, maximalist style says not so fast, and that’s the kind of style we’re about at Contemporary Spinster.

To end on a lighter note, the Funniest Things Tweeted by women roundup is the highlight of my week. Every week. I should get out more? Perhaps.

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