My radio interview: “singular they”

A radio host read my essay on they as a singular pronoun,  so I got to advocate for this usage on KGO ‘s Maureen Langan Show in San Francisco. I explained that in order to know for sure what pronouns someone uses, you need to ask. “That’s a lot of pressure on me,” Maureen objected. She wanted to know why she should go out of her way to use this  pronoun in such a weird, awkward way, so I told her. It was a nice opportunity to evangelize a bit. Language is embedded deep in our brains, so even political progressives[…]

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More trumpery, and questions of “meaning”

I didn’t intend to do another “found” poem from a Trump speech, but the following passage, sent by my friend Sallie Reynolds, was irresistible. It’s one single sentence. You choose: read it first, or read the two poems below it first: by me and Winkie Ma, a high-school senior whom I mentor in a writing program. Found poetry was one of our assignments. I brought the passage to a mentoring session and each of us tackled it. Here goes, hold on to your rational mind: 

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The Trojan Purse and the subversive woman

This ten-foot high wooden purse on wheels was part of a week-long art festival in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Happily for me the artist, Ethan Crenson, was on hand the day I came upon it, conducting dialogues with curious passersby. Why a “Trojan” purse? Was it filled with some kind of subversive material? No, Crenson told me. It was empty. The idea was that everyone could project their own feelings or ideas into it—anger at capitalism, the political system, whatever. I didn’t ask him why he’d chosen to make it a purse—probably because my own imagination immediately supplied a rationale.

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Self-sacrificing women: free tipsheet for you

An issue that hasn’t gone away How many men would eat food they don’t like because their wife likes it? Or wear clothes they don’t like because she wants them to look a certain way? Women do these things all the time. I did them with my former husband. In my book Slaying the Mermaid: Women and the Culture of Sacrifice, which uses Andersen’s Little Mermaid as an image of the ultimate self-sacrificing woman, I investigated why so many women feel obliged to put other people’s needs first—even when they don’t want to. I discovered that the self-sacrificing impulse comes[…]

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Coney Island: playground of the unconscious

I only visited Coney Island once as a child; I lived on Long Island, and Brooklyn was far away. But in my memory it’s magical: the huge carousel horses with waving manes and real tails (a horse-crazy kid could pretend her mount was alive); the polished wooden slides, so tall I was afraid to go down them; the Steeplechase ride, whose mechanical horses coursed along a long outdoors track (I longed to go but was too timid); the Tilt-a-Whirl, which made me sick. By the time I returned as an adult, the Steeplechase had been torn down, the streets were[…]

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These shoes will kill you

Some years ago I was walking down a city street with a male friend. We passed a shoe store, and my head swiveled involuntarily to check out the contents of the window. “What is it with women and shoes?” he exclaimed. “Why are you so fascinated by them?” Good question. It came up again when I saw an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum aptly titled “Killer Heels,” which made it evident that the answer is: power and sex. It turns out that people have been making and wearing tall shoes for thousands of years, and centuries’ worth were on display—from[…]

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Moon over decentralized system

I’m posting this photo mainly because I like it. Visually it’s one of my better efforts, but I also see in it a certain irony: above the sweet full moon caught in the branches is a sparkly light that belongs to a police helicopter surveilling the demonstration at Foley Square in Manhattan the other night, protesting a grand jury’s failure to indict the policeman who killed Eric Garner. Four thousand people (according to one report) showed up in the square (thousands more elsewhere in the city). Overall the action was peaceful; no die-ins blocking traffic that I could see. Lots[…]

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A happy, peaceful demo

Coming to this late, but I’ve been ruminating. The People’s Climate March was perhaps the most enjoyable demo I’ve ever been on. Maybe partly because I marched with my Buddhist group, and our staging area was on a block of West 58th St with many different faith groups, including a variety of other Buddhists. That was a new flavor for me—in the past I marched with political groups. At the back of the block where we were, during a looong wait before we got to start walking, people were friendly, even joyful. The crowd was so dense toward the other[…]

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