The New Republic: Throw pillows do not make for good therapists

The New Republic: Throw pillows do not make for good therapists

This week at TNR, I wrote about my recent visit home to Sydney, and about the challenges of living (and working, and loving) far from home:

And then it was time to go. Time to leave home, yet again.

The pain of separation, of leaving the place I love—even though it’s for another place I love—hasn’t faded after ten years. I always cry when I leave Sydney. This time, as the plane took off from Kingsford Smith, I wept. We soared into the sky and I couldn’t stop the tears, or stop looking out the window to see the last of my hometown, the green of the parks and the red of the terracotta roofs and the blinding flashes of gold as the sun hit the harbor. We flew east over the beach where Zach and I had sat at a café working the previous day, the beach where I wrote long stretches of my doctoral dissertation and had my first real kiss.

“We’ll be back,” he said, squeezing my hand. 

We doubtlessly will be, though in what capacity, I can’t say. Sydney is where I’m from. New York City is where I live. Home, the cliché goes, is where the heart is, but cross-stitched throw pillows don’t offer advice on where to go when the things dearest to your heart—your given family, your chosen family, your work—are all in different places. For now, my answer to those who ask if I’ll come back is: “I don’t know.”

You can read the whole thing here.

The New Republic: UN Women has dumped Uber, and you should too

The New Republic: UN Women has dumped Uber, and you should too

This week at TNR, I wrote about why I’m glad that UN Women has backed out of their partnership with ridesharing service Uber, which was designed to create a million new driving jobs for women by 2020:

The creation of a separate system of women drivers designed to make women passengers feel safer will carry unintended side effects. As a woman who frequently travels alone, I am grateful for the option of car services that only hire women drivers. I used one in India when I traveled there alone several years ago. And having been groped in the New York City subway, nearly groped on the Paris Métro, and having heard countless stories of harassment, flashing, groping, and, of course, rape, on public transport, I can certainly see the appeal of creating a way for women passengers to get around without having to worry so much about those risks. Egypt, Taiwan, and Brazil—among other countries—offer women-only public transport services. In the United States, only 2 percent of taxi drivers are women, and only 170 of New York’s 46,000 taxi drivers—or 1.1 percent—are women.

Being a realist and a feminist are not mutually exclusive. Like many women, I am deeply saddened that these options are necessary while also being deeply grateful that they exist. And yet, it’s easy to see how the creation of these women-only spaces lets society at large off the hook. Rather than holding male Uber drivers accountable and creating a work culture—a culture, period—in which sexual harassment and assault are unacceptable, we instead create a parallel system for women drivers and passengers, accepting the inevitability and intractability of widespread sexual violence committed by men. For a company that claims to be visionary and paradigm-shifting, this is a surprisingly short-sighted and paradigm-enforcing approach to “empowering” women.

You can read the whole thing here.

The New Republic: Being white means never have to say you’re sorry

The New Republic: Being white means never have to say you’re sorry

My first piece for The New Republic is about the double standards applied to bad behaviour by white people and by African Americans in the US. Where white people are treated as individuals, their actions considered isolated incidents, African Americans are denied the chance to speak only for themselves. Their actions are taken as signs of collective pathology:

When black people break the law or flout social norms in the United States, the public conversation immediately turns to the broader concept of blackness itself. What does this one person’s behavior tell us, we ask, about the supposedly corroded and corrosive state of black America? What is wrong, we ask, with African Americans?

When white people misbehave, however, they rarely represent more than themselves, even when they’re members of an organization like, say, SAE. But just the responsibility of being held accountable for how one’s individual behavior and thoughts is still too great for so many of the white people who have been caught out engaging in racist behavior. They are routinely defended with excuses of inebriation, misspeaking, and unintentional bigotry. Even then, being white often means doing wrong without the perception of bringing your entire race into enough disrepute that it has consequences for you. This is what privilege is: to speak and act only for yourself, and even then only when you feel like it.

You can read the whole thing here.

The Boston Globe: Andy Murray’s ‘77’ ignores women’s sports

The Boston Globe: Andy Murray’s ‘77’ ignores women’s sports

My first piece in The Boston Globe is about Andy Murray, his new brand, and sexism in sports:

This week, just as the Australian Open began, British tennis ace Andy Murray unveiled his new logo. Murray, who won the men’s singles title at Wimbledon in 2013, hired the “brand storytelling” agency Aesop to design an icon that will be branded on his on-court bag and training shirts at the Open, and will soon appear on a full line of “Andy Murray” clothing and accessories. Dan Calderwood, Aesop’s design director, said that the aim was “to create a modern mark that captures Andy’s energy and spirit whilst subtly referencing his affinity with the number ‘77.’ ”

The reference isn’t exactly subtle, though. In the video revealing the new logo, the 77 appears first, followed by the initials “AM.” In bold, slanted black numbers that recall a digital clock, the design reminds us of Murray’s historic, now literally iconic achievement: He was the first British man to win the Wimbledon singles title in 77 years, and he won the cup on July 7.

In reporting Murray’s victory, numerous commentators and media outlets stated that he was the “first Brit” to win Wimbledon in 77 years. As I noted at the time, that statement is true — unless you think women are people. In the years between Fred Perry’s 1936 win and Murray’s 2013 triumph, four British women took home the Venus Rosewater Dish — Dorothy Round Little, in fact, won the title in 1937, just a year after Perry’s victory.

You can read the whole thing here.

Talking Points Memo: The Tiffany’s same-sex marriage ad is radical and retrograde

Talking Points Memo: The Tiffany’s same-sex marriage ad is radical and retrograde

Today, Talking Points Memo published a piece that I co-wrote with Zach Wahls, a nationally-recognised LGBTQ rights advocate, about Tiffany & Co.’s new ad campaign:

Symbols—both the inclusion of same-sex couples in ad campaigns and marriage rings themselves—are powerful, especially in an increasingly shareable digital world, and the Tiffany campaign tells us a lot about the progress of LGBTQ rights in America. It also tells us just as much, and perhaps more, about the gravitational pull of the wedding-and-marriage industrial complex.

In other words, the Tiffany’s ad is just as retrograde as it is radical.

There’s certainly something radical about the presence of a gay couple in a Tiffany ad (insofar as any diamond ad can be radical). Tiffany is, after all, the zenith of marriage industry. As cultural symbols go, it doesn’t get much more powerful than an engagement ring from Tiffany. In popular culture, from Breakfast at Tiffany’s to the 2002 Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama—in which the heroine’s wealthy boyfriend proposes by taking her to the Manhattan Tiffany flagship after hours, flipping the light switch, and saying, “pick one”—the brand is synonymous with romance, wealth and high cultural capital, all of which are widely considered desirable.

You can read the whole thing here.

BuzzFeed: The paradoxical rise of the public marriage proposal

BuzzFeed: The paradoxical rise of the public marriage proposal

I had a piece at BuzzFeed last week, about the way that social media and new attitudes toward marriage have reshaped the way we live our love lives today:

Late last year, a grand romantic gesture went horribly awry. A Dutch man in a town near Utrecht hired a crane to use in a spectacular marriage proposal — the plan was for him to be lowered into his girlfriend’s garden as he sang to her, and for him to then pop the question. Alas. The crane fell over and smashed through neighboring roofs, resulting in the evacuation of 32 homes, international news coverage, and the amused pity of readers around the world. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and she said yes.

As someone who has watched a lot of romantic comedies — they were the subject of my doctoral dissertation — this story caught my eye. In order for a romantic comedy to come to a “happy” ending (that is, with the couple united, and presumably headed for monogamous heterosexual marriage), they must first be reunited, having been parted by the various obstacles to their love. Then she writes an article about him and stands on the baseball field in front of a huge crowd, waiting for him to show up and accept her apology, or he drives to her apartment in a white limo blaring La Traviata out the sunroof and climbs up her fire escape to declare his love. Or he stages a flash mob in Grand Central Station, or stands outside her window with a boom box, or interrupts her at her place of work to propose in broken Portuguese, or shows up at her press conference to ask her a big non-work-related question. You know the drill.

The unnamed hopelessly romantic Dutchman is an extreme example of how the ways in which many of us experience and express love have changed in recent years. Our collective desire to make a spectacle out of our love, and our unprecedented ability to broadcast and share that spectacle, have produced a visible and dramatic shift in the culture of romance. Today, we perform love, and consume it, as never before. And yet, the popularity of marriage is fading among young Americans. It’s a fraught and fascinating paradox, one of several that mark contemporary romance culture.

You can read the whole thing here.

The Guardian: Women writing online series

The Guardian: Women writing online series

I had the privilege of doing an interview with The Guardian‘s Sarah Galo last month, as part of her series on women who write online:

What is some advice you have for women who want to write online?

You don’t have to be perfect. You can’t be, and you won’t be, so don’t get hung up on trying. There’s a freedom in the knowledge that perfection is not an option. But there’s a responsibility, too: it means that you will make mistakes. And you have to be prepared to screw up in public, and be held accountable in public, and apologise in public, and learn from those mistakes in public. This sounds like a challenge, but it’s actually a gift: it’s a way to be part of the kind of public discourse most of us wish we had, one where people are allowed to be wrong but are held accountable – and hold themselves accountable – when they are. It’s also a challenge, because screwing up can hurt other people and it doesn’t feel great for you, either. But it is also inevitable, and the best thing you can do is learn from it. And other people will learn from it, too: I’ve learned a lot from seeing my role models succeed in public, but I’ve learned far more from watching them learn from their mistakes in public.

You can read the whole thing here.