I admit it, sometimes I love you Lady Grey.
“Most people just grunt. Mr. Romney, however, talks about grunting. ‘Grunt’ he says, onomatopoetically, when annoyed with a last-minute change in his campaign schedule.”
Turning right on red in New York City is illegal. Immigrants are not.
What’s the difference? Well one of these things is an act and the other one is a person, and pretty much every standard definition of the word “illegal” clearly applies to acts and not people. You wouldn’t describe a human being as “contrary to or forbidden by law” because we don’t have laws that forbid human beings’ existence.
What we do have is a dominant culture that is invested in denying immigrants their full humanity in order to continue to oppress and exploit them, and a paper of record whose “Public Editor” is happy to play along.
Margaret Sullivan couches her argument against dropping the phrase “illegal immigrant” in concern for the interests of the readers of the New York Times — she is, after all, the “readers’ representative.” In doing so, she reveals a disturbingly classist perspective on who those readers are:
I see no advantage for Times readers in a move away from the paper’s use of the phrase “illegal immigrant.”… This is not a judgment on immigration policy or on the various positions surrounding immigration reform, or those who hold those positions. Nor is it meant to be uncaring about the people to whom the words apply.
It’s simply a judgment about clarity and accuracy, which readers hold so dear.
Sullivan clearly discounts the possibility that there is any overlap between Times readers and “the people to whom the words apply.” Perhaps this is a failure of imagination. Perhaps it’s a symptom of the fact that when you use dehumanizing language about a group of people, it’s harder to imaging them doing human things like, say, reading a national newspaper.
Sullivan also tries to cover herself by claiming that her decision is not “a judgement on immigration policy or on the various positions surrounding immigration reform.”
Language is political. Naming is a political act.
The phrase “illegal immigrant” has been used as one tool among many to suppress the rights and humanity of immigrants, to enable the economic exploitation of undocumented workers, and to destroy solidarity between working-class US citizens and non-citizens.
Don’t get it twisted, NYT. You’re not being neutral here. If you don’t drop the I-word, you’re on the wrong side.
“Are female leaders better for the world’s women?”
So asks Nicholas Kristof, white savior extraordinaire, in his latest column. It’s a pretty big question, and one that I would imagine is best answered by, say, talking to some, or even one, of the “world’s women” and also, perhaps, examining the condition of women in Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Malawi, Kosovo, Lithuania, or Liberia under their female heads of state.
Or you could go the Kristof route, and make an argument that women are not better off under female leaders because you don’t like the prime minister of Bangladesh:
It would be nice to think that women who achieve power would want to help women at the bottom. But one continuing global drama underscores that women in power can be every bit as contemptible as men.
It would be nice, wouldn’t it, sayeth Nick, but that’s just not the reality. This is one of my favorite things about smug patriarchal bastards like M. Kristof — the deployment of racism or sexism butressed by a preemptive claim of self-awareness so as to ensure that we-the-receivers-of-Kristof-wisdom understand that he doesn’t want to believe whatever racist or sexist thing he’s about to assert, but that’s just the reality. I want to believe that women are equal to men, but I’m going to cherry pick one example out of many in order to prove that they’re not and hope that you don’t notice what I’m doing.
Sheik Hasina is the prime minister of Bangladesh and she’s on Nick Kristof’s shit list for her behavior toward Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the microcredit Grameen Bank. I’m just going to say right here that I know a grand total of nothing about Bangladeshi politics and I’m not going to bother arguing with Kristof on whether or not Hasina is good or bad for the women of her country.
What I am going to argue with Kristof over is the laughable idea that he should make pronouncements about what is good or bad for the “world’s women” based A) on inferences drawn from the situation in one country during one period of time B) the judgments of a man whose every word drips with patriarchy and paternalism. This, after all, is a man who thought it was okay, nay - admirable - to purchase two women from brothels, as if his actions weren’t doing anything more than perpetuating the idea that men should have a proprietary relationship to women, and then had the gall to “write [one of them] off” when she didn’t live up to his expectations.
The very idea of writing a woman off as some kind of bad investment gives me the creeps, and in case you think this is some kind of one-off, unfortunate turn-of-phrase, here he goes again with the women as property hogwash: “Bangladesh is actually a prime example of the returns from investing in women.”
But getting back to the issue at hand:
Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh, is mounting a scorched-earth offensive against Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank and champion of the economic empowerment of women around the world. Yunus, 72, won a Nobel Peace Prize for his pioneering work in microfinance, focused on helping women lift their families out of poverty.
Yet Sheikh Hasina’s government has already driven Yunus from his job as managing director of Grameen Bank. Worse, since last month, her government has tried to seize control of the bank from its 5.5 million small-time shareholders, almost all of them women, who collectively own more than 95 percent of the bank.
What a topsy-turvy picture: We see a woman who has benefited from evolving gender norms using her government to destroy the life’s work of a man who has done as much for the world’s most vulnerable women as anybody on earth.
To her credit, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spoken up for Yunus: “I highly respect Muhammad Yunus, and I highly respect the work that he has done, and I am hoping to see it continue without being in any way undermined or affected by any government action,” she said earlier this year. Two former secretaries of state, George Shultz and Madeleine Albright, have also called on Sheikh Hasina to back off.She shows no sign of doing so. One theory is that she is paranoid and sees Yunus as a threat, especially since he made an abortive effort to enter politics in 2007. Another theory is that she is envious of his Nobel Peace Prize and resentful of his global renown.
I still strongly believe that we need more women in leadership posts at home and around the world, from presidential palaces to corporate boards. The evidence suggests that diverse leadership leads to better decision making, and I think future generations of female leaders may be more attentive to women’s issues than the first.In any case, this painful episode in Bangladesh is a reminder that the struggle to achieve gender equality isn’t simply a battle between the sexes.It is far more subtle. Misogyny and indifference remain obstacles for women globally, but those are values that can be absorbed and transmitted by women as well as by men.
In his latest piece, Rudyard Kipling—I mean Nicholas Kristof—asks the question on everyone’s mind lately: Why are Muslims so gosh darn violent? Everyone, that is, except anyone who has actually lived in the Middle East.
Kristof compares the violent response to a video defaming the Mohammed to the response to Andres Serrano’s most famous and controversial work:
“Piss Christ,” a famous photograph partly financed by taxpayers, depicted a crucifix immersed in what the artist said was his own urine. But conservative Christians did not riot on the Washington Mall.
Of course, Kristof fails to mention that “Piss Christ” was vandalised twice in Australia, causing an entire exhibition to shut down. Or that it triggered congressional hearings about its National Endowment for the Arts funding. Or that Serrano himself and galleries that displayed his work received death threats. Or that the Archbishop of Melbourne, Australia sought a court injunction against a display of Serrano’s work. Or even that Serrano lost other arts grants over the controversy and had other works vandalised in France years later because of it.
But why are those Muslims so angry?
Kristof admits that Christians occasionally riot too. (Gracious, isn’t he?) And that age and unemployment are better predictors of civil unrest than religion. And that Israel and the United States nurtured Muslim extremists after World War II as a buffer against secular nationalism and communism.
But those are passing comments. When it gets down to brass tacks, we all know Islam is uniquely evil. As Kristof puts it,
[F]or a self-described “religion of peace,” Islam does claim a lot of lives.
Of coruse, Kristof never bothers saying what exactly he means by “Islam,” or in what manner he’s comparing it to any other religions. Does Christianity claim less lives than Islam? Well, that depends: Does the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing count? What about the 2011 Norway attacks? The Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and DR-Congo? World War II?
Gosh, for a self-described “religion of peace,” Christianity sure does claim a lot of lives.
Kristof also never bothers mentioning, I don’t know, US support for the Shah in Iran or Saddam Hussein in Iraq or Mubarak in Egypt or the Saudi royal family or Assad in Syria or al Khalifa in Bahrain or Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine. He also conveniently omits our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan; our drone wars in Pakistan, Yemen, and Sudan; our low-level hostilities with Iran; or how we’ve propped it all up with torture, disappearance, extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention, and even death squads.
But he does have lots of fun words for those troublesome Mohammedans: “twitchy,” “crazies,” “addled,” “extremist.” Just not “colonized” or “oppressed.” After all, people have to take responsibility for themselves, don’t they?
Fuck you, Grey Lady. No, seriously, fuck you.
I think we all know that the Style writers for The New York Times are super-attuned to the intersections of fashion, commerce, racist iconography, and systems of oppression. You may recall the infamous Adidas shackle sneakers of this past summer, and Lady Grey’s sophisticated analysis that anything with 38,000 likes on Facebook couldn’t possibly be racist.
Indeed, when my Google alert for “Racist Iconography in Fashion” went off this morning over Dolce & Gabbana’s latest collection, NYT was the first place I looked to explain what all the fuss was about.
Here, O Reader, are some pictures from the collection:
And here, Reader O’ Mine, is Suzy Menkes’ review:
Going to the Max: Dolce & Gabbana
MILAN — With a balcony lined with trailing ivy and upstanding cacti and the runway filled with references to colorful Sicilian markets, the Dolce & Gabbana show on Sunday was never going to be in the minimalist mode.
The spirit of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana is maxi — and the show was effusive in every way, from earrings that swung as giant raffia circles fancied up with pompoms, through prints of toy soldier puppets on silken sheaths.
It was back to Sicilian shores not for a lineup of noble sailors, as in the men’s wear line, but a passion for Italy’s south turned it into a rambunctious celebration and an art form.
But what was this? Plain navy stripes, like so many perambulating beach umbrellas? Simple A-line silhouettes?
The minimal moment did not last, as raffia came into play: woven or crocheted, printed, patterned and even turned into an airy body cage like a 21st century crinoline.
The imaginative elements came fast and furious — witty, ironic, funky — but always with a sense of proportion and style. The show was also, after so many solemn graphic presentations, fun, as the 1950s and ’60s crooner Domenico Modugno sang his heart out on the soundtrack. And when the models finally came out in their patterned beach wear, the music was inevitably that hymn to Mediterranean vacations: “Volare.”
Corny? Yes — but the design duo have the capacity to turn corn into woven raffia. It is a mark of a strong designer not to be swayed by fashion’s changes. So the Dolce & Gabbana show was a maximal success.
Ms. Menkes fails to mention the abundance of stereotypical, racist Blackamoor imagery featured on the clothing and accessories on display. She fails to mention how this imagery became popular during the time of the Transatlantic slave trade when white people thought nothing of buying and selling African people, let alone trading in racist depictions of African peoples and culture. For all her awareness of “colorful Sicilian markets,” Ms. Menkes has not a word for the history of slavery and forced African labor that produced the crops that filled those markets. Menkes noticed the “earrings that swung as giant raffia circles” but failed to notice the African women’s HEADS that made up many of those giant earrings.
Two white men from Italy dredged up racist and dehumanizing imagery, spiffed it up with raffia and A-line silhouettes, and sent it sashaying down a runway in order to turn a profit (once again) off the exploitation and degradation of black people, and The New York Times sat in the front row and clapped.
This is usually where I write, Fuck You, Grey Lady, but somehow that doesn’t seem strong enough.
Shame on you, New York Times. Seriously, shame on you.
— Julia Carrie Wong
“Teachers’ strikes, because they hurt children and their families, are never a good idea.”
Thus begins the Grey Lady’s Editorial Board’s indictment of the Chicago Teachers Union strike. I kind of wish that they’d gone with, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that upper-middle class white liberals hate teachers unions and always will,” but the unassailable logic of NYT’s lede has me looking forward to the following upcoming editorials:
The Lady pulls out the oft-repeated $75,000 a year figure in an attempt to drum up populist anger against over-paid and lazy teachers. I don’t know if that figure is real or not, but I’m highly skeptical. It’s pretty standard in negotiations for bosses to inflate “average” wages through various manipulations. If it is real, that’s awesome. Well done, CTU. Teachers work damn hard and, given the cuts to social services, often end up doing two or three peoples’ jobs in addition to their own (social worker, school nurse, child protective services, etc.) They deserve to be paid that much and more.
The Lady also takes a whack at Karen Lewis, “who seems to be basking in the power of having shut down the school system.”
Ultimately, the main thrust of NYT’s dour disappointment with Chicago teachers for exercising their hard-won right to engage in industrial action, is that what the teachers want just doesn’t make sense. The teacher evaluation systems that 88 education researchers believe “not only lack a sound research basis, but in some instances, have already proven to be harmful,” are, according the the Grey Lady, a “sensible policy change.” Why is it sensible? Well, it’s “increasingly popular across the country and… unlikely to be rolled back.” Silly me, I thought sensible meant the kind of thing that maybe, doesn’t lack a sound research basis and hasn’t already proved to be harmful, but I guess it means popular and inevitable.
Oh, and seniority? And the right to be recalled after a layoff? Silly teachers, that just doesn’t make sense. What makes sense is to give principals total hiring and firing power because administrators always know best. And there’s a “national trend” to give principals all this power, so that must be what makes the most sense.
The logic in this piece is so godawful there must be a decent joke somewhere about what these vaunted editorial board members learned in school or their teachers or something. But chances are they all went to private school, so I’ll just say this:
Fuck you, Grey Lady. Seriously, fuck you.
—Julia Carrie Wong
If you happened to stop by the NYT homepage this afternoon, you, like me, might have been struck by the image in the sweet spot where the Grey Lady usually has a picture of burning buildings or an old white guy doing karaoke or something important like that. That’s because today, for a few hours at least, the picture, was moving!!! It was a GIF!!!
Several minutes of intensive research later, I discovered that this was not, in fact, the Time’s first foray into animated GIF-dom. Apparently NYT has been publishing a handful of moving pictures alongside essays in a summer series called, “Still Life: Writers Sketch Their Favorite Summer Images.” It’s modern! It’s hip! After waiting 400,000 years to introduce color photography to its stately grayly pages, the paper of record has leapt into the age of supertechnology by embracing a format that is only 25 years old.
I want to be really excited for the Times. Seriously I do. But I can’t.
The three GIFs illustrating today’s essay on Shakespeare in the Park are so tediously bad they look like something my nephew (who is three) might produce with Cinemagram if he opened it by accident on my sister’s phone. A poorly exposed picture of two people walking past a wall while a woman with a scooter talks on her cell phone. Empty seats with a slow change of focus. And a blurry image of two white guys walking to their seats while the photographers’ seat mate sticks his or her hand in front of the lens.
This is not what GIFs are for.
Nice try, NYT, but you’re doing it wrong.
Back in the good old days, the Olympics were a proxy Cold War, with smiley happy American gymnasts demonstrating the benefits of FREEDOM by losing to cold and dour Russian and Romanian gymnasts who were raised in gymnastic boot camps but would really really rather just be FREE than be so incredibly awesome at gymnastics. Things got a little less interesting after the Cold War ended, so this year NBC and the rest of the media did their best to stoke US fears of THE YELLOW PERIL.
Chinese divers are amazing, but NBC commentators prefered to show us mediocre Americans and denigrate the Chinese as inscrutable and robotic. Chinese swimmers did really well, but while Missy Franklin became America’s new sweetheart, Ye Shiwen was clearly a cheater. Would things have gone differently for Ye if she’d talked about her crush on Justin Bieber?*
(Not willing to impugn Ye’s character and leave it at that, John Leonard, the director of the World Swimming Coaches Association who first accused Ye of doping, is now suggesting that she might not even be fully human, asking authorities to check to see “if there is something unusual going on in terms of genetic manipulation.” Like she was turned into a super-Chinese-Aquawoman in some opium-smoke filled Chinese commie-lab. Close your windows. Shut your doors. The Yellow Genetically-Enhanced Peril approaches!)
But this has nothing to do with the Grey Lady, you say. My apologies: here you go.
Today’s rage-fest is courtesy of Mark McDonald, the Asia correspondent for NYT and the International Herald Tribune, who summed up week one of London 2012 by trying to win the gold medal for most-racist-Asian-jokes-in-a-blog-post-since-Jeremy-Lin-went-to-the-Knicks.
HONG KONG — It’s a good thing that Asian countries are competing in London: They’ve provided nearly all the colorful moments at an Olympics that has looked, so far, like about fifty shades of gray.
HAHAHAHAHA, you’re so topical, Mark McDonald, with your witty references to jokes everyone else has already made before. Oh and I see what you did there with color. Good on you, chap! Anyway, this paragraph is mostly just supposed to set us up for the idea that Asians are funny and provide comic relief from the serious business that is the Olympics. Because there’s nothing wrong with treating Asian people like court jesters, right Mickey Rooney?
McDonald runs quickly through various Asia-related scandals (the aforementioned Ye Shiwen attacks, badminton) and medal counts, before turning to everybody’s favorite punching bag, North Korea:
Indeed, North Korea, the so-called Hermit Kingdom, with a population of just 24 million and an Olympic roster of only 56 athletes, had more gold medals than Britain, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, India, Norway, Spain, Poland and Greece — combined.
A North Korean bantamweight, Om Yun-chol, became one of a handful of weight lifters ever to manage three times his body weight, tantamount to lifting overhead a Samsung refrigerator — with 83 pounds of kimchi inside.
Two other North Korean lifters and a judo athlete also won gold medals, evidently inspired by the new North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and his embalmed father.
First of all, I realize that lots of people use various permutations of the “Hermit Kingdom” moniker to refer to North Korea, but it’s offensive, and really unnecessary, so why go there? I mean, this is a term that was coined by a guy who had never been to Korea but supported Japanese imperialism there. It’s also a term that the Times’ own late lamented language guru admitted was pejorative. Is it really so hard to skip the snot-nosed jokey-joke tone and call the country North Korea?
Second of all, a Samsung refrigerator with 83 pounds of kimchi inside?
Because Korean people eat kimchi and make Samsungs, get it?
Thirdly, I don’t think “evidently” means what Mark McDonald thinks it means. Or what I think it means. I think it means that there is some evidentiary basis for such a statement. Mark McDonald thinks it means based on ignorance and stereotype.
Finally, a fourth rule of thumb for Mr. McDonald and his grey lady editors: Try not to suggest that people of color are members of other species.
The judo fighter Kaori Matsumoto is Japan’s other gold medalist so far. She could be part lioness. She believes in UFOs and fairies, after having reportedly encountered some. She wants to become a pastry chef or an astronomer when she’s done with judo. The Asahi Shimbun said she once did 600 pushups.
It’s not a good color on you.
It’s a slow Monday in #FYGL’s virtual office. The New York Times hasn’t said anything offensive about poor people for at least twenty-four hours (they actually published a pretty good article yesterday), and David Brooks has fallen mercifully silent.
So today I turned to the Times’ trusty style section looking for an easy target. I was not disappointed.
Following on the news that Marissa Mayer, Yahoo!’s new CEO, is both pregnant and planning to take a short maternity leave that she’ll work through, the Grey Lady has decided that high-powered professional women don’t need maternity leave. To wit:
Many women have no choice but to quickly return to work because they need the paycheck or can’t risk losing their job. And waitresses, nannies and teachers, for instance, can’t send e-mails from their iPhones and call it “working.”
New parents with the financial means have solutions that others don’t when they have to answer to both a newborn and a boss. Ms. Mayer, for example, will be able to hire as many nannies and baby nurses as she needs. Ms. Sankar’s parents and in-laws are living in her home in Palo Alto, Calif.
When Ivanka Trump flew to Miami on business eight days after giving birth to her daughter, Arabella, last summer, she rode in her father’s plane, returning late that night.
Sure, waitresses, nannies, and teachers might need maternity leave. But they also drive American cars and drink Dunkin’ Donuts. For any woman who’s serious about her career to take six months with pay because of children? She might as well stop pronouncing the ends of her words and start drawing welfare.
Of course, the article never actually quotes one of those waitresses, nannies, or teachers. In fact, it doesn’t quote anyone who disagrees with forgoing maternity leave. Nor does it ever suggest a stay-at-home father. (What do you think these women are, feminists?!) The Grey Lady can’t even be bothered to mention that the United States is the only industrialized nation without mandatory paid maternity leave. But it does quote lots of thirty-something women with tech startups, which is totally more important:
“You can think of a lot of moms who have more than one child, and do they ever say, ‘I’m going to stop feeding my older child because I have a newborn’?” asked Pooja Sankar, 31, chief executive of Piazza, an online forum for teachers and students to solve problems. Ms. Sankar, who gave birth to her first child three weeks ago, thinks of Piazza as one of her own, too: “I’m the C.E.O. of a company. This ‘child’ depends on me to run, to exist, really.”
Yes, paid maternity leave is precisely like starving an older child. And hell, weekends are like not feeding that older child for two days out of the week. It’s all so clear now. If only we’d seen it sooner those factory women who had no choice but to work up until the very moment of labor could have saved themselves the trouble of also getting us a five-day work week and a minimum wage. You know, in their free time.
Fuck you, Grey Lady. Seriously, fuck you.