Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

media. music. feminism. food. city-dwelling. story-telling. and other things.

<> ARCHIVAL <>

leave a comment »

This is a personal blog I kept between January 2008 and early 2013. RIP.

For professional blogging I did during this period, see AARP.org and Blisstree.com. <><><> Visit my current home on the web here: http://elizabethnolanbrown.com/.

Cheers,

Liz

Written by Elizabeth

July 16, 2013 at 12:08 am

Posted in Ephemera

landscape // a 1.2013 mix

leave a comment »

landscape // a 1.2013 mix  {download}

It’s nearly March, I know. This is in no way a “1.2013” mix to anyone except me. But these are my January songs. Some older, actually — it’s been too too long since I’ve shared music with friends and Internet strangers. The Raveonette’s “Young and Cold” has been in constant rotation in my iTunes since October, when it first found its way on a mix I  never gave to you. I was just wondering what happened to them last fall, and then there they were, with songs much lovelier than the ones I remember from 2004. Speaking of that musical era: I originally had some new Benjamin Gibbard and Sufjan Stevens on this mix, but it sounded too out of place, the aesthetic juxtaposition too jarring. I’ve been listening to a lot of drone-y doo-wop these days (see: Pure Bathing Culture, Angel Olsen, Trance Farmers). The Rolling Stones cover of “Under the Boardwalk” I only recently discovered fits right in.

Other than that — well, I’ve been moving around a lot, again, lately; which means (as usual) half these songs are more or less meditations on Home. And half are just new and interesting or fun. I like Run DMT because a reviewer described them as a bath salt-snorting version of the Velvet Underground; there’s a Velvet Underground cover because my love for Lou Reed & Nico endures (thanks, Jordan). I like Parquet Courts because I think they sing about being stoned in Ridgewood, Queens (and I think we’re neighbors?). I like Hotter Than a Crotch because the lady sings hot and the drummer is a friend of my roommate’s and looks like an extra in Jesus Christ Superstar. They introduced me to Cave Cricket, in the kind of basement show space that Silent Barn used to be last time I lived here, when it was in Ridgewood (which seemed impossibly far then), but now Silent Barn is down the street and fancy and legal and at the moment dry. I read an article in the New York Times the other day, from 2010, about art & media collectives in and around this neighborhood; I looked up the ones mentioned, afterwards, and they’d all disbanded or fallen apart somehow. I don’t believe the Cobras ever finished our Goddamn Western. Time goes marching. /end digress.

I like the Liminanas because the few times I regretfully decided to drive into Manhattan (oh, a car! how it changes Brooklyn), their’s was the only CD I had and it proved eminently listenable on repeat. I missed Wooden Wand at the Midpoint music fest in Cincinnati a few months ago because my friend and I decided to walk, drinking wine, over the highway and down to the city, instead of rushing (but we caught Lower Dens and Dirty Projectors; and later that weekend I finally saw Woods, swoon). A girl just moved in upstairs from Cincinnati by way of California and, most recently, Big Sur. She worked at the Henry Miller Library there. Times goes marching but not always onward. Sometimes you can’t tell which direction it’s going.

happy new year.

songs:  

“Mountain Song” // Dynasty Electric
“The Heart Needs a Home (To Break In) // Tomboyfriend
“Ivory Coast” // Pure Bathing Culture
“San Francisco” // Foxygen
“The Waiting” // Angel Olsen
“Purple Hay” // Trance Farmers
“Young and Cold” // Raveonettes
“Bad Lady Goes to Jail” // The Liminanas
“Stoned and Starving” // Parquet Courts
“Use Your Hands” // Cave Cricket
“We the Common (For Valerie Bolden)” // Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
“Butcher Song” // Hotter Than a Crotch
“Bardo States Dream Walker Version” // Run DMT
“Year of the Glad” // Marnie Stern
“Supermoon (The Sounding Line)” // Wooden Wand
“Under the Boardwalk” // The Rolling Stones
“I’ll Be Your Mirror” // Meklit Hadero
“Closer” // Tegan and Sara
“Applesauce” // Animal Collective
“Minnewaska” // Widowspeak
“How Do You Ruin Me?” // Black Prairie
“Stay In The Game” // Adam Ant

Written by Elizabeth

February 20, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Posted in Culture, Music

Tagged with , , ,

Favorite Song Of 2012

with one comment

Some of you might pish-posh at the idea of anything ‘best of the year before’ that comes after the stroke of midnight on 1/1. Too bad. I’m as big a fan of letting the past go as the next gal, but I think the rules clearly dictate that you can dwell on auld lang syne for the entire month of January (resolution making or sharing for the upcoming year, meanwhile, is allowed through February). Which brings us to: My favorite song of 2012.

This was originally going to be five favorite songs of 2012, but narrowing down to five + ordering within the five seemed difficult. But choosing my top number one absolute hands down favorite? No problem: “Alexander McQueen,” by Canadian band Tomboyfriend.

[Listen/download here]

It’s from the band’s King of the Animals EP, which is all around awesome –though brief; just five songs. Do also give “Margaux” a listen; it’s like Counting Crows at their best and least hack-y (which may seem like a strange comparison but I spent a good part of the mid-90s and early 2000s praying for Adam Duritz to marry me, so it’s meant as a compliment).

“Alexander McQueen” is, in fact, about designer Alexander McQueen, who killed himself in 2010. It’s heartbreaking. It’s gorgeous. And, like most Tomboyfriend songs, it’s epic in a way that doesn’t feel (to me, at least) overwrought.

QM_Tomboyfriend

Maybe it’s hard not to make epic-sounding music when you’ve got 10 people in your band — the group definitely conjures a New Pornographers/Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes dynamic — but it’s also thanks to songwriter and lead singer Ryan Kamstra, who has been described as a queerer, more glam Meatloaf. It’s become something of a mission of mine to introduce Tomboyfriend to as many people as I can (like with Casiotone for the Painfully Alone in a previous life), because you will love them. And I like sharing things that people will love. And I like sharing things that deserve more love.

So just in case you missed it above: Alexander McQueen mp3.

I’ll leave you with this description of the band from The Little Red Umbrella:

Tomboyfriend’s music is a glammy echo of the best of the ’70s, of the New York Dolls, the Velvet Underground, the B-52’s, and pretty much everything that ever happened in the heroin-addled artsy heyday of Max’s Kansas City and CBGB & OMFUG. Their lyrics are dense and poetic and playful, littered with the half-digested remains of a pop culture diet, the kind of literary collage of references and re-appropriation that will take a listener years to unpack, but brings titans like Nick Cave and Dan Bejar immediately to mind.

And the video for “Almost/Always,” from the band’s 2010 album Don’t Go To School:

Written by Elizabeth

January 13, 2013 at 10:33 am

On Boobs, And Showing Them Or Not

leave a comment »

Via Conor F., a sad story about Canadian teen Amanda Todd, who was persuaded by an Internet suitor to flash her breasts during a video chat, then blackmailed by said suitor and subsequently bullied by peers when the photo was leaked. She killed herself last week:

Conor rightfully rails against the prevailing takeaway that teenage bullying + lack of web literacy are the major issues here.

As a parent I’ll warn my kids about the permanence of the Web, its perils and how to avoid them. I’ll particularly want any child of mine to understand the potential consequences of naked images of their bodies winding up online. It’s prudent to teach kids how to navigate prevailing social norms, whatever they may be. But don’t stories like this one demand something more from us than cautioning? When a child is bullied to the point of suicide partly because a photo of her breasts was circulated to her friends and family, shouldn’t we ask ourselves why the Anglosphere retains social norms wherein being seen topless is regarded as horrifying and shameful?

And he goes on to give a few more examples of our inanity regarding women’s breasts (Janet Jackson’s nip slip, the recently leaked topless photos of Princess Kate) and to stress how silly and detrimental these attitudes and reactions are. On all of that: I concur. But I’d just like to add a few sentences about why I think the western world stigmatizes naked female breasts so much. After all, men have breasts too. After all, they’re just lumps of fatty tissue, grafted on to the human female form to serve a very utilitarian purpose.

In some places, this seems to be recognized. I’m no expert on cross-cultural attitudes toward exposed female breasts, but it seems that in certain societies, most people recognize female breasts for what they are: A body part designed to allow mothers to nurse their young. Sans any codified cultural significance, they might as well be an ear or an asshole or thumb. They’re just a part of the average anatomy, evolved to do a particular thing.

The trouble started when — unlike the ear or asshole or thumb — this particular part of the female anatomy was deigned to be erotic. I don’t know how or when this happened, and I’m not inclined to look it up right now, because that’s not the point. Maybe erotic is the wrong word, even, because by virtue of being so closely connected to notions of motherhood (and motherhood so closely connected to sex), breasts are kind of inherently erotic, in the broader sense of the word. Sexualized, then? Or sexually desirable? Word quibbling aside, you of course know what I mean. At some point, and for some reason, female breasts — and the bigger the better — were deemed to be Hott. And when breasts started being Hott, and stopped being just a part of the body that spewed milk for offspring, we women lost our claim to them. Men desired female breasts, and thus female breasts became For Men.

When female breasts in general became For Men, it logically followed that any particular set of female breasts became for a man — a boyfriend, a husband, a future husband — and hence the taboo against showing them to just anyone. If breasts were something For Men, then of course the ‘owner’ of a particular set of female breasts would want to jealously guard them for himself. And any woman who exposed her breasts wouldn’t just be acting out of her own agency but acting in violation of her man and, therefore, clearly a wanton whore. If breasts were something men desired, then — by the logic of Puritanism or controlling female sexuality or what have you — they were something women needed to keep pure by keeping hidden.

Once the cultural taboo against ladies showing their breasts was established, the reasons they shouldn’t do so multiplied. Now well-meaning people could argue that women shouldn’t expose their breasts because of the cultural norm against doing so. Cultural taboos are self-perpetuating in this way. But while of course not all men think this way, and of course even those that do might not do so consciously, the taboo against naked female breasts persists today because men still think women’s breasts belong to or exist for them. No serious de-stigmatization of topless ladies will happen here until this changes.

The odds of it changing I find highly unlikely.

Not having any particular desire to receive attention (good or bad) from strangers, I generally adhere to social norms when it comes to breast exposure. But I take two exceptions:

1) As someone whose breasts are not pendulous*, I don’t need a bra for support, and thus very often go without, especially in the summer. Why? Because it’s hot outside, and bras make you hotter; or sometimes just because I forget to put one on. This means that the outline of my nipples are often visible. I can’t tell you how many times people have pointed this out to me and, upon learning that I am in fact aware of this fact, expressed surprise/dismay/concern that I’m not more concerned about people who may be offended by the sight of the outline of my nipples. It’s absurd. Why should I be physically uncomfortable just to keep up the illusion that I don’t have a body part we all have? If people are offended or put off by the revelation that I have nipples, it rather seems more their problem than mine, no?

2) I don’t understand why I should worry that someone may briefly see my boobs while changing clothes. Most of the time, I keep the blinds on my bedroom windows open. Most of the time, the amount of time it takes me to change shirts and/or bras is pretty brief (although the time frame is not so much the issue here). It seems silly to me to have to open and close my bedroom blinds every time I’m going to change tops, on the off chance that some passerby may be looking up at my second-story window and – heaven forbid – see my breasts. My boyfriend — who considers himself a feminist, bless his heart — takes exception to my open window policy, and will often go and close the blinds himself if he’s in the room. Which is mildly irritating but fine, I guess, if he’s so inclined to stop whatever he’s doing and go do that. And yet so perfectly illustrative of my above point …

Anyway, I bring both these things up not because I think I’m some sort of rebel for not giving a shit in said instances, but because I think the prevailing expectation that I should give a shit further illustrates our ridiculous assumptions about boobs, that’s all.

* For Grace M., with whom I have an ongoing quest to use the word “pendulous.”

Written by Elizabeth

October 16, 2012 at 2:28 pm

rearrange: an early summer 2012 mix

leave a comment »

Happy summer, guys. In my general tradition, I am posting a beginning of summer mix, 2012 edition. It’s really all about Best Coast—I mean, seriously, Best Coast, right? I can’t get enough right now. The beach!, everything still sounds like the beach, though in a way slightly different than last year’s beach and slightly more different than the year before that.

[Even Lafayette, Indiana is too hot this time of year—that still, dry, let's-have-red-wine-at-noon hot; that all I can think of is Lily in Run, River hot; that do we really have to wear clothes? (and I work from home, so not really) hot. It's more or less my favorite weather.]

I’m also into so much by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy right now, because every other month he’s got out something new these days (though it’s still always strangely jarring when he really loves Jesus).

Best newcomers: Lower Dens? Maybe I just like that their album is called “nootropics.”

.rearrange >> an early summer 2012 mix

{tracklist} 

that’s what’s up – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
the place – Best Coast
dream – Mirel Wagner
alphabet song – Lower Dens
do you know ida know – White Fence
firehorse – Our Hearts
chain of broken hearts – Billy Bragg and Wilco
goin’ to the party – Alabama Shakes
I can tell you’re leaving – Trembling Bells and Bonnie Prince Billy
palms will smoke in cold air – The Pica Beats
my better self – Tennis
dusty rhodes – Lotus Plaza
on the sea – Beach House
tearz for animals – CocoRosie
hummingbird, pt. 1 – Bonnie Prince Billy

//////////

I turned 30 last week, by the way. It doesn’t feel like much, really, but I do like to think of things symbolically so I’ve decided that our thirties–and I say “our” because so many people I know are entering their 30s this year, as are Little Wayne, Elizabeth Moss, Kate MIddleton and Kirsten Dunst–are going to be pretty damn good. In your 30s, you’re still young but not as stupid as you were in our 20s, mostly.

If you listen to what sociologists say, the beginning tip of Gen Y (aka the millennial generation, but I dislike that name) could be as early as 1979, but most place it at 1982 — which makes those of us turning 30 in 2012 the first Gen Y’ers to do so.

Happy 30s, Gen Y. Here’s some music for the beginning of June twenty twelve.

Written by Elizabeth

June 15, 2012 at 7:58 am

Posted in Music

Tagged with , ,

leave a comment »

A caipirosca is a form of Caipirinha made with vodka instead of cachaca, a type of Brazilian liquor made from fermented sugarcane. Both caipirinhas and caipiroscas are popular in Brazil and Uruguay.

Since I’m sure the good people of those countries know a thing or two about cocktails that can withstand the heat (and since I have vodka in my bar, but not cachaca), I decided to try my hand at caipiroscas this Friday afternoon, inspired by Ms. Stewart to use fresh summer strawberries, lime and ginger as mixers.

Here’s the recipe below—highly recommended. And, as always: No soda, no artificial ingredients and as close to healthy as you can get with an alcoholic beverage!

Strawberry-Ginger Caipirosca

Yields: 2 drinks

Ingredients:
1/2 cup vodka
10 fresh strawberries
1 lime, quartered
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons raw cane sugar
crushed ice

Preparation:
Put strawberries, lime, ginger and sugar in cocktail shaker or other lidded container.

‘Muddle’ mixture until almost pureed. [For those of you, like me, who aren't cocktail afficionados, to muddle is to sort of mash together ingredients with a muddler, a long pestle-shaped wooden tool with one large, rounded edge; if you haven't got a muddler, any pestle-like utensil will have to do].

Add ice & vodka. Shake well.

Divide between two glasses, and serve.

Originally published on Blisstree.com.

Written by Elizabeth

May 9, 2012 at 12:08 am

Cocktail Recipe: The Petticoat

leave a comment »

Last summer, some friends and I invented a cocktail we nicknamed ‘the Petticoat,’ which involved kombucha (a fermented probiotic tea) and St. Germain, an all-natural elderflower liqueur. It’s a great summer afternoon cocktail, when you want something cold, refreshing and only mildly alcoholic or sweet.

St. Germain is only 20% alcohol by volume, and because of the fermentation process, kombucha tea can contain trace amounts of alcohol. Bottled kombucha sold in stores is only supposed to contain .05% alcohol or under, but home-brewed kombucha can contain up to 2 or 3% alcohol, depending on how long it’s been fermenting.

If you need to kick it up a notch, try adding gin.

The Petticoat Kombucha Cocktail

1.5 oz St. Germaine
1/2 to 1 cup kombucha tea
1 teaspoon raw honey

Combine kombucha & St. Germaine, then stir in raw honey.

If that’s too light for you, try leaving out the honey and adding 1 oz gin and a sprig of rosemary.

Originally published on Blisstree.com.

Written by Elizabeth

May 8, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Posted in Food, My Life

Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Have To Carry America’s Obesity Epidemic, Too

leave a comment »

There’s a growing body of research on how obesity can be ‘programmed’ in the womb—and a growing campaign to thwart America’s obesity ‘epidemic’ by targeting pregnant women. I’m all for public health agendas aimed at increasing maternal and fetal health. But the trend toward blaming obesity rates on women’s choices is worrying—don’t pregnant women have enough to think about without being responsible, literally, for the weight of the nation?

Melinda Sothern, a professor of clinical exercise at Louisiana State University, doesn’t quite blame pregnant women themselves for today’s high obesity rates—it was “the evil ’50s,” she told The Los Angeles Times, an era when doctors often advised pregnant women against gaining more than 10 pounds but said nothing about quitting smoking. The new moms and mothers-to-be of 1950s America smoked, dieted during pregnancy and spurned breast-feeding—what Sothern calls “the obesity trinity.” Inadequate fetal nutrition can program babies to ‘catch up’ on growth as infants, which studies suggest increases the risk of later obesity. Smoking during pregnancy is also thought to increase obesity risk in children, because nicotine interferes with the body’s control of appetite, metabolic rate and fat storage. And formula-fed babies have a higher risk for becoming obese than breast-fed babies.

I think this is all very interesting, and important in terms of figuring out what behaviors and habits doctors should recommend to pregnant women. I’m glad folks are conducting research on these topics, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk about it. But it’s framing pregnant women as “the root” of America’s obesity problems that I find troubling. Here’s how the LAT described Sothern’s theory:

… the tide of obesity that has swept the nation in the last two decades had its roots in what young mothers did, or didn’t do, in the postwar, suburban-sprouting 1950s.

If she’s right — and evidence is stacking up on her side — reproductive-age women may become the central focus of efforts to reverse America’s fat problem.

Oh my. Obesity in our society (as Sothern acknowledges) has myriad causes—fast food, convenience food, decreased physical activity—many of which developed alongside changing maternal habits in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Obesity rates may have began soaring in the 1980s due partly to mothers’ smoking, diet and lack-of-breast-feeding, but they had a lot of help from other areas.

Written by Elizabeth

May 8, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Posted in The Best Things

welcome, spring

with one comment

parsley box birds

Parsley-Box Bird Brood

dog party

River Pups

Written by Elizabeth

May 4, 2012 at 9:27 am

Psalms of March — a (belated) 3.2012 mix

leave a comment »

Meant to post this last week and never got around to it. This is my March playlist/mixtape/mixcast/whatever-you-want-to-call-it. I hope it will do for April, too.


Psalms of March (a 3.2012 mix)
#indiepsychfolkdancepopmumblewave

1. “Good Woman” – Cat Power
Because good woman/manhood has been a topic, of late. And because this song is sexy and wistful and gorgeous, and just right for an unseasonably warm early spring.

2. “Lovesickness” - Tomboyfriend
Because Tomboyfriend is one of those bands you like because almost every song sounds epic; maybe you don’t know exactly what the words mean, or even really what the gist of the song is, but something! is going on! and it! is a big deal! And our protagonists are feeling wistful or nostalgic or triumphant about it, so each song provides a mini-catharsis, like watching a Greek Tragedy or a Grey’s Anatomy episode in 4 minutes. So, yeah: I dig this band. And hope you do, too. [And if you do, check out "End of Poverty" or "Almost Always" by them next.]

3. “Could be so Happy” – Heartless Bastards
Because they’re a Cincinnati band! [Which is where I'm from.] And very folky, very throaty, the kind of thing you’d want to listen to on a hot night, somewhere smoky.  #psychfolk? They just released a new album, “Arrow,” but this song is from their 2009 album “The Mountain.”

4. “Holiday” – The Kinks
‘Cause … The Kinks, duh.

5. “Common Burn” – Mazzy Star
Because who among you did not lie in your high school bedroom listening to “Fade Into You” on repeat? And Hope Sandoval is back! This is from a 2-song EP released Oct. 2011, the first Mazzy Star release since 1997.

6. “Wind Was the Wine” – Woods
Because they’re my favorite and this is their new song. It’s short, sweet, Seussical and quietly joyous.

7. “Myth” – Beach House
Lovely, in that could-be-the-soundtrack-to-a-Twin-Peaks-dream-scene way. Or a cross between that Best Coast song with the urban Romeo & Julie video starring Maebe Funke and something out of Rocky Horror Picture Show? Yep, I think that about sums it up.

8.”The Night (rewards remix)” – School of Seven Bells
Because one of my best friends was in a band, Painted Face, founded by singer/musician Allie Alvarado, and Allie (who was formerly in Telepathe) has recently joined School of Seven Bells! Cheers, Allie! Also, because this song/remix is pure dance party.  Pure dance party/rooftop, basement, beach or movie montage.

9. “Love Love Love” – Of Monsters and Men
This is the first song on this mix that my boyfriend fell for. It’s strangely arresting the first time you hear it, even though in the hands of a different sort of singer (Colbie Callet? Taylor Swift?) the same words and melody would maybe come off totally grating/cutesy? But here’s it’s like … haunting, and just the slightest bit potentially heartbreaking (also: catchy!). [Update: BECAUSE—aha!—THEY ARE ICELANDIC.]

10. “Firestarter” – Blouse
Art school kids from Portland.

11. “The Way In” – Porcelain Raft
New wave beach party prom rock? I don’t know. Something like that. That’s what I keep describing everything as. That’s what everything sounds like, right now, beach parties prom or dusk.

12. “Go Home” – Lucius
Twangy back porch and/or drinking music. Achey. Pretty. From 2 girls with cool hair and sunglasses and 2 guys with mustaches.

13. “Lost on Leaving” – Luke Roberts
Brooklyn meets Nashville, literally.

14. “Bird Child” – Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Mariee Sioux
From a Bonnie Prince Billy/Mariee Sioux collaboration that also features a billion or six other interesting musicians. Here is how label Spiritual Pajamas describes it: “Flowering tongues, love skulls, whales trapped in ice, be thou not deceived and touch yourself a hundred times. These songs carve a place in your heart and tattoo your brain for ages to come.”

15. “State of Mind” – Whispertown
Sound like Tegan and Sara. Touring with Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s.

16. “Bird on the Buffalo” – Angus Stone
Because I liked the 2010 album, Down the Way, Angus Stone put out with his sister Julia. I can’t decide yet about his solo efforts. I like his nasally Bob Dylan affect (that sounds sarcastic, but I mean it), but overall it’s maybe a bit too hip-soundtrack-to-a-WB-teen-series?

17. “From Finner” – Of Monsters and Men
Because I believe two songs from one band on a mix are okay.

19. “Honolulu Blues” – Craig Finn
Because I recently had a conversation with someone about how Hawaii was the saddest place they’d ever lived. Craig Finn is the dude from the Hold Steady, who writes about Jesus, sings about drugs and performs like a former musical-theater major. (This is from his debut solo album)

20. “Radio” – Lana Del Ray
Because I don’t understand why everyone hates her?

21. “Voices” - Soft Metals
More Portland natives, currently living in Los Angeles. From the same label (Captured Tracks) as Blouse.

22. “Everybody Loves a Lover” – Doris Day
Because they do, don’t they?

{click to download}

Written by Elizabeth

April 6, 2012 at 11:05 am

Catalogued: Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, by Danielle Evans

leave a comment »

 Evans, Danielle. 
 Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self / by Danielle Evans. 
- New York: Riverhead Books, 2010.

“Usually, Eva thought of herself as a good person. She stayed up at night worrying about the human condition in vague and specific incarnations. She made herself available to the people whom she loved, and some whom she didn’t. She gave money to every other homeless person and stopped to let stray kids remind her how much Jesus and the Hare Krishnas loved her, more for the benefit of their souls than hers. Still, she wondered sometimes if it wasn’t all pretense—if, when she shut her eyes and wished restitution upon the whole wounded parade of humanity, she wasn’t really wishing away the world that created war and illness so that she might have a world in which there was room to feel sorry for herself. Every day she felt herself losing things it was unacceptable to mourn.”

A collection of beautiful (without being the slightest bit overwrought) stories.

Written by Elizabeth

March 28, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Chicago. March. 80 Degrees.

leave a comment »

Written by Elizabeth

March 19, 2012 at 8:54 am

Posted in Photos, Travel

Tagged with , ,

If Free Birth Control Lowers Costs, Why Haven’t Insurers Made Birth Control Free Already?

with one comment

That’s a question I’ve seen a few places, and which Conor Friedersdorf posed to me last week in  a bloggingheads dialogue. At the time I didn’t have an answer. I knew that birch control coverage could save money and I had some facts and figures about it. But if it drove down costs, why didn’t insurers already subsidize contraception?

One commenter at bloggingheads described my position as “let’s subsidize everything less dumb than the dumbest thing we subsidize,” which I liked. The fact that contraceptive services benefit more individuals or could drive down costs more (in terms of pregnancies prevented) than some of the other preventative services that are free under the new healthcare mandate was my rationale for including birth control (I’m a realist; my view is generally if this mandate exists—and it does—then what makes the most sense under it?) But dumb isn’t really the criteria, I don’t think. More like, “Let’s subsidize everything that genuinely is a preventative service and also benefits a large swath of the American public if we’re going to subsidize other less commonly-utilized stuff. I could be convinced to take dumb stuff off the preventative services list. I’m not sure I support the preventative services mandate to begin with. But since that’s happening: Hell, yes, contraceptive services should be part of it.

Much is made of why totally free versus must-be-covered by insurers, but with a copay. The argument is why should middle- or upper-class women have birth control totally subsidized? The assumption being, of course, that ‘birth control’ means the pill, which generally costs between $4 and $30 a month for a copay, with standard employer-based health insurance.

But the free preventative ‘contraceptive services’ could also include more expensive, longer-form birth control options. The IUD lasts between 5-12 years, and is a great option for young women who don’t want kids for some time or women who’ve already had kids but are pre-menopausal. Insurers have been slow to start covering it, and it’s expensive without coverage (between $500 and $1,000, for the IUD and insertion). That’s actually quite cost-effective in the long-run: At $1,000, spread over 5 years, it would only amount to about $16 a month—right around the average monthly oral contraceptive copay. But $1,000 is a lot of upfront cost, and that’s a big reason why women don’t choose this very effective birth control option.

Another very effective birth control option? Sterilization. It costs quite a lot up front if not covered by insurance. Which means it also costs quite a bit up front for the insurance company who’d have to subsidize it. But a woman who has her tubes tied or a man who has a vasectomy can cost less over a lifespan, because they’re not using birth control monthly and they wont’ get pregnant and need pre-natal and maternity care or an abortion. [And these are just the health care costs saved; less unwanted pregnancies brings less poverty, less unwanted societal costs, etc.]

So if this is all such a great deal for insurers, why haven’t they done it already?

Here’s my stab at a theory. The reason insurers haven’t already started offering free contraceptive services, if this drive down costs, is because with employer-based healthcare and folks jumping jobs so much these days, most people only have the same insurance company or plan for a few years. Subsidizing contraceptive services might drive down costs for you (relative to pregnancy or abortion), and in doing so drive down overall health care expenses in this country. It could drive down social costs. But it’s unlikely to substantially improve the bottom line of any particular health insurance company.

Of course, with the way the insurance market works, wouldn’t any given plan be just as likely to have people currently using free contraceptive services, thus driving up costs, and people who’d already benefited from contraceptive services, thus driving down costs? I don’t know. I’m not terribly well-versed in the economics of insurance policies and risk pooling. Maybe any particular insurance company is likely to have a net draw in costs expended and saved by offering free birth control services.

There may be a simpler reason why insurance companies don’t subsidize birth control: Because it’s the way they’ve always done things. The upfront cost—even just in terms of the time of the people involved in doing it—of changing their policy probably wouldn’t outweigh the savings for a while. Or maybe they just figure that women who use birth control will do so regardless, and they might as well make that $12 co-pay each month from each of them. (The latter theory is maybe true now, but maybe less true once everyone must be insured? And also maybe not as relevant when you, again, consider that birth control doesn’t just mean the pill).

Another component of this I’ve written about recently and Conor and I talked about is the conscience mandate. In any discussion of whether religious employers should have to cover contraceptive services, I feel it’s important to note: People use the pill for things other than pregnancy prevention (thanks, Erin, for reminding me of this). A Guttmacher Institute study found 14% of all birth control users rely on the pill solely for non-contraceptive reasons, such as reducing menstrual pain, treating acne or trying to tame irregular periods.

Churches are already exempt from the contraception mandate, but religious employers—like hospitals and universities—want to be able to (and can, now) opt out of covering contraception. And everyone’s framing it like a matter of choice—well, you choose to go to a religious school, or you choose to work for a religiously-affiliated employer. If covered/free contraption was so important to you, you could choose to go to school or work elsewhere (nevermind for now that just going to work elsewhere sometimes really isn’t that simple).

But I think framing it in terms of individual choice is a bad idea; it’s about whether a broad-spectrum of individual employers should be able to opt out of insurance coverage mandates they don’t like. I don’t think they should. Right now, we’re talking contraception, but it opens the door for any employer to opt out any insurance coverage requirements they don’t like.

Please note that this post is less a polemic and more a sort of stream-of-consciousness grappling with thoughts surrounding this issue. It’s a complicated issue. Do share your thoughts with me, too.

ALSO: …
Yes, yes, 1,000 times yes.

Of course access to affordable birth control is primarily a woman’s problem, but how many men have not had babies they didn’t want because the women they were sleeping with were on birth control? Contraception is something that benefits both women and men. Phoebe’s totally right that most men don’t have any idea about how birth control works, and it’s just … sad, and stupid. But I am happy to report that I had a lovely discussion about the benefits of IUDs and the drawbacks of the pill with three women and one man at the bar last night. Anyway, I’ll leave you with Phoebe:

Precisely because contraception is oh-so-private, misconceptions arise – especially, needless to say, among men – about what this “birth control” thing is all about. They easily forget that the very need for contraception comes from women having sex with men. Sparing these men – I might add – 18 years of child-support payments, not to mention the serious possibility of 18 years of continued communications with every woman they’ve ever slept with. It becomes a discussion about women choosing to have sex, when the sex in question by definition involves men. Not such an issue for women who have sex with women.

Written by Elizabeth

March 6, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Facebook Feed Poetry, Cont’d.

with 2 comments

Guys, this may be one of the dorkiest things that I find interesting/amusing, but: Last year, I wrote (and posted here) a “most recent” poem, composed entirely of snippets from facebook friends’ status updates. I went to my facebook homepage, set my news feed to ‘most recent,’ and then took a sentence, phrase or few words from each update, reverse chronologically down the page. I tried it again yesterday, and again this morning, and the second and third attempts have been just as funny to me—so I am going to share them with you. In the hopes of inspiring you to do your own, of course. It’s a good creative writing exercise, I think. The result is part random, obviously, but part deliberate, because you pick from the status update (and comments, if you play that way) what to use. I took (some, but not many) liberties with punctuation and capitalization. The best part so far is how the result invariably comes across a bit like a T.S. Eliot poem. But strung together out of context, the result actually has no meaning except whatever narrative or sentiment you read into it.

most recent. 3.3.12 4:37 p.m.

I do not think it means what you think it means.
Brunch, Manhattan beach,
red-eye with Tito’s handmade vodka, belgian pilsner, tomato, dill, picante, quail egg—
sometimes a necessary part of achieving success—
roasted beets with blood orange and grapefruit vinaigrette.
… a Little Creepy:
12 kids performing Glee style on the Mall.
Avery, Janie and Jack
started reading a book;
over 1000 performances of the ancient Greek anti-war comedy Lysistrata took place.
Before you go out tonight, make sure your dress doesn’t show your chocha!

I took my son to the state semi-final for spoken poetry and was shocked.
“These are my sons, Glacier and Warrior.”
“You need to dry hump it.”
LA, you are so pretty!
ho ho! leap year!

It’s strange that at least two people in your family survived the Black Plague.
Really a wasted investment in hospitality, all of these kids
I’m in a Chicago state of mind.
It snowed a little bit.
New Orleans is about to get a little dog in their wog. Tonight at Zeitgeist!
Russian infant-swinging exercise guru Lena Fokina is back.
I think I may have to make breakfast
at the smallest AZA zoo by acreage
for her birthday.

It should be noted this is Benedict Cumberbatch, not RDJ
Transferring
Good morning

“We prefer the term adultophobe.”

Fun time at the Children’s Museum today!
Transferring
my Affliction t shirt is’t small enough
Misty Malarky Ying Yang
BLOB!!!!

Damn, Aubrey Plaza:
There is no doubt that The Cato Institute adds crucial intellectual perspective.
Hey, We’re a Year Old!
GO SAM GO!
I know its been said before …

Take Care,
Kenji & Caelin
(in the City)—
you should think she was being raised a bewildered hooker
running for a cause.
Make time to write.
Let me be the first to congratulate Craig and fabulous Eileen.
So great!

Twenhofel Middle School, Sunday March 4—
What country, and what era, are we …
Dear President Barack Obama:
French fries don’t have to be terrible for you.
Home photoshoot and the sounds of Peggy Lee
Science is a hobby of mine.

Laura Beaver – not only was that a pathetic retort, but you’ve obviously completely missed the entire meaning of the underlying issues, which show in your poor analogy.

Had White Castles for the first time in over a year (husband wouldn’t let me eat them while I was pregnant)
Your body is just as good as any fancy fitness machine!

Our Art Director Orlando snapped
(true love can’t wait till the wedding):
I am already sick of spring break! …
A long way since I lived on 7th avenue and 12th street in the seventies!
Maybe we’ll see you there!!
Ya.
Happy Birthday Tony!
Do you have these male roles fulfilled in your life?
OMG! Aweseomesauce!!

Ben Cake wonders why advertising is filled with so many submissive men.
A Poetry Murder Mystery
A snazzy new Gowanus studio space.
Enter to win one,
in the virtual “waiting room” for a Comic-Con badge.

14th St., downtown Cincinnati—
Come find us if you haven’t already!
Birthday party tonight!! woooo!!
Feeling pretty badass right now.
Listened to Tennis on Spotify
Head to your basement or lower-level, inner-room when the sky turns green…

••••••

most recent 3.4.12 11:31 a.m. 

Vacation with a purpose!
Sombrero guy,
married to Hazel,
designed to sit next to other consoles;
myself on the oatmeal box.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that
I’ll definitely be applying
to this “then and now” celebrity site.

Perhaps he has really been drifting to the right ideologically.
Fabulous hats and fascinators made by a lovely lady …
Church, breakfast, wedding planning …
He compares birth control to sneakers,
adizero Rush running shoes,
helping people have healthy sex
at Arnold’s Bar and Grill.

A trip to LA & Tokyo—
the unspoken crossover—
full of many wonderful things.
At the School of Seven Bells
(it’s a great place to be)
experience elevated energy, increased circulation,
those fine
“Slut” On Air
exhibiting paintings.

I do hot yoga and I’m starting acupuncture.

At the circussschool, upsidedown spin,
you’ve been looming over my head,
the amount of reflex wide eyed liberations,
DiLeo’s first attempt,
she spins and spins ……
People of Earth
on food stamps to wild animals
Nikos in a Ferrari
winter waning
Late at Night

I got a lot of neat stuff to show and tell
I get a month to every July
core- and have it- and be liberated,
at the home and garden show.
(Yes I actually said that and meant it lol)
Click “Like” if you’ve fallen into any of these traps.
Should we try to reinvigorate the skilled trades, which are mostly held by men?
(Crazy, busy day)
Breaking: “Mamie Eisenhower was a $5 crack whore.”

One more reason …
Hawt.
I knew about Gentry
Punk Rock
Neon Trees,
this place is not your home. Nor was it …

Happy birthday baby.
It’s happening …
… play for me?
Congrats on another great show.
A couple of lovely ladies.
Mythos is both surprising and comforting.
Central for the past two hours, and no end in sight.

Written by Elizabeth

March 4, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Recipe: Portobello Caps with Walnuts and Blue Cheese Over Wilted Arugula

leave a comment »

I came up with this dish the other night because the only veggies I had in the fridge were portobello mushroom caps and a bunch of about-to-go-bad arugula. My boyfriend’s response? ‘Wow, this is like something you’d see on a cooking show!’ Yeah, it turned out that good. But even though baked portobello caps stuffed with walnuts and blue cheese and served over wilted arugula sounds (and looks) fancy, this delicious dish requires practically no effort to make—my kind of cooking! Plus, the combination of mushrooms, greens, walnuts, olive oil and blue cheese gives you a good mix of vitamins, protein and healthy fats.

Baked Portobello Caps with Walnuts and Blue Cheese Over Wilted Arugula

Ingredients:
(serves 2)

• 2 large portobello mushroom caps
• 2-4 tablespoons blue cheese crumbles
• 2-4 tablespoons raw chopped walnuts
• 3 cups arugula
• olive oil
• about 1/4 cup lemon juice
• dried red chili peppers (optional)

Preparation: 

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place portobello caps open-side-up on lightly greased baking sheet. Fill each cap with 1-2 tbsp blue cheese, 1-2 tbsp walnuts (it kind of depends on how big your mushroom caps are). Drizzle lightly with olive oil.

3. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, until cheese is gooey and walnuts are slightly browned.

4. On stove, saute 3-4 dried chili peppers in 1 tbsp olive oil for a few minutes, then add about 1/4 cup lemon juice. Add half of arugula, and stir. Add remaining arugula, and more lemon juice if necessary. Stir everything together and simmer until greens are lightly wilted.

5. Serve mushroom caps over bed of wilted arugula.

Originally published on Blisstree.com.

Written by Elizabeth

March 3, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Posted in Food, My Life

Kansas Lawmakers Think It’s Fine For Doctors To Lie To Patients To Prevent Abortions

leave a comment »

By far the scariest of the anti-abortion bills pending before scores of state legislatures in the U.S. right now is a bill budding in Kansas that would let doctors withhold critical medical info from patients with no consequences. Among the bill’s many provisions is one exempting doctors from malpractice suits if they withhold information—such as potential birth defects or anything else that poses a health risk for the mother or child—in order to prevent an abortion. A suit can only be brought if the mother dies.

The bill assumes a doctor’s right not to potentially contribute to someone getting an abortion trumps both his duty to do his job and and a patient’s right to receive full and accurate information from their doctor. It’s also filled with some of the greatest hits of other states’ anti-abortion efforts: A requirement that a pregnant woman listen to a fetal heartbeat before abortion; doing away with tax credits for abortion providers; and stopping tax deductions for health savings accounts that include abortion coverage. It would also require doctors to tell pregnant women that abortion will increase their risk of breast cancer—a theory that’s generally disputed by doctors, scientists and health groups, including the World Health Organization and the National Cancer Institute. And:

With language stating that anesthesia is administered to fetuses during surgery and indicating that an unborn child feels pain, the Kansas bills calls for making 20 weeks the latest time for having an abortion, a decline from the 21-week point adopted last year. (Rep. Barbara Bollier, a moderate Republican) said she has professional objections to this requirement, saying that medical reports show that a fetus does not feel pain until 25 to 30 weeks and that the anesthesia is administered to prevent a rapid fetal heartbeat, which she said arises as a reflex to external stimulation.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback said last week that he’s likely to sign the bill if it comes before him:

Brownback, speaking to The Huffington Post Monday following the National Governors Association meeting, said that while he has not read the 69-page bill, he is likely to sign the proposal since he opposes abortion rights. Brownback, a former U.S. senator, has signed several anti-abortion bills since he took office last year.

“I am pro-life,” Brownback said. “When I campaigned I said that if a pro-life bill got to my desk, I will sign it. I am not backing away from that.”

The bill, however, has yet to pass out of committee—it’s got a ways to go before getting to Brownback’s desk. Both Kansas’ Senate and House of Representatives are controlled by Republicans, but the more conservative House is expected to approve it, while a more moderate Senate could vote it down. But what a crazy point we’ve come to in all this conscience business when it seems reasonable to anyone that doctors should be allowed to coerce women into giving birth by withholding medical information and only be held accountable for any health problems this leads to if the patient ends up dying.

Image: Statemaster.com.

Written by Elizabeth

March 3, 2012 at 1:14 pm

NEDA: Eating Disorder Lit, Lifetime Movies, the DSM-V, ‘Holy Anorexia’ and Tumblr v. Pro-Ana Blogs (@ Blisstree)

with 2 comments

I didn’t know what image to use for this post, so here is a picture of me and an old friend not having eating disorders, eating free ice cream from Friendly’s on a summer day.

Autumn Whitefield-Madrano at ‘the Beheld’ wrote some very nice things about our National Eating Disorder Awareness week coverage at Blisstree, the women’s health & wellness site where I write.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown examines the real fallout from eating disorder literature. I’m thrilled to see someone taking a sharp view on this—my own experience with ED lit mirrors Elizabeth’s, varying between using such books as dirty little guides to tips and tricks, and using them as actual support. In fact, I once pitched a piece about this to a teen mag and it was flatly shot down with, “There is no way in hell we can run a piece like that.” But Blisstree can! Yay Internet! (Actually, Blisstree overall seems to be offering smart content for NEDA week, sharing the real story behind sensationalist recovery tales and featuring an interview with Carrie Arnold, one of the best ED writers around.)

Yay Internet!, indeed. I’ve actually been very happy this week with the way we’ve been covering eating disorders. ED stories so often fall into sensationalism, melodrama or triteness. And I think we’ve done pretty well at avoiding that. In addition to the stories Autumn mentioned, we’ve posted:

• A non-sensationalist defense of pro-ana communities.

• A gallery of the best/most absurd Lifetime movies about eating disorders.

• A guide to proposed eating disorder changes in the DSM-V.

• A history of eating disorders, including “holy anorexia, fasting girls (like Mollie Fancher, the ‘Brooklyn Enigma’) and wasting diseases blamed on wandering uteruses.”

• A long, lovely and honest Q&A with Angela Liddon, of Oh She Glows.

• And a piece about how Tumblr plans to start restricting pro-ana and other ‘self harm’ blogs.

Written by Elizabeth

March 2, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Bloggingheads

with 3 comments

Diavlog: Conor & Elizabeth

I recorded a bloggingheads segment Monday with Conor Friedersdorf for his channel on bloggingheads.tv. I guess you call this “vlogging.” I have been vehemently opposed to vlogging (ask Rachel Steinberg) since 2006, because no one looks good in web-cam close-up. Also because a lot of bloggers are better writers than talkers, including me. But I talked to Conor for nearly an hour, about: men’s role in feminism, Hugo Schwyzer, James Poulos, women’s ‘privileged relationship’ to the natural world, subsidizing birth control, vasectomies, my partisan political apathy, Gary Johnson, what’s new in eating disorders, David Brooks, Phoebe Maltz-Bovy, ‘elites’ behaving like traditionalists, goat cheese and arugula, old-fashioned cocktails, Portland bartenders migrating to Los Angeles, the farmer’s markets of Indiana, D.C. media culture and the things you’re supposed to say on the Internet.

Anyway, here’s the test clip I sent Conor & my very first test vlogging attempt:

I swear I get a little better.

You can check out the whole thing here.

Written by Elizabeth

February 29, 2012 at 8:10 am

‘Tain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do

leave a comment »

I have probably written about Rihanna more than any other celebrity. Mostly because I don’t generally write about celebrities (though I also seem to write about Leann Rimes quite often …). But also because Rihanna’s whole weird S&M-princess-meets-Tammy-Wynette-thing fascinates me.

Last week on Blisstree I wrote about how Rihanna and ex-boyfriend, abuser and musical collaborator Chris Brown both grew up witnessing domestic violence. Rihanna’s dad abused her mother, and Brown’s stepdad abused his mother. I think that’s important to any musings on what’s up there. Also:

I think Amanda Dobbins at Vulture nails it here, with “The Argument You’re Having With Yourself About Rihanna and Chris Brown;” it’s also a nice summary of the argument the Internet is having about Rihanna and Chris Brown. Clearly, the publicity is good for both their albums (Perez Hilton’s post about it was pretty accurately titled “Rihanna & Chris Brown mind-fuck the world”). And who are we to say … yada yada yada. But in the end, what it keeps coming back to is: Maybe Rihanna is in an abusive relationship. Maybe Rihanna is ‘a very famous, very rich, very talented 24-year-old in an abusive relationship.’

So, that. Or maybe she’s not, you know? This is a woman who’s recorded songs about abusive relationships and whips and chains and talked about being sexually submissive in Rolling Stone magazine. In short: She’s no shrining violet.

Which is what makes this whole Rihanna and Chris Brown narrative so puzzling. When we saw pop divas of previous generations stay with men who abused them, the women were usually somehow dependent on their abusers. Think Tina Turner. Or even Whitney Houston. (Yes, she was already famous by the time she married Bobby Brown, but drugs are another kind of dependency—or, enabling someone can make them dependent on you). Rihanna, however … She’s the bigger celebrity. She’s in no way dependent on Chris Brown. And she seems to have her shit together. She seems to have her shit together and she chooses to work or be with a man who nearly killed her. And she’s kind of defiantly proud about that.

A few days ago, I read about how she tweeted a line from her 2009 song “Hard” in the midst of all the ‘open letter to Rihannaetc. etc. etc. hoopla and the rumors about her and Brown’s upcoming collaboration.

They can say whatever, Ima do whatever…No pain is forever<—–YUP! YOU KNOW THIS

The first thing I thought of was “Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness if I Do,” the early female blues standard written by  Porter Grainger and most associated with Bessie Smith, who recorded the song in 1923 (it was also recorded by Billie Holiday and bunches of others). Here are a few lines:

Well, I’d rather my man would hit me / Than follow him to jump up and quit me / Ain’t nobody’s business if I do

I swear, I won’t call no copper / If I’m beat up by my papa / Ain’t nobody’s business if I do

A long time ago I wrote a paper I’ve long-since lost about early female blues singers. It turned me on to folks like Bessie Smith, Trixie Smith, Lucille Bogan and Ma Rainy. Pandora has since turned me on to many others. If you haven’t heard much classic female blues, you will probably be surprised by how dirty! it can get. Bogan in particular—whew. There’s also a wonderful playfulness, though, and an awesomely feminist bent. They challenged prevailing gender roles and ideas about sexuality and femininity. Rainy—billed ‘the Mother of the Blues’—was married to a man but slept with women. Here’s Rainy’s “Prove It On Me”:

I went out last night with a crowd of my friends,
It must’ve been women, ‘cause I don’t like no men.
Wear my clothes just like a fan
Talk to the gals just like any old man

Cause they say I do it, ain’t nobody caught me
Sure got to prove it on me.

Lesbians were fairly common on the classic blues circuit. Mike Rugan’s ‘Uncensored History of the Blues’ blog introduced me to Bogan’s B.D. Woman’s Blues (She recorded it under the name Bessie Jackson). B.D. stood for bull dyke (or bull dagger).

Comin’ a time, B.D. women they ain’t going to need no men
Comin’ a time, B.D. women they ain’t going to need no men
Cause they way treat us is a lowdown dirty sin

B.D. women, you sure can’t understand
B.D. women, you sure can’t understand
They got a head like a sweet angel and they walk just like a natural
man

And, just for fun, here’s “Shave ‘Em Dry,” a song recorded in 1935 by Bogan:

I got nipples on my titties
Big as the end of my thumb
I got somethin between my legs
That’ll make a dead-man come

So—lots of sex. Lots of lesbians. Also lots of honesty about what it was like to be a black woman at the beginning of last century. Some of the songs are camp. Some of the songs are heartbreaking. And “Tain’t Nobody’s Business” wasn’t the only song defending or celebrating an abusive lover. Not only was early female blues full of lesbians, it was full of women “repeatedly left, beaten, cheated on, and ignored, only to forgive their lover because of his sexual prowess. Here’s Trixie Smith’s “You’ve Got to Beat Me to Keep Me” (also written by Porter Grainger; clearly dude has some issues):

You’ve got to beat me to keep me, cause mama loves a hard boiled man
So don’t you let no man cheat me, if he’s got a good right hand.
Beat me up for breakfast, knock me down for tea,
Black my eye for supper, then you’re pleasing me.
You’ve got to beat me to keep me, cause mama loves a hard boiled man.

Here’s Ma Rainey’s “Sweet Rough Man:”

I woke up this mornin’, my head as sore as a boil
My man beat me last night with five feet of copper coil

… But the way he loves me, makes me soon forget

There are tons of fascinating things about early blues ladies I want to ramble on about, but! that is not the point here. The point is about Rihanna: She’s certainly not the first female singer to defend being with someone who beats her. She’s just the first in a while.

The point is also agency: They were reclaiming it.

So is Rihanna making a feminist statement in flaunting her friendliness with Chris Brown? I certainly wouldn’t be the first to point out that by being so publicly congenial to Brown, by defining the terms of their relationship, she could be trying to reclaim agency, to set herself up as not-a-victim, to show she was not afraid of him.

I also wouldn’t be the first to point out that no one’s sure whether they are friends, lovers or trying to stir up a lot of publicity for their new songs.

But Rihanna isn’t just friendly to Chris Brown. She doesn’t just project forgiveness. After (reluctantly) leaving Brown, she puts out a hot violent sex song with Eminem. She puts out her own song called “S&M.” She says things like:

“Sometimes whips and chains can be overly planned – you gotta stop, get the whip from the drawer downstairs. . . . I’d rather have him use his hands.”

Clearly she gets some level of enjoyment from being roughed up and being submissive.

… And she’s, like, not afraid to talk about it? Which is … cool. But also not cool because rough sex shouldn’t really have anything to do with actual violence, and people get easily confused.

But it doesn’t really matter. She’s not asking us to like her decisions—she’s just kind of making us acknowledge that she is making decisions. For personal or professional or whatever reasons, she is choosing what she’s choosing, and she believes in these choices. She believes that making them doesn’t disempower her.

Cause it ain’t nobody’s business if we do

And maybe that’s right. If we believe women are fully-autonomous people and all of that—well, we have to respect the choices they make, even when we don’t agree with them. Which doesn’t meant we can’t talk about them. If you collaborate with an ex who nearly killed you on two songs released the same day, you have made the discussion part of the pop culture public domain. And I do think issues like this are instructive. On the one hand, it’s pop gossip. On the other hand, the stories we tell about celebrities both reflect and resonate with the society who tells them. They become allegories. Rihanna and Chris Brown have no reasonable expectation of bloggers, entertainment TV hosts and kids on Twitter not talking about them. But!—

Maybe “not blaming the victim” isn’t the point. Maybe the best way to not take away a woman like Rihanna’s agency is to blame her fully—to acknowledge/accept that she has reasons for making the choices she’s making and doesn’t care if we approve or understand.

Just some thoughts …

Written by Elizabeth

February 26, 2012 at 10:16 am

okartparty: a february 2012 mix

leave a comment »

It’s been entirely too long since I’ve last posted a new mix up here. Here’s what I’ve been listening to so far in 2012. It’s mostly new-ish with some old and some last-decade. So: Submitted for the approval of the midnight society:

okartparty — a february 2012 mix 

Some Place // Nick Waterhouse
I Cover the Waterfront // Billie Holiday
The Youth // MGMT
Only Someone Running // Bonnie “Prince” Billy & Matt Sweeney
Shallow // Beach Fossils
Awake My Body // Alexander
Paper Trail (remixed) // Atta Boy
The Lion’s Roar // First Aid Kit
Trouble // The Babies
Serpent // Sharon Van Etten
A Hundred Highways // Dirty Beaches
Bad Girls // M.I.A.
Fire (Folked Out 4-Track Version) // The Submarines
Unrequited Love // Lykke Li
Something In The Water // Brooke Fraser
I Slept With All Your Mothers // Harriet
Berkeley Pier // Tilt
Twisted Little Blades // Little Barrie

click to download

* [dedicated to Morgan McNaught, who asked me on gchat the other day why I hadn't shared any music in so long, and whose house in Chicago I was living at this time last year.]

Written by Elizabeth

February 24, 2012 at 11:07 am

Posted in Music

Tagged with , ,

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.