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Weekend Longread
Posted by Heebie-Geebie on 03.18.18

LW writes: The new VQR has a great essay from Lili Loofbourow

Glib summary: Male work gets overestimated and overanalyzed, female work underestimated and underanalyzed.

It's pleasant to feel perceptive, and there's no easier subject to condescend to than a woman who wants to seem more perfect than she is. We whoop with joy when we spot the performance and conclude--because it deigns to perform and because the performance is visible--that the consciousness behind it is petty, superficial, and cognitively incapable of witnessing the pathos of its own condition. This is almost a type of scopophilia. Our pleasure in watching a Real Housewife shares something with minstrelsy: The pleasure comes as much from our fantasy that she's blind to her own humiliation as it does from the grotesque performance of abject femininity. There she is, the creature we love best to hate, the Stupid Reality TV Woman.
The irony, of course, is that you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone more aware of what they're caricaturing than a minstrel or a reality star.

I like the parallel with minstrelsy a lot. She cites a bunch of examples mostly from television. Maybe others have said similar things previously, but her description of how people effectively pay attention with systematic biases while any particular choice seems arbitrary made a lot of sense to me.

Heebie's take: She coins the term male glance to contrast with male gaze. It's distressing to me that I know I've internalized a visceral male glance for other people's work. I am aware of it and consciously intentionally compensate - except when I must still fail to, because surely it must operate in situations that haven't even occurred to me.

I also like this, which immediately preceeds the quote above:

This is female chivalry. It consists in allowing us to think we're spontaneously noticing that which has been explicitly put there for us to notice. Like all chivalry, it has pernicious consequences when it goes unappreciated or unobserved.


If traditional male chivalry involves loud displays of care like ostentatious door-opening, the entire point of female chivalry is that it's functionally invisible. We don't actually realize we've been aesthetically tended to and philosophically cosseted into considering ourselves better readers of surface and depth than we really are. As with any creature spoiled into thinking too well of itself, this breeds a meanness of spirit.
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Reflections on Big Bend
Posted by Heebie-Geebie on 03.17.18

Big Bend National Park is an interesting place. Desert plus mountains makes for a Martian landscape, plus the Rio Grande is right there, small and surprisingly gentle, partly because it's been so heavily drained and manipulated. And then inside the Chisos mountains is a little forest, left over from the ice age, with a bizarre, unique, little habitat.

It's a real hotspot for dinosaur fossils, from when that ocean spread up through the middle of the continent, and then later receded. So it was marshy, and then later forested, and then later savannah, before becoming its current desert state. Even though a desert is beautiful and full of interesting things, it still almost seems like a sad tragedy that there used to be all this lush life and activity, and now it's this barren dry place.

Having grown up in a swamp and now living in a moderately humid place, I find the intense dryness pretty unpleasant. It's very beautiful and vast, though. Supremely isolating.

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Posted by Ogged on 03.17.18

I confess to some fogey skepticism about gender transitions (are you sure it's this, and that you're not prevented by the state of our language and understanding from being able to articulate the dozen cousin things it might be? Maybe it doesn't matter, because here we are...) but that aside, Daniel Ortberg sounds smart and lovely.

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