Amy Wallace’s “A Very Dangerous Boy” in GQ
The theme of this week’s reads for me was Nazism, or rather the insidious way Nazism infiltrates, persuades and is perceived in a culture. Amy Wallace delves deep into the story of Joseph Hall, who shot and killed his neo-Nazi father when he was merely ten years old. Wallace portrays the complexity of the case; of legally deciding what to do with a severely emotionally damaged child capable of such a crime; and of our reactions to the case as a culture: “The boy had been raised around hate. You reap what you sow. The answer seemed simple. It was anything but.” What’s most heartbreaking about the piece is the nuanced way Wallace depicts the impact of trauma and violence on a child.
Emily Bazelon’s “The Nazi Anatomists” on Slate
Continuing on the insidious affects of Nazism and violence train, Emily Bazelon‘s investigation into the impact of Nazi corpse experiments on modern science rocked my world. She reveals a burying of information that persists today, and has far-reaching implications: it turns out that much of the women-can’t-get-pregnant-from-rape rationales arise directly from medical research done under the Third Reich. Which is actually one of the lesser mindfucks of this piece–the complicity and silence surrounding this phenomenon is one of the bigger ones. When I read this piece, I got the image of history being a weird dark octopus tentacling into our realities, which is not necessarily a good thing but speaks well of the writing.
bell hooks’ “Dig Deep: Beyond Lean In” in The Feminist Wire
Can women have it all? Should we lean in? Lean out? Join the circus? Have kids? Do back flips? For weeks after the publication of Sheryl Sandburg’s Lean In, I was annoyed by the slew of articles dissecting women’s lives to see how much we could or could not have. Where were all the articles on men trying to “have it all” and falling short because of balancing childcare, cooking and exercise routines? Why were women always the ones who have to lean in, to do more and more?
bell hooks recently wrote the definitive criticism of Lean In, pointing out that telling women to “lean in” while not advocating for any change in patriarchal structures or discussing dynamics such as class and race, doesn’t create the kind of dialogue and action needed to get women into equal positions of power. hooks does a brilliant job of breaking down how Sandburg was crowned the Queen of Feminism:
Even though many advocates of feminist politics are angered by Sandberg’s message, the truth is that alone, individually she was no threat to the feminist movement. Had the conservative white male dominated world of mass media and advertising not chosen to hype her image, this influential woman would not be known to most folks. It is this patriarchal male dominated re-framing of feminism, which uses the body and personal success of Sheryl Sandberg, that is most disturbing and yes threatening to the future of visionary feminist movement.
What if we sent the conservative white male-dominated world of mass media to fierce male feminist camp for the summer? In the end, hooks reminds us that equality and justice must be a community effort, both personal and structural.
Lilly O’Donnell’s “Land of the Loft” at Narratively
This is a tight little exploration of the relationship between place and memory. O’Donnell revisits her father’s Brooklyn loft, hoping to “unlock some impossible memories, and solidify some real ones.” As she walks down Metropolitan Avenue, she’s already aware of how much of her vivid childhood memory of the place isn’t hers at all, has been “handed down” – “I’ve heard enough stories about the time right before I was born […] It’s almost as if I remember it myself. That time is clearer in my memory than moments I was actually present for.” The piece captures the strangely fraught journey to a place that was once home, and the simultaneous richness and emptiness of an encounter with that place:
even if I could easily break in, even if I did and found my toys still scattered around inside, The Loft is a memory, not a place, and I won’t find it beyond those windows, or any others.