author: A, current events, news, politics

New Year, New Congress

Behind the scenes look at Congress in 2019 by A. Image of Nancy Pelosi via People

Dear Reader,

New year, new Congress! On January 3, when the 116th Congress convenes, its first order of business as a body will be to elect its leaders. Now that Democrats have majority membership in the house, they’ll have the deciding factor in selecting the Speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi, who served as Speaker from 2007-2011, and as Minority Leader from 2011-2019 (making her the highest-ranking female politician in the history of the United States so far), is the likely successor to Paul Ryan. This weekend, as I walked down the House corridors, I watched shop workers clearing out the leadership offices, readying them to be flipped. Apparently, they’re already preparing the Speaker’s office for Pelosi, despite the fact that she hasn’t been officially elected to the position yet. Continue reading

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author: A, current events, politics

Behind the Scenes of Lame Duck Congress

A is a Boshemia columnist writing about their experiences working behind the scenes at the US Capitol. Photograph via Politico.

 

Dear reader,

When last we spoke, the midterm elections were looming with an intensity that caused everyone to speculate on the veracity of claims made in the Book of Revelation. Yet we’ve made it through and the world continues to turn steadily. That Blue Wave the press predicted turned out to be less of a tsunami than some had hoped, but the incoming class of freshman Democrats will add an exciting amount of diversity to Congress. Continue reading

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Boshemia recommends, news, politics, pop culture, recommendation, review, Toots & Boots, Topical, TV

Toots & Boots // Mrs Maisel, Christmas Crapitalism & Spiderman

Mrs Maisel causes a staff stir, Netflix brings us yet another teen movie success, and Brexit negotiations were too damn much this week! Find out what the team have been loving and hating in another instalment of Toots & Boots. Continue reading

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Boshemia recommends, current events, LGBT+, news, politics, pop culture, recommendation, review, Toots & Boots, Topical

Toots & Boots // Michelle Obama, Black Friday and Christmas rom-coms

Michelle Obama discusses her memoir with Oprah, Vanessa Hudgens does a Lindsey Lohan (not the messy version), and Boshemia reflects on the morality of American holidays – all in this week’s Toots & Boots.

TOOTS 🎉

@Askapoc

This instagram account is described as a ‘safe space for Non POC to ask questions to a community of POC.’ It is a brilliant resource for learning about the many dimensions of racism with people asking questions you may have yourself or about issues you hadn’t even thought of. Constant food for thought and amazing work from the POC who answer questions. A @Askalgbt account has also just been created by the same folk!

The Princess Switch

Vanessa Hudgens stars in this remodelled Parent Trap where she plays a princess-to-be and a Chicago baker who meet by chance only to discover they look identical. The pair decide to switch lives a week before Christmas, inevitably having impersonation slip-ups and falling in love with the main man in each other’s lives (you can’t even call that a spoiler, this is a Christmas rom-com). Now on Netflix, The Princess Switch is perfect for switching off.

Vanessa Hudgens in 'The Princess Switch'.

Vanessa Hudgens in ‘The Princess Switch’.

The book Know Your Place

A collection of essays by 24 working class writers discussing how their class has shaped their lives and what it means to them. Beginning life on Twitter after the Brexit vote, the soulful and varied collection offers a much needed challenge to the UK rhetoric that demonises those at the bottom of the class hierarchy.

The End of the World with Josh Clark

The 10-episode podcast series explores all the different ways that humanity could die in the next 200 years. Sounds cheery right? The show actually manages to keep the ‘looming apocalypse’ vibes under control, asking questions about intelligent life in the universe and how (if possible) we can survive the next couple of centuries.

 

Michelle Obama on Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations podcast

When two of America’s most influential women sit down to have a conversation, you listen. Prompted by her new memoir Becoming, Michelle Obama talks candidly about her childhood in Chicago, her years as an attorney and the trials of being ‘the first black family’ in the White House. Both women are as wonderful as ever.

Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. Photo credit: Jim Young, AFP/Getty Images

Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. Photo credit: Jim Young, AFP/Getty Images

BOOTS 💩

The colonial origins of the Thanksgiving holiday

As much as it is an opportunity to come together with chosen family and loved ones, it would be remiss not to acknowledge those who will be mourning for the genocide of their ancestors this Thanksgiving and every one to come.

Black Friday

Though tempting to partake in, Black Friday and Cyber Monday encourage insidiously capitalist ideals and a chaos of unnecessary consumerism. Offering an alternative is the ‘Green Friday’ movement that promotes giving, spending time with family and getting into nature instead of participating in the unsustainable free-for-alls.

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Johnny Depp in ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

It only gets worse for the latest film in the Harry Potter franchise. After facing backlash for casting Johnny Depp as the lead villain (despite being accused of domestic abuse) and a stingingly poor opening weekend, the film’s crew are now facing accusations of queerphobia. Non-binary model, Jamie Windust (shown in featured photo. Credit Matt Joy) spoke out this week about anti-lgbtq and misogynistic slurs being used on set by other extras and going unchallenged by crew members.

 

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Author: Eileen E., current events, historical, LGBT+, politics

The Rainbow Wave // Women of Color & LGBTQs Who Won the Midterms

by E. Photo by Mario Tama.

I woke up at 4 am London-time to check the results. Scrolling through the news in the pale dark of almost morning, my face lit up as I read the headlines declaring historical firsts. The youngest woman ever elected to Congress. The first openly gay representative. The first Muslim women elected. The first Native American women elected. At that moment, I felt a beaming, near-euphoric pride for my country—a feeling that had previously been all but consumed by the misery of Trump’s dystopian administration.

There were, however, a significant smattering of grave losses for the Left last night—Beto O’Rourke was defeated in the Texas Senate race (#Beto2020 please), Stacey Abram’s landmark gubernatorial race in Georgia is still too close to call, Florida unsurprisingly elected the openly racist Ron DeSantis, and my own home state of West Virginia passed a deliberately confusing ballot initiative to eliminate access to abortion.

Despite these setbacks, although substantial, there are many wins to celebrate. The Democrats won the House, and a record number of women, people of color, and LGBTQ folks have taken seats in the halls of the US government. Bolstered by the progressivism of the new elects, a renewed priority will be given to immigration concerns, the environment, preventing gun violence, and protecting reproductive rights. There are bold, new voices to challenge the president.

They’re calling it the Rainbow Wave: a younger, queerer, more racially diverse Democratic party. The Rainbow Wave is a culmination of two years of activism, grass-roots efforts, and no small amount of righteous anger that led to the upset of the Republican-controlled Congress.

Here are some Rainbow Wave midterm highlights that have me feeling optimistic:

Letitia James (D) became the first woman in NY elected as attorney general and the first black person to be attorney general.

Veronica Escobar (D) and Sylvia Garcia (D) are projected to be the first Latinx Congresswomen from Texas.

Rashida Tlaib (D) of Michigan and Illhan Omar (D) of Minnesota became the first Muslim women elected to Congress.

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Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib via AlJazeera

Deb Haaland (D) of New Mexico and Sharice Davids (D) of Kansas became one the two first Native American women (with Davids being openly gay as well!) elected to Congress.

Ayanna Pressley (D) became Massachusetts’s first black congresswoman.

ayanna pressley for congress

Ayanna Pressley for Congress / YouTube

Chris Pappas (D) will be the first openly gay representative in Congress to represent New Hampshire.

Jared Polis (D) of Colorado is the first openly gay man to be elected as governor. (Remember the major Supreme Court case that ruled in favor for the homophobic Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple? Polis now governs that state. I’m looking forward to many more gay wedding cakes, personally.)

Gerri Cannon (D) and Lisa Bunker (D), both of New Hampshire will join Danica Roem (D-Virginia) in being the only transgender women representation in the House of Representatives.

And my personal favorite candidate of this election cycle: working-class, Bronx-born democratic socialist, red-lipstick-wearing goddamn Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. At 29 years old, she is now the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. (We featured her shade of lipstick in a fashion profile in Issue 04, by the way.)

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Ocasio-Cortez / CNN 

As America watches her sunrise, I hope even more firsts have been counted. Learn their names; they will lead us into this rainbow era of more diversified and progressive American politics. Let’s keep this momentum all the way until the 2020 presidential election. And please, remember what a difference was made last night with your voice, your energy, your vote. To quote Beto, I’m as hopeful as I’ve ever been.

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author: A, current events, opinion, politics

A Brief History of Fake News

by A. She joins Boshemia as our US political correspondent in Washington, DC. Photo by Anders Norde.

This year’s midterm elections hold the possibility of shifting the power balance in Congress, and will be a key factor in how our congressional voting districts are shaped in favor of the ruling party until 2030. Many Americans are preparing to make their election decisions by following the news closely, and even the most disengaged voter will most likely be familiar with the president’s well-known denunciation of negative press as “fake news.” Donald Trump isn’t the first president to have had an adversarial relationship with the press, however, and the United States has a long history of biased reporting and news media manipulation. Even Thomas Jefferson contended that a newspaper which published only factual and true information would have few subscribers and lamented “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.”

It’s hard to say if American news media has ever been truly unbiased, but in the early years of American democracy, its scope was rather limited. Prior to the advent of the telegraph in the 1840’s, news was very localized and “national” news moved a lot more slowly. At this point, congressmen had a lot more power in shaping their version of the news, and there were far fewer news outlets in Washington to schmooze and deal with.

The telegraph changed everything and allowed people across the continent to find out what Congress was up to within the same day. This was revolutionary, and also deeply dividing. This democratization of information has been cited by historians as one of the factors that hastened the approach of the American Civil War. Broadening access to news media really changed Congress’ relationship to voters. Their personal demeanors and public presentation became ever more important, and their focus steadily shifted from local to national issues.

The next tectonic shift in news reporting came with the sparkling presence of radio. Radio brought the voices of politicians into the living rooms of the American people. Now one could really experience the news as it was happening! Triumphs and scandals were being exposed in real time, and one had only to wait for the next big broadcast to be entertained.

Radio broadcasts gave way to television as the new American frontier, and suddenly the public could see the faces of their trusted correspondents, and the people they had elected into office. In the 1950’s, as more American households featured television sets, there were still just a few networks, and their main focus wasn’t only news, but the delivery of compelling programming that sold advertisement time effectively. This is about the time that focus groups and scientific study of demographic information became terribly important to corporations (think Mad Men).

Cable news was the next trend to break and completely reorganize the way media reached Americans. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, entire networks sprung up that were completely dedicated to reporting the news. No longer did one have to wait until 5 pm to understand the events of the day. The underlying issue with this 24 hour scheme was that it required several hours of compelling programming, and since people were now paying for the privileged access to this programming, it must appeal to customers. Cable news networks like Fox News and CNN would obviously increase viewership and make more money if their reporting appealed to the demographics of people who purchased their programming. If there wasn’t enough newsworthy content to report, they would have to find some. Never again would the American people be without a juicy scandal or a national tragedy!

Now, instead of just a few newspaper reporters hounding Congress in Washington, there are radio reporters, television reporters, and even internet reporters watching the every move of a member of Congress. Now, more than ever, Congress is held accountable for their actions, inside and outside of the Capitol Building. It’s not a wonder that they don’t particularly fancy this reality.

On a busy day at the Capitol, reporters stand in hallways, nervously awaiting any piece of information from a member of Congress that might drive their next story. I once watched a journalist running several paces behind an unsuspecting member of Congress, in a desperate scramble to obtain a soundbite. In his hurried efforts, he clotheslined a metal stanchion, crashed onto the marble floor, and then continued running at full speed to catch up with the person he was attempting to interview.

We’re still living in the midst of a tumultuous technological revolution, and the impact of internet news reporting on politics will remain to be seen. It’s not hard to notice, however, that the mass proliferation of information media is redefining what we regard as news. It is now more important than ever that we find ways to verify what we read and watch, and that we examine what we find worthy and relevant. The Trump administration in particular is using our veracity for new information against us, and flooding the airwaves with so much unverified and partisan information that the average American is exhausted at the mere mention of the news.

What is one to believe, when facts vary based on who is reporting them? I contend that this confusion and lack of faith in fact is the intent of the president. If we don’t know what to believe, who to trust, I’m worried we’ll believe anything.

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guest writer, How to Raise a Feminist, interview, LGBT+, long read, politics, Q & A, raising a feminist, voices of resistance

On Radical Motherhood and Gigs in Academia with Jennifer Grubbs

Interview by Daniela Jungova

Dr Jennifer Grubbs is a Visiting Assistant Professor and the Assistant Director of the Women’s Studies Program at East Tennessee State University. As a mother of three kids under the age of six, she maneuvers the personal and the professional both inside and outside of the classroom on the daily. And her personal and professional are most definitely also political—Jenny is a queer, vegan anarchafeminist who teaches courses on critical race, gender studies and anthropology. Here, she talked to me about child-rearing while precariously employed, the importance of having honest and empowering conversations with kids, and the possibility of them rejecting everything she and her partner believe in.  

Jenny, you were a 27-year-old radical scholar when you became pregnant with your first child. How did your personal politics shape what kind of mother you wanted to become?

A lot of my politics grew adversarially to my parents and what I had understood about the dominant narratives in the world. So I wanted to make my child keenly aware of their privilege in the world, their privilege in this country (the United States), their privilege as a child of two highly educated cisgender queer folk that are read not as queer, and also just aware of environmental injustice and species degradation. I knew that approaching parenting from an already adversarial politic (against hegemonic forces), worst case scenario, I would have a kid that totally rebelled against that.

So I went into it with a lot of lofty thoughts and goals of letting the child have the space to create their own identity, to create their own understanding of the world. My partner and I were very intentional about putting these lofty theories and politics into practice from pregnancy to birth, and then from birth to now (she’s six years old).

Did elements of your personal politics in any way clash with your friends’, coworkers’ and relatives’ assumptions, beliefs, or expectations?

Yeah, absolutely. One thing I found out was that with my first child, which was gendered female, people were far more flexible with raising her with this vegan, anti-speciesist, fluidity-of-gender politic, than they were when I gave birth to my third, which was gendered male. There were certainly expectations from a medical perspective (What you will feed them?) to an educational standpoint (What will you teach them?) to a performative (How will you dress them?). So what we’ve experienced from having two daughters to having a son has changed quite a bit.

Why did people have a bigger problem with you raising your son vegan as opposed to your daughters?

I think a part of it is because the consumption of animals is so tied to masculinity. Understanding masculinity is understanding the hierarchy of human over animal. That’s just very embedded. So to have a male child that doesn’t see themselves within that hierarchy, or that is being raised to understand their own privilege and power not tied to power-over-animal, I think that there was this anxiety that they wouldn’t understand their true masculinity. That they wouldn’t have the potential to be completely “masculine”. I think with [our firstborn] Emory, there was more flexibility there and less anxiety around ideals of femininity in this regard. But if you don’t teach little boys to accept violence against animals and to be OK with it, somehow, they will be not strong enough. We’ve experienced it in far more of a candid way with him than we did with our daughters.

And what about other aspects of your politics?

Another point of contention within our local communities, aside from veganism, has been how we dress our children and the clothes we make available to them. We believe that gender is a social construction. We believe that gender is a choice, it’s a performance that you do day in and day out. And it’s the same for children. So if one of our children decides to wear something gendered feminine and it doesn’t match with how society has ascribed their gender, our parenting becomes up for debate.

What I have generally seen is that whenever you do something that’s counter-hegemonic, like teaching a white child about white privilege, we are met with confrontational questions like, “Why are you pushing your politic on them?” Or, our son likes to wear dresses, and he wears them to a lot of social functions. And it’s always like, “Why do you make him wear that? You’re not giving him a choice.”

People can be all in your face when they feel like you’re doing something wrong, but at the end of the day, we live in an individualistic culture, and motherhood can feel isolating and very much like one’s own overwhelming responsibility. How did you navigate this “social order” in light of your desire for a more communal experience?

When it comes to our different communities, not everyone shares my articulation of intersectional politics, and the same goes for my partner. That is the challenge of intersectional politics and coalitional politics—we can be in an anarchist circle and anti-speciesism might not be a part of the politic there. Or we can be in an anarchist, anti-speciesist circle, and feminism may not be a part of the conversation. We can be amongst anti-speciesist activists and find the conversation to be wholly racist and single-issue.

One major roadblock that keeps both of us from engaging in the same community at the same time is the logistics. With children and a companion animal, we find ourselves dividing the domestic labor. For all of us to be together at an event ends up being a challenge. Even when we are physically present, collectively, one of us ends up on “child-duty” solo. I personally haven’t found it to be super easy to attend events that require my mental and emotional energy focus, even when childcare is provided. It can feel alienating, both from the larger community and even from your partner. You miss the simplicity of walking out the door and attending a demo together, or the ease of scheduling a workshop together and doing the work together. Now, it’s more of a team mentality. As long as our team is represented, I feel okay.

But I definitely think that there are folks out there and social media is a nice way to remind yourself of that. But in terms of material community, it’s a challenge here.

Can you tell me how long your maternity leave was with each of your kids? Did you feel like it was sufficient?

I didn’t have maternity leave with any of them in academia.

With Emory, I was teaching at American University [in Washington, DC] and I taught class two weeks after she was born. With Simon, my second child, I didn’t have any maternity leave either. I was teaching two courses, and again, I was back in the classroom two weeks later. Same with [Tevye], our youngest. So no, it wasn’t long enough. It’s non-existent. Unless you’re in a tenure-track position that has structural awareness of other situations in your life, you have to make it work. But I have been precariously employed in academia over the last six years, so I have not had the great benefits of parental leave. If I were to have taken leave, it would’ve been unpaid and it would’ve negatively impacted my course evaluations. Actually, when I returned to class after giving birth, I got these comments from students saying, “Oh wow, you’re back, we thought you weren’t going to come!” or “I thought we were going to have to have class in hospital!” Some appeared in writing in the course evaluations. So I found that that personal boundary is really pressed in that time period.

Could you identify a couple of things that you could have really used at that stage of motherhood? Things that would have made it more enjoyable and logistically easier, aside from more time off, obviously?

I think that structurally it would’ve been great if the university had some kind of a system of having a teaching assistant during that period or some form of childcare on campus. Because when I returned to campus, it was all on me to pay for childcare. I can remember teaching a two-hour lecture, rushing out into the hallway where my partner was bouncing the baby, sneaking into a classroom to breastfeed, and rushing back to class hoping that I had gone un-seen. With us both working full-time, this is now a scenario of the past. Post-partum teaching with an infant is an expensive, exhausting endeavor. Aside from additional compensation or stipend to cover childcare, there should be more compassion for the physical and emotional impact.  

But I think that the way the American society views childrearing is very individualistic—it’s just “my problem”. It’s not even my partner’s problem. It’s not a matter of them having to navigate these institutional barriers. It’s all on me. This is not to say that my partner and I haven’t worked collectively to care for our children, but I am the lactating parent. I am the one visibly pregnant and interrogated by colleagues and students about the viability of my professionalism in the face of domesticity. Male academics are applauded when they are caught juggling these worlds. Female academics are criticized and devalued.

Speaking of breastfeeding, you penned a chapter in Defiant Daughters called The Sexual Politics of Breastfeeding. In that essay, you touched on the neoliberal corporatization of academia. What does that look like in everyday life and how does it contribute to the issues facing new parents?

Part of what I was getting at in that piece was talking about the undoing of the academic structure. What happened is they’ve taken a tenure-track position and chopped it up to either three visiting professor positions or ten adjunct positions. It’s a shift to a gig-based economy within academia—where it’s not about you as an individual being a fair member of the department team doing advising, working on curriculum, holding office hours and teaching, while working on your research throughout.

The newer, neoliberal, corporatized system instead has individual labor performers. You’re brought in, you teach one class or five classes, and you’re paid per class credit hour. So you don’t have access to any of the benefits that the university offers, like healthcare, retirement benefits, paid time off, or a sabbatical. Some schools will offer tiny stipends but in most cases, you’re not eligible to apply for any research funds. Visiting positions provide the security of a salary and benefits, but they circumvent the tenure process entirely.

As you’re juggling all these structural issues and maneuvering parenting, not having access to any of these benefits, when you’re already financially challenged, just further perpetuates the disparity between the haves and the have-nots in academia. It becomes really hard to break out of this system and get into a tenure-track position because you don’t have the research and you don’t have the grants that you’ve secured—because you’ve been too busy teaching eight classes that still add up to less than $30,000 a year. And a tenure track professor may have negotiated to teach four classes a year, so the workload is disproportionate. And it’s not only difficult to reach these tenure track positions, there’s also less and less of them.

So basically you do more work, you’re paid less, you have less access to structural support, and you have less long-term investment in your career. All of those things, when compounded with rearing a child, are a perpetuation of a system of poverty.

All in all, what do you think is the most difficult and the most rewarding aspect of radical parenthood?

The most challenging thing is that it can be exhausting and isolating. Watching our kids navigate their own exclusion is both a reminder of the work to be done, and solidifies our political commitment to activism. Although I am really proud of their perseverance and mature analyses, I cannot help but feel sad that they have to experience it. Watching them learn for themselves how bad the world is, and not knowing what will change in their lifetime, is heartbreaking.

But the most rewarding part is knowing that we’re trying to create people that will fuck up the bad shit in the world. We’re really trying to disrupt and destabilize hegemony—and we’re doing that three little people at a time!

 

Dr. Jennifer Grubbs is a Visiting Assistant Professor and the Assistant Director of the Women’s Studies Program at East Tennessee State University. Her research bridges feminist anthropology, environmental communication, and queer studies, both in method and application. Specifically, Jennifer has examined the ways in which activists co-create identities of resistance within neoliberal capitalism to dismantle ecological and species hierarchies through confrontational forms of protest. Through an intersectional feminist lens, Jennifer’s work attempts to deconstruct the interconnected hierarchies that are used to naturalize and perpetuate systems of violence. You can find Jenny’s blog here.

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