Experimenting with a Sunday edition of the newsletter. It’ll highlight a few pieces that impacted me during the week. I’ll also share some writing I did other places. I’d like to always end it with a question for the upcoming week. A prompt for living, if you will. Sometimes the question will have an answer, sometimes it will not! (Answers are overrated.)
First up, a piece I’ve published over on Medium. It’s a vulnerable, spill on the page essay. My inbox is full of parents who say they recognize their daughters in my words and are now going to seek support for them. What a joy. If my experience helps them, it was worth it.
As I start treatment for my diagnosis I hope to write more about the systematic inequalities present in the way we treat those suffering with ADHD. I was considered a dreamy, do-nothing kid. It’s hard to imagine the dreamy part would have been applied so kindly, so liberally, by so many of my elementary school teachers if I hadn’t also been a little middle-class white girl. I look forward to educating myself on this diagnosis for myself and for others. In the meantime, here’s an essay about my first 35 kaleidoscopic years, People Said I Was Special. Really, I Just ADHD.
I lost things I couldn’t remember picking up in the first place. I couldn’t keep track of time, yesterday’s moments fusing to tomorrow’s expectations. I was very bright. Drawing advanced connections in papers and class discussions. Teachers used my brightness to excuse my lateness, my inability to process verbal math instructions, my lack of everyday sense. It was alright that I couldn’t always move from one step to the next. They would help me. They could tell I was somebody special.
It’s always a good time to read Anne Helen Petersen, she is one of my favorite voices on culture. I am an avid reader of her substack, Culture Study. You should be be too. One of my favorite newsletters is on The Diminishing Returns of Productivity Culture. The one I am publishing today comes to us from Vox. Canceling student debt can feel an unwieldy proposition. Petersen cuts through the noise and makes it simple. If you are unsure of where you stand, or if you want to help other people understand why student loan cancellation is crucial to our collective future, read The future of the middle class depends on student loan forgiveness.
Examine someone’s student loan journey from the outside, and you can find numerous places where you’d have advised them to take a different turn. To anyone with student debt, all of these arguments will be familiar: You should’ve read the fine print. You should’ve picked a different major. You should’ve looked up the graduation rates of that college. You should have consolidated. You shouldn’t have consolidated. You should’ve understood compounding interest. You shouldn’t have gone to grad school. You should’ve called your loan servicer and sat on hold for an hour every day until you got this sorted out. You should have survived on rice and beans. You should’ve taken a second, or third, or fourth job. You should’ve lived a completely different life, and made completely different decisions. Maybe then you wouldn’t have this debt.
Are you looking for something to listen to? Start with this Throughline deep dive on one of my favorite writers, Octavia E. Butler. She is the Mother of Afrofuturism and the writer of two of my favorite books, Kindred and Parable of the Sower. Octavia Butler: Visionary Fiction
Octavia Butler's alternate realities and 'speculative fiction' reveal striking, and often devastating parallels to the world we live in today. She was a deep observer of the human condition, perplexed and inspired by our propensity towards self-destruction. Butler was also fascinated by the cyclical nature of history, and often looked to the past when writing about the future. Along with her warnings is her message of hope — a hope conjured by centuries of survival and persistence. For every society that perished in her books, came a story of rebuilding, of repair.
I am not even sure where to begin here. There’s a new children’s show in Denmark about a man with an extraordinarily long prehensile penis. His appendage is wild and wacky and gets him into lots of trouble. It’s defenders say it’s not sexual and it helps kids get comfortable with their own bodies. Concerned critics say, sexual or not, the message the show gives to kids is just not that simple. This essay from Katherine J. Wu, PhD is about the show and so much more. I’ll probably never see an episode of this program and still, this piece will stay with me. To Me, This Penis Is Out of Control
DR, the company behind the show, has argued that Dillermand and his penis could have "easily" been swapped out for a female-bodied character. And yet, on one point, every person I spoke with agreed: Reimagined with a biologically female lead, John Dillermand would not have worked. Even in Denmark, vaginas and vulvas aren’t considered innocent or endearing enough to delight young minds. Diller jokes are embedded in the cultural zeitgeist; the word itself is emblematic of contrarian playfulness and parody. But the Danes I talked with told me that the impish female counterpart of the word diller does not exist.
Other Feminisms from Leah Libresco Sargeant is a newsletter that is constantly challenging me and expanding me. Even when I disagree with Leah, it’s productive. You know what I mean? She published this piece on charities and interdependence a little while ago, but I come back to it every few weeks. If you want to know how to help outside of your immediate sphere, I recommend Leah on charity. (And many other things. Subscribe!) Which Charities Take Interdependence Seriously?
I consider myself part of the Effective Altruism movement—which I’d summarize as shaping your donations by where they’ll have the biggest impact, and looking for rigorous research on interventions to quantify that impact. I really admire the work GiveWell does as a charity evaluator.
So, in our house, that means that when we donate to defray a friend’s medical bills, we match what we give with a donation to Against Malaria, or another top GiveWell charity. That way, we respect what Lewis Hyde calls, “the stream where surplus wealth flows toward need,” but we don’t neglect the people whose need is hidden from us. The nearer love is kindling for the love that requires more imagination.
This weeks question comes to us from the substack of Aminatou Sow. She bears us the words of Audre Lorde. Read the whole blessed passage, and answer the Audre Lorde Questionnaire to Oneself by clicking right here.
Next time, ask: What's the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it's personal. And the world won't end.
And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don't miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution." And at last you'll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.” ― Audre Lorde
Happy Sunday friends. Can’t wait to meet you again here, later this week.
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