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feminism

Ackerphilia

By the time Kathy Acker died, in the autumn of 1997, I was nineteen and fully under her spell, having discovered her just a few years before. Her work brought me to all sorts of feelings—lust, rage, shame, guilt, rebellion, liberation, ecstasy, transgression, indulgence. If you were the type of nineties kid I was, piercings and tattoos and all kinds of body modifications interested you, and so her look—buzz-cut bleached blonde in a leather jacket with smeared red lipstick and smudged black eyeliner, with all sorts of visible ink and metal—appealed as well. She looked like a rock star and even now I think she was the only one the literary world ever really got. At one point, a wealthy Manhattan artist I briefly fell in love with gifted me one of her original proofs for The Adult Life of Toulouse Lautrec, which I keep next to my bed at all times. It feels lucky somehow.

<i>Calling a Wolf a Wolf</i>. By Kaveh Akbar. Alice James, 2017. 100p. PB, $16.95.

Toward a New Masculinity

   “Women have their faults, men have only two: everything they say, everything they do,” goes an old adage I remember fellow feminists wisecracking for most of my life. I was born in the seventies and am a nineties feminist. In my [...]

<i>Toni Erdmann</i>. Directed by Maren Ade. Sony Pictures Classics, 2016. 162 minutes</p>

Professional Lives

“Career woman” is a term that enjoyed a certain vogue across the latter half of the twentieth century. An American idiom much bound to the eighties but coined in the thirties, under the guise of defining what a woman is, the phrase points emphatically to what she is not: “a woman whose career is more important to her than getting married and having children.” An archetype born of its time, the career woman is bound to that era’s signature medium: The movies helped midwife her into Western culture; on film she was made unruly (and almost always white) flesh, fed on drive and solo popcorn dinners, dressed in power colors, and sent into an unreconstructed world, where her success or failure typically depended on her willingness to obey a more natural order. There is, of course, no such thing as a career man.

<i>Double Bind: Women on Ambition</i>. Ed. by Robin Romm. Liveright, 2017. HB, 336p. $27.95.

Bound to Succeed

I once asked my mother, a well-educated, exceedingly competent woman, why she served as someone’s assistant for the majority of her professional life, yet always took a leadership role in volunteer organizations (president of the PTA and director of nearly every church committee on which she’s ever served, for example). Her response was unequivocal: “Your grandmother always told me that I would never be anything other than a secretary.” Mothers—“They fuck you up,” Philip Larkin wrote. “They may not mean to, but they do.”

Hank Willis Thomas, 'Raise Up,' 2014. Bronze, 112.2 X 9.84". (Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY.)

The Price of Black Ambition

I have come to realize how much I have, throughout my life, bought into the narrative of this alluring myth of personal responsibility and excellence. I realize how much I believe that all good things will come if I—if we—just work hard enough. This attitude leaves me always relentless, always working hard enough and then harder still.

Female Matadors

In 2006, photographer Gina LeVay began her odyssey into the Spanish-​speaking world of toreras—​female matadors. “A lot of them have gotten gored, injured, and they just get up and want to do it again. They’re fearless.”

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